History Monday: Rhodesian Native Labour Bureau

 The Rhodesian Native Labour Bureau was created to collect and distribute native labourers; whilst facilitating their travelling and provision of blankets, accomodation and other facilities.

The Rhodesian Native Labour Bureau, based in Bulawayo, was a commercial body constituted under an Ordinance of 1906 and accepted by the High Commissioner and the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It’s purpose was the collecting and distributing of native labourers and for facilitating their travelling by providing blankets, accommodation and other facilities.

Native workers for North-Eastern Rhodesia were provided with 12 month contracts while workers from North-Western Rhodesia were provided with 6 month contracts with options to renew for another 3 months.

In 1908, the Bureau was plagued with accusations that they were diverting native workers from Rhodesian farms to the mines and therefore the farms were finding it difficult to obtain native labour. Native workers were free to work on farms, however, the higher rates of pay for mine work presented a better opportunity.

Late in 1910, the Bureau was suffering from financial difficulties (partly due to inherited debts). This resulted in the Bureau reforming as a Joint Stock Company with capital subscribed from England and additional funds from a compulsory labour tax on employees. This led to the introduction Labour Tax Ordinance of 1911.

By 1912 the Bureau had a range of agencies across Northern Rhodesia and by 1933 it had ceased operations.

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