The Struggle For Land in Zimbabwe (1890 – 2010)..…from battle loot to gold exploitation


This week Dr Felix Muchemwa in his book The Struggle For Land in Zimbabwe (1890 – 2010) that The Patriot is serialising says, unlike the district of Salisbury(Harare) which was entirely agricultural and commercial, the districts of Hartley (Chegutu), Mazoe, Abercorn and Lomagundi were entirely mining districts.
IN 1897, the United Rhodesia Goldfields Company took over the Borrowdale Estates (Tanser,1965:p.240) and subdivided the Estates into Greystone Park, Quinnington, Glenforest, Helensvale, Homestead and Hennesley block of farms. Besides Borrowdale Estates, there were other large estates, largely cattle ranches, in the Salisbury District.
Beatrice Farm
Located some 25 miles south of Salisbury, along the Mupfure River (at the Victoria/Salisbury Road crossing with the river), Beatrice Farm and mine were owned by the Mashonaland (Central) Gold Mining Company owned by Major Frank Johnson, the Commander of the Pioneer Column in 1890.
Like the Borrowdale Estates, Beatrice Farm was a large cattle ranching farm containing a large herd of cattle, possibly Ndebele ‘loot’ cattle by the end of 1895.
Beatrice Mine, on the other hand, was a rich gold mine.
With a reef over a metre wide, wall to wall, by 1895 the mine was yielding over five ounces (150 grammes)of gold to the tonne.
Porta Estate
Located 15 miles (35km) west of the City of Salisbury, on the Hunyani River along the Salisbury/Hartley road in Chief Nyamweda and Chief Mashayamombe’s territories was another large cattle ranching farm or estate.
Owned by Joseph Norton, the farm was called Porta Estate.
Barely aged 29 years old by 1896, Norton was extremely influential in the British South Africa Company (BSAC)’s administration circles.
In particular, Marshall Hole the civil commissioner and magistrate of Salisbury paid regular visits to Porta Estate.
This might explain why, despite his not being an ex-Pioneer but only an associate of the Pioneers, he was granted well over 17 000 acres (7 000 hectares) of free land which by 1895 held more than 1 000 herd of ‘loot’ cattle. (Hickman,1974:pp.16-19)
Norton lived at Porta Estate with his wife and child, a child nurse called Fairweather as well as farm assistants. (Smith,1978:p.203)
He engaged a certain Harry Gravenor, formerly a Texas cowboy from the US, who herded cattle on horse-back.
He also engaged George Reginald Talbot, a 22-year old agricultural student from England, to run the estate as farm manager.
Another estate assistant, James Alexander, was responsible for construction work that included fencing and housing at the estate.
The estate also held a large herd of dairy cattle and together with Avondale Farm, also supplied milk products and beef to the City of Salisbury. (Tanser,1965:p.237)
It also appears likely that Norton was working in close liaison with Henry James Grant of Altona Farm in the Charter District (Chivhu)in the accumulation of Ndebele ‘loot’ cattle. (Hickman,1974)
Besides cattle ranching, Norton had also developed a large game range at Porta Estate.
Avondale Farm
A farm just over three miles north of Salisbury City along the Mazoe Road was granted to ex-Pioneer O Connell Farrell in 1890.
Farrell named the farm ‘Avondale.’
In 1893 the farm was transferred to a James Kennedy who, from 1894, rented it out to a French aristocrat, the Count de la Panouse, who lived there with his wife, Countess Billie de la Panouse.
The Count de la Panouse was mining on the Tatagura River in the Mazoe Valley, and was manager of the ‘La Panouse Exploring Syndicate’.
After 1894, with the seizure of Matabeleland, the Count de la Panouse accumulated a large herd of beef and dairy cattle and together with Joseph Norton, opened a butchery shop in Pioneer Street in Salisbury for beef supply to the city.
The Count had trained his imported Mozambican ‘forced’ labourers the art of processing dairy products from his dairy herd and consequently supplied milk, butter and cheese to the city of Salisbury. (Tanser,1965:pp.134-5)
Land settlements on the Gold-Belt: 1894 – 1896
Unlike the district of Salisbury which was entirely agricultural and commercial, the districts of Hartley, Mazoe, Abercorn and Lomagundi were entirely mining districts.
As stated earlier, the Mwenemutapas exported gold and ivory to the Portuguese centres along the Zambezi River and the Indian Ocean in exchange for cloth, guns, gun-powder and beads. (Mudenge,1988:p.52)
In Quilimane, Goanese traders purchased gold processed in Mazoe, Ruenya, Nyadiri and Manicaland which was exported to India.
The goldfields had remained in meaningful production until the early 19th Century.
Production even survived the Nguni incursions though on a reduced scale (Huffman,1972), allegedly due to Portuguese lack of market appreciation. (Phimister,1988)
The settler-discovery of both reef and alluvial gold on the Gold-Belt of Hartley and Mazoe Districts was made by prospectors Henry Hartley and Carl Mauch and, in 1871, Thomas Baines thoroughly documented the gold-field in the Baines Diary (Burke,1969) which became more responsible than any other factor for Cecil Rhodes and the Pioneer Column’s occupation of Mashonaland in 1890. (Smith,1978:p.115)
Carl Mauch, who had earlier been presented (in Sena) with a watch chain made locally from Manicaland gold, visited Mazoe Valley between June 13 and 17 1872 and noted that the Portuguese had explored the ‘ancient’ Shona gold mines in the early 17th Century. (Burke,1969)
He found that most of the reef gold mines had been abandoned between 1820-30 for reasons later spelt out by John Hayes Hammond, the BSAC’s chief prospecting agent in 1892.
Hammond noted that by 1820-30, the ‘ancient’ reef gold mines on the gold-belt required extensive development work since much of the gold lay deep in the rock.
Most of the gold production was now alluvial and more concentrated in the Nyadiri and Mazoe River valleys so that when the Pioneer Column arrived in 1890, they found whole African communities settled in the gold-washing sites along the Mazoe, Angwa, Nyadiri and Ruenya river valleys, making a living out of gold-mining and trading with the Portuguese.
The BSAC proceeded to drive the Portuguese out of the gold-belt, taking over gold mining from the Shona in the process.
In August and September 1894, John Hayes Hammond, who was also the Consolidated Goldfields mining expert, further emphasised that gold on Zimbabwe’s gold-belt was much deeper than gold on the South African Rand. (Phimister,1988)


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