Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Greek Rural Settlement in Southern Rhodesia 1890 - 1930

by Evangelos A. Mantzaris

published in the Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, July 1980 - page 88

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

. . . Early Greek settlers participated in the Ndebele and Matabele wars, as one can see in the Pioneer Columns Catalogue, where at least seven names appearing to be of Greek origin (Minikis, Spanos, Theodore Bolis, Petro Collis, Chris Zacharias, Gregory Georgiou, and Lenos B) are quoted. In the list of members of the Rhodesia Pioneers and early Settlers' Society, the names of G. Alexis (1881) and P. Zaphiris (1890) appear without further details." It seems that all those early Greek pioneers were involved in an adventurous life, participating in these wars for the sake of profit; and, of course, they were not the only ones to do so.'  As Cosmin " has stated, one Greek was killed in the Matabeleland war. A Greek author believes that the number of Greeks killed was close to 30, but he reveals only two Greeks, D. Coutzouvelis and H. Loukas, as definitely killed.

During the period 1890-1908, 58 Greeks were involved in agricultural production and farming. This number excludes the early settlers who, without knowing the conditions of the soil, bought land in areas of uncertain rainfall or where land was more suitable for cattle raising rather than crop cultivation, and who finally found employment in stores in Salisbury or Umtali. Those Greeks who settled in the highveld became relatively successful tobacco or maize farmers. . . . 

. . . 1907 was a turning point for the Greek tobacco farmers. Although, in 1904, Barker Brothers had brought to Rhodesia Paul Diogenides, an expert on the cultivation of "Turkish tobacco," who later brought Theo Galanis from the Aegean island of Samos, who together started producing Turkish blend in a Muguza farm (8 miles south of Bulawayo), it was in 1907 that an expert on tobacco, G. M. Odblum of the Department of Agriculture, was sent to America, Greece, and Turkey to study tobacco growing." This followed upon the suggestions of E. Ross Townsent, who, in his report to the BSAC in 1905, was full of praise for the Barker Brothers and their "Greek cultivators," and urged the company's authorities to act immediately to bring to the country experienced cultivators of Turkish tobacco, which was "very marketable in Europe." " The 14 Greeks who came back with Odblum — considered the pioneers of Rhodesian tobacco by the official Rhodesian Yearbook (1932) — added to the political controversy over Greeks and other "inferior races" in the country, a "problem" having its roots as far back as 1890. The company felt obliged to apologize for bringing in the 14 tobacco cultivators, saying it had done so because "it had been unable to obtain responsible Europeans." Odblum, on the other hand, wrote to Wise that: 

Farmers and others treat them (the Hellenes) with consideration for they are not quite Barbarians, many of them being very nice people.

The political attitudes of the British settlers of that period toward the Greek settlers were rather similar to their attitude toward Indians. . . . 

. . . A typical pioneer writer claimed that, at the Bulawayo market, there were but three real white men, the rest of the crowd consisting of "Greeks, coolies, half-castes, and local savages." " The vitriolic letters with anti-Greek sentiments appearing in the local press did not bother the Greek rural settlers who did not see the Salisbury newspapers; they regularly received newspapers directly from Greece, being politically minded only insofar as the situation in the motherland was concerned.' This disinterest in local politics is easily understood since only five of the 57 naturalized Greeks until 1922 were farmers. . .