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Three years after the pioneers arrived in Mashonaland, they conquered King Lobengula and his people in neighbouring Matabeleland.
Each volunteer in the war was granted 6,000 acres of captured land. Within a year 10,000 square miles around Lobengula’s capital Bulawayo had been marked out.
Ndebele villagers who returned were treated as tenants. Most of their cattle were seized and they were forced to work on the white farms.
In Mashonaland, the settlers imposed a ‘hut tax’ of 10 shillings (50p). Those who could not pay were told to work to earn the money. When the Ndebele and Shona rebelled in 1896, they were put down and their leaders hanged.
As the settlers developed commercial farming, some lands were reserved for African occupation amid fears total dispossession could lead to uprisings.
But the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 barred African land ownership outside the reserves, except in a special freehold purchase area. Africans not needed for labour on white farms were removed to the reserves, which became increasingly congested.
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