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Colonial rule in Rhodesia hinged upon four key endeavors by the European settler population: 1) an attempt to contain African political ambitions, 2) reconcile socio-political conflict between Africans and Europeans; 3) ensure the efficient functioning of the developing capitalist economy; and, above all, 4) maintain European hegemony in an acceptably harmonious environment. The strategies employed by successive Rhodesian governments to these ends were informed by an ideology that portrayed Africans as incapable of organizing and maintaining a developed Western industrial capitalist economy. At worst, Africans were seen as inherently incapable of acquiring the requisite skills; at best, it was supposed that they would require an indefinably long period of exposure to modernizing influences. (1) Key elements that reinforced these attitudes were spatial segregation and discriminatory legislation and, with those, the phenomenon of the "Location," the name given to those places in urban areas that were officially demarcated for the settlement of the Africans.

At the level of local authorities, this ideology was reflected in residential segregation and the continued marginalization of Africans in the day-to-day processes of civic participation. African desires to participate in local affairs and contribute to decisions that affected their lives were given only fleeting recognition and no serious attempts were made to accommodate them. Their European rulers saw Africans as having a cultural background that was not compatible with an urban lifestyle. As such, Africans in urban areas were never afforded effective access to municipal decision makers; the problem was compounded by a pervasive belief among Europeans that they 'knew and understood' the African mind and that they could prescribe policies for their African subjects. (2) Hence, Africans had little opportunity to determine the conditions of their urban environment or to direct development in what they considered to be their own best interests, and they were never, in any meaningful way, able to influence policies or programs that were fundamental to the self-interest of the European group.

It is with these points in mind that this work explores the nature of township development in Harare (known as Salisbury in the colonial period) since the establishment of the first African township and, in so doing, provides an account of the genesis of African representation in the urban arena. In this work, I argue that urban protest movements took root in African townships because of the specific forms of social organization and domesticity that characterized township society. I contend that these forms were largely the product of colonial exercises in social engineering through racial urban planning deployed in the beginnings of African township formation. As a method of control, racialized townships marked the beginnings of a decisive strategy by colonial administrators, especially when African urbanization followed as a response to industrial demand for labor. A constant worry confronting the colonial administrators was that 'detribalization' and the consequent urbanization of Africans would engender social indiscipline and political agitation. (3) African townships were thus engineered in such a way that would allow colonial administrators to assert control over the urban African population. This article argues that this colonial social engineering of the African township, while intended to ensure the maintenance of Maw and order,' ended up making the townships centers of social unrest and political activism--precisely the consequence the scheme was designed to prevent. Ultimately, then, the colonial state became the victim of its own strategy of social control. This fits comfortably with Mahmood Mamdani's description of apartheid South Africa: "the form of rule shaped the form of revolt against it." (4)

The townships were established at as low a cost as possible to the colonial government, and this meant poor facilities for the Africans. As a result, as the structures of urban settlement were established and as more Africans "invaded" the urban space, the guiding principles of colonial "differentiation, domination and accumulation" created the roots of urban protest from which most urban African social movements would grow. (5) This was because the "central problem for settler colonialism... was the need to reconcile the requirements for urban labour with the cost of producing such labour and the overall imperative of maintaining the idea of a white city." (6) Richard Gray's book, which represents an early discussion of colonial urbanism, points at the dependency on African labor as the "element of colonial rule that most disturbingly challenged the policy of segregation." (7) Given such a scenario, the Africans in the "European" urban area were governed under the Native Affairs Department and were put under a strict regime controlling their movement, participation, and association. Brian Raftopoulos and Tsuneo Yoshikuni argue that this emphasis on control and domination led the colonial state in 1933 to place its first town planning department under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a ministry designed "to oversee internal security." (8) For the two, therefore, when urban settlements were developed, they were part of the "process of establishing an administrative and political structure for colonial rule." (9)

The participation of urbanized Africans in the residents' movements was a result of difficulties that confronted urban Africans even from the establishment of the Africans' Location. These problems had emerged largely because of the lack of consensus among the local council, colonial state, and capital over who would be responsible for the cost of housing and social services required in the African townships. African associations, unions, and boards thus became important platforms from which urban Africans could collectively air their grievances. Yoshikuni argues that the expansion of the African township "not only curtailed Africans' already limited freedoms, but also helped collectivise African grievances over living issues, as it concentrated more and more people in one place." (10) This made the different African associations and unions an important front for urban social protest, and helped make the Location an important site of such African urban social movements. This article is thus a history of the origins of social movements and popular struggles around community issues.

Work has been done on African urban movements in the colonial era, but most of the works have looked at these groups primarily as labor movements that were composed of African workers. (11) As such, these movements have been analyzed mostly from the perspective of labor relations or worker-employer relations. This article argues that at least some of these groups represented more than just the African worker. They represented unemployed women, men, and all the people who were affected by township issues. Other scholars have also examined the associations as nascent nationalist organizations with a broader nationalist agenda for Africans. (12) Indeed, with a few exceptions, scholarship on African responses to colonialism in colonial Zimbabwe has largely been limited to analyzing them in the context of the nationalist historiography which viewed most African movements of the early period of colonialism as typifying African nationalist consciousness. Attention has been focused on African organizations' political traditions, and here political tradition has mostly been taken to mean nationalist aspirations, which has tended to blind scholars to some of these organizations' rich traditions of protest and representation with regards to civic matters. Scholars such as Clyde Sanger have thus described the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) and the Southern Rhodesia Native Association (SRNA) as "hardly effective bodies." (13) He limits these groups to "vehicles for the individual ambitions of various Africans." For him, the ICU existed as the "private band" of Charles Mzingeli. (14) Others have taken Terence Ranger's approach in seeking the "African voice" in these organizations, which has tended to see the African voice as a manifestation of African nationalism. As a demonstration of the influence this approach has had, Ian Phimister argues that Ranger's books and articles have "exercised a generally pernicious nationalist influence for over a generation." (15) The limited focus of such studies caused many scholars to fail to appreciate the deeper nature and influence of these organizations. Only a few historians have argued that some of these organizations had mandates outside the framework of the nationalist movement. (16) Noting the broader mandate of these organizations has also allowed some scholars to recognize that even some of those organizations with a political mission were neither nationalist nor precursors of nationalism. (17)

