Southern Rhodesian Legislative Council

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The Southern Rhodesian Legislative Council was the inaugural governing body for the British South Africa Company (BSAC) territory of Southern Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) before its replacement by the Southern Rhodesian Legislative Assembly in 1923, when the country achieved responsible government, and duly became a self-governing colony within the British Empire.

The Council was established on 20 October 1898, and the first election for the Council was held on 17 April 1899.[1] The Council sat for the first time in May 1899. Initially, the Council consisted of four elected members and five members nominated by the British South Africa Company, with the BSAC administrator presiding (and who also holding the right of veto over any legislation).[2] Additionally, a British resident commissioner sat on the Council as a non-voting member.[3]

Qualifications for members and franchise were set by the commissioner, who required voters to be British subjects, male, 21 years of age and older, able to write their address and occupation, and then to fulfil any one of the following financial requirements:

  • (a) ownership of a registered mining claim in Southern Rhodesia
    (b) six months' continuous residence in Southern Rhodesia, and the occupation there of immovable property worth at least £75 (about (£7,148 in today's money[4])
    (c) six months' continuous residence in Southern Rhodesia, and the receipt there of wages or salary worth at least £50 per annum (£4,766 per annum today[4]).

All voters were entered onto a common roll.

Due to continuing pressure by white settlers for a greater role in the administration of the colony, the number of elected representatives on the Council was gradually increased, so that by 1920 there were 13 elected members.[3]

The main issue debated in the Legislative Council by the 1910s was the future of Southern Rhodesia following the planned end of BSAC rule.[3] When responsible government was granted to Southern Rhodesia in 1923, the Legislative Council was replaced by the Legislative Assembly.[2]


  1. ^ Willson, F. (1963) Source Book of Parliamentary Elections and Referenda in Southern Rhodesia 1898-1962, Department of Government, University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Salisbury.
  2. ^ a b Berens, D. (1988) A Concise Encyclopedia of Zimbabwe, Mambo Press, Gweru.
  3. ^ a b c Kent Rasmussen, R. & Rubert, S. (1990) Historical Dictionary of Zimbabwe, The Scarecrow Press, London.
  4. ^ a b UK Consumer Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)",