The Pioneer Column was a group of settlers who migrated from South Africa to the then Southern Rhodesia in 1890 for reasons of colonisation and and occupation. It was led by Cecil Rhodes owner of the British South Africa Company. The group was made up of about 250 men.
The Background to the Establishment of the Pioneer Column
The Pioneer Column was established with the idea to put into practice the the notion of effective occupation which was advocated by the colonial powers at the Berlin Conference of 1885. Prior to their trek to Southern Rhodesia, Cecil Rhodes and his British South Africa Company had bargained for a charter to colonise Southern Rhodesia after signing the Rudd Concession with King Lobengula of Matabeleland. Hence the Pioneer Column was established to execute the actual colonisation as seen by their hoisting of the British flags in various forts which they established throughout Southern Rhodesia.
Composition of the Column
The Pioneer Column was made up of individuals of various expertise. It was led by one Frank Johnson who was once Rhodes's military advisor before he became leader of the column. Johnson employed the services of Fredrick Selous who was a professional hunter with vast knowledge of Mashonaland. He acted acted as the guide for the Column.
He then began to recruit volunteers to take part in the colonisation of Mashonaland. The volunteers were to be offered 3000 hectares of arable land and 15 mining claims as a reward for their services. The Pioneer Column was placed under the military directorship of an Irish Commander Lieutenant Colonel Edward Pinnefather.
The Pioneer Column was made up of 180 colonialists, 200 volunteers and 62 wagons. Another group soon joined the Column. It added 110 men, 16 wagons, 130 horses and 250 cattle. They set out from Mcloutsie on June 28, 1890 and arrived near Fort Victoria on September 12. A British flag was hoisted symbolising colonisation.
Establishment of Forts
The Pioneer Column is today remembered for its role in the establishment of Forts which subsequently developed to modern town and cities in independent Zimbabwe. The Column established Fort Victoria on the Southern Eastern plateau of Southern Rhodesia (now Masvingo). Fort Charter (now Chivhu) was also established by the Pioneer Column. Harare the capital city of present day Zimbabwe was also established by the Pioneer Column as Fort Salisbury at an area now called Mt Hampden. Soon after establishment of these Forts, the Pioneer Column disbanded and began practicing agriculture in various parts of the colony.