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Developing Workers: Coerced and “Voluntary” Labor in Zanzibar, 1909–1970

  • Elisabeth McMahon (a1)

Abstract

This article examines the history of both coerced and exploitative labor in Zanzibar between 1909 and 1970 and demonstrates that these terms were used alongside one another drawing on the same pool of laborers, most of whom were descended from slaves. Not only did these forms of labor continue to marginalize the descendants of ex-slaves, but often it was difficult for the laborers to distinguish between the forms of labor that were coerced and voluntary since both were usually couched in the language of government directives for local benefit. Laborers forced to grow food during World War II could eat that food to survive, just as laborers who voluntarily built a school were possibly able to send their children there (although in reality the poorest children usually had to work with their families). Both brought local benefit, and both were seen locally as required work, but only one was defined by international policy as “forced” labor.

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1. The 1897 Abolition Order in Zanzibar required that slaves apply for their freedom from the government. In 1909 the government issued a complete abolition order that ended the status of slavery in the Islands. Thus, some policies regarding ex-slave labor began before 1909.

2. For official concerns in Zanzibar, , Correspondence Respecting Slavery in Zanzibar (London, 1895). This book includes letters from Rennell Rodd, Consul General at Zanzibar, December 31, 1893, arguing that abolition was not feasible at the time. Also a letter from the Earl of Kimberly to Mr. Hardinge (newly appointed Consul General to Zanzibar), November 27, 1894, citing abolition from India and Egypt. For examples of other empire concerns about abolition and loss of labor, see Schmidt-Nowara, Christopher, “Empires against Emancipation: Spain, Brazil, and the Abolition of Slavery,” Review (Fernand Braudel Center) 31 (2008): 101119 . This article is in a special issue that has a number of other articles of interest for this topic.

3. There are many, many scholars who have written about this issue across the continent. For a few examples, see Allina, Eric, Slavery by Any Other Name: African Life under Company Rule in Colonial Mozambique (Charlottesville, VA, 2012); Brown, Carolyn, “Testing the Boundaries of Marginality: Twentieth-Century Slavery and Emancipation Struggles in Nkanu, Northern Igboland, 1920–29,” The Journal of African History 37 (1996): 5180 ; Getz, Trevor, Slavery and Reform in West Africa: Toward Emancipation in Nineteenth-Century Senegal and the Gold Coast (Athens, OH, 2004); Klein, Martin A., Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa (New York, 1998); McMahon, Elisabeth, Slavery and Emancipation in Islamic East Africa: From Honor to Respectability (New York, 2013); Roberts, Richard, Litigants and Households: African Disputes and Colonial Courts in the French Soudan, 1895–1912 (Portsmouth, NH, 2005); Rossi, From Slavery to Aid.

4. Cooper, Frederick, From Slaves to Squatters: Plantation Labor and Agriculture in Zanzibar and Coastal Kenya, 1890–1925 (New Haven, CT, 1980), 69 . Africa, No. 8 (1899), Correspondence Respecting the Status of Slavery in East Africa and the Islands of Zanzibar and Pemba (London, 1899), 3435 ; Cooper, From Slaves to Squatters, 94. As Cooper notes, the vice consul of Pemba said that every landless “native” had to work—this would refer most closely to the former slave population of the island.

5. Ibid.; Gilbert, Erik, Dhows and the Colonial Economy of Zanzibar 1860–1970 (Athens, OH, 2004); Elisabeth McMahon, “Becoming Pemban: Identity, Social Welfare and Community during the Protectorate Period” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 2005); Sheriff, Abdul, Slaves, Spices and Ivory in Zanzibar: Integration of an East African Commercial Empire into the World Economy, 1770–1873 (Athens, OH, 1987); Sheriff, Abdul and Ferguson, Ed, Zanzibar under Colonial Rule (Athens, OH, 1991); Timothy Welliver, “The Clove Factor in Colonial Zanzibar 1890–1950” (Ph.D. thesis, Northwestern University, 1990).

