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Colleen Bawn segregation: Spacious and crammed villages

by Yoliswa Dube-Moyo
11 Apr 2022 at 06:31hrs | Views
VICTORIAN style houses surrounded by beautiful greenery on cosmic pieces of land characterised Village 1, a gated community for the white minority living in Colleen Bawn, Matabeleland South before the country attained its independence in 1980.

The houses, set on a bulging piece of land atop a hill, were a preserve of the whites that worked in various mining operations around the area and owned vast tracts of farm land.

Measuring no less than 3 500 square-metres each, the spacious yards provided a relaxing atmosphere that blacks could only marvel at then.

They had a social club for recreational purposes and no blacks were allowed admission.

Most blacks in Colleen Bawn back then had no idea what it looked like beyond the gates leading into the village except those who worked as domestic workers for the whites in the gated community.

Now called Mpumalanga Heights, Village 1 was meant to keep out blacks and amplified Rhodesia's segregation laws.

Mr Davison Siziba, who lived in Colleen Bawn before independence, said Mpumalanga Heights was a preserve of the whites and most black people did not know what the inside of the village looked like back then.

"Village 1 was meant to keep out blacks like many other areas in this country and only a few blacks who were employed as domestic workers such as gardeners or cooks were allowed access. When I finally had the opportunity to go inside the village, I was shocked to find out that there was further segregation within the white community; British vs Afrikaners," said Mr Siziba.

He said the coloured community was housed around the railway line towards West Nicholson because they were considered a nuisance.

Blacks were crammed in Village 2 where the sun seemed hotter, the houses were much smaller and there were no yards to talk of.

The two- and four-roomed houses accommodated low-level employees who were not allowed to mix with whites as it was believed that blacks and whites were incapable of co-existing.

"You may be amazed that the coloured community was housed around the railway line towards West Nicholson because they were considered a nuisance. That small village was revived to house security guards," said Mr Siziba.

He said he started staying in Mpumalanga in 1980 during the transition period and that's when the whites quickly built the seven houses next to the clinic for the few blacks who qualified to stay in the suburb.

Mr Siziba said before then blacks were isolated and not allowed at the recreation club.

He said racism and intolerance was apparent when the recreation club at Mpumalanga Heights was opened to black membership soon after the country attained independence.

"Officially, the club was open for a certain pay grade for blacks but open to all white workers. The first black club members met a lot of resistance on the ground and one could tell that they were not welcome. So, the blacks used to go there in groups to collectively fend off any unbecoming racist behaviour. There was a blacks' corner and a whites' corner in the club. The colour that came first would try to fill the counter so that there's no room for the other race. The barman was black and the white bosses were influencing him to give his fellow blacks a raw deal," said Mr Siziba.

He said this made the environment tense as whites still believed in the segregation of blacks.

The racist ideology such as the civilising mission and the doctrine that blacks were lesser people was at the core of the justification for colonisation. White settlers believed in such theories of superiority which purported that whites were more advanced than blacks who they believed were of low morality and incapable of controlling themselves.

This racist ideology was the basis for a series of discriminatory legislation such as the Sale of Liquor to Natives and Indians Regulations 1898, which prohibited the sale of alcohol to black people in Southern Rhodesia as well as the Immorality and Indecency Suppression Act 1903, which criminalised sexual acts between white women and black men.

Rhodesia was established under the sponsorship of Cecil John Rhodes and his British South Africa Company and he firmly believed in the White-Man's Burden idea of the duty of the Anglo-Saxon race to help "civilise" the "darker" corners of the world and regarded British imperialism as a positive force for this purpose.

The settlers that occupied Zimbabwe shared this view of the world and treated the indigenous black population as children that needed guidance, protection and civilisation.

Racial segregation permeated the colonial project at every level, whether it was in sports, hotel facilities, or the use of public conveniences and amenities.

Racism in colonial Zimbabwe was also informed by a sense of fear, given the fact whites were grossly outnumbered in the country and they were always afraid of being overwhelmed by the black majority. This contributed to their determination to control black people and "keep them in their place".

Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Abednico Ncube said the country did not come on a silver platter but through huge sacrifice.

"We lost our beloved ones who participated in the armed struggle to liberate this country which we now call Zimbabwe. Independence Day is a reminder to everyone that the country was liberated through a lot of sacrifice. Blood was shed, we fought and conquered which led to the Lancaster House talks that brought us our country," said Minister Ncube.

He said the country's independence resulted in a lot of policy changes, which empowered the black majority.

"Women were not recognised but now they are considered as equals to men. Even in schools, there was African education and the division of European and coloured education, but since the attainment of independence, our Government has built schools, universities, colleges, health institutions and our roads are being rehabilitated," said Minister Ncube.

Politically, blacks were excluded at every level and the Public Services Act of 1921 prohibited black people from employment in the civil service. Blacks were also largely disenfranchised through a series of qualifications.

The 1923 Constitution enforced income and property restrictions that were unattainable for the majority of blacks.

The decision by blacks living under the heavy-handed Ian Smith regime to join the protracted liberation struggle, culminated in the black majority rule on April 18, 1980.

It was the zenith of the freedom fighters' dream when the Union Jack was lowered and the Zimbabwe flag hoisted at Rufaro Stadium in Harare 42 years ago.

Source - The Chronicle