To The Victoria Falls
Development of the Victoria Falls
End of the Royal Charter and Company Administration
During the early 1910s the BSAC considered many options for the administration and future development of the Rhodesias. The original Royal Charter of 1889 had been granted for a period of 25 years and was thus due to expire in 1914. Dissatisfaction with Company Administrative rule was growing amongst residents and the financial costs of administering the territory had become a growing burden on the Company’s finances.
“Major decisions were made by the Company's Board of Directors sitting in London and carried out by the Company's officials in Salisbury. The only opportunity the local population had of discussing, and if necessary objecting to, decisions that affected the very warp and weft of their lives, was in the Legislative Council in which both people's representatives and Company officials sat together under the chairmanship of the Administrator, with the latter having majority control so that the Company's viewpoint predominated.
“During Cecil Rhodes' lifetime the Company's policies had had a breadth of vision, and a feeling for the interests of the people on the spot, that enabled Company and settlers (as they were then called) to get along reasonably well together. But when Rhodes died in 1902 at the early age of 48, the people lost their champion and the Board lost its vision. Thereafter it seemed to the settlers that the Board's decisions were actuated by dreary commercial considerations, that the interests of the Company came before those of the people, and that it was using its administrative privileges for its own commercial advantage.”
“The Rhodesians of those days were sturdy individualists… men and women of independent thought… not at all inclined to meekly accept the dictates of titled gentlemen sitting in the cosy confines of their panelled boardroom in London…. They objected to the fruits of their strenuous labours being diverted into the coffers of a commercial company, to the benefit (as they imagined) of unknown shareholders…. As it happened the shareholders gained little. The cost of running the country barely kept pace with the revenue, and in most years the Company ended up with a deficit.” (Gale, 1973)
The Union of South Africa came into being on May 31, 1910, and serious consideration was given over the next decade to the inclusion of at least Southern Rhodesia in the Union.
Towards the end of 1916, the Chartered Company sent out two directors with the proposal that Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia should be amalgamated to reduce administrative costs.
Winston Churchill, who became Secretary of State for the British Colonial Office in 1921 was strongly in favour of Rhodesia joining the Union. However momentum was building in favour of responsible self-government.
A referendum finally was held in Southern Rhodesia in October 1922 and returned a decisive majority in favour of Responsible Government.
At the end of 1922 the BSAC and British Government began negotiations over the future of the colonies, reaching agreement on 29 September 1923. The BSACs Charter was not renewed, and Southern Rhodesia was granted self-governing status in the same year. The administration of Northern Rhodesia was transferred to the British Colonial Office in 1924 as a full British Protectorate.
The Company, now free of its Administrative responsibilities, was still left with profitable mineral and mining rights in both Northern and Southern Rhodesia, rights which were recognised by the new agreements. These were eventually bought out by government and nationalised – by 1933 in Southern Rhodesia, and eventually 1964 in Northern Rhodesia.
The Railway Act of 1926 also left the BSAC in a protected position with regard to the railways, under the Beira and Mashonaland and Rhodesia Railway Company, renamed Rhodesia Railways Limited in 1927. In 1947 the Southern Rhodesia Government finally bought out the Company, taking over the management of Rhodesia Railways Limited and brining to an end the Company’s long association in the railway in southern Africa.