The majority of African associations and unions established in colonial Rhodesia were founded by urbanized "intellectual" Africans, and most of these leaders set out to use the African township as a foundation to further their national political ambitions. However, most of these leaders were also compelled to represent African township affairs against the local municipality, central government, and capital. While there were signs of national concerns within some of the issues tackled by their organizations, their focus was nonetheless on addressing everyday township discomforts that they shared together as "Location" or "township citizens." These organizations were bound to react against the irritations of a colonial township that was "designed to contain and control first workers and later entire African urban populations" and, for some of them, the acquisition of nationalist characteristics was a necessity rather than an intention. (18) Local leadership had to "redefine issues of local concern within the frame of a nationalist project." (19) The concerns of African local residents in the townships were thus central to the continued existence of the organizations and the organizations were a key platform for African urbanites. In The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, Timothy Scarnecchia does an exceptional job of "providing an account of the democratic tradition that was present in the African townships of what was Salisbury." (20) This article goes further and deeper to examine how such a tradition was used by different African organizations to confront the local municipality and central government with regards to township grievances.


The Pioneer Column that raised its flag in what would become Salisbury in 1890 included a body of men with varied skills and qualities. These early pioneers were committed, in principle at least, to the moral decency of their mission, to extend British 'power and glory' and, most importantly, to secure the yields of rich mineral resources. (21) This imperialist group generally considered the indigenous Africans to be backward, ignorant, and undeserving of social interaction on an equal footing. Indeed, this group saw the African as fit only for menial labor. (22) The Pioneers' early encounters with the indigenous people during the Ndebele and Shona uprisings hardened their attitudes towards Africans and reinforced their initial approach to separation. (23) These Pioneers set up the colonial city of Salisbury, and it followed from their approach to relations between Europeans and Africans that the city would be organized along racial fault lines. The majority of the European settlers readily accepted the existence of a dominant white elite and a subordinate group of colonized Africans, and relations between the groups were maintained so as to serve the economic and political interests of the dominant group. This included mechanisms to ensure a flow of labor from the subordinate group to the dominant and the imposition of control and administration over the subordinate population. By its very nature, this system of social relations was coercive, non-interactive, and rooted in ideas about class and race. Workers drawn from the white population were routinely privileged in employment, occupations, income, and access to political authority. Munyaradzi Mushonga argues that those "who wore the uniform of the white skin wore it with inherent power, authority and privilege." (24)

It followed that the African organizations, even those created to cater to African interests at the workplace, would extend their tentacles into the township, where power relations found physical expression in the organization and construction of the African township. Examples of such organizations include the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union and its successor, the Reformed Industrial and Commercial Workers Union. The Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU) was established in 1928 under the leadership of Charles Mzingeli. The organization was not exclusively an urban labor movement speaking against poor housing, low wages, and poor working conditions; it also delved into many rural and non-labor related matters, such as land shortages, racial discrimination, and the violence of native commissioners, among others. Therefore, though these organizations were created mainly as labor organizations, their activities were broad and often encompassed township issues. Indeed, the first meeting of the ICU 'under the indaba tree' in Bulawayo on 30 November 1929 positions the ICU as more of an urban residents' organization than anything else.

The role of such organizations as township intermediaries was especially pronounced in Salisbury, where control over the Africans was quickly accomplished through the creation of a society in which whites held control over positions of power and over capital. The state thus found it logical to effect cost minimization strategies on the urban Africans because, in their view, the urban space was a temporary place of work for the African to be occupied at as little cost to the city and central state as possible. (25) The result was often a haphazard approach to urban policy, with unclear categories of African urban settlement. What emerged, therefore, was a poorly equipped and poorly managed setup for Africans in urban arenas.


The Salisbury town council opened the first 'Native Location' outside the boundary of the town in October 1907. (26) Shortly after the opening, the central government declared that beginning in May 1908, all Africans in Salisbury would have to reside in the Location, with an exception for those already sleeping on their employers' premises. (27) The opening of the Location resulted in the extensive removal of urban Africans from the town center and solidified the racial segregation of Salisbury. However, an informal Location had already existed as early as 1892. This site was abandoned in 1907 when the new site was adopted under provisions of section 2 of the Native Urban Locations Ordinance (Number 4 of 1906), marking the beginning of the Salisbury Native Location. (28) The Native Urban Locations Ordinance prohibited "free" African residence in Salisbury from 1 May 1908. (29) An April 1908 report from the town police stated that "all natives in the Township and on the Commonage, occupying premises, not used by their masters, have been warned that they will have to remove to the Location on the 1st May." (30)

Of paramount importance to this discussion are the factors that shaped and informed the formal establishment of this Location at this time. The formalization of the Location was necessitated by an emerging "urban problem," itself the result of the perceived influx of uncontrolled African residents in the town. Indeed, African tenancy was becoming commonplace in Salisbury, where an African could rent a room in town for a monthly rent of 15 shillings, or one pound. (31) This African presence in town was a major point of contention, particularly for the white property owners and especially in the Kopje area. (32) There was thus a rise in white residents' demands for the removal of the Africans from town and in calls for the creation of a formal African Location. John Smith, the Location Inspector in 1905, highlighted the problem of Africans renting rooms in town when he pointed out that the huts in the "Town Native Location" (which was informal at this time) were "gradually becoming unoccupied," a problem he identified as a result of the fact that "natives are renting houses within the town." (33) Smith was particularly concerned about this development. For him, this would likely lead to "a loss of revenue to the Municipality" and was "a source of danger to the town in many ways." (34)