6. For examples of the moment of abolition as labor history, see Deutsch, Jan-Georg, Emancipation without Abolition in German East Africa c.1884–1914 (Athens, OH, 2006); Law, Robin, Schwarz, Suzanne, and Strickrodt, Silke, eds., Commercial Agriculture, the Slave Trade and Slavery in Atlantic Africa (Rochester, 2013); Sunseri, Thaddeus, Vilimani: Labor Migration and Rural Change in Early Colonial Tanzania (Portsmouth, 2002). For post-World War I labor history, see Cooper, Frederick, Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (Cambridge, 1996); Heyer, Judith, Roberts, Pepe, and Williams, Gavin, eds., Rural Development in Tropical Africa (New York, 1981); van Beusekom, Monica M., Neogtiating Development: African Farmers and Colonial Experts at the Office du Niger, 1920–1960 (Portsmouth, 2002). For books that offer exceptions, see book, Martin Klein's, Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa (Cambridge, 1998) includes a chapter that tells the story of labor from the 1920s into the 1970s.

7. Rossi, Benedetta, From Slavery to Aid: Politics, Labour, and Ecology in the Nigerien Sahel, 1800–2000 (New, 2015); Whyte, Christina, “Freedom but Nothing Else”: The Legacies of Slavery and Abolition in Post-Slavery Sierra Leone, 1928–1956,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 48 (2015): 231–50 (as well as the other articles in this special issue).

8. Austin, Gareth, Labour, Land and Capital in Ghana: From Slavery to Free Labour in Asante, 1807–1956 (Rochester, 2005); Moitt, Bernard, “From Pack Animals to Railways: Transport and the Expansion of Peanut Production and Trade in Senegal, 1840–1940,” Outre-Mers: Revue d'Histoire 88 (2001): 241–67; Hogendorn, Jan S., Nigerian Groundnut Exports: Origins and Early Development (Oxford, 1979); Hogendorn, J.S. and Scott, K.M., “The East African Groundut Scheme: Lessons of a Large-scale Agricultural Failure,” African Economic History 10 (1981): 81115 ; Hopkins, A. G., An Economic History of West Africa (New York, 2014); Penvenne, Jeanne Marie, Women, Migration and the Cashew Economy in Southern Mozambique, 1945–75 (Oxford, 2015); Van Beusekom, Negotiating Development.

9. Akurang-Parry, Kwabena O., “Mobilization and African Response to the Compulsory Labour Ordinance in the Gold Coast (Colonial Ghana), 1875–1899,” Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana 4/5 (2000): 83104 ; Allina, Slavery by Any Other Name; Keese, Alexander, “Hunting ‘Wrongdoers’ and ‘Vagrants’: The Long-Term Perspective of Flight, Evasion, and Persecution in Colonial and Postcolonial Congo-Brazzaville, 1920–1980,” African Economic History 44 (2016): 152180 .

10. Bolt, Jutta and Hillbom, Ellen, “Long-Term Trends in Economic Inequality: Lessons from Colonial Botswana, 1921–1974,” Economic History Review 69 (2016): 1255–84; Iwuagwu, Obi, “Rural Development in Eastern Nigeria: An Assessment of Colonial and Post Colonial Development Plans in the former Owerri Province, 1946–1976,” Lagos Historical Review 6 (2006): 118–32.

11. Paul Chuba Agba, “A Configurational Analysis of the Diffusion Models and Media Strategies Used in the ‘Operation Feed the Nation’ (OFN) Campaign in Nigeria 1976–1979” (Ph.d. diss., Indiana University, 1980); R.V. Bhuskute, “Tribals, Dalits and Government Lands”; S.L. and W.S., “Shiv Sena Enters Rural Politics: Campaign against Dalits in Marathwada Villages,” Economic and Political Weekly 21 (1986): 6667 ; Lal, Priya, African Socialism in postcolonial Tanzania: Between the Village and the World (New York, 2015); Schneider, Leander, Government of Development: Peasants and Politicians in postcolonial Tanzania (Bloomington, IN, 2014); Thomas, Barbara, “State Formation, Development, and the Politics of Self-help in Kenya,” Studies in Comparative International Development 23 (1988): 328 .

12. Rossi, From Slavery to Aid, 17.

13. Cooper, From Slaves to Squatters, 69.

14. Africa, No. 8 (1899), Correspondence Respecting the Status of Slavery in East Africa and the Islands of Zanzibar and Pemba (London, 1899), 3435 ; Cooper, From Slaves to Squatters, 94. As Cooper notes, the vice consul of Pemba said that every landless “native” had to work. This would refer most closely to the former slave population of the island.

