Chipasha Luchembe

Visiting Scholar
University of California Riverside

On 1 April 1924, the British South Africa Company, after 34 years of Royal Charter, handed over Zambia to the British Colonial Office. By the time of the handover, the entire African population within territorial boundaries was effectively subordinated to the autocratic rule of the company and new colonial state had emerged. More significantly, the 34 years of BSA Company rule saw the transformation of Zambia into a reservoir of cheap African labour by its linkage to the emerging regional capitalist economy based in South Africa and Zimbabwe.  As this linkage grew so too did the grip of the BSA Company on the peoplesí lives and on the future of the country and people. This was the crucial formative period in the countryís history. Some of the basic and enduring colonial and post-colonial problems have their origin in this period. In addition to establishing the foundation for a colonial political economy, the BSA Company period saw the entrenchment of some of the racial and ethnic or ëtribalí stereotypes. One of the many distinctions which company officials, as well as well as hunters, traders and farmers, observed was the existence of ëstronger tribesí and ëweaker tribesí among the African people they encountered.   Some African people such as the Bemba, Ngoni and Lozi, were initially viewed and treated a ëstronger tribesí to negotiate with or do battle. They were also considered as possessing attributes suitable for arduous policing, military, farming and manning work. Others, among them the Lunda, Luvale, Twa, Lamba, to mention only a few were perceived and treated as ëweaker tribesí to be afforded protection from the ìstronger tribes.î These needed constant supervision and were to be consigned to non-arduous work.  The Lamba-speaking people, for example, who occupied the mining area of the future copperbelt, were singled out not only as ëweakí, but as having a propensity to domestic work, hawking of petty commodities, beer brewing, drug peddling, prostitution, and above all, as ëindolent and timidí.   Such ethnic perceptions or stereotypes lived on and did have an impact on the socio-economic character of colonial and beyond. The question must be asked and answered as to the basis of such stereotypes in the emergent colonial state and economy. The colonial the era of the BSA Company administration saw the development of ethic stereotyping which at appropriate times could be used to justify Company behaviors and actions relating to African governance. Specifically, stereotyping could rationalize state use of violence in tax collection, labour recruitment and in the choice of early soldiers and policemen. The colonial transformation of Zambia and the accompanying state violence and ethnic stereotyping, were to some extent a manifestation of the subjugation and subordination of the countryside by the advancing forces of late nineteenth century capitalism through the British South Africa Company.