Zimbabwe officially the Republic of Zimbabwe, is a landlocked country located in southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. The capital and largest city is Harare.
What is now Zimbabwe was historically the site of many prominent kingdoms and empires, as well as a major route for migration and trade. The present territory was first demarcated by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company during the 1890s, becoming the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia in 1923. In 1965 the conservative white minority government unilaterally declared independence as Rhodesia. The unrecognized state endured international isolation and a 15-year guerrilla war with black nationalist forces; this culminated in a peace agreement that established universal enfranchisement and de jure sovereignty in April 1980.
An ethnically diverse country of roughly 13 million people, Zimbabwe has 16 official languages, with English, Shona and Ndebele being most common. President Robert Mugabe is head of state and government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Renowned as a champion for the anti-colonial cause, Mugabe is also viewed as authoritarian responsible for Zimbabwe’s problematic human rights record and substantial economic decline. He has held power since 1980: as head of government until 1987, and head of both state and government since then.
COLONIAL ZIMBABWE AND THE WAGE-LABOUR FACTOR
Zimbabwe was colonised in 1890 through the British South African Company (BSAC) led by Cecil John Rhodes and renamed Southern Rhodesia. The BSAC, on a mineral exploration expedition, discovered that the climate and the soils were suitable for agricultural production (Ranger, 1981). This led to agricultural prospects, and white people, mainly from England, were brought to settle in the colony.
In the late 1890’s, the indigenous inhabitants represented by the Shona and Ndebele ethnic groups, which accounted for 80% and 18% of the indigenous population respectively, fought the BSAC and the white settlers who had occupied the land. However, the black uprisings against colonial settlers were defeated during the first Chimurenga war owing to their opponents’ use of superior weapons (Peel and Ranger, 1981). The defeat of the blacks marked the beginning of extensive expropriation of land, massive displacement of the indigenous people from land, confiscation of their cattle and exploitation of their labour.
LABOUR MARKET POLICIES (1980 – 1990)
To the black working class, political independence meant an immediate redress of the work place discrimination, disparities and the respect for workers to participate in industrial action. This also meant the end of the racist Industrial Conciliation Act of 1959 that was no longer acceptable to the new political dispensation. So, the freedom to mobilise workers and the subsequent wildcat strikes in April 1980 (soon after independence) forced the Government to issue a directive that all workplaces should have workers’ committees (comprised of shop floor worker representatives) which were to engage with management in works councils to discuss conditions of service, including remuneration. The introduction of workers committees was seen as a means of democratising the workplaces. Indeed, workers were to have a say in matters affecting them at the workplaces. The above was also supported by government’s legislation such as the Employment Act (1980) and the Minimum Wage Act (1980). For instance, the latter obligated the Government to come up with minimum wages for all sectors, and had to be announced during the Workers’ Day celebrations (1st May of every year).
Subsequently, the Industrial Conciliation Act of 1959 and the 1980 pieces of legislation were appealed in 1985 ushering in the Labour Relations Act (1985). The Government, however, continued with its role of fixing minimum wages up until 1990 when the labour market was deregulated with the advent of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) in 1991. The Labour Relations Act of 1985 was applauded by the black workers as it accorded them labour rights and the space to take part in the affairs of the companies. This contrasts sharply with the colonial era in which workers were regarded as servants without rights to organise themselves in pursuit of better working conditions and a living remuneration. The Labour Relations Act also promoted the concepts of equal pay for work of equal value as enshrined in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 100 (Equal Remuneration) 1949 and non-discrimination at the workplace as propounded in the ILO Convention No. 111 (Employment Occupation) 1949. Both Conventions were ratified by Zimbabwe. Paid maternity leave was granted to black female workers. Indeed, the Labour Relations Act of 1985 is a significant piece of legislation promulgated in the first decade of independence which addressed the issue of colonial inequities.
THE WAGE – LABOUR ACT 1890-1948.
Hand in glove with the demography dilemma was the wage-Labour Question. Most settlers who migrated to colonial Zimbabwe ventured into farming, a sector that faced a gigantic labour deficit. From the early days of colonial encroachment integrating Africans into the capitalist mode of production was a major challenge for the colonial administration. A number of factors impacted on labour supplies between 1890 and the enactment of the Land Apportionment Act in 1930. First was what has been termed by Palmer (1977) the “era of peasant prosperity.” Many African farmers considerably benefitted from supplying the food requirements of the new establishments such as mines in the early colonial period. This had negative implications on labour supplies. Again, African livestock had steadily recovered from the rinderpest outbreak of the 1890s and for many peasants the stock trade was an easier way of meeting their financial needs, such as payment of taxes in comparison with offering their labour on the farms and on mines.
The second factor is that most Africans who decided to sell their labour to settler establishments kept one foot firmly maintained in the traditional economy, selling their labour only to meet particular needs and targets. As Grier (1994:34) puts it, “regular supply of labour was hampered by seasonal and annual fluctuations in the number of adult African males who turned out to work, the short periods for which the men were willing to work (and) widespread desertion.” The settler agricultural sector was to rely more and more on alien labour as a result of it being more stable than local labour. The distance between the alien worker‟s home and the farms of the colony was big, and many workers established a home away from home on the farms, and with time labour was raised on the farm as the workers parented.
ASSESS AFRICAN WAGE LABOUR UNDER BRITISH COLONALISM IN ZIMBABWE
Assessing the African wage labour under British colonialism was an eye opener for most scholars who tend to see it as a sharp inequality among workers in the country compare to their white counter parts whose take home pay and working conditions were far better off. Well it should be noted that under the African wage labour in colonial Zimbabwe, wage bills for white and black workers differ from each other.
During the colonial era in British Zimbabwe, Remuneration was also a huge factor in labour supply. Wages on the mines and on farms were low, and as a result offered no attractive incentive to most Africans. This, coupled with the fact that mining and agricultural work is intensive in nature, made cheap labour difficult to find. Hand in glove with this was the use of pre-capitalist methods in settler agriculture such as labour tenancy. Labour tenancy was a relation of production that emerged as result of the fact that many white farmers did not have adequate resources to invest in farming and for wages. While land was plentiful, capital was scarce for the majority of white farmers (Rennie 1978). Most farmers were also technically and managerially unskilled (Machingaidze 1980).what should be noted here is that income for both white and black workers differ at a far difference.
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