The Winds and Wounds of Change: 1961 to 1965 Part 3: The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie


Tanganyika Tea – 1963 to 1965


The Tea Industry in Tanganyika

In the early 1960s, 10,500 acres were under tea in Tanganyika. Tea estates were located in the highlands of:

  • the East and West Usambara Mountains to the north west of Tanga, extending for 75 miles with a breadth ranging form 12 to 45 miles, between 5,000 to 10,000 feet high,
  • the Mufindi Plateau in the Southern Highlands south of Iringa, at around 6,500 feet,
  • at Njombe further south,
  • and around the township of Tukuyu in the south-western corner of the country, on the slopes of Mount Rungwe above the shores of Lake Nyasa.

    This acreage was less than half that under tea in Nyasaland and Kenya, but it was still a significant area. It yielded 2.8 million lb of tea in weight annually. This represented just 1% of total world production; it was nevertheless of real significance in the economy of the country.

    Tea was the third largest employer of labour in Tanganyika at that time with (my estimate) about 10,000 working on estates at the height of the plucking season. In 1957, mining employed 14,000 and sisal 130,000 workers.

    The Tanganyika Tea Growers Association

    The TTGA was entirely independent of Government, and funded by the voluntary subscriptions of all the companies and nearly all settlers who owned and ran tea gardens in Tanganyika.

    Two big companies dominated tea production in the country, and consequently had the biggest say in running the Association. They were the Brooke Bond Company Limited (BB) in Mufindi, and George Williamsons (GW) based in Nairobi.

    The Brooke Bond Company

    During the War, the Custodian of Enemy Property seized some twentyfive tea estates that industrious German settlers had cleared and planted in the Mufindi Hills, and leased them to a subsidiary of Brooke Bond then operating in East Africa.

    With capital from the UK, the company had subsequently much improved the land, modernised the factories, built bungalows for their staff, done up the roads and installed excellent facilities for the large community in those hills. The Chairman of the Company in Tanganyika in 1963 was Peter Knight.

    George Williamsons

    GW was as important as BB in the TTGA, but of different nature. It was a very old business that had operated for years in Assam, Calcutta, Southern India and Kenya, and was highly influential in Mincing Lane, but owned no tea estates itself. Its role was that of Managing Agent, responsible for managing numerous scattered tea gardens across the country on behalf of their various proprietors who were mostly property owners and finance companies based in the City of London. The Chairman of GW Nairobi was Richard Magor.

    The TTGA structure

    For convenience, members of the Association belonged to one of three ‘Districts’ that provided a focus in each tea growing area and was represented on the Executive Committee.

  • The Tukuyu and Njombe planters all belonged to the Rungwe District of the TTGA;
  • the Usambara members comprised the Tanga District;
  • and the Mufindi growers formed the Mufindi District.

    The Association normally met as a body once a year in October when all members were invited to the Annual General Meeting.

    The Chairman and a small Executive Committee were elected at the AGM with representation from each of the three Districts of the Association.

    The Executive Committee met every month and brought together the officebearers, the District chairmen and other key members from all parts of the country. The Committee’s remit was to keep the Association’s business going and represent members’ views and opinions to the trade union and the Government. The TTGA staff of Secretary and Assistant Secretary worked closely with and for the Executive Committee.

    The Tanganyika Tea Board

    The Tea Board had the task of developing tea production among African farmers on their own and in co-operatives. The Board provided the forum where the Government could bring planters and peasant tea-growers side by side and enable estate managers to support and promote tea growing among African farmers in their small-holdings. For these purposes, the Board comprised two Government members, two Tanganyikan farmers representing all peasant growers, and four members of the TTGA, including me as its Secretary.

    The Secretary’s work was to call meetings, write agenda and papers for the meetings, and record the minutes. In addition the Secretary was required to write and monitor the Board’s budget and expenditure. More importantly the Secretary was in a position to draft discussion papers on methods of increasing African tea-growing, particularly on small-holdings around the big estates with factories to process the tea.

    The Federation of Tanganyika Employers

    The FTE had offices on the floor adjacent to those of the TTGA in the Standard Bank Building. Its role was to bring together all employers in commerce, mining, manufacturing and agriculture and provided them with a voice to the Government on employment matters.

