This article examines an oft-ignored aspect of worker demands in the 1940s and early 1950s in urban colonial Zimbabwe. It is argued that although married African men played important roles in those years of social and economic conflict, androcentric historiography has generally ignored the influence of women on men's consciousness of themselves as dissatisfied workers. The 1945 railway workers’ strike, the general strike of 1948 and the agitation of the Reformed Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (RICU) in Harare township against the 1946 Natives (Urban Areas) Registration and Accommodation Act are discussed, revealing a persistent theme of worker dissatisfaction with the developing colonial program for the reproduction of urban African society. Married workers demanded far more than the degrading program for urban Africans offered by the state, at least partly because it was daily being demonstrated to them that women could not perform their social and economic duties adequately under the imposed conditions. Studies which do not try to come to grips with the complex ways in which understandings of gender relations were interwoven with political and economic strife thus cannot accurately describe the dynamics of this phase of the anti-colonial struggle in Zimbabwe.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science