Part 1: Zimbabwe - the 19th century

The Shona-Ndebele rebellions were a failure and the heroes Mlimo and Nehanda were assassinated and executed respectively. The influx of white settlers had begun in 1890 and they had withstood the siege of Bulawayo during the war. The territories of Matabeleland and Mashonaland fell under British rule and became known as Rhodesia. Both the Ndebele and Shona people became the subjects of British administration.

Hut Tax
In a despicable pattern that was repeated across Africa in countries such as South Africa, Sierra Leone and Uganda, hut tax was introduced. Hut tax really was the great evil of colonialism. Huts were taxed on an individual or per-household basis. These were communities that had survived by means of cattle farming or agriculture and they had no way of actually paying these taxes. When the taxes were introduced across Africa, people often had to sell their land in order to pay for the taxes. They then moved onto smaller or less favourable pieces of land which were often overgrazed by their cattle. Cattle were then sold either to pay for the taxes or because of the overcrowding. Traditional and age old systems of allowing land to lie fallow in off-seasons tended to be disrupted due to the overgrazing and the need to produce higher levels of stock in order to pay for the taxes.

Land became over-farmed and throughout Africa droughts and floods began to have devastating effects. The primary reason for allowing land to lie fallow in off-seasons is to give the top soil a chance to replenish. Healthy soil can withstand a dry season as the soil retains water both in the water table and in roots. A healthy layer of top soil will also help land to withstand flooding and remain intact. Overused soil dries to dust in dry seasons and is simply washed away when heavy rains or floods come.

In time, unable to support themselves on the land and unable to produce goods to barter to pay for hut tax, more and more people were forced to labour under for the colonial powers and to build colonial towns, railways and mines.

About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is an accountant living and working in London. She is passionate about world events such as genocide and apartheid and has a desire to understand how these events continue to occur in the modern world. With a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries, A Passion to Understand reflects her continuing research and reading on these topics.
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  1. Thanks,Emm,
    You've opened my eyes.

  2. Hi Emm, just took a history lesson here,i am first time here,if you dont mind,i will be back.

    take care now and have a great weekend

  3. Oh dear! I didn't mean to post this yet - it isn't finished! I am trying to find more information on the laws and acts that might have passed that were disadvantageous to the Shona and Ndebele people in the first years of the 20th century. I will still do that research and update this post soon. Maybe I can find some info in South Africa - I am there next week.

    @ nightcabcontroller: it's always nice to see you! I'm glad the post did its job!

    @ Eugene: You are most welcome here and it will be great to see you return. I hope it was a good lesson!


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