    Employers in agriculture were members of the Rural Division of the FTE. Here the TTGA sat alongside representatives of cotton, sugar, sisal and coffee producers and those involved in ‘mixed farming’.

    The TTGA Secretary and Assistant Secretary attended meetings of the Rural Division, and worked closely with the FTE Director and Assistant Director in developing and promoting the position of all employers in Tanganyika.

    The Standing Joint Committee

    The SJC was the forum in which the employers, notably those with plantations and estates of sisal, sugar, cotton, coffee and tea, met the trade union representing agricultural workers. A Government Minister took the chair – sometimes Mr Kamaliza, the Minister of Labour. The SJC was the place where negotiations were conducted formally between the employers and the union, leading generally to National Agreements. The TTGA Secretary and Assistant Secretary attended SJC meetings, normally in support of our Chairman who was the Association’s representative.

    The Trade Union

    In 1963, the Tanganyika Union of Plantation Workers (TUPW) was the trade union for agricultural workers on tea estates. TTGA members recognised local branches of the union and permitted them to organise workers on the tea estates in local formal and informal agreements. TUPW Branch Secretaries varied in their approach to relations with their employers; on many estates the relationship was constructive; on some, however, notably in the Tanga District of the Association in the Usambara Mountains, there was a good deal of friction between managers and branch officials who tended to challenge management decisions in organising and directing labour on the estates.

    In these circumstances, it was the TTGA Secretary’s job to suggest ways to strengthen the managers’ hands, while helping to improve relations with the Union. At the same time, the Secretary was required to advise on ways to secure greater cooperation from the Government, and less exacting directives regarding the organisation and control of labour.

    In October 1964, Mr Kamaliza, the Minister for Labour, made it known that he intended to merge all the trade unions into one monolithic National Workers Movement (NWM) under the control of TANU, the single political party, with close links to the Government. The Government proposed to nationalise all trade unions as an arm of the one-party state and to oblige employers to cede to the proposed new union wide powers over their employment. It was envisaged the NWM would have its own negotiating committee at every workplace which the employer would be required to inform of his financial and employment plans and give the right to decide the number of workers in each plant or estate and to decide whether or not a man should be sacked.

    This plan was modelled on the laws of Communist Yugoslavia and was presented as a development of the socialist one–party state that Nyerere and the Cabinet were pursuing. Its effect would be that employers would no longer negotiate wages and terms of service with the workers’ own trades union but instead would have to deal directly with the Government nominees who would have the right to determine the size and the wages of the work-force on any estate.

    Neither the trade unions nor the employers were prepared to accept this plan. The trade unions saw themselves as being nationalised and losing their separate identities; and their leaders made forceful representations to the Government; the employers meeting in the FTE saw the plan as the negation of free enterprise and the backdoor to nationalisation, and argued strongly in favour of a free system of wage bargaining.

    Following intensive negotiations, the Government modified some of its ideas, but the Minister pressed ahead with his plan to merge the all trade unions into one and give the new entity a strong bargaining position. The Minister’s final position was announced in November 1964, and the National Union of Tanganyika Workers (Establishment) Act passed into law early in 1965. All employees were required to join the NUTW and all employers were required to recognise it as representative of their employees.

    Wages in the Tea Industry

    The new Government declared its aim to be ‘to introduce a high-wage economy’. Employers in the tea industry recognised that the wages paid to labourers on their estates were very low. At the beginning of 1963, the statutory monthly minimum wage for all industries in rural areas other than tea was Shs 100/- (£5/-), thus acknowledging the greater profitability of the cotton, sugar and sisal industries. At the same time, the basic wage for the mass of unskilled workers on the tea estates - the ‘plucking rate’ - was Shs 84/- (£4:4/-) a month.

    One had much sympathy for the labourers but the cultivation of tea at that time depended on cheap labour. Large numbers of workers were required to look after the bushes, plant, weed, manure, prune and pluck the tea. There were between three and five hundred labourers on an estate of average size, and three thousand at Brooke Bond at the peak period every year. Any rise in the minimum wage would considerably increase the costs of production, and was resisted by the TTGA arguing that, when labour ceased to be cheap, tea estates would be unable to carry on their businesses.

