A Rhodesian police officer talking to a black motorists. Image credit ebay.com

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: Zimbabwe 1894-1969:The Pass Laws

  • They were initiated in 1896 to control the movement of native men to towns
  • From 1902 men over 14 years of age were to register at the pass office to get identification certification
  • These certificates were paid for daily at the local government
  • From 1902-1913 African men needed a travelling or visiting pass to travel from one district to another
  • They also needed the pass to seek employment
  • In 1936 the government passed the Native Registration Act to tighten its control on workers
  • The government also passed the Native Passes Act in 1937 to reinforce the previous native passes laws
  • It was illegal for a man to gain employment for more than four days if they did not have an identification certificate and this was reviewed to seven days in 1957
  • The pass system became so strict that a native man had to carry about 14 documents including chitupa in the late 1950s
  • They had to carry tax receipts for good they bought
  • Failure to produce the passes resulted in harassment and abuse by the police officers who demanded to receipts at any time
  • Crimes of not breaching pass laws constituted the largest number of prosecutions in Rhodesia
  • The fines from pass breaching prosecutions were also another source of revenue for the colonial government
  • Jails became full of African men who could not pay for fines
  • African men tried to avoid using passes by other men’s passes
  • The number of the passes and the severity of the laws were eventually reduced in 1961 only retaining the registration certificate

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