British South Africa Company
Establishment of BSAC rule
The name "Rhodesia" was derived from Cecil John Rhodes, the British capitalist and empire-builder who was a guiding figure in British expansion north of the Limpopo River into south-central Africa. Rhodes pushed British influence into the region by obtaining mineral rights from local chiefs under questionable treaties. After making a vast fortune in mining in South Africa, it was his ambition to extend the British Empire north, all the way to Cairo if possible, although this was far beyond the resources of any commercial company to achieve. Rhodes' main focus was south of the Zambezi, in Mashonaland and the coastal areas to its east, and when the expected wealth of Mashonaland did not materialise, there was little money left for significant development in the area north of the Zambezi, which he wanted to be held as cheaply as possible. Although Rhodes sent European settlers into the territory that became Southern Rhodesia, he limited his involvement north of the Zambezi to encouraging and financing British expeditions to bring it into the British sphere of influence.
British missionaries had already established themselves in Nyasaland, and in 1890 the British government's Colonial Office sent Harry Johnston to this area, where he proclaimed a protectorate, later named the British Central Africa Protectorate. The charter of BSAC contained only vague limits on the northern extent of the company's sphere of activities, and Rhodes sent emissaries Joseph Thomson and Alfred Sharpe to make treaties with chiefs in the area west of Nyasaland. Rhodes also considered Barotseland as a suitable area for British South Africa Company operations and as a gateway to the copper deposits of Katanga. Lewanika, king of the Lozi people of Barotseland sought European protection because of internal unrest and the threat of Ndebele raids. With the help of François Coillard of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society, he drafted a petition seeking a British protectorate in 1889, but the Colonial Office took no immediate action on it. However, Rhodes sent Frank Elliott Lochner to Barotseland to obtain a concession and offered to pay the expenses of a protectorate there. Lochner told Lewanika that BSAC represented the British government, and on 27 June 1890, Lewanika consented to an exclusive mineral concession. This (the Lochner Concession) gave the company mining rights over the whole area in which Lewanika was paramount ruler in exchange for an annual subsidy and the promise of British protection, a promise that Lochner had no authority to give. However, the BSAC advised the Foreign Office that the Lozi had accepted British protection. As a result, Barotseland was claimed to be within the British sphere of influence under the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1891, although its boundary with Angola was not fixed until 1905.
In 1889, although Britain recognised the rights of the International Association of the Congo to large sections of the Congo basin, which formed the Congo Free State under the personal rule of King Leopold II of Belgium, it did not accept its effective occupation of Katanga, which was known to have copper and was thought might also have gold. Rhodes, possibly prompted by Harry Johnston, wanted a mineral concession for the BSAC in Katanga. He sent Alfred Sharpe to obtain a treaty from its ruler, Msiri which would grant the concession and create a British protectorate over his kingdom. King Leopold II of Belgium was also interested in Katanga and Rhodes suffered one of his few setbacks when in April 1891 a Belgian expedition led by Paul Le Marinel obtained Msiri's agreement to Congo Free State personnel entering his territory, which they did in force in 1892. This treaty produced the anomaly of the Congo Pedicle.
The two stages in acquiring territory in Africa after the Congress of Berlin were, firstly, to enter into treaties with local rulers and, secondly, to make bi-lateral treaties with other European powers. By one series of agreements made between 1890 and 1910, Lewanika granted concessions covering a poorly defined area of Barotziland-North-Western Rhodesia, and a second series covering a disputed part of North-Eastern Rhodesia was negotiated by Joseph Thomson and Alfred Sharpe with local chiefs in 1890 and 1891.
The Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1891 signed in Lisbon on 11 June 1891 between the United Kingdom and Portugal fixed the boundary between the territories administered by the British South Africa Company in North-Eastern Rhodesia and Portuguese Mozambique. It declared that Barotseland was within the British sphere of influence, and fixed the boundary between the British South Africa Company administered territory of North-Western Rhodesia (now in Zambia), and Portuguese Angola although its boundary with Angola was not marked-out on the ground until later. The northern border of the British territory in North-Eastern Rhodesia and the British Central Africa Protectorate was agreed as part of an Anglo-German Convention in 1890, which also fixed the very short boundary between North-Western Rhodesia and German South-West Africa, now Namibia. The boundary between the Congo Free State and British territory was fixed by a treaty in 1894, although there were some minor adjustments up to the 1930s.
