Tag Archives: rhodesia

Adverts: a window on the world

Adverts have always presented iconic images that reflect current values, priorities and aspirations. They offer a window on the world of commerce, business and consumption. Idealised and often imagined for sure, but nevertheless revealing of changing cultures of consumptions and associated social imaginaries. Indeed there are vast literatures in cultural studies, anthropology and geography that discuss such issues.

Recently I came across a fascinating archive of Rhodesian adverts, collected as part of one the slightly bizarre Rhodesian memorabilia sites that are scattered across the Internet (this one was ‘Rhodesia Remembered’ where I found ‘The Story of Triangle’ linked in an earlier blog). The advert archive offers a window onto white Rhodesian life from the 1930s to the 70s. Travel by plane, new ‘modern’ cars, food stuffs from England, and land for farming and mining all feature. A few examples are below. Representing a vision of modern life in Africa, the images are telling. This was an elite life, with firm links to the old country.

advert2 advert4 advert3 advert1

What then of today? A quick look through the classified pages in the major newspapers and websites offers a very different picture. While the aspirational lifestyle adverts are still there, most are about daily life and business. Selling or hiring trucks, offering land for building, providing services for farming and so on, as well as a whole array of farm products, finance services etc.

For some reason I am on a e-mail list from Matebeland that, in addition to offering training courses in horticulture, pig rearing and the like, also is used for advertising. Here are the three most recent in my inbox, focusing on irrigation systems, day old chicks and potato production.

GREEN-HOUSE CONSTRUCTION COST. BSC IRRIGATION SYSTEMS, is in business of constructing standard gum pole green-house structures at the following cost: $10.45 per square metre this cost includes (fix and supply) with the following materials: gum poles treated and untreated greenhouse plastics 200 or 250um (micron) drip irrigation set-up ( infield) general items: nails, bolts and nuts, trellissing wire for tomatoe crop labour construction and drip irrigation installation. Logistics discount can be agreed between farmer and BSC irrigation Systems depending with the green-house structure size>the above cost does not include inputs: fertilizers, seed, chemicals, day to day labour cost. plse call,,,,

Broiler day old chicks  (Ross and Cobb 500) for sale, $75 cash, $85 half down and $95 $20 down. 38 000 chicks available tomorrow, 20 000 available Friday. Women Poultry Farmers. Get in touch with me on….

Sack Potato Production Training Workshop (Bulawayo)-ZCFU (Zimbabwe Commercial farmers Union) in conjunction with Gem Agriculture Consultancy Services. Training Venue: ZCFU Offices, Adjacent to NUST Sports Fields/ Opposite Khumalo suburb. Investment: $20 to cover meals/ refreshment, training manual and certification. Funding opportunities for the crop will be also availed, including an update on input supply status in the region.

This is far from a systematic sample, but indicative I think of the way small-scale commercial farming is taking off in Zimbabwe. Email lists, facebook and twitter are used to get in touch with people; multiple websites are available for adverts; small private companies and consultancies are popping up, with links with more formal organisations like farmer unions. And everyone it seems needs irrigation equipment and the ubiquitous one-tonne truck, hence my nominations of these for appearing on any new currency.

These adverts are a far cry from those appearing in the Rhodesiana archive, but offer an equally illuminating view of a very different world.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland


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A prescient perspective on land from 1968

In 1968, Malcom Rifkind, then a 22 year old postgraduate student at the University of Southern Rhodesia wrote the following in his University of Edinburgh thesis, “The Politics of Land in Rhodesia”:

“Today, (October 1968), land is a burning issue in Rhodesia, but only for the Africans. As far as the Europeans are concerned, the problem has been resolved – in their favour. … However, a settlement which is opposed to the wishes of 95% of the population cannot be declared to be final and land will remain a vital problem, at least until the whole political system has changed”.

Well, 22 years later, in 1980 when Malcom Rifkind was a member of Mrs Thatcher’s government, the political system did change with Independence. But the land issue remained a ‘vital problem’. It was not until 2000 that land reform for the majority occurred. And whether the political system has changed in the right direction remains a subject of hot debate. Malcom Rifkind of course later went on to become Britain’s Foreign Secretary, and served in both Mrs Thatcher’s and John Major’s governments. A conservative politician, he is not usually associated with progressive views about land. But as a young student in Southern Rhodesia durng the UDI period, his analysis of land issues showed deep insight and prescience. I read this thesis years ago when doing my own PhD. The author was a minister of state in the Foreign Office at time (responsible for the Falklands!). To read the thesis, you had to go to the University of London Senate House library and sign a form that you had consulted it. Not many had. But now, thanks to Joe Hanlon at the Open University who rediscovered it in preparing his remarkable forthcoming book ‘Zimbabwe Takes Back the Land’ (more on this when it’s released), and with Sir Malcom’s permission, you can now read it yourself (Sorry it’s really large (15MB), so you may have to wait a bit… or go to Senate House if it’s close by). We have posted it on the Zimbabweland.net website so others can pick up its insights. Perhaps his successors at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should have read it. Britain’s appalling record of diplomacy with Zimbabwe has been repeatedly ill-informed. Of course the ‘Clare Short letter’ was the pinnacle, but there have been so many other moments when inappropriate signals have been given and gaffes made. There is a new UK Ambassador in Harare, Deborah Bronnert. I will send her the link to Sir Malcom’s thesis. Informed British foreign policy on Zimbabwe in the coming years will be critical.

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