The early white settlers came in search of mineral resources, finding deposits of coal, chromium, nickel, platinum, and gold. They also found some of the best farmland in Africa. This gives the area a sub-tropical climate which is conducive to European settlement and agricultural practices.
Later, Land Apportionment and Tenure Acts reserved extensive low-rainfall areas for black-only tribal-trust lands and high rainfall areas for white ownership, which gave rise to cases of black people being excluded from their own land. White settlers were attracted to Rhodesia by the availability of tracts of prime farmland that could be purchased from the state at low cost. This resulted in a major feature of the Rhodesian economy—the "white farm".
Many white farms provided housing, schools, and clinics for black employees and their families. The minerals sector was also important. Gold, asbestos, nickel, and chrome were mined by foreign-owned concerns such as Lonrho Lonmin since and Anglo American.
These operations were usually run by white managers, engineers, and foremen. The Census of 3 May found that Southern Rhodesia had a total population of ,, of whom 33, were Europeans, 1, were Coloured mixed races , 1, Asiatics, , Bantu natives of Southern Rhodesia, and , Bantu aliens. Instead, the country became a self-governing British colony. It never gained full dominion status, although unlike other colonies it was treated as a de facto dominion , with its Prime Minister attending the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conferences.
Growth of the white community[ edit ] In , before Southern Rhodesia was established as a territory, it was estimated that there were about 1, Europeans residing there. This number grew slowly to around 75, in In the period to the white population doubled to , During that decade, , black people were forcibly resettled from farming land designated for white ownership. For example, in Wedza white farmer Harry Meade unsuccessfully opposed the eviction of his black neighbour Solomon Ndawa from a hectare acre irrigated wheat farm.
Meade represented Ndawa at hearings of the Land Commission and attempted to protect Ndawa from abusive questioning. Taken from a Rhodesian government booklet promoting white immigration, titled "The Good Life" Large-scale white emigration to Rhodesia did not begin until after the Second World War, and at its peak in the late s Rhodesia's white population consisted of as many as , The most conspicuous group were former British servicemen in the immediate post-war period.
But many of the new immigrants were refugees from communism in Europe, others were former service personnel from British India , others came from Kenya, the Belgian Congo, Zambia, Algeria, and Mozambique. For a time, Rhodesia provided something of a haven for white people who were retreating from decolonisation elsewhere in Africa and Asia.
By contrast, settlers in Rhodesia after the Second World War were perceived as being drawn from lower social strata and were treated accordingly by the British authorities; as Peter Godwin wrote in The Guardian , "Foreign Office mandarins dismissed white Rhodesians as lower middle class, no more than provincial clerks and artisans, the lowly NCOs of empire. These included the industrialisation and prosperity of the economy in the post-War period. The National Party victory in South Africa was one of the factors that led to the formation of the Central African Federation so as to provide a bulwark against Afrikaner nationalism.
British settlement and investment boomed during the Federation years, as Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia now Zambia and Nyasaland now Malawi formed a powerful economic unit counterbalancing the economic power of South Africa.
The economic power of these three areas was a major factor in the establishment of the Federation through a British Act of Parliament. It was also apparent as early as the s that white rule would continue for longer in Rhodesia than it would in other British colonies such as Zambia Northern Rhodesia and Kenya. Many of the new immigrants had a "not here" attitude to majority rule and independence. British colonial rule returned in December , when the country became the British Dependency of Southern Rhodesia.
In April it was granted independence as Zimbabwe. The white community kept itself largely separate from the black and Asian communities in the country. Marriage between black and white people was possible, but remains to the present day very rare. The Immorality Suppression Ordinance made "illicit" i. The result was a small number of mixed-race persons, 1, out of , total number of inhabitants, according to the census, some of whom were accepted as being white.
A proposal by Garfield Todd Prime Minister, — to liberalise the laws regarding inter-racial sex was viewed as dangerously radical. The proposal was rejected and was one factor that led to the political demise of Todd. The low wages had a large effect in the context of an agricultural economy. Most of the better paid jobs in public service were also reserved for white people. As was the case to varying degrees in most European colonies, white immigrants took a privileged position in all areas of society.
However, the white immigrant position in Rhodesia was distinguished in that the local settler minority entrenched its political, economic and social dominance of the country.
Extensive areas of prime farmland were owned by whites. Senior positions in the public services were reserved for whites, and whites working in manual occupations enjoyed legal protection against job competition from black Africans.
As time passed, this situation became increasingly unwelcome to the majority ethnic groups within the country and also to wide sections of international opinion, leading to the Rhodesian Bush War and eventually the Lancaster House Agreement. After the country's reconstitution as Zimbabwe in , whites had to adjust to being an ethnic minority in a country with a black African government.