    The TTGA was nevertheless put under strong pressure to increase rates. In March 1963, the Non-Plantation Minimum Wage Board recommended a minimum wage for the tea industry of Shs 91/- (£4:11/-) monthly – a rise of some 9%. The TTGA responded to this proposal by inviting Professor Guillebaud, a highly respected economics expert, to come out to the country and visit the tea estates to report on the economics of tea-growing in Tanganyika.

    At the end of June, the Professor finished his report on the tea industry in Tanganyika and flew back to Cambridge. He left the TTGA with an academic study that demonstrated the dependence of tea on the vagaries of the international market place and the inescapable need for the industry to employ a large low-wage work-force. He demonstrated the small amount of profit that tea was currently earning for those who had invested in it. He adduced powerful arguments, well supported by facts and figures, concluding that the tea industry would cease to be profitable if it suffered any further increase in costs. The Guillebaud Report was available to the TTGA to use and deploy in presentations to the Government and trade unions against the demands for higher wages and higher taxes.

    The Association set up a sub-committee of key members, of which I was secretary, to decide how to use the report. There were interesting differences of opinion. Some members felt strongly that we should go to the union and offer the workers an immediate wage increase. Other Association members were fearful lest an approach to the union would encourage their leaders to make other less acceptable demands that would be bound to increase production costs.

    It became clear that the trade union leaders wanted not only a considerable rise in pay but also a complete revision of the Wage Agreement. The argument went to and fro in the summer of 1963 within the Association and with representatives of the more prosperous sisal and sugar plantation owners within the FTE. Late that summer I produced a report that summarised the state of play as follows:

    The Association handed the Union the ‘Economic Survey of the Tea Industry covering the years 1961 to 1963’, together with a table of comparative wage rates in tea industries in other producing countries in the world, an wages in the industry. The Association offered to provide any explanation or elucidation of these papers requested by the Union. The Association represented that these documents showed that the Association was quite unable to meet the Union’s claims.

    The Association said that it fully appreciated the policy of the Government for a steady rise in rural incomes as disclosed in the Five-Year Plan, and the Association was ready to comply with this policy so far as the finances of members permitted, by giving such increase in the basic wage as was within the capacity of its members to pay, and then only when balanced by an equivalent increase in productivity by the employees concerned.

    The Association had, therefore, no alternative but to reject the Union’s claims, but the Association felt it was acting in line with the Government policy in offering the Union an increase in the basic wages of five and three quarters per cent to Shs.85/63 monthly, which was the increase calculated as necessary to raise the incomes of wageearners in the industry to comply with the Plan requirements for the current year.

    The Union argued that the papers tabled by the Association were uncorroborated, and in any ease presented only one side of the picture. The Union confidently believed that although some companies might be making losses others were well able to afford the increase demanded. The Union viewed their demand as a fair increase to relieve the workers from suffering and bring wages in the industry into line with those in other rural industries, such as sisal and sugar. The Union offered the industry its full support in tackling the problems of marketing its product and in improving the economic state of the industry.

    The Union pointed out that the statutory minimum wage of Shs.100/- had been imposed two years ago for all other industries in rural areas, and the Union was not convinced that the industry could not afford to pay the legal minimum figure. Moreover, the Non-Plantation Minimum Wage Board had recommended a minimum wage for the tea industry of Shs.9l/- monthly in March 1963, and the Union believed that the Association had accepted this figure. The Association denied that it had ever accepted the Mufundo recommendations. The Association had, however, no alternative but to argue incapacity to pay on the facts shown. The economy of the industry depended largely upon factors beyond the control of management, including

    i) the world-market price of tea: Tanganyika produced less than 1% of the total world production and had no influence on the price for the product which was determined by market forces at the London auctions. The price had never been high for Tanganyika teas, and was at present on the down grade, although the Association always had hopes of an improvement in the position;
    (ii) the industry’s competitive position: and it was noted that the basic monthly wage paid in the richest tea-producing districts of Assam equalled exactly the wage currently paid by the Association.

    [I regret the concluding sentences of this report have been lost.]

    Unsurprisingly, none of these arguments persuaded the trade union to reduce its demands nor the Government to relax its pressure on all employers in agricultural industries to lift wages and give their employees a bigger stake in companies.