15. Cooper, From Slaves to Squatters, 65.

16. Whyte, Christine, “Freedom But Nothing Else”: The Legacies of Slavery and Abolition in Post-Slavery Sierra Leone, 1928–1956,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 48 (2015): 231–50; Rossi, From Slavery to Aid, 18.

17. Allina, Slavery by Any Other Name.

18. NAUK FO 403/395 Further Correspondence, No. 39, Inclosure no. 2 Mr. Last to Mr. Cave, May 23, 1908, 86.

19. NAUK FO 403/395 Further Correspondence, 57.

20. NAUK CO 618/41/12 Labor in Zanzibar 1927.

21. An exception was made for Africans in colonial militaries or penitentiaries.

22. Maul, Daniel Roger, “The International Labour Organization and the Struggle against Forced Labour from 1919 to the Present,” Labor History 48 (2007), 477500 .

23. Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the year 1933 (Zanzibar, 1933), 4 .

24. Between 1927 and 1937 increasing efforts were made to control alcohol consumption in the islands, especially on Pemba in order to have better “control” over the population. See NAUK CO618/42/4 Liquor decree of 1927; NAUK CO618/54/22 Methylated spirit on Pemba 1932; NAUK CO618/69/12 Native Liquor Regulation 1937.

25. For a note on townspeople going to the country to work, see Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the year 1936 (Zanzibar, 1936), 1 .

26. Importing labor from the mainland was costly because the government paid the laborers transportation, and sometimes Tanganyikan and Kenyan authorities objected because it deprived their colonies of labor.

27. Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the Year 1937 (Zanzibar, 1937), 2 .

28. Wilson, Fergus B., “Emergency Food Production in Zanzibar,” East African Agricultural Journal 10 (1994): 93 .

29. Wilson, “Emergency Food Production in Zanzibar,” 93; See also Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the Year 1943 (Zanzibar, 1943), 1 .

30. Wilson, “Emergency Food Production in Zanzibar,” 93.

31. Wilson, “Emergency Food Production in Zanzibar,” 95; For more on rations in Zanzibar during World War II, see Fair, Pastimes and Politics, 46–51.

32. Wilson notes that it was very hard at first to impose the orders because people assumed the government was going to take all of their produce rather than make them sell part of it. Between the arrests of “idlers” and government propaganda Islanders quickly learned that they had no choice about growing food.

33. Wilson, “Emergency Food Production in Zanzibar,” 93.

34. Wilson, “Emergency Food Production in Zanzibar,” 94.

35. For examples see Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the year 1947 (Zanzibar: Government Printer, 1947), 10; 1948, 6; 1949, 8.

36. Wilson, “Emergency Food Production in Zanzibar,” 100.

37. Using the term “tree-crop” is a clear marker for ex-slave because most of the people who lived in the clove plantation areas were descendants of either slaves or owners. Ex-slaves and their descendants were the vast majority of the population in many of these regions. However, a casual reader would not understand this distinction. The term “Swahili” was used as well. Laura Fair argues that by the 1920s, the identity of Swahili was code for an ex-slave or his/her descendant. Laura Fair, Pastimes and Politics: Culture, Community, and Identity in Post-Abolition Urban Zanzibar, 1890–1945 (Athens, OH: 2001).

38. NAUK CO 618/82/6, Local Food Production. Compulsory Cultivation of Land.

39. NAUK CO 618/82/6, Local Food Production. Compulsory Cultivation of Land. “Compulsory Measures in Relation to Future Development of the Rural Peoples of Zanzibar,” a note by F.B. Wilson, MBE, district agricultural officer. Notably, Wilson wrote a report in 1938 on rural education in Zanzibar making recommendations on how to improve rural education. He references that report in his “Note” included in this file as justification of why he “understood” the rural people and their needs.

40. NAUK CO 618/82/6, Local Food Production. Compulsory Cultivation of Land. Letter from British Resident, January 10, 1945.

41. NAUK CO 618/82/6, Local Food Production. Compulsory Cultivation of Land. “Compulsory Measures in Relation to Future Development of the Rural Peoples of Zanzibar,” a note by F.B. Wilson, MBE, district agricultural officer.

