The Commercial Branch was the largest landowner in Rhodesia
The B.S.A.C. was the largest landowner in Rhodesia followed by Amalgamated Properties of Rhodesia and Willoughby’s Consolidated Co. Ltd.
In October 1905, C. D. Wise, an experienced British agriculturalist, was sent by the B.S.A.C. to report on the current and future prospects of the agricultural prospects of Rhodesia. The directors were impressed with Wise’s report and in October 1907, the Visiting Commission of Directors stated the company intended to pursue an active and forward commercial policy to develop the land. The company made a decision to separate its commercial and administrative functions.
Thus in 1908 The Commercial Branch of the British South Africa Company (B.S.A.C.) was established to administer land and agricultural development. The Department of Lands became responsible to the Commercial Representative in Bulawayo.
The separation of functions increased the controversy of land ownership. European settlers believed that fines, rents, taxes and tarrifs raised were not going to develop the land but to the company’s coffers. This led to the Privy Council ruling in 1918 that unalienated land belonged to the Crown and not the Company.
The Commercial Branch ended when Rhodesia achieved Responsible Government on 1st October, 1923.