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Race and Class in the Politics of Zanzibar

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Race and Class in the Politics of Zanzibar
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  Race and Class in the Politics of ZanzibarAuthor(s): Abdul SheriffSource: Africa Spectrum, Vol. 36, No. 3 (2001), pp. 301-318Published by: Institute of African Affairs at GIGA, Hamburg/Germany Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40174901 Accessed: 26/10/2010 20:51 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=iaagiga.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.  Institute of African Affairs at GIGA, Hamburg/Germany is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve andextend access to  Africa Spectrum. http://www.jstor.org  afrikaspectrum36(2001)3: 301-318__^ Abdul Sheriff RaceandclassinthepoliticsofZanzibar Theprevailinginterpretationofthe recenthistoryandpoliticsofZanzibarhas beenbasedonthecontentionthat race and classcoincided on the isles.The1964 revo-lutionwasthereforeseen as theoverthrow of an Arablandowning minority bytheAfricanmajority.(Lofchie1965.Mrina & Mattoken.d.Mapuri1996)Themassacreandexpulsionof alargenumber ofArabs,andthe nationalisationandredistributionoflargelandholdingsfollowingthe revolutionshould therefore havesolved theproblem.However,thehistoryofpost-revolutionZanzibarhas beenpunctuatedbyrepeatedrecurrenceofpoliticalunrest andapersistenceofdeep politicaldivision.Althoughthehackneyedracial labels arestill toutedtoexplainthepoliticaldivide,itis clearthatthepre-revolutionsocial structurehas tobere-examined to see thedegreeoffit betweenrace and classevenat thattime. The socialandpoliticalfault-linesin thesocietycan betracedback to thehistoryof Zanzibar before colo-nialismandevenmoreto theperiodof colonialrule.These contradictions were notallowedtobeplayedoutbythe colonialauthorities,andtheywere notproperlyhealedaftertheRevolution;onthecontrary,insomeways theyhave beenexacer-bated. Race&classinZanzibar DuringthenineteenthcenturyZanzibarhaddevelopedasthecapitalofaCom-mercialEmpirebasedonthetwinfoundationof commerceand aplantationecon-omyonZanzibar.The firstsectorhad centralizedtheforeigntrade of muchofeasternAfricaonZanzibar,anditgaverise to aprosperousmercantile state andamerchantclasswhich wasnotablythoughnotentirelyIndian,and thebeginningsofanurbanworkingclassthatwaspartlyservile,handlingthe commercialeconomy.Theplantationeconomy,on theotherhand,createda slavesocietywithrichland-ownersmanythoughnotallofwhom wereArabs,andslavesimportedfromthemainland.Thisgaverisetoa racialparadigmduringthe colonialperiodthat tendedtolabelpopulationbyrace,andracedenotedfunction:thus Arabs were landown-ers,Indiansweremerchants,andtheAfricansasthe downtrodden.(Flint:1965:651)Suchacharacterisationignoredthe factthat none ofthese ethniccategorieswereundifferentiated,andmoreimportantly,theywereundergoingveryfundamentaleconomicand socialtransformationstriggeredbytheimpositionofcolonialrule.Evenbeforetheimpositionof colonialruletheracial-cum-classsocial structurewasbynomeansclear-cut.To startwith,the HadhramiArabs did not formpartoftherulingclass,andmanyhadmigratedtoZanzibarto workasportersat thebusy301  AbdulSheriff commercialcentre or toopensmallshops;andevenamongtheOmanis,alargenumberprobablymigratedaspoorMangas(asrecent OmaniimmigrantsarecalledinKiswahili),hopingtoimprovetheir lives assmallshopkeepersinthecountryside,astheycontinuedtodountilthe 1964 revolution.While a smallpercentageof theIndianswererichmerchants,andsomeof them werefabulouslyrich,themajorityhadmigratedfromapoorregioninIndia andhad establishedthemselves assmallshopkeepersorclerksinthelargerIndianfirms with thehopeofsettinguptheirownsmallshopseventually,while some remainedpoorwasher-menrightdown tothepresent.Finally,despitethetendencytolumpall Africansasbelongingto asingleclass,thereweresignificantandportentousdifferencesbetween onthe onehandthefreeindigenouspeoplewho were neverenslaved,andsome ofwhomeven ownedlargeplantationsandslaves,and the slaves who hadbeenimportedinlargenumbersduringthe nineteenthcenturyto work on the cloveplantations.Thecolonialpartitionofthe CommercialEmpiretowards the endofthe nine-teenthcenturywasto addto the fuzzinessof the ethno-class divisions ofthe Zan-zibarisociety,andinsomewaysto transformit.Inthe commercialsector,theparti-tionofZanzibar'scommercialhinterlanddiminishedtheentrepotroleofZanzibarthatsealedthefate ofthe merchantclass anditbegantodisintegrate.As thecolo-nialpowersonthe mainlanddivertedthe tradeof their new colonies to