Early settlers were promised mineral rights

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: Zimbabwe 1894-1969: Mining in Rhodesia

  • From the start, Zimbabwe was colonized because settlers wanted to find the Second Rand
  • The terms of the Rudd Concession emphasized more on mining
  • Whites involved in the occupation of Zimbabwe were each promised a 15 gold claims and there was need to make sure gold was discovered for distribution
  • Therefore mining became the backbone of the settlers economy
  • They mined minerals such tin, gold, asbestos, chrome, copper, iron and coal
  • When they realized that mining was a viable business they established steps to encourage effective production such as:
    1. Geological survey with maps and provision of electricity
    2. Advice on planning
  • The Electricity Supply Commission was established in 1937 to ensure that electricity was available in mines
  • In order to keep their workers at work, the settlers used methods such as
    1. The compound system, which restricted their movement and was cruel
    2. Instilling fear through general ill-treatment methods such as the use of sjamboks
  • Policemen were always on the lookout for those who broke the law or intended to and gate passes were needed to go out of compounds
  • The racial police of the two-pyramid policy was adopted by the settlers in mines with blacks occupying the base whilst the whites were at the top
  • The mine compounds for the blacks were characterized by poor living conditions such as poor lighting, infrastructure, overcrowding, poor sanitation and water facilities.
  • Blacks were also subjected to harsh working conditions such as long working hours, physical abuse and poor protective clothing
  • At first workers reacted to ill-treatment passively by:
    1. Damaging machinery and tools
    2. Leaving and looking for better wages
    3. Faking passes
    4. Go slows
  • However, resistance then turned violent when the workers planned a strike at Wankie Colliery in 1912 and another one in Shamva Mine in 1927
  • The whites were able to suppress the strikes because the of the aid they got from the government, use of force and migrant workers from Malawi and Mozambique did not join because they were afraid of losing their jobs
  • After time mining was less profitable but it still remained an important aspect of the settler economy
  • The British government bought mineral rights from the BSAC in 1933
  • Gold priced lowered around 1952 and asbestos became the most valuable mineral in Zimbabwe
  • The coal mining business developed steadily
  • Industries to produce by-products of coal such as tar, benzene, creosote and ammonia were established
  • Southern Rhodesia was the second major producer of beryllium by 1951

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