Updated 14 Oce 2016
The Rev. John Mackenzie was born in Knockando, Scotland, in 1835 and died in South Africa in 1899. Mackenzie was a member of the London Missionary Society (LMS) well known for his humanitarian ideas and was well respected by indigenous communities north of the Orange River in the latter decades of the nineteenth century. He came to regard Africans as subjects of the British Crown and as deserving the privileges of citizenship.
He came to South Africa in 1858 and took part in an ill-fated LMS expedition to the Makololo in central Africa in 1860. From 1862 to 1870 he was stationed among the Bamangwato at Shoshong. Her he learned Setswana and translated a number of devotional and geography books into Setswana. He then returned to Kuruman, seat of Robert Moffat's mission, and helped to build up the Moffat Institute, consisting of a school and a seminary.
From the mid-1890s, Mackenzie became drawn into the land struggles of the Batlhaping, Barolong and Griqua people, who attempted to prevent the alienation of their land by white, largely Boer, freebooters or mercenaries.
When these freebooters established the Stellaland and Goshen republics in the land formerly under the control of the Batswana-speaking people of the region, Mackenzie went to England and campaigned for the restoration of their land rights. He spoke publicly, "the length and breadth of the land", encouraging people to petition the British government. So successful were his efforts, that he was appointed Special Commissioner to Bechuanaland in 1884. His job was to clear the Stellalanders out of the region and restore order to Bechuanaland. However, he lacked military support and was opposed by many powerful Cape based politicians such as Cecil Rhodes and John Merriman. Eventually, the High Commissioner, Hercules Robinson, stripped Mackenzie of his office, appointing Rhodes in his place.
However, the policy of appeasement adopted by Rhodes towards the Boer Republics and their surrogates in Bechuanaland, also failed. The British lost patience and sent the Warren Expedition to the region to remove the two illegal republics. Mackenzie, now back in favour with the British government, assisted in this process. He became an advocate for orderly multi-racial development in the land of the Batswana. Mackenzie returned to England once again to campaign for the Batswana dikgosi north of British Bechuanaland, urging that British protection be afforded to them as well. He ended his career in Hankey in the Cape, and was buried in Kimberley. (See also Bethell, Christopher.