42. NAUK CO 618/82/6, Local Food Production. Compulsory Cultivation of Land. Minutes on the file, March 21, 1945.

43. NAUK CO 618/82/6, Local Food Production. Compulsory Cultivation of Land. Minutes on the file, September 14, 1945.

44. NAUK CO 618/82/6, Local Food Production. Compulsory Cultivation of Land. Minutes on the file, August 28, 1945.

45. NAUK CO 618/82/6, Local Food Production. Compulsory Cultivation of Land. Letter dated October 8, 1945, from the Colonial Office to the British resident, No. 85 Confidential.

46. Normally laborers would work to pick cloves so they could purchase food; however, in early 1946 imported food was still scarce, thus laborers would have been earning money but still unable to buy food. Many decided to stick to their food crops rather than earn cash they could not eat.

47. Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the Year 1946 (Zanzibar, 1946), 3, 5, 8. An addendum included in the file NAUK CO 618/82/6 but never referred to by any of the minutes included an analysis from 1944 (with no identifiable author) that argued that producing food self-sufficiency in the Zanzibar Islands would increase production costs for the clove harvest and that it was more efficient to keep local laborers tethered to a cash economy with cheap imported food.

48. Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the year 1945 (Zanzibar: 1945), 4 .

49. Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the year 1946 (Zanzibar, 1946), 8 ; Wilson, “Emergency Food Production in Zanzibar,” 100; NAUK CO 618/82/6, Fergus Wilson's report noted that an effort to make townspeople grow rice nine miles from their homes completely failed and that people planted when it worked to their benefit.

50. For information on the end of the famine and the continuing imprisonment of “idlers,” see Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the Year 1947 (Zanzibar, 1947), 4 . For Defence Orders through 1956, see report 1948–1956, Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the Year 1948 (Zanzibar, 1948), 31–33; 1949, 39–40; 1950, 29; 1952, 23; 1953, 22; 1954, 25; 1955, 26; 1956, 26–27.

51. Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the year 1947 (Zanzibar: 1947), 10 .

52. Ibid., 8.

53. NAUK CO 859/700 Social Services Depts: International Labour Conventions Applications to the Colonies—Zanzibar.

54. NAUK CO 859/345 Labour Legislation in Zanzibar.

55. NAUK CO 822/662 Report of Labor Advisor 1952.

56. NAUK CO 859/1055 International Labour Conventions Application to Colonies 1957.

57. NAUK CO 859/1532 Labour Department Annual Reports Zanzibar, 1960–62. From the context, the reader can see the negative connotation meant by the authors of the report toward the Zanzibar Government.

58. Tidbury, G. E., The Clove Tree (London, 1949).

59. I emphasize making Pemba more productive because during the war the government aimed at making the rural population almost independent of external supplies of staple foods and to provide, in addition, a substantial surplus of some staples including fruit for consumption by the non-producing population of about 60,000 people in Zanzibar Town.” Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Agriculture for the year 1944 (Zanzibar, 1944), 2 .

60. NAUK CO 822/980 Notes on the Zanzibar development plan 1955.

61. Zanzibar Protectorate. Administrative Reports for the Year 1928 (Zanzibar, 1929), 35 .

62. Zanzibar National Archives (hereafter ZNA) AB1/46 SECRETARIAT. Community Development/Mass Education in African Society. Report by the Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies. December 1947–October 1957.

63. Whyte, “Freedom But Nothing Else,” 231.

64. ZNA AB1/46 SECRETARIAT. Community Development/Mass Education in African Society. Report by the Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies. December 1947–October 1957. Conference draft report of the subcommittee on Mass Education and Development Planning. Many postcolonial development projects were run at the local levels by committees that negotiated the national needs for local consumption and translated local objections to the national level. For examples, see Rossi, From Slavery to Aid, 215–24; Skinner, Kate, “Who Knew the Minds of the People? Specialist Knowledge and Developmentalist Authoritarianism in Postcolonial Ghana,” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39 (2011): 297323 ; Lal, African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania 46–47. Lal implies, rather than specifically talks about, how committees came to run many of the aspects of national development.

65. Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Social Welfare for the year 1950 (Zanzibar, 1950), 1213 .

66. Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Social Welfare for the year 1951 (Zanzibar, 1951), 3 .

67. NAUK CO 822/2566 Development Plan for Zanzibar 1960–64, Report on the Economic Development of the Zanzibar Protectorate by P. Selwyn and T.Y. Watson, CMG.

68. Officials on Pemba beginning in 1895 noted that with every boom in the clove market “piece goods” (cloth) purchases boomed as well. In the early years the Vice Consul, Dr. O'Sullivan-Beare, complained about the wastefulness of pickers buying cloth, but by the 1940s when laborers refused to pick cloves and the price began rising, one official noted that perhaps bringing in more cloth would get laborers to work.

69. Zanzibar Protectorate, Annual Report on the Department of Social Welfare for the year 1951 (Zanzibar, 1951), 13 ; Annual Report on the Department of SocialWelfare for the year 1952 (Zanzibar, 1952), 19; Annual Report on the Department of SocialWelfare for the year 1959 (Zanzibar, 1959), 10, for examples.

70. Oral interviews (my IRB clearance in 2002 required that I not name the individuals. I have kept a list of all ID numbers with the names if needed for reference): ID 011 (male farmer) October 29, 2002; ID 013 (male farmer) October 29, 2002; ID 022 (male farmer) October 30, 2002; ID 029 (male farmer) October 31, 2002. Surveys conducted in Chwale, Shengejuu, and Ukunjwi.

71. Oral interview ID 033 (male farmer) October 31, 2002.

72. The Zanzibar Islands were a separate country from the mainland (Tanganyika) at independence in December 1963. In April 1964 the mainland and islands joined to become Tanzania. No vote was held about the merger. It was negotiated between Julius Nyerere and Abeid Karume. Julius Nyerere was the president of Tanzania. After the merger, Tanzania had two vice presidents, one of whom was the president of Zanzibar. This role was first filled by Abeid Karume.

73. Burgess, Thomas, “Cinema, Bell Bottoms, and Miniskirts: Struggles over Youth and Citizenship in Revolutionary Zanzibar,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 35 (2002): 289–90.

74. Ibid., 289.

75. Burgess, G. Thomas, Race, Revolution, and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar: the Memoirs of Ali Sultan Issa and Seif Sharif Hamad (Athens, OH, 2009), 117–18, 204, 208209 .

76. Burgess, G. Thomas, “To Differentiate Rice from Grass: Youth Labor Camps in Revolutionary Zanzibar,” in Generations Past: Youth in East African History, ed. Burton, Andrew and Charton-Bigot, Helene (Athens, OH, 2010), 221 .

77. There is a large literature on the making of Ujamaa villages in Tanzania. See Priya Lal, African Socialism in postcolonial Tanzania; Leander Schneider, Government of Development; Jennings, Michael, Surrogates of the State: NGOs, Development, and Ujamaa in Tanzania (Bloomfield, CT, 2008); Hyden, Goran, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry (Berkeley, 1980), among many other books and articles.

78. For more details on Pemba's position after the Revolution, see Nathalie Arnold, “Wazee Wakijua Mambo! Elders Used to Know Things! Occult Powers and Revolutionary History in Pemba, Zanzibar” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 2003); Clayton, Anthony, The Zanzibar Revolution and its Aftermath (Hamden, CT, 1981); Esmond Bradley Martin (London, 1978); Elisabeth McMahon, “Becoming Pemban: Identity, Social Welfare and Community During the Protectorate Period” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 2005).

79. Burgess, Race, Revolution, and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar, 127.

80. Triplett, George, “Zanzibar: The Politics of Revolutionary Inequality,” Journal of Modern African Studies 9 (1971): 615 .

81. Thomas Burgess, “Youth and the Revolution: Discipline and Mobility in Zanzibar, 1950–80” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 2001), 289–96, 340–46.

82. Shao, Ibrahim Fokas, The Political Economy of Land Reforms in Zanzibar: Before and After the Revolution (Dar es Salaam, 1992), 63 . Primary and secondary school children were forced to pick cloves in 1976 in order to bring in the clove crop.

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Developing Workers: Coerced and “Voluntary” Labor in Zanzibar, 1909–1970

  • Elisabeth McMahon (a1)

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