Tribal Trust Land Development Corporation

Known as “Tilcor” for short, it was formed by Act of Parliament in November 1968 as a statutory body for the express purpose of bringing about economic development of Rhodesia’s tribal areas by all possible means.

In Rhodesia there are 18 million hectares of land reserved for the African, within which a largely traditional way of life continues to exist. By contrast, in the areas dominated by Europeans, due to their more materialistic background and ability to attract and generate capital, development has been rapid and efficient.

The country, therefore, faces an imbalance of development and standards of living – due to the inability of the traditional African areas to organise the capital necessary for growth.

To assist the transition from a subsistence to a cash economy was the essence of the mandate given to Tilcor (Tribal Trust Land Development Corporation) by Act of Parliament in 1968.  In specific terms, to plan, promote, assist and carry out development in the Tribal Trust Lands for the benefit of the tribesman.

Lush and green - another Tilcor irrigation project helping to bring the cash economy to Rhodesia's tribal areas
Lush and green – another Tilcor irrigation project helping to bring the cash economy to Rhodesia’s tribal areas.


There are, of course, within the tribal areas, a network of Government facilities such as schools, health clinics, and agricultural and community advisory services. But these are barely able to cope with their ever-increasing work – and Government itself is not entrepreneurial in spirit.

Tilcor’s task is to find suitable areas where capital development in an activity in which the rural African can play a full part would lead to natural development of urban complexes closely related, economically and socially, to the surrounding area.

To establish the magnitude of the task, a survey of all 167 tribal areas of Rhodesia was carried out. During the same period, two large-scale agricultural development projects at Katiyo and Chisumbanje were set in motion.

The three year survey (1969-1972) gave rise to a new policy concept for Tilcor – the Growth Point policy. In simplest terms, this involves the setting-up of profitable development projects in areas remote from existing main centres, whose natural resources can be processed conveniently on site and then transported. Such projects would in turn stimulate general development in these areas. Most important, they would promise increasing employment opportunities for all sectors of the tribal community. Because Tilcor operates on commercial lines, the accent of the growth points is on sustained profitability.

Map showing location of Tilcor projects
Map showing the location of some of Tilcor’s projects


The capital, provided by Government, which has been invested in the creation of growth-points by Tilcor, exceeds R$20 million (at early 1970s prices).

Some of the amounts invested in various areas are:

Seki ……………….………….… R$11,5 million

Chisumbanje ……………………….. R$8 million

Sanyati ………….……….………. R$1,5 million

Katiyo …………..……………… R$1,15 million

Tuli …………….…..……………….. R$300 000

Tshotsholo ……………..…..………. R$200 000

All profits from the sale of crops is ploughed back into further group development. Tilcor’s ultimate aim is that growth-points, with all their facilities, will be controlled by the local Africans.

The Eastern Highlands of Rhodesia were already known to be of good tea-producing potential and was the area selected for Tilcor’s earliest projects.

The virgin bush in 1969, the Katiyo project, totally undertaken by Tilcor, now has 300 ha under tea. This crop is being processed through a modern tea factory, which when geared to full production will turn out over 1 million kg of made tea yearly.

New areas being opened up at Katiyo will be supplied from the 2-million-cutting nursery of high-yield clonal material, the largest of its kind in Southern Africa the crop and the 16 tonnes of coffee beans that it is estimated will be harvested in the first season starting May 1976 will be processed here.

At the opposite end of the Eastern Border from Katiyo is yet another vast development – Tilcor Chisumbanje Irrigation Estate. The present irrigated area of 2 450 ha of black basalt soil is used to grow cotton in summer and wheat in winter. This is as large an area as can be managed by drawing water from the Sabi River, but the recently completed Ruti Dam will allow a further 10 000 ha to be put to the plough.


Wheat being harvested at Chisumbanje
Wheat being harvested at Chisumbanje


The permanent labour force on the project now stands at 750, but during cotton-picking ten times this number are employed as casual labour.

Local participation is encouraged in the project. An initial 125 tenant farmers reaped net profits for the 1973-74 season of between $700 and $1 100 each (at 1970s prices), an extremely satisfactory return when the base rental of $160 plus cropping cost per hectare has already been deducted from the gross profit. In 1976 the number of tenants had risen to 145.

Local enterprise has already moved into the area with ancillary services such as stores and grinding mills, following the growth-point policy pattern.

The menfolk are not the only ones to benefit from the estate. The women adapt rapidly to their improved financial status and participate eagerly in women’s club activities and adult literacy classes.

One of the newer projects is the Sanyati Agricultural Scheme. Situated on the banks of the Umniati River, 1 000 ha of old alluvial soils have been cleared, ploughed and planted. This year (1976) there are 975 ha of cotton and 101 ha of groundnuts, the balance taken up with trial crops. No development of this size could be complete without housing, and 225 permanent housing units have recently been completed in a fully planned township.