Boundaries with other British territories were fixed by Orders-in-Council. The border between the British Central Africa Protectorate and North-Eastern Rhodesia was fixed in 1891 at the drainage divide between Lake Malawi and the Luangwa River, and that between North-Western Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia became the Zambezi River in 1898.
The area of what became Northern Rhodesia, including Barotseland and land as far as Nyasaland to the east and to Katanga and Lake Tanganyika to the north, was placed under BSAC administration by an Order-in-Council of 9 May 1891, but no BSAC Administrator was sent to Barotseland until 1895, and the first Administrator, Forbes, who remained until 1897, did little to establish an administration there. Before 1911, Northern Rhodesia was administered as two separate territories, Barotziland-North-Western Rhodesia and North-Eastern Rhodesia. The former was recognised as British territory by the Barotseland and North-Western Rhodesia Order-in-Council of 1899 and the latter by the North-Eastern Rhodesia Order-in-Council of 1900. Both Orders-in-Council regularised the position of the BSAC Administrators, the first of whom were appointed in 1895. Both Order-in-Councils confirmed that the territories had the status of protectorates, with the Colonial Office ultimately responsible for the welfare of their indigenous populations, despite BSAC administration. The Colonial Office retained the ultimate responsibility for these territory, and the High Commissioner for South Africa had the power to approve or reject all BSAC legislation.
At first, Harry Johnston in Nyasaland was the local representative of the Colonial Office and the High Commissioner. Rhodes financed much of the British presence in Nyasaland and worked closely with Johnston and his successor, Alfred Sharpe, so he could use them as emissaries and their Nyasaland troops as enforcers, particularly in North-Eastern Rhodesia. This territory and North-Western Rhodesia were considered by Rhodes and his colonisers to be a "tropical dependency" rather than a northward extension of white-settler controlled southern Africa. In 1895, Rhodes asked his American scout Frederick Russell Burnham to look for minerals and ways to improve river navigation in the region, and it was during this trek that Burnham discovered major copper deposits along the Kafue River. In 1911 the BSAC merged the two territories as 'Northern Rhodesia'.
Under British South Africa Company rule, the company-appointed Administrator had powers similar to those of the governor of a British colony or protectorate, except that certain decisions of the Administrator affecting Europeans had to be approved by the High Commissioner for South Africa to be valid. The High Commissioner could also make, alter or repeal proclamations for the administration of justice, taxation, and public order without reference to the Administrator, although this power was never used. In this period the Administrator was assisted neither by an Executive Council nor a Legislative council, as was common in British-ruled territories. There was an Advisory Council, which fulfilled most of the functions of such bodies, and which until 1917 consisted entirely of senior officials. There was no obligation for the company to form a body to consult residents, but after 1917 nominees were added to represent the small European minority: Northern Rhodesia had no elected representation while under BSAC rule. There were five nominated members: four represented the former North-Western Rhodesia and one represented North-Eastern Rhodesia.
Hut tax was first collected in North-Eastern Rhodesia in 1901 and was slowly extended through North-Western Rhodesia between 1904 and 1913. It was charged at different rates in different districts but was supposed to be equivalent to two months' wages, to encourage or force local Africans into the system of wage labour. Its introduction generally caused little unrest, and any protests were quickly suppressed. Before 1920, it was commonly charged at five shillings a year, but in 1920 the rate of hut tax was sharply increased, and often doubled, to provide more workers for the Southern Rhodesian mines, particularly the coal mines of Wankie. At this time the Company considered the principal economic benefit of Northern Rhodesia to be as a reservoir for migrant labour which could be called upon for Southern Rhodesia.
Law and security
British common law became the basis of the administration of Southern and Northern Rhodesia, unlike Roman Dutch law which applied in South Africa. In 1889, the British South African Company was given the power to establish a police force and administer justice within Northern Rhodesia. In the case of African natives appearing before courts, the Company was instructed to have regard to the customs and laws of their tribe or nation. An Order in Council of 1900 created the High Court of North-Eastern Rhodesia which took control of civil and criminal justice; it was not until 1906 that North-Western Rhodesia received the same. In 1911 the two were amalgamated into the High Court of Northern Rhodesia.