The formal establishment of the Location was, therefore, a response to the supposed urban decay and danger caused by the presence of uncontrolled Africans in the "white city" and to growing white pressure for segregation. Such pressure is evident in the actions of a group of Kopje residents who lodged a petition with the council in February 1906. The campaigners complained of the "continual stream of boys going to and fro, making the neighbourhood more like a native reserve." (35) As a result, Africans were pushed to the Location that had been grudgingly created by authorities who had been reluctant to acknowledge the necessity of an African presence, even temporarily, in an urban setting. One consequence of such an attitude was that employers, the state, and local authorities took little interest in providing services for the Africans in the urban area. This was not limited to Southern Rhodesia alone. In South Africa, the planned townships that emerged in and around the major urban centers were products of that same lack of enthusiasm from the colonial government and from local authorities, again caused by the unwillingness to embrace and pay for an African presence in urban areas. (36)

To justify the creation of the segregated Location, the town authorities argued that relocating Africans into the Location would address the poor sanitation supposedly caused by Africans in the city. Interestingly, the same argument about sanitation, occasioned by a 1918 epidemic of Spanish flu in informal settlements along the outskirts of Durban in South Africa, was used by authorities to create a segregated township in that area. (37) In Salisbury, this argument sailed through because of white settlers' collective paranoia of Africans. There is no evidence during this time that supports the view that concerns about sanitation were central to the establishment of the Location. However, despite the lack of such evidence, such arguments made their way into the historical literature, as when Gann and Duignan toed the official colonial line regarding poor sanitation and claimed that the "fear of the African's unsanitary habits and the danger of diseases led to the segregation in Rhodesian towns." (38) A look at the evidence for this period shows that there was no indication of a serious epidemic or panic requiring the establishment of the new Location. (39) Rather, the best evidence regarding the motive for the segregation is contained in an editorial of the Rhodesia Herald in March 1908, which explained "the advantages" of having a separate Location for Africans. It reasoned that having a Location for Africans had tremendous "benefits which will accrue to the town by the stopping of the system of letting houses to the natives in town." (40) At the core of these "benefits," the paper argued, was the prospect of gaining more "adequate control over the natives" who "frequent the town and whose methods of obtaining a livelihood are doubtful in the extreme." (41) The major determinant for creating the segregated Location was the white settlers' preoccupation with controlling African subjects and the whites' desire to do so while keeping Africans in their own place, far away from the whites' "respectable neighbourhood." This preoccupation was driven by the government's and the white settlers' fear of "the African," a paranoia that would have a huge bearing on the nature of the colonial government's dealings with Africans. The construction of "the African" as a dangerous antagonist helped to validate whites' opinion of themselves as bringers of order and morality. The policies that emerged from this racialized paranoia and self-justification became the source of African misgivings.

The policies associated with 'locationization' were very unpopular with Africans, leading to a series of protest movements. (42) The unpopularity of the Location was due in large part to the fact that this initial municipal involvement in African housing resulted not from a genuine desire to provide the urban Africans with better housing facilities, but from pressure coming from the white citizens to exclude Africans from the town, and from a perceived need to maintain control of these African urbanites. Municipal Location policy was, as a result, characterized by "utter disregard for the quality of tenants' lives." (43)

The 'new' Location was made up of a collection of Kaytor huts, built on a "plot 50 by 50 feet and standing in lines running from east to west." (44) By the eve of World War I, the Location had a total of 156 Kaytor huts. (45) By the mid-1920s, it had a total of 247 huts and a population of around 760. (46) Forty-five huts were used as bunkhouses by private companies and the municipality, and five were used by the "police and labourers." (47) The 197 remaining huts were rented by African workers in their personal capacity, and these included a mix of families and tenants sharing rents with others. (48) Sharing rent was important, as prices were high: In 1907, a Kaytor hut in the Location cost 10 shillings per month, and not many African workers earned more than 15 shillings per month.

The Location was also lacking other elements that would have made it a better place for its inhabitants. For example, there were no amenities like shops, clinics, churches, or schools inside the Location. (49) The only facility worth noting was the municipal beer canteen, which, unfortunately, was viewed with scorn by the Location residents because the price of beer was beyond their reach. (50) Indeed, the beer canteen was a point of further contention, as it represented the loss of income suffered by those Africans who had previously benefited from the now-banned practice of home brewing and selling beer.

More remarkably still, the 250 Kaytor huts in the Location shared just one borehole, and three communal latrines. (51) This was an unhealthy and inconvenient scenario for the hundreds of African residents who used these facilities. The Kaytor huts also did not have proper kitchens. As a result, most of the Location inhabitants constructed their own makeshift kitchens, though those were demolished by the council in 1914. This represented a further financial loss, as these makeshift kitchens had not only enabled cooking, but also made it possible for the huts to accommodate a greater number of people. (52) The demeaning conditions inside the Location were aggravated by its increasingly aggressive separation from the rest of the city. In 1912, a barbed wire fence was erected around the Location. (53) The Assistant Native Commissioner of Salisbury argued that this was a necessary measure "If proper control of the Location is to be expected," and he emphasized the need for there to be "one entrance, and one only." (54) To borrow Bozzoli's description of Alexandria township in South Africa, the Salisbury Location "was enclosed by law, memory, culture and physical boundaries of racial identification." (55) The built environment was akin to a "concentration camp," worsening the already dreadful appearance of the Location.