Although a significant number of whites remained, many white citizens emigrated in the early s both in fear for their lives and an uncertain future. Political unrest and the seizure of many white-owned commercial farms resulted in a further exodus commencing in The census recorded 46, whites remaining in Zimbabwe. More than 10, were elderly and fewer than 9, were under the age of Between and white immigration to Rhodesia was , and white emigration those leaving in the same period was , with an average white population of around , Following independence, the country's white people lost most of their former privileges.
A generous social welfare net including both education and healthcare that had supported white people in Rhodesia disappeared almost in an instant. White people in the artisan, skilled worker and supervisory classes began to experience job competition from black people. Indigenisation in the public services displaced many white people.
The result was that white emigration gathered pace. In the ten-year period from to approximately two thirds of the white population left Zimbabwe. Only one third of the white farming community left.
An even smaller proportion of white urban business owners and members of the professional classes left. A article in The Sunday Times Magazine described and pictured the life of Zimbabwean white people at a time when their number was just about to fall below , The lifting of UN-imposed economic sanctions and the end of the Bush War at the time of independence produced an immediate 'peace dividend'.
Renewed access to world capital markets made it possible to finance major new infrastructure developments in transport and schools. One area of economic growth was tourism, catering in particular to visitors from Europe and North America. Many white people found work in this sector. Another area of growth was horticulture, involving the cultivation of flowers, fruits and vegetables which were air-freighted to market in Europe.
The country settled and the white population stabilised. The Lancaster House Agreement , which was the basis for independence, had precluded compulsory land redistribution in favour of subsidised voluntary sale of land by white owners, for a period of at least 10 years.
The pattern of land ownership established during the Rhodesian state therefore survived for some time after independence. Those white people who were prepared to adapt to the situation they found themselves in were therefore able to continue enjoying a very comfortable existence. In fact, the independence settlement combined with favourable economic conditions plus ESAP see below produced a year period of unprecedented prosperity for Zimbabwean white people and for the white farming community in particular.
A new class of "young white millionaires" appeared in the farming sector. The white farmers had it even better. With crop prices soaring they bought boats on Lake Kariba and built air strips on their farms for newly acquired planes. Zimbabwe's whites reached an implicit understanding with Zanu-PF; they could go on as before, so long as they kept out of politics" — Chris McGreal, April For example, Chris Andersen had been the hardline Rhodesian justice minister but made a new career for himself as an independent MP and leading attorney in Zimbabwe.
In he defended former President Canaan Banana in the infamous "sodomy trial". However, an ongoing programme of land reforms intended to alter the ethnic balance of land ownership dislodged many white farmers. The level of violence associated with these reforms in some rural areas made the position of the wider white community uncomfortable. Twenty years after independence, there were 21, commercial farmers in the country of whom 4, were white and 17, were black.
ZANU politicians sought to revise Rhodesian land apportionment, which they saw as an injustice that required 'correction', and pressed for land to be transferred from white to black ownership regardless of the resultant disruption to agricultural output. White farmers argued that this served little purpose since Zimbabwe has ample agricultural land much of which was either vacant or only lightly cultivated.
Therefore, to their eyes the problem was really a lack of development rather than one of land tenure. As the euphoria of independence subsided and as a variety of economic and social problems became evident in the late s, the Land Issue became a focus for trouble. In the government initiated a "fast track land reform" programme. The means used to implement the programme were ad-hoc and involved forcible seizure in many cases. It was cash up front — no questions asked. It's survival of the fittest, my friend The post recession has seen the emergence of a class of "poor white people".
These are typically persons who lack capital, education and skills — and who are therefore unable to migrate from Zimbabwe. Social workers have commented that black people facing difficulties are usually able to fall back on support from extended families. White and coloured people have a much more individualistic culture and appear less able to cope with hardship.
This system broke down after the founding of Zimbabwe, causing the number of poor white people to increase especially after , when the confiscation of white-owned farms took its toll. As rich white land owners emigrate or fend for themselves financially, their white employees who mainly worked as supervisors of black labour, found themselves destitute on the streets of cities like Harare, with many found begging around urban centres like Eastlea.
The land confiscated from white owners has been redistributed to black peasant farmers and smallholders, acquired by commercial land companies, or persons connected to the regime.
Many of these continued to face intimidation. A British-born farmer, Ben Freeth who has had several articles and letters published in the British press regarding the hostile situation , and his in-laws, Mike and Angela Campbell, were recently abducted and found badly beaten.
He is reported to have arranged the export of Rhodesian tobacco and the import of components including parts and munitions for the Rhodesian government's force of Hunter jets in the face of UN trade sanctions.
Far from losing land to resettlement, van Hoogstraten has actually been able to purchase new property since Van Hoogstraten, a man with a criminal history,  has described President Mugabe as " percent decent and incorruptible" and "a true English gentleman".