Governance for development or loyalty? reading the Zimbabwean colonial court records, 1935-1980

  • Livingstone Muchefa National Archives of Zimbabwe
  • George Bishi University of Free State
Keywords: court records, governance, colonial records, Zimbabwe


Information has always been an essential component for societal development. Strides towards use of technology in information gathering and dissemination have accelerated in the 21st century in Africa. Traditionally, before institutionalization of information centres in Africa, information and knowledge management was everyone`s responsibility in terms of storage, retrieval and dissemination. With modernization of African societies alongside sprouting legislation for governance of both the society and the information management profession inevitable cultural conflicts between western standards of development against the African transpired. The Royal Charter of 1889 granted to the British South Africa Company (BSAC) by the British Government subsequently resulted in the establishment of Southern Rhodesia as a colony in 1890. The Charter granted the mandate to the BSAC to maintain law and order as one of its key responsibilities. This formed the legal basis for the governance of the colony. This mandate provided the inauguration of justice delivery systems (legislation and courts). The British felt it was their responsibility to develop the colony which conflicted with the African perspective of development. This paper therefore, seeks to analyse how eventually the 1935 established National Archives of Southern Rhodesia ended up acquiring, preserving and disseminating information that reflected a record of violation of legislation and not necessarily unravel the underneath social and cultural conflicts between the European and the African.   It submits to the argument that the African was placed on a precarious position of loyalty to the systems of governance as opposed to the pseudo development calls compared to those specially preserved for the European race. This paper is inclined to the view that the colonial archive reflects how information for development was heavily enshrined in racial tensions and deliberate colonial intentions to place the African as a second class citizen hence the need to be very critical and analytical when using the colonial archive for development purposes. 


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 1012-2796