    Reaching Agreement on Recognition and Wage Levels

    Following the creation of the monolithic national trade union (the NUTW), the pressure on employers to raise wages was intensified. The TTGA discussed the arguments for and against offering higher wages at length during the summer and autumn of 1964. Late in the year the Association approached the NUTW (still based at the old TUPW offices in Tanga), offering a graduated employment structure with some increase in wages according to the nature of the job; and the TTGA asked for an increase in productivity at every level to match the increase in wages. It was then agreed to hold a series of all-day face-to-face meetings concluding with a round-table conference and a formal Recognition and Wage Agreement.

    In November 1964, the first of these meetings took place in acrimony following an argument over the venue for the opening session. The union wanted it to take place in Tanga; the TTGA insisted it should be held in Dar es Salaam. The union lost that argument on practical grounds, but, were in no mood to agree anything else when face to face with the employers, and the meeting made no progress.

    In mid December the second joint meeting took place following a session of the Tea Board. No agreement was reached on this occasion either. TTGA members felt they could not accede to the union’s demands for big wage increases because of the weakness of the market for their product, while acknowledging they were under strong pressure to make concessions. The union announced they would go to arbitration, as the law provided, and a Conciliation Board was set up by the Government.

    The TTGA placed on the record that it was the union, not the employers that had broken off negotiations on wage rates and the proposed Recognition Agreement. Despite the union demand for immediate conciliation, negotiations continued in an exchange of letters over future wage levels, notably the plucking rate that was at the heart of all discussions.

    In late January 1965, a meeting of the TTGA Executive Committee was followed by the third joint meeting with the NUTW in the SJC. At the third joint meeting, discussion concerned the amount by which the plucking rate should be lifted, and the sort of increase in productivity that the unions should accept in exchange. Some progress was made.

    Ten days later an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the Association agreed the employers’ position. Immediately following the EGM, the TTGA Executive Committee met the NUTW at the fourth joint meeting of the SJC, and the Government at a further meeting of the Tea Board. Agreement was then reached setting wage rates on a graduated scale, and committing employers in the tea industry to official recognition of the new union’s rights on estates. The Agreement also committed TTGA members to apply the union shop on all estates, whereby employers undertook to employ only workers who signed up and paid up as members of the NUTW.

    Unemployment

    After Independence, the Government put the plantation industries under persistent pressure to increase the numbers employed on the estates. Employers understood the Government’s motives, were keen to cooperate with the Government and in some situations found it possible to offer more short term employment, but the big employers like Brooke Bond had severe problems with the Government’s demands.

    The TTGA explained to the Government that employment in the tea industry in Mufindi and Tukuyu was seasonal; two thirds of the tea grown in these districts was collected in six months each year. At the height of the season when plucking was in full swing and the company’s three factories were working to capacity, three thousand workers were employed; but the number was halved in the off-season when little tea could be plucked, and very few workers were needed on the estates. BB claimed it would be unable to trade were it obliged to pay wages to over one thousand employees to do nothing through Mufindi’s rainless months. The managers of tea estates in the Tukuyu district explained that they had a similar seasonal requirement for labour, with large numbers of workers needed during the rainy season and very few in the dry season.

    Late in 1964, the Government increased pressure on all big employers to take on more workers regardless of budgets and real requirements. The TTGA was obliged to take part in a series of exchanges with the Government about reducing unemployment by increasing the labour force working in tea gardens, and was represented at meetings in both Dar and Nairobi at various levels on tackling unemployment. Throughout these discussions, the TTGA resisted all demands that tea estates employed more workers than were needed for the work to be done.

    Africanisation

    The Government instituted and rapidly promoted the process of Africanisation, pressing employers to engage Africans at every level. This was understandable and perfectly acceptable, and employers were prepared to respond, but inevitably the lack of experience and qualifications of many Tanganyikan candidates remained a barrier to their promotion to managerial and professional jobs.

    By Easter 1963 the Government was making it difficult for employers to bring expatriates into the country. The old European settlers who had looked upon Tanganyika as their home in the past were finding themselves classified as foreigners. No ‘alien’ was allowed to work in the country for more than a specified number of years. Permanent Passes for expatriates working in Tanzania were being cancelled and replaced by something called the Temporary Employment Permit (TEP) that was issued only in situations where it could be demonstrated that no Tanganyikan was available to do the job.