Under Ordinance 4 of 1908, a Superintendent of Natives was appointed to run municipal Locations. (56) Starting in 1913, the town council employed a full-time Location Superintendent. (57) This Location supervisor took up residence in a cottage on the edge of the Location. (58) In 1914, new Location regulations were introduced, including stipulations that every visitor to the Location must "obtain a permit from the superintendent" and that "the superintendent should have power to arrest drunk and disorderly natives." More significantly, it was "an offence to resist the Superintendent or the headman in the execution of his duties," and the "brewing of Native beer in the Location" was thereafter banned. (59) Thus, added to the physical barriers controlling African movement were these regulations that made Location life all the more unbearable.

Infrastructural upgrades to housing, sanitation, lighting, and many other structures were, in many instances, considered only if the deteriorating conditions threatened to compromise law and order. That attitude, combined with the general lack of desire among both the local government and the central state to invest in the upkeep of urban Africans, meant that Location standards were always poor. In a rather disconcerting description, Boris Gussman summarizes the colonial mindset towards African urban life, describing legislation and urban architecture geared towards providing "boxes for machines or stables for draught beasts." (60)

The white discomfort with African presence in town, and their need to control the Africans even when they were in their own space, is clear also in the allocation of spaces for institutions or facilities to be used by Africans. For example, African Christians initially attended church in town, a situation that did not sit well with the white community. The situation was "addressed" with the requirement, after the Location's establishment, that all mission churches be concentrated within the Location's boundaries. In 1908, churches such as the Salvation Army and the Presbyterians had accepted the offer of building churches in the Location. (61) Interestingly, even this idea was abandoned after the council received advice from the Bulawayo town treasurer, who highlighted the disadvantages of such a plan. He cited the example of Bulawayo where most of the Africans congregate in the Location under the guise of attending church when they "have no intention of doing so"; the pretext of church attendance, however, made it "very difficult to control them." The town clerk contended that the "population at the Location is about 700... and as on Sundays we get as many as 2000 present, you can imagine the position is a thorny one and requires careful handling." (62) Thus in October 1909, because of the warning from Bulawayo emphasizing the danger of an uncontrolled and undocumented African population purportedly attending church in the Location, a church reserve was set aside, situated outside but adjoining the Location. (63) The setting aside of a church reserve outside the Location further exacerbated the desolate nature of the Location.

By the end of the British South Africa Company's (BSAC) rule in 1923, the "maturing" of the Location system was apparent. African free residents had been ejected from the town center; African churches and schools had been relocated to the fringes of the Location; and, most importantly, the miserable machinery of control headed by a full time European Superintendent had been built. Indeed, by 1923, there was de facto residential segregation in Salisbury and the Europeans had implemented laws and ordinances for the purposes of regulating the African population in order to serve white interests.


It is important to note that no clear process of African administration was established during the first years of Company rule. African administration was nominally vested in a Native Department attached to the administrator's office, and officers were appointed to different districts, but there was no statutory basis for their actions before 1898. The British government showed little interest in Company actions, and it was only in the aftermath of the African rebellions--namely the Ndebele uprising of 1893 and the 1896 First Chimurenga--that Britain concerned itself with internal Rhodesian problems. (64) From its establishment, therefore, the Location was a theater of control and domination by the white ruling class over their black subjects and a product of the fixation with law and order that was central to the colonial government's approach to relations with urban Africans. Responsibility for the municipal Location was delegated to the local authority, with the government retaining powers such as police control. The police had access to the Location at all times. As Yoshikuni notes, "housing controls in the Location were emphasized as a means, along with a pass and night curfew system," to control the African urban dweller. (65)

Many aspects of daily life in the Location became "battlefields," giving rise to extraordinarily varied institutions to control dealings between the colonizer and the colonized. (66) Yoshikuni cites a litany of sources of conflict and tension in the Location and the city, including the checking of passes by the police, night curfews, banning of Africans using the sidewalks, requirements that Africans remove their hat before any Europeans and take off their shoes at government offices, and myriad other arenas of conflict. (67) Even worse grievances of overcrowding, inadequate sanitation and recreational facilities, and a stifling system of control over the movements of the African urban citizens were soon to emerge. Living under such conditions, a spirit of hopelessness, hostility, and desperation emerged among the Location citizens and developed into mass disaffection.

Inadequate and poor housing in the Location helped collectivize African grievances regarding the discomforts of daily life in the Location. This was compounded by the fact that Africans living in Salisbury were subject to strict rules and restraints that did not apply to the white population. For example, the Location Regulations outlined in 1895 banned the possession of beer in the Location, and these restrictions were reinforced in Native Location Regulations number 181 of 1898, which authorized the Inspector of Locations to check African access to alcohol. (68) However, it was not until 1900 that "township wide" regulations were first implemented in Salisbury. (69) These regulations touched upon and disrupted the social nerve center of the otherwise drab African life in the township, as weekend beer parties involving "drinking, singing, dancing, gossiping and many other social activities" were becoming conventional. (70) The many attempts by the African Location residents to defy these regulations and, in many instances, to protest against them, should thus be understood in the larger context of Africans' lives. (71) The beer parties can be seen as endeavors by the African Location residents to make the best of a dull, tedious, and agonizing township life, and municipal attempts to ban them touched at the core of African attempts to reclaim their very existence. For example, in 1914, the Location Superintendent, with the help of the Detective Department, rounded up and arrested those who possessed beer in large quantities, and the Native Commissioner also collected taxes and arrested tax defaulters. (72) These arrests were happening at a time when beer brewing and selling was an integral part of the Location, as such activities supplemented the heavily depleted incomes, which had already been affected by wartime inflation.