theirownmetropolestoHamburgandLondon,Zanzibarwasbypassedandwasgraduallyreducedtoasmallislandeconomy.Withapopulationofless than200,000thatwasmoreovergettingimpoverished,manyof theIndian merchantsbegantomi-gratetothemainland.Thosewhoremainedon the islandshad to becontentwiththesmallinternalmarket,andsometurned tomoney-lendingtothelandowners.DuringtheDepressionof the 1930stheplightof Zanzibar'seconomyand that ofitsfinanciersbecamealltooapparent.Inaneffort to cut outthemiddlemen theBritishcolonialauthoritiessoughtto eliminatethe Indian merchantsandmoneylenders byestablishingthe CloveGrowers'Association(CGA)to finance andmarket Zanzi-bar'sclovesin collaborationwith Britishbankingcapital.Withtheir back tothe walltheIndianmerchantclassfoughtbackwith aboycottof the clovetrade.TheyweresupportedbytheIndianNationalCongressto reachacompromisetoretain someshareoftheclovetrade.Henceforth,theycouldplay onlysecondfiddleinthepoli-ticsofZanzibar.ThemainstayofZanzibar'seconomyduringthecolonialperiodwasthereforecloveproduction.However,the abolition ofthe slave tradein1873 andthe aboli-tionofslaveryin 1897begantotransform theformerlyslave-basedplantationeconomyintoa colonialcapitalist economybasedonsquatterandwagelabour.Thisdestroyedtheeconomicbase ofmanyofthelargeplantationowners whowereimpoverished,forcingthem to sellat leastpartof theirland,reducing manyofthemtolittlemorethanpeasants.Sons ofmanylandownershadto seekemploy-mentinthecivilserviceasteachers,clerks,etc.(SeeANMuhsinn.d.)Thedeclineofthe landlordswasso seriousthat some colonialofficialsinthe1920sbegantoquestionwhethertheywerenot aspentforce andshould bejettisonedinfavourofpeasantswhowereconsidered'thecheapestinstrument' ofcolonialproduction.(Flint1965:655)However,the conservativecolonialregimewastootimid tocon-templateasocialrevolutionthat such apolicywouldhaveentailed,andinthe 302  Raceand classinthepoliticsofZanzibar 1930sit intervenedto bail out the landownerswith debtrelief and theformation oftheCGA,thushamperingapainfulbutinthelongrunperhapsamoregradualandpeacefulresolutionof the contradictionsintheeconomyandsociety.The declineof thebiglandownersprovidedanopportunityforthegrowthof anindigenouspeasantclass,especiallyinPemba.Theyboughtsmallparcelsof landfromtheheavilyindebted Arablandowners,orplantedtheir ownlands withcloves.Theirwayoflifeand economicfortunes differed little from alargesection ofthe de-cliningArablandowningclassmanyof whose members werebecomingpeasan-tised.Theythusdevelopedcommoninterests andpoliticaloutlookthat cutacrossethniclines. Thegenesisofaregionaldivide Thesocio-economictransformation,however,was notuniform acrossthe two is-lands,andthiswasgoingtobesignificantinthe futurepolitical historyofZanzibar.ThelargerUngujaislandwasthe firstplacewherecloveswereplantedon alarge-scalefromthe1830s,butthesteepdeclineinthepriceof clovesbythe late 1840shadhampereditsspreadtoPembauntilthe hurricaneof1872 whichwipedoutmostoftheclovetreesonUnguja.Bythenthe relativepovertyofUnguja'ssoilsandtheheavierrainfallandrichervirginforestsof Pembathat were even bettersuitedforcloveshadbecomeapparent.However,thefollowingyearall slave tradebyseawasbanned.Thus,whilesomeofthe landownerstried to transfer theirslavesfromUngujatoPemba,orsmugglethemfromthemainland,there was anacuteshortageoflabourthere.Thisforcedthemto cometo anarrangementwiththelocalpeasantstohelpestablishnewcloveplantations.Aspeasantsnotyet fullyintegratedintothemoneyeconomy,theywerelessinterestedina cashwagethaningettingclovelandsforthemselvesunderthe so-called'half-and-halfsystembywhichthelabourersweregivenhalfthe clearedandplantedland.Theythereforebegantoacquiretheir ownsmallcloveplantationsorbegantoplantcloves ontheirownlands.Thehistoricaldifferencesin thepatternsofdevelopmentoflandownershipbe-tweenthetwoislandsemergeveryclearlyfromthegraphsdrawn fromregistersoftheCloveBonusSchemeofthe 1920s.InUngujaonly2.4percent of allcloveowners(owningmorethan1000clovetrees)owned40percent of the clovetrees,and83percentoftheselargestlandownerswereArabs.Atthe bottomofthepyramid78percentweresmalllandowners(owninglessthan 100trees),andtheyowned18percentofalltheclovetreesbetweenthem.Avastmajorityofthemwereindigenouspeasants(52 percent)andrecentAfricanimmigrantsfromthemainland(16 percent).Whilethe classstructureisverysharplydefined andtheethnicfactorismoremarked,itisneverthelessimportantto note that theArabs(8percent)alsoconstitutedapartofthispoorestclass.Moreover,lookingat theAr-absasanethnicgroup,only10percentwerebiglandownersand 79percentwerepoorormiddlepeasantseveninUngujain termsof cloveownership,(seeGraph1) 303
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