Urban grievances that emerged after occupation Stanley Hall in Makokoba

Pathisa Nyathi

SOON after the occupation, towns were established which became homes for, the colonisers. Here they operated secondary, tertiary and quaternary industries. Some of them quickly established farms and around Bulawayo, Reigate and Umvutshwa were the first to be established by December 1893. 

Initially, the conquered Ndebele people were not evicted from the farms. Private land ownership was something new and strange.

Bulawayo, known as KoBulawayo in the pre-colonial period became Bulawayo, a corruption that has existed to this day. 

As early as 1894, an unplanned settlement for blacks was established. It was the Location, Elokitshini later to become Makokoba, a name inspired by the native superintendent, one Mr Fallon. From the very outset, racial discrimination became an integral part of Bulawayo and indeed, other towns in a country named after Cecil John Rhodes-Southern Rhodesia. 

Racial discrimination was the hallmark of the new establishment. Whites lived in their own suburbs, some of the early one being Northend and Queens Park. More were established over time, all in the east, where blacks lived as nannies and garden boys. The Location was for a long time the only settlement set aside for blacks. Luveve, named after Colonel C L Carbutt, known as Nomvemve to the Zulu and Luveve to the Ndebele, was established in the early 1930s. He became a native commissioner and later a chief native commissioner. 

Makokoba was provided with some cordon sanitaire in the form of a bush with indigenous trees such as the acacia species. In addition, there was a line of Christian churches including the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Seventh day Adventist Church (SDA) and the Wesleyan Methodist Church. All these named churches had other church buildings where whites only worshipped, a tell-tale regarding the white missionaries.

Mzilikazi Township, named after the founding King of the Ndebele nation, was established in 1945. Black settlements were characterised by communal ablution blocks. Mule-drawn wagons were early in the morning used to collect human excreta in buckets to deposit the waste close to where the Happy Valley Lodge is located today. 

Even Mzilikazi Township started off with the communal toilets and bathing facilities.

There was overcrowding, especially in Makokoba. The Bulawayo Municipal Compound where Municipality workers were housed, later known as KoVundu had tiny “windows” that did not open. They still exist to this day. More Africans, unfamiliar with associational life in urban centres began to relate to each other across the ethnic divide. That marked the slow but certain genesis of resistance movements such as the Bantu Voters’ Association and later in the 1920s, the pioneering trade union movement, the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union(ICU) led by Masotsha Ndlovu with other activists such as Clements Kadalie and Dumbutshena. 

Africans began to feel the racial pinch. They were treated as second-class citizens, who were needed in the towns solely for their labour. Male workers were not allowed to bring their spouses into the townships. Isibhalwa/chibharo was instituted where Africans provided unpaid labour for the development of the physical infrastructure in both the towns and elsewhere. One case was the construction of the Rhodes Matopos Dam on the northern edge of the Matobo Hills. Joshua Nkomo deals with such issues in his autobiography, “The Story of My Life.”

There were several urban grievances that like the rural ones were motivated and powered by racial discrimination. Workers with the same qualifications did not get equal pay. Whites received higher pay. These pay differentials in pay were accentuated when Africans began acquiring industrial qualifications from schools such as Domboshava and Tsholotsho. They latter relocated to Mzingwane in 1942, due to the viral strains of malaria in Tsholotsho, where there were water pans with stagnant water that encouraged the breeding of mosquitoes. 

Qualified artisans from Mzingwane and Domboshava felt the racial pinch. Blue cardholders such as JZ did receive equal pay as their white counterparts. Many blacks such as Nkomo, Edward Ndlovu, Stephen Jeqe Nkomo, Boysen Mguni and several became disillusioned and joined the trade union movements and later became nationalist. The Industrial Conciliation Act of 1934 did not recognise blacks as workers who could form and belong to trade unions.

In due course, the nationalists realised that the only option likely to knock sense into the heads of die-hard racists within the Rhodesian Front was to transform their struggles into the armed struggle that brought independence on 18 April 1980.


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