Besides the lack of commitment from the colonial state and the local authorities to invest in the African township, the need to control urban Africans also provides a partial explanation of the colonial state's discomfort with allowing "natives" to construct and own houses, in the Location or elsewhere. The town council's refusal to permit Africans to build their own houses came despite the evident failure by the council and the government to construct adequate housing for the Africans and despite the willingness of some Africans to relieve the authorities of the burden of doing so. The fear was that "natives" would become too free and would in turn rent their properties to other "undesirable natives." Robert Lloyd Pollet, who was a member of the town council from 1900 to 1930, and its town clerk from 1920, argued that it was not a "safe policy to allow a native to put up a building himself" since this would give the "native" the right to say, "I am going to put someone else in there." (73) For Pollet, the hypothetical African homebuilder "might let it to someone undesirable." (74)

As noted above, sanitary conditions were also a source of grievance for the Location residents. It was the duty of the town council to provide suitable latrines for males and females, and the duty of the superintendent under the direction of the council to identify, from time to time, a place or places suitable for the disposal of rubbish, filth, or litter of any kind. (75) By 1930, there was no washroom in the Location, and it had only one bathroom for females and one for males; there were water pipes, but they were not in use. Location residents used water from boreholes and wells. (76) Improvements to sanitary conditions hinged upon the inclination of either the state or the local authority, and neither was willing to part "with unnecessary expenditure" in the Location. One of the sources of conflict among the colonial state, the local authorities, and private capital was the question of who was responsible for the upkeep of the Location, and this inevitably took a toll on Location infrastructure and development.

Even considerations for building infrastructure in the Location were considered in terms of the intended benefits to law and order. Nowhere is this clearer than in considerations for lighting and the provision of a market for those who lived in the Location. Until 1930, complaints were still being raised that there was no lighting in the latrines at night and that the Location only had two lamps altogether. The Location Superintendent, Mr. Home, admitted that lighting was a weak point in the Location and that there were only "2 lamps of the incandescent type." (77) In response, and offering further evidence of the council's obsession with surveilling and controlling Africans' movement, Lawrence Phillips, Salisbury Deputy Mayor, emphasized the importance of lighting the Location so that "natives will not be able to run around without being seen." (78) For him, lighting the Location was another way of enabling effective control of Africans, and it only became an infrastructural priority because of that need. He, like the council, was uninterested in questions of comfort in the Location or the wellbeing of its inhabitants, but they were clearly interested in the advantage it would offer the authorities in their endeavor to control and monitor the "meandering native."

In the construction of a beer hall and the provision of sporting facilities in the Location, control and domination were again the key factors. The argument was that "organised sports would help to check vice and fill the time of the young bloods more profitably." (79) The same was also maintained for a Location beer hall, which was described as a good institution because it "is a stop gap for many natives from worse evils." A proposed hall for concerts and "suitable cinema entertainments" was also seen as a necessity because it kept the "native occupied and divert[ed] their attention from other things." (80) Interestingly, these colonial officials were equally convinced that the Africans "cannot organise themselves," as evidenced in the suggestion in the Report of the Native Affairs Commission that these activities should be "controlled by a European." (81)

At the heart of the network of control was the pass system, which regulated the movement of Africans in and out of the Location. Julie Bonello argues that the connection settlers made between labor and improving or curing ostensibly inherent deficiencies in the "native" character reveals a significant desire to control the social and economic presence of blacks generally. (82) She argues that white treatment of blacks was about far more than ensuring a steady supply of cheap labor; it reflected the need to create distance and difference between the races. (83) The Native Affairs Department kept track of the movement of the African population with rigorous pass laws. Yoshikuni states that congregations of Africans aroused anxiety among European residents, "especially when the former were out in the streets as anonymous consumers and pedestrians coming to and from 'kaffir truck shops', 'native eating houses', the pass system office and the Location." (84) It was this anxiety, and the need to control labor, that necessitated the urban pass regardless of the disquiet it caused amongst the Africans.

The BSAC's native rules and regulations, published in 1892, was the first document establishing urban passes for Africans. (85) All Africans were required to register and obtain a pass when they came into town, and a curfew was imposed from 9pm to 5am, during which time Africans were excluded from European areas. Employed Africans were required to register their contract of service with the BSAC authorities. (86) Pass legislation was gradually expanded and refined. For example, there were later calls for passes to include a note by white employers describing the laborer's character. (87) In 1895, the Registration of Natives Regulation was introduced, providing criminal penalties for Africans found in towns without passes to seek work, or registered work contracts, and for breaking curfew. (88) The pass laws thus controlled entry into and movement within the urban areas. This was done as part of the European efforts to obtain African labor while also ensuring the separation of the races.

These early pass ordinances were buttressed by the Town Location Regulations of 1898, which gave Location administrators powers to grant resident permits to Africans and wide authority to deal with loitering and disorderly activities within the African urban Locations. (89) This type of legislation, which reinforced overall African regulations with specific urban requirements, became an integral part of the European control apparatus. Further urban Location ordinances promulgated in 1905 gave the Administrator broad authority to control Location life; among these were strict regulations against admitting wives and other women to the Locations. (90) The following description, though coming from much later, demonstrates the cumbersome nature of the pass system for Africans and the level of harassment they endured:
the African required a pass to have his wife in town and another for
his children; his visitors must obtain a certificate if they spend the
night with him and he requires a permit to seek work or to walk in the
European part of the city. Many Africans find it convenient to carry the
receipt for the watch they wear or the parcel they carry as police are
liable to stop and question them. Unlike Europeans, Indians or
coloureds, they are obliged to carry at all times an identity document
in which is set out their full personal particulars and details of
their employment. The need for these various documents is greatly
resented by all and the physical difficulty of coping with them is
considerable for the many who cannot read what is recorded in the
documents or whose trousers or shirt pockets are, as is often the case,
in holes. (91)