    My political report that summer read as follows: Public pressure and all groups in the Cabinet would like to see the spread of Afrianisation from the public sector to employment in the private sector; and pressure will increase on commercial companies to bring this about. It is likely the strongest pressure will come not through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (a moderate member of the Cabinet) but through alteration of existing immigration rules and citizenship laws by the Minister for Home Affairs. Europeans will be prevented from working in the country for more than a limited period and will be forced to arrange local replacements for their expatriate employees – as is happening elsewhere in Africa and new Asia.

    In early July 1964, the Government announced its intention to change the law on immigration to restrict further the entry of ‘aliens’ to work in the country. Members of the FTE and the Dar es Salaam Chamber of Commerce met and made representations to the Government about the continuing need for trained and qualified expatriates in managerial positions and the risks of lowering standards too quickly.

    Despite such arguments, the Government increased pressure on employers, tightened up the criteria for the issue of TEPs to expatriates, required employers to make convincing cases to bring in expatriates to work in the country, and was slow to issue them. The TTGA assisted members in these matters and was frequently involved in making the case for a TEP to be granted to an expatriate Manager or Assistant Manager in order to take up employment on one estate or another. It took several months in late 1964 for the TTGA to secure TEPs for two new Managers urgently needed to run tea estates, despite working closely with the Immigration Authorities in Dar and enlisting the support of the FTE.

    Land ownership

    The Land Ordinance of the early 1920s, updated and confirmed in 1947, gave indigenous people living on the land the right to cultivate it for their livelihood. Non-Africans wishing to develop the land, or to take over land seized from the Germans during the war, might be granted rights of occupancy for a period up to ninety-nine years. These leases were normally granted on two simple conditions – that rent was paid as assessed by the Land Department and that the land was properly developed within a reasonable period of time.

    After Independence, the Government took powers to seize land, cancel old property-rights and restrict leases under certain conditions. In particular, the Government passed The Freehold Titles (Conversion) and Government Leases Act in 1963, and extended it in the following year in order to take powers to terminate leases where land leased to developers was not being developed. The new Government began to follow the letter of the law and at times simply ignored the legal position in challenging land occupancy. The Land Office issued a special notice in October 1964, which it was obliged to withdraw when challenged as being contrary to the law of the land. Pressure on land-owners continued to grow; rights of occupancy were revoked in the Iringa and Arusha areas on the ostensible grounds that the occupant had failed to develop the land. The Government was thought to be aiming to nationalise land occupied by European settlers – without compensation.

    The TTGA made clear members’ views that the new measures discouraged investment of external capital in land in Tanzania and could seriously hamper the development of productive capacity on estates.

    Additional pressure was being heaped on estate managers by squatters. Subsistence farmers habitually moved their families on to apparently empty land on the undefined fringes of tea estates, built temporary homes and cultivated annual crops. This situation was frequently tolerated by managers in the interest of good neighbourliness, but there were signs that it was becoming a deliberate policy to occupy increasingly large areas of developed estates.

    The Government passed a law entitled the Land (Settlement of Disputes) Act 1963 which provided a means to resolve disputes between land occupiers and squatters. The law enabled land-owners plagued by squatters to apply to the Minister to declare a dispute and arrange arbitration, with powers to enforce the arbitrator’s judgement. This legal procedure was periodically invoked by tea estate managers, in efforts to regain the opportunity to develop land on which they were paying rent within their boundaries. In theory the process was fair and helpful to the land-owners, but in practice it was a long and tedious business with an uncertain outcome.

  • Colonial Map
    1962 Map of Tanganyika
    Article
    The Winds and Wounds of Change: 1961 to 1965 Part 3: The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie
    Colony Profile
    Tanganyika
    Books by Dick Eberlie
    District Officer in Tanganyika: 1956 - 1960 Part 2: The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie
    by Dick Eberlie

    The Winds and Wounds of Change: 1961 to 1965 Part 3 (The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie)
    by Dick Eberlie

    Aden: The Curtain Falls: The Memoirs of Dick Eberlie: Part 4, 1965 to 1967 by Eberlie, Dick

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