THE BEIT TRUST - 1906-2016
















The Original Terms of the Will

The Trust was initially set up in 1906 by the Will of Mr Alfred Beit, a brilliant financier and a director of the British South Africa Company with many interests including the development of Rhodesia’s railway system. In 1903 he suffered a stroke near Salisbury, Rhodesia, and died on 16 July 1906 in England at the age of 53, leaving much of his fortune bequeathed to a wide range of charitable causes.  As a result of his close association with Cecil Rhodes, Alfred Beit perceived that Southern and Northern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe and Zambia) and the adjacent territories would for some time be too poor to provide enough money for development and that private capital to get the countries established was unlikely to be attracted at an early stage.  In his Will he therefore created what was originally known as The Beit Railway Trust, the primary purpose of which was to promote the development of communications in the region.  The Will also provided that, if at a later date the Trustees should decide that the Fund was no longer required for its primary purpose, the income could be applied to "education, public or other charitable purposes in Northern and Southern Rhodesia".

Under the original terms of reference the Trust was able to provide the funds to build most of the great bridges of Central Africa - over the Limpopo at Beitbridge on the border of Zimbabwe and South Africa; over the Save in Zimbabwe; over the Kafue in Zambia; over the Luangwa on the Great East Road from Zambia to Malawi, and (above) the Otto Beit Bridge, opened in 1939, which spans the River Zambezi between Zambia and Zimbabwe at Chirundu. Over four hundred smaller or low level bridges were also built, which, at the time, provided much-needed communication in rural areas.

The contribution of both the founder and The Beit Trust to Zimbabwe's 20th century history was also celebrated in two  commemorative stamp issues. In 1968 a stamp was issued featuring Alfred Beit himself  and then a year later the Trust's bridge-building achievements were acknowledged with an issue showing both the many low level bridges ("thruppence" - top left) and the Birchenough Bridge ("half a crown"..two shillings and sixpence - bottom right) as part of the "Bridges of Rhodesia" issue.


  Assistance was also given to the railways, in particular with the provision of rolling stock and the building of railway tracks.

In 1932 a large grant was made to help establish civil aviation by paying for the survey of routes, landing grounds, emergency landing grounds and certain airport buildings. Picture (left) shows an aircraft refuelling at Salisbury (Harare).




The Present Constitution

In 1954 the Trust was reconstituted by an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom as an incorporated charity and, with the advent of Federation, Nyasaland (now Malawi) was included in the beneficial area as a beneficiary.  Under Section 3 of The Act The Beit Trust is now an incorporated body. The Trust does not fundraise and seeks to continue the philanthropic work desired by the donor through the careful stewardship and maintenance in perpetuity of its existing resources.

In his Will Alfred Beit laid down the terms of the Trust which were re-emphasised in The Beit Trust Act 1954.  Although a mining magnate himself, he forbade his Trustees from investing in mining   shares, other than preferred stocks.  The geographical area of the Trust's compass is restricted to the three countries of the beneficial area and the Trust's activities must invariably benefit one of these countries.  Since the Second World War there has seldom been a need for grants for improvement to communications in the beneficial area.  Instead, the Trustees' objectives have been to provide assistance in the fields of education   (including teacher training, bursaries and scholarships), health, welfare and the environment.  Individual grants do not normally exceed £50,000 and assistance in the field of education is normally restricted to secondary and tertiary education.  The Trustees have also made grants for ecological projects, but remain reluctant to make grants to other UK grant-making charities.


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