The Location police were at the center of maintaining "law and order" in the Location and, much to the irritation of Location dwellers, they exercised their power with impunity and without limit. Albert Edward Horney, the Location Superintendent from 1926, had five police boys, a barman, and an assistant barman for the beer hall, and two native assistants who worked under him. Because of the presence of his "efficient police boys," Horney maintained that he had no trouble in controlling the Location, as they were always ready to "see that the law was kept and there was no disturbance." (92) Indeed, Horney had nothing but praise for "his boys" who were "constables sworn before a magistrate" and who were ready to react "if anything untoward happened, such as a riot." (93) Yvonne Vera's novel Butterfly Burning makes reference to this notorious police force, and details the severity of suffering that Location dwellers endured under them, including how the police made residents regret being in the city "before resigning to their situation." (94)

There was, therefore, no real motivation for the council or government to provide for their African urban subjects. What little was done was either done grudgingly and at minimal cost or to ensure the maintenance of law and order. The fact that most of the developments in the Location--or even discussions of improving developments--were necessitated by concerns other than the basic comforts and needs of the people who lived there meant that much of the resulting work was of a low or compromised quality. The social geography and administrative culture shaped by Native policy in the urban areas had a profound effect on the way Africans responded in the early period of urbanization. Early urban planning and urban culture highlighted the creation of barriers, a penchant for domination and control, and a marked hesitancy to invest more than was necessary to ensure African survival in the Location. These ideas and attitudes went a long way towards determining the physical and social structure of the Location.


This article has established how the roots of urban discontent among the African Location inhabitants stemmed from the very nature of the Location's formulation. The Location was a product of compromise forged to satisfy labor demands while also assuaging the anxieties of European inhabitants of the city who were becoming uncomfortable with the uncontrolled and unmonitored presence of Africans in the city. That compromise was in turn shaped by the government and council being unwilling to invest the resources necessary to ensure even basic necessities, much less comfort, for the Africans who were to live in the Location. As such, the infrastructure and services were, from the onset, very poor, and were bound to attract the ire of African inhabitants. Indignation, anger, and grievances were communicated to the authorities through various methods which led the Location inhabitants to realize the effectiveness of collective efforts in expressing their objections and protests. This realization gave birth to effective residents' movements from the early years of Location formation, as a majority of urban Africans were unwilling to passively accept their marginal positioning in the Location. These responses took the form of formal organizations, delegations sent to confront authorities, and other such collective actions of grievance articulation. As a result, the mobilization of urbanized Africans reacting to their conditions came to characterize this early period of Rhodesia's urban history. It is worth noting that this confrontation was not physical, but verbal, first from the Location citizens to the delegate organizations through numerous meetings held in the Location or its environs, and then to the state and municipal authorities via meetings and correspondence between the African leadership and government officials.

Such movements reached a peak in the years immediately after World War I. Before the war, people's protests frequently took the form of staying away from the Location to settle outside the town. In the postwar years, however, protest activity was much more often based within the Location, with mobilization occurring among the people living in the Location and in response to issues directly relevant to their lives there. Indeed, Lewis Gann remarks that at the end of the 1920s, Howard Moffat, "the Rhodesian Prime Minister, for the first time found himself facing a small emergent 'Africanist movement'." (96) Though this remark was in response to the Shamva mine strike in 1927, it is a suitable description of what Moffat faced in the Location during this time as well. Ranger argues that many of these emerging Africanists lived in the Bulawayo Location and complained bitterly about conditions there. They demanded, among other things, a hospital, a government school, a recreation hall, and better sanitation. (97) The same sorts of mobilization were also happening in Salisbury, especially in the face of the authorities' clear reluctance to invest in the African township.

As a result, by 1930, organizations like the Southern Rhodesia Native Association (SRNA) became a major voice for articulating the concerns of the urbanized Africans and managed to carve out a niche for themselves, especially among the educated urban Africans, or those deemed "the better class of native." (98) The SRNA had also managed to gain acceptance as a representative organization of urban Africans that was tolerated by the government and council, the only source of conflict being its attempt to extend its tentacles into the Reserves. (99) The SRNA managed to confront urban authorities and government without raising the ire of those authorities by going out of its way to present itself as an association that was not geared towards fighting the state or council, but working with them for the ultimate goal of creating a contented African urban citizen. This was acceptable to both the colonial state and the municipal authorities, whose main agenda was at this time to maintain effective control through the exercise of law and order. As long as the SRNA was not going to turn into "agitators," the colonial state was willing to indulge them. The SRNA learned this lesson well, realizing that they could benefit more by presenting themselves as a cooperative association, especially at the expense of the ICU, who had unfortunately won the unenviable brand of dissenters.

The situation was thus acceptable to both the authorities and the Association: For the authorities, the Association served as "a vent for ill-formulated but sincere expression of Native grievance and Native opinion," which might otherwise have emerged in less pleasant and more confrontational ways. (100) The arrangement also served the Association well, because "the government can only provide conditions of progress, but it is we ourselves who have got to make the government see that it is worth their while to help us." (101) Perhaps ironically, the compromise between the authorities and the Association would also serve the developmental interests of the ICU, as the cooperative behavior of the SRNA allowed the ICU to attract support among the uneducated, unmarried women and single men who had borne the brunt of Location struggles and had been alienated by the SRNA's elitist tendencies. Charles Mzingeli and his ICU achieved immediate notoriety when an ICU branch was officially formed in Salisbury in 1929, but the seeds of his success there lay in policies, police measures, and even a physical infrastructure that long predated the ICU's arrival in the city. (102)


Kudakwashe Chitofiri is a lecturer at the National University of Lesotho and a Research Fellow with the University of the Free State's Centre for Gender and Africa Studies. He received his PhD in Africa Studies in 2016 from the International Studies Group, University of the Free State. Prior to that, he graduated with an Honours in Economic History and Master of Arts in African Economic History from the University of Zimbabwe. His areas of interest include urban history, protest history, and the history of migration.

