Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Mackenzie, John (A)

South Africa

British missionary and imperial agent.

In 1858 he was sent by the London Missionary Society to help found a mission among the Kololo of SEKELETU in western Zambia. Colleagues who proceeded to Zambia ahead of him were, with their families, almost completely wiped out by disease, and the Kololo mission was abandoned. Mackenzie remained in present Botswana, where he opened a mission among the Ngwato of SEKGOMA in 1862. With the suppport of Sekgoma’s son, KGAMA III, he helped to build the Ngwato mission into the London Society’s most successful African enterprise.

In 1876 Mackenzie transferred to Kuruman, an older station founded by Robert MOFFAT. Over the next few years he acted as an unpaid agent of the British government. He went to England in 1882 to lobby for British expansion into Botswana, returning there two years later to serve as a deputy commissioner for Tswana territories already annexed by Britain. He was, however, soon replaced by Cecil RHODES. He again went to England to campaign for total British control of Southern Africa - a cause he argued in Austral Africa (1887). Many of his proposals were eventually adopted, but since he was unable to obtain a government post, he returned to mission work in South Africa in 1891.

Mark R. Lipschutz and R. Kent Rasmussen


Sillery, Anthony. The Bechuanaland Protectorate. Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1952.

——–. John Mackenzie of Bechuanaland. Cape Town: A. A. Balkema, 1971.

Tabler, E. C. Pioneers of Rhodesia. Cape Town: C. Struik, 1966.

Dictionary of South African Biography, 4 vols. Cape Town, Durban: Human Sciences Research Council, 1968-81.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Dictionary of African Historical Biography, 2nd edition, copyright © 1986, by Mark R. Lipschutz and R. Kent Rasmussen, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California. All rights reserved.