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Southern Rhodesian Legislative Council election, 1899

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Title: Southern Rhodesian Legislative Council election, 1899  
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Subject: Politics of Rhodesia, Elections in Southern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesian elections, Zimbabwean elections, William Fairbridge
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Southern Rhodesian Legislative Council election, 1899

The Southern Rhodesia Legislative Council election of April 17, 1899 were the first elections to take place in the Colony of Southern Rhodesia. They followed the Southern Rhodesia Order in Council of 1898 which granted to the Colony a Legislative Council consisting of at least ten voting members: the Administrator of Southern Rhodesia ex officio, five members nominated by the British South Africa Company, and four members elected by registered voters. The Resident Commissioner of Southern Rhodesia, Sir Marshal James Clarke, also sat on the Legislative Council ex officio but without the right to vote.


  • Franchise 1
  • Election arrangements 2
  • Results 3
  • Byelection 4
  • Nominated members 5
  • References 6


The Order in Council did not set any of the regulations governing the election, which were left to the (acting) High Commissioner for Southern Africa to set the qualifications for voters and delimit the electoral districts, which happened in Proclamation no. 17 of 1898. The acting High Commissioner required voters to be British subjects, male, 21 years of age and older, able to write their address and occupation, and then to fulfil the following financial requirements: (a) ownership of a registered mining claim in Southern Rhodesia, or (b) occupying immovable property worth £75, or (c) receiving wages or salary of £50 per annum in Southern Rhodesia. Six months' continuous residence was also required for qualifications b and c. All voters were entered onto a common roll.

Election arrangements

With only four members to be elected, the Acting High Commissioner decided to have two districts, Mashonaland and Matabeleland, each returning two members. The election was conducted under rules first set down for Cape Colony in 1892 with a secret ballot. No political parties were in existence at the time of the election so each candidate stood on their own record.


Electorate and turnout
Candidate Votes
1,420 (c. 85%)
Raleigh Grey 583
William Paterson Grimmer 522
William Ernest Fairbridge 499
Martinus Jacobus Martin 312
3,187 (72.5%)
Hans Sauer 1,187
Elliott St. Maurice Hutchinson 1,007
Charles Theodore Holland 797
Samuel John Lewis 668


William Fairbridge, defeated in Mashonaland, lodged an election petition after the declaration of the result, alleging that Raleigh Grey's election agents were involved in misconduct during the election. Before the hearing commenced, Grey resigned from the Council feeling that his presence was corrupted. The election court found that Grey's agents had indulged in bribery and 'treating' (providing free food and drink for voters) at a smoking concert, and invalidated his earlier election, but as Grey was no longer a member, this had no effect.

In the meantime, nominations for the byelection closed on August 21, 1899 and Grey was again nominated. With no other candidate in the field he was therefore returned unopposed.

Nominated members

The members nominated by the British South Africa Company were:

  • Mr Justice Joseph Vintcent, Senior Judge of the High Court (provisionally)
  • Sir KCMG, Legal Adviser
  • Joseph Millerd Orpen, Surveyor-General
  • Townshend Griffin, Commissioner of Mines and Public Works
  • Herbert Hayton Castens, Chief Secretary

Sir Thomas Scanlen stood down and was replaced by John Gilbert Kotze, Attorney General, on August 9, 1900. Mr Justice Vintcent stood down and was replaced by Clarkson Henry Tredgold on June 28, 1901. Townshend Griffin was absent for a time and was replaced by James Hutchinson Kennedy on June 28, 1901.


  • Source Book of Parliamentary Elections and Referenda in Southern Rhodesia 1898-1962 ed. by F.M.G. Willson (Department of Government, University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Salisbury 1963)
  • Holders of Administrative and Ministerial Office 1894-1964 by F.M.G. Willson and G.C. Passmore (Source Book no. 3, Department of Government, University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Salisbury, 1966)
  • Official Year Book of the Colony of Southern Rhodesia, No. 1 - 1924, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia
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