(1.) John N. Paden and Edward W. Soja, The African Experience (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1970), 28.

(2.) The term 'subjects' is used in the context of Mahmood Mamdani's analysis of a colonial African state as a bifurcated power that mediated racial domination through tribally organized local authorities, reproducing racial identity in citizens and ethnic identity in subjects.

(3.) This concern is very prominent in documents in which urban authorities and colonial officials debate African urbanization.

(4.) Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Colonialism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 24.

(5.) Brian Raftopoulos and Tsuneo Yoshikuni, eds., Sites of Struggle: Essays in Zimbabwe's Urban History (Harare: Weaver Press, 1999), 1.

(6.) Ibid.

(7.) Richard Gray, The Two Nations: Aspects of the Development of Race Relations in the Rhodesias and Nyasaland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960), 33.

(8.) Raftopoulos and Yoshikuni, Sites of Struggle, 1.

(9.) Ibid.

(10.) Tsuneo Yoshikuni, African Urban Experiences in Colonial Zimbabwe: A Social History of Harare before 1925 (Harare: Weaver Press, 2007), 2.

(11.) Some of the key works in this respect include Brian Raftopoulos and Ian Phimister, eds., Keep on Knocking: A History of the Labour Movement in Zimbabwe, 1900-1997 (Harare: Baobab Books, 1997); Duncan G. Clarke, Contract Workers and Underdevelopment in Rhodesia (Gweru: Mambo Press, 1974); Ian R. Phimister and C. van Onselen, Studies in the History of Mine Labour in Colonial Zimbabwe (Gweru: Mambo Press, 1978).

(12.) Terence O. Ranger, The African Voice in Southern Rhodesia, 1898-1930 (London: Heinemann, 1970), was path breaking in this regard.

(13.) Clyde Sanger, Central African Emergency (London: Heinemann, 1960), 206.

(14.) Ibid.

(15.) Ian R. Phimister, "Narratives of Progress: Zimbabwean Historiography and the End of History," Journal of Contemporary African Studies 30:1 (2012), 28.

(16.) Yoshikuni, for example, has identified some of these organizations more as self-help organizations than as proto-nationalist organizations. See Tsuneo Yoshikuni, "Strike Action and Self-help Associations: Zimbabwean Worker Protest and Culture after World War I," Journal of Southern African Studies 15:3 (1989): 440-468.

(17.) Enocent Msindo, "Social and Political Responses to Colonialism on the Margins: Community, Chieftaincy and Ethnicity in Bulilima-Mangwe, Zimbabwe, 1890-1930," in Peter Limb, Norman Etherington, and Peter Midgley, eds., Grappling with the Beast: Indigenous Southern African Responses to Colonialism, 1840-1930 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 117.

(18.) Timothy Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe: Harare and Highfield, 1940-1964 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2008), 21.

(19.) Jocelyn Alexander, JoAnn McGregor, and Terence Ranger, Violence and Memory: One Hundred Years in the "Dark Forests" of Matabeleland (Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2000), 85.

(20.) Scarnecchia, The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political Violence in Zimbabwe, 3.

(21.) Chengetai J. M. Zvobgo, A History of Zimbabwe, 1890-2000 and Postscript, Zimbabwe, 2000-2008 (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

(22.) For more on the Pioneer Column see Barry A. Kosmin, "On the Imperial Frontier: The Pioneer Community of Salisbury in November 1899," Rhodesian History 2 (1971): 25- 37.

(23.) See Paul L. Moorcraft and Peter McLaughlin, The Rhodesian War: A Military History (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008), which has a chapter that chronicles the roots of conflict between white settlers and the Ndebele and Shona and explains the racial attitudes that were solidified as a result of the conflict.

(24.) Munyaradzi Mushonga, "White Power, White Desire: Miscegenation in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)," African Journal of History and Culture 5:1 (January 2013), 2.

(25.) This was a dominant view at least up to the Second World War, when the changes in Southern Rhodesia's political economy forced the state to reconsider this position.

(26.) The new Location was established and regulated under the Native Urban Locations Ordinance of 1906.

(27.) Yoshikuni, African Urban Experiences in Colonial Zimbabwe.

(28.) National Archives of Zimbabwe (NAZ), S246/ 782, Government Notice Number 70 of 1908, Chief Secretary's Office, 19 March 1908.

(29.) Ibid.

(30.) NAZ, LG38, Chief Inspector, Southern Rhodesia Constabulary to Town Clerk, 29 April 1908.

(31.) NAZ, LG38, Sergeant Delahay to Sub-Inspector. Southern Rhodesia Constabulary, 19 February 1908.

(32.) Early Salisbury was divided into two quarters, the Kopje in the west and the Causeway in the east. The kopje was mostly inhabited by non-official residents and was dominated by principal business establishments, while the Causeway had government offices, official residences, the English and Roman Catholic churches, etc. See The Rhodesia Herald, 8 February 1895.

(33.) NAZ, LG 52/6/1, John Smith, Inspector of Location to Town Clerk, 25 January 1905.

(34.) Ibid.

(35.) NAZ, LG 38, Petition to Town Council, 2 February 1906.

(36.) For a comprehensive analysis of this see Jason Hickel, "Engineering the Township Home: Domestic Transformations and Urban Revolutionary Consciousness," in Meghan Healy and Jason Hickel, eds., Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2014): 131-161.

(37.) Hickel, "Engineering the Township Home," 143.

(38.) Lewis H. Gann and Peter Duignan, White Settlers in Tropical Africa (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1962), 83-84.

(39.) Yoshikuni comes to the same conclusion regarding this position. See Yoshikuni, African Urban Experiences in Colonial Zimbabwe, 16.

