Born in 1844 in Liverpool, England, at the age of 17 he boarded a ship to the Cape Colony (South Africa). For the first 8 years he traded in wildlife products, mainly elephant tusks, between the Cape Colony and Matabeleland (Bulawayo). Although he would bring various items for trade like cloth, the most valuable trading items he could bring were guns and ammunition. He became friends with Mzilikazi and then Lobengula, the chiefs of the Matabele. George Westbeech learned many of the local languages and could communicate easily with everyone he met. He was also recognised as being honest and fair. The other side of George Westbeech’s character was that he loved alcohol and ‘the ladies’.
When, by the late 1860s, elephants became hard to find in Matabeleland, George Westbeech needed a new area in which to hunt and looked northwards to the Zambezi River. At this time only a few white men had made their way to the Zambezi River. David Livingstone had reached there in 1851, and had published the book, Missionary Travels and Researches in Southern Africa, in 1857. Other hopeful traders and hunters had reached Kazungula but it would seem that none of them were entertained by the local people. George Westbeech would have heard stories and possibly read David Livingstone’s book which had sold in its thousands.
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