Gathering the cotton crop at Sanyati
Gathering the cotton crop at Sanyati


The immediate development planned for Sanyati is a cotton depot now being built in the industrial area of the scheme. A cotton gin in the same area will provide the next development. This would cater for the processing needs of not only the Sanyati area, but also neighbouring proven, high-yield cotton areas – the growth-point concept at work.

Two pilot schemes that envisage crop processing as their major activity have been started in Matabeleland. In the Lupane area is the Tshotsholo scheme. With cotton the main crop on the 100 ha scheme, trials on maize, onions, tomatoes rice, beans, groundnuts, grapes citrus and guavas are in progress to establish which can be grown most profitably by tribesmen in the surrounding areas.

Already, very successful dehydration of tomatoes and onions has been carried out at the sister scheme at Tuli in the Gwanda area.

Each project operated by Tilcor has, either on the ground or as part and parcel of its projected planning, proper residential villages with well-built, permanent housing, stores, clinics, beerhalls and a full range of sporting and social amenities.

Seki industrial area near Salisbury
Seki industrial area near Salisbury


Moving from the agriculturally orientated to industrial schemes, there are three industrial complexes either operational or planned in tribal areas in close proximity to Salisbury, Umtali and Bulawayo. The emphasis of these schemes is that they are actually situated within tribal areas, thereby ensuring a higher rate of cash flow into the surrounding villages.

This also has the effect of stemming the drift of the population to the urban areas, as they now have their town with all its amenities and services in the tribal area.

All this seems to be an impressive list of achievements and plans, but some gaps are obvious. What, one might ask, about the people living in remote, or dry and non-irrigable areas? What about tapping Rhodesia’s vast mineral wealth? Both these aspects are being planned for.

In the more remote areas over 2 000 families are engaged in the production of traditional tribal homecrafts. Of these, about 800 carry on their activities on a regular basis, using their industry as a main source of income. The remaining 1 200 only use their craft as supplementary income. Items produced find a ready local and tourist acceptance and sale at “The Market”, a Tilcor subsidiary outlet for crafts , in Salisbury.

From the beginning of recorded history in Rhodesia, the African people have been known as miners of metals and minerals, and this is being further encouraged and developed in areas where agricultural potential is low.

In the extreme north of Rhodesia, in the hot, dry, Zambezi Valley, are Tilcor’s  most recent ventures. At Mushumbi Pools Estate, given Government approval in June 1975, already 200 ha of wild bush has been cleared and planted to cotton. Plans for this estate envisage 1 000 ha under cultivation and seasonal employment for 3 000 tribesmen. This is in an area where, until Tilcor moved in, there was not even a reasonable road. Nearby at Mzarabani a sister estate and growth point is to be established.

Floating pumphouse at Mushumbi Pools
Floating pumphouse at Mushumbi Pools


Time and people do not stand still and this is the focal point of all Tilcor’s operations. Future profitable schemes will be of greater value to all sectors of the African population and ultimately to the Rhodesian economy as a whole.


The above was written in 1976 by an unknown author – but very possibly D.N. Norris, Tilcor’s Public Relations Officer.



Two senior men at Tilcor subsequently went on to greater things.

JZ Gumede OBE - Tilcor Director
JZ Gumede OBE      –  a Director of Tilcor 

In 1979, Josiah Gumede, who was born in Bembesi in the Bubi District, became the first African president of Zimbabwe Rhodesia. He was educated at the David Livingstone Memorial Mission and Matopo Mission before matriculating in the Cape Province in 1946. He taught at various mission and government schools and ended his teaching career as a headmaster. He was assistant information and education attaché for the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland at Rhodesia House in London between 1960 and 1962, before being appointed First Secretary in the office of the Commissioner for Rhodesia and Nyasaland in Nairobi. He then joined the Ministry of External Affairs (1963–1965).

He was at one time general secretary for the African Teachers’ Association of Rhodesia; a member of the Wankie Disaster Relief Fund’s Board of Trustees and a board member of the National Free Library of Rhodesia. He was also an ordained elder of the Presbyterian Church of South Africa.  (source: Wikipedia)


R Mupawose, Tilcor Chief Agronomist
R Mupawose, Tilcor Chief Agronomist


Dr. Robbie Matongo Mupawose, B.Sc., MSc (Agron)., Ph.D., became a renowned agriculturist spanning 40 years and later became Chairman of the Agricultural Bank of Zimbabwe and the Agribank.  He also served as Chairman of Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe Ltd and of Ariston Holdings Ltd.  (source: Facebook)