(40.) The Rhodesia Herald, March 1908.

(41.) Ibid.

(42.) Yoshikuni, African Urban Experiences in Colonial Zimbabwe, 38.

(43.) Ibid., 41.

(44.) Ibid., 39.

(45.) NAZ, LG52/6/1, G. Reilly to Town Clerk, 3 March 1914.

(46.) NAZ, LG52/6/2, Location Superintendent to Town Clerk, 30 June 1920.

(47.) Ibid.

(48.) Ibid.

(49.) NAZ, LG52, /6/2, H.E Hicks, M.O.H, to Town Clerk, 20 June 1920.

(50.) This concern is raised in correspondence between H.E. Hicks and the Town Clerk, NAZ, LG52, /6/2, H.E Hicks, M.O.H, to Town Clerk, 20 June 1920.

(51.) Ibid.

(52.) NAZ, LG52/6/1, Reilly to Town Clerk, 3 March 1914.

(53.) NAZ, LG52/6/1, J. Smith to Town Clerk, 14 November 1912.

(54.) NAZ, SI38/41 Assistant Native Commissioner to Superintendent of Natives, Salisbury, 13 March 1924.

(55.) Belinda Bozzoli, Theatres of Struggle and the End of Apartheid (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2004), 57.

(56.) NAZ S246/ 782, Government Notice no. 70 of 1908. The Ordinance is quoted extensively in communication between government officials and municipal authorities.

(57.) NAZ, LG93/11, Commonage and Markets Committee minutes, 7 November 1913.

(58.) Ibid.

(59.) NAZ, LG38, Memorandum by H. L. Lezard, 13 March 1994.

(60.) Boris Gussman, "Industrial Efficiency and the Urban African: A Study of Conditions in Southern Rhodesia," Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 23:2 (1953), 138.

(61.) NAZ, LG38 C Clark to Town Clerk, 9 June 1908.

(62.) Quoted in Yoshikuni, African Urban Experiences in Colonial Zimbabwe, 45.

(63.) NAZ, LG93/10, Council Minutes, 22 September 1909.

(64.) Larry W. Bowman, Politics in Rhodesia: White Power in an African State (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973), 6.

(65.) Yoshikuni, African Urban Experiences in Colonial Zimbabwe, 11.

(66.) Ibid.

(67.) Ibid.

(68.) Quoted in Yoshikuni, African Urban Experiences in Colonial Zimbabwe, 46.

(69.) Yoshikuni, African Urban Experiences in Colonial Zimbabwe, 46.

(70.) The Rhodesia Herald, 2 November 1910.

(71.) Yoshikuni has a very interesting discussion of these beer protests. He also discusses how the municipal authorities took over beer brewing and distribution in the Location. See Yoshikuni, African Urban Experiences in Colonial Zimbabwe, 46-60.

(72.) NAZ, LG52/6/1, Reilly to Town Clerk, 3 March 1914.

(73.) NAZ, S85, Evidence, Native Affairs Commission (Salisbury Municipal Location), 4 December 1930.

(74.) Ibid.

(75.) NAZ S85; Government Notice Number 248, 18 April 1924.

(76.) NAZ, S85, Robert Lloyd Pollet (Town Clerk) - Laws and Regulations.

(77.) NAZ, S85, Evidence, Native Affairs Commission (Salisbury Municipal Location), 4 December 1930.

(78.) Ibid.

(79.) NAZ, S86, Report, Native Affairs Commission (Salisbury Municipal Location).

(80.) Ibid.

(81.) Ibid.

(82.) Julie Bonello, "The Development of Early Settler Identity in Southern Rhodesia: 1890-1914," International Journal of African Historical Studies 43:2 (2010), 348.

(83.) Ibid.

(84.) Yoshikuni, African Urban Experiences in Colonial Zimbabwe, 19.

(85.) "British South Africa Company: Native Rules and Regulations," Rhodesia Herald, 29 October 1892.

(86.) Ibid.

(87.) "'Employer,' Black Domestics" [Letter to the Editor], Rhodesia Herald, 20 October 1900.

(88.) James Muzondidya, Walking a Tightrope: Towards a Social History of the Coloured Community in Zimbabwe (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2005), 23.

(89.) Ibid.

(90.) Rhodesia Herald, 30 March 1905.

(91.) Gussman, "Industrial Efficiency and the Urban African," 139.

(92.) NAZ, S85, Evidence, Native Affairs Commission (Salisbury Municipal Location), 4 December 1930.

(93.) Ibid.

(94.) Yvonne Vera, Butterfly Burning (Harare: Baobab Books, 1998), 44.

(95.) Ibid.

(96.) Lewis H. Gann, A History of Southern Rhodesia: Early Days to 1934 (London: Chatto and Windus, 1965), 269.

(97.) Terence O. Ranger, "City versus State in Zimbabwe: Colonial Antecedents of the Current Crisis," Journal of Eastern African Studies 1:2 (2007), 163.

(98.) The Southern Rhodesia Native Association (SRNA) had emerged in the immediate post-World War period in 1919.

(99.) Black Africans lost their lands through wholesale evictions and forced removal; they were forcibly moved to areas designated as native reserves/communal lands. Those areas generally had poor, infertile soil and were located in the most inhospitable and tsetse-ridden areas of the country.

(100.) NAZ, S246/782, Notes of Meeting at CNC's office with Delegation from SRNA, 1 June 1927.

(101.) NAZ, S246/782, Speech by the Rhodesia Native Association President, 9 September 1924.

(102.) Charles Mzingeli was the organization's General Secretary and a very influential member of Salisbury's African community.
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Author:Chitofiri, Kudakwashe
Publication:The Historian
Geographic Code:6ZIMB
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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