HomeFeatureMan and money: Part 11 …early settlement years: 1890-1927

Man and money: Part 11 …early settlement years: 1890-1927

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LIKE settlements in the New World, the founding economy of the colonial State in south-central Africa built a white settler-economy on the backs of the indigenes.

Contrary to settlers in the New World, the early settlement years of Zimbabwe (during the colonial era that began in 1890 and ended in 1980), the British South African Company (BSAC), under whose administration the country fell until 1923 when the colony was accorded semi-independence in the form of Responsible Government, concentrated on finding the ‘second Rand’ with a view to expanding gold mining activities it had started in South Africa.  

Land appropriation during this time was for mining interests and not agriculture. 

Settlers were dependent on agricultural produce grown by indigenous people. 

The fact that no gold was found in the early settlement years, as well as the subsequent depreciation of the company’s shares on the London Stock Exchange, forced the company to revise its economic policy.  

In 1907, a new policy based on export agriculture was inaugurated.  

This resulted in land appropriation at the expense of the indigenes. 

The British Government was caught between catering for the interests of the white settlers and that of the black majority.  

For example, in 1898, it evoked an Order in Council that created Native Reserves on lands deemed unsuitable for white settlers.  

By 1910, 23,4 percent of the land had been appropriated by white settlers, while 26 percent had been declared Native Reserves. 

The reserved land was generally of inferior agricultural quality in terms of inherent fertility and moisture availability. 

The Native Reserves Commission of 1914 resulted in a white settler-induced appropriation of the better part of the Reserves. 

The Land Apportionment Act of 1930 legalised racial segregation of land.  

By this time, 50,8 percent of the total land had been declared ‘European’, compared to 30 percent for the African population. 

Land for the indigenes was held under a ‘traditional’ tenure system according to the perceptions of settlers. 

Under this system, only user-rights could be enjoyed white settlers were accorded full rights to the land they were allocated.  

This was not different in America where land was appropriated for white settlement.

Research and extension institutions were established to support settler-agriculture.  

For example, in 1908, the Department of Agriculture was created to implement the White Agricultural Policy that had been launched in 1907. 

The Department of Research and Specialist Services was set up in 1948 to institutionalise agricultural research in the country as a vehicle to increase crop yields and intensify agricultural production in general. 

In 1950 the Department of Conservation and Extension was established. 

The Grain Marketing Act was passed in 1950 and led to the establishment of the Grain Marketing Board (GMB). 

The Salisbury and Gwebi Research Stations were set up in 1909 while Rhodes Inyanga and Matopos Estates were acquired for research in 1917. 

The Agricultural Research Council was set up in 1970 in order to direct research efforts in close co-ordination with representatives of white farmers. 

The rise of black nationalism in the early to mid-1950s forced some superficial revision of the land appropriation.  For example, amendments were made to increase the amount of land for the indigenes by expanding ‘special native reserves’ and creating non-racial land, termed ‘unreserved land’ by white liberals.  

This move drew criticism from some white conservatives.  The ideological differences among the settlers developed into an open political schism. 

A white conservative party, the Rhodesia Front, later headed by Ian Smith, was voted into power in the mid-1960s on the basis of a white conservative land agenda.  The government restored the Land Apportionment Act and froze the unreserved category of land.  

In 1965, Smith announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), which resulted in sanctions being imposed by the UN. 

The Smith government represented the antithesis of prosperous black agriculture: It had an absolutely clear policy of forcing people to grow just enough to be malnourished and prevented them from doing anything more.  

By the mid-1970s, white agriculture was supplying the Tribal Trust Lands (TTLs) with a substantial proportion of food staples. 

Thereby the State had almost completely reversed the agricultural supply situation at the beginning of the century when white settlers were dependent on Africans for food supplies.

Apart from land appropriation, other measures were put in place in support of white settler-agriculture. 

There were, for example, interventions to aggressively promote marketing of the setttlers’ agricultural produce.  

The Maize Control Act of 1930, which established the Maize Control Board, forced African maize growers to subsidise white farmers who were paid 40 percent higher than the world market prices while the indigenes received the local market price.  

In 1931, the Cattle Levy Act imposed a levy on the slaughter of cattle for domestic consumption in order to subsidise white cattle exports.  

Marketing Boards were also established for tobacco, cotton, beef, pigs and milk with the express aim of supporting white agriculture. 

Such support to white agriculture was typical throughout the colonial period.

In 1912, the Land Bank was created to enable white immigrants to settle as farmers.  

In 1935, following the Great Depression, the Farmers Debt Adjustment Act was passed. 

This abolished interest charges on farm purchases, and deferred loan repayments for three years for white farmers.  

In1966, to counter the UDI-related sanctions, the Agricultural Assistance Committee was set up for the purpose of extending short-term loans to farmers to cover the cost of inputs, living expenses and hire-purchase commitments.  These farmers were also paid a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers and diesel fuel. 

The Farm Irrigation Fund, launched in 1966, extended soft loans to white farmers for head-works, in-field development and purchasing of irrigation equipment.  There was a 50 percent subsidy and free technical support programme allowing white farmers to build soil and water conservation works.  

Additionally, white commercial farming areas were well serviced with good road and railway networks infrastructure.

The Agricultural Finance Authority was launched in 1971 to extend additional credit to white farmers.  

Limited rights for indigenous people were set aside in the Native Reserves where they could not own the land; land was held in trust for them.  

Furthermore, the land on which an individual was allowed to cultivate was limited.  

This was to facilitate food production for household consumption only and not surplus for sale. 

This compelled the indigene to work for the settlers. 

Dr Michelina Andreucci is a Zimbabwean-Italian researcher, industrial design consultant and is a published author in her field.  

For views and comments, email: linamanucci@gmail.com

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