The British South African Company considered that its territory north of the Zambezi was more suitable for a largely African police force than a European one. However, at first, the British South Africa Police patrolled the north of the Zambezi in North Western Rhodesia, although its European troops were expensive and prone to diseases. This force and its replacements were paramilitaries, although there was a small force of European civil police in the towns. The British South Africa Police were replaced by the Barotse Native Police force, which was formed in 1902 (other sources date this as 1899 or 1901). This had a high proportion of European NCOs as well as all European officers and was merged with the civil police to form the Northern Rhodesia Police in 1911. Initially, Harry Johnston in the British Central Africa Protectorate had responsibility for North Eastern Rhodesia, and Central Africa forces including Sikh and African troops were used there until 1899. Until 1903, local magistrates recruited their own local police, but in that year a North Eastern Rhodesia Constabulary was formed, which had only a few white officers; all its NCOs and troopers were African. This was also merged into the Northern Rhodesia Police in 1912, which then numbered only 18 European and 775 African in six companies, divided between the headquarters of the various districts.
The British South Africa Company was responsible for building the Rhodesian railway system in the period of primary construction which ended in 1911 when the main line through Northern Rhodesia crossed the Congo border to reach the Katanga copper mines. Rhodes' original intention was for a railway extending across the Zambezi to Lake Tanganyika, but when little gold was found in Mashonaland, he accepted that the scheme to reach Lake Tanganyika had no economic justification. Railways built by private companies needed traffic that can pay high freight rates, such as large quantities of minerals.
A line from Kimberley reached Bulawayo in 1897; this was extended to cross the Victoria Falls in 1902. The next section was through Livingstone to Broken Hill, which the railway reached in 1906. The British South Africa Company had been assured that there would be plentiful traffic from its lead and zinc mines, but this did not materialise because of technical mining problems. The railway could not meet the costs of the construction loans, and the only area likely to generate sufficient mineral traffic to relieve these debts was Katanga. Initially, the Congo Free State had concluded that Katanga's copper deposits were not rich enough to justify the capital cost of building a railway to the coast, but expeditions between 1899 and 1901 proved their value. Copper deposits found in Northern Rhodesia before the First World War proved uneconomic to develop.
In 1906 Union Minière du Haut Katanga was formed to exploit the Katanga mines. King Leopold wanted a railway entirely in Congolese territory, linked to the Congo River, but in 1908, he agreed with the British South Africa Company to continue the Rhodesian railway to Elizabethville and the mines. Between 1912, when full-scale copper production began, until 1928 when a Congolese line was completed, almost all of Katanga's copper was shipped over the Rhodesian network. The railway's revenue from Katanga copper enabled it to carry other goods at low rates. Large-scale development of the Copperbelt only began in the late 1920s, with an increasing world market for copper. Transport was no problem as only short branches had to be built to connect the Copperbelt to the main line.
The end of BSAC rule
Almost from the start of European settlement, the settlers in Northern Rhodesia were hostile to the BSAC administration and its commercial position. The company opposed the settlers' political aspirations and refused to allow them to elect representatives to the Advisory Council, limiting them to a few nominated members. Following a judgement by the Privy Council that the land in Southern Rhodesia belonged to the British Crown not BSAC, opinion among settlers in Southern Rhodesia turned to favour responsible government and in 1923 this was granted. This left Northern Rhodesia in a difficult position since the British South Africa Company had believed it owned the land in both territories and some settlers suggested that the ownership in Northern Rhodesia should also be referred to the Privy Council. However, the British South Africa Company insisted that its claims were unchallengeable and persuaded the United Kingdom government to enter into direct negotiations over the future administration of Northern Rhodesia.
As a result, a settlement was achieved by which Northern Rhodesia remained a protectorate but came under the British government, with its administrative machinery taken over by the Colonial Office, while the British South Africa Company retained extensive areas of freehold property and the protectorate's mineral rights. It was also agreed that half of the proceeds of land sales in the former North-Western Rhodesia would go to the Company. On 1 April 1924, Herbert Stanley was appointed as Governor and Northern Rhodesia became an official Protectorate of the United Kingdom, with capital in Livingstone. The capital was moved to Lusaka in 1935.
Under the Administration of the British South Africa Company, the Administrator had similar powers to those of a colonial governor, except that certain powers were reserved to the High Commissioner for South Africa. There was neither an Executive Council nor a legislative council, but only an Advisory Council, consisting entirely of nominees. The Northern Rhodesia Order in Council, 1924 transferred to the Governor any power or jurisdiction previously held by the Administrator or vested in the High Commissioner for South Africa. The Order also provided for an Executive Council consisting of six ex-officio senior officials and any other official or unofficial members Governor wished to appoint. At the same time, a legislative council was established, consisting of the Governor and up to nine official members, and five unofficial members who were to be elected by the small European minority consisting of only 4,000 people only, as none of the African population had the right to vote.