1917, the African cattle market quickly boomed, and over 2,000 oxen were bought over the next five months. Native Commissioner H. G. Willis said "competition in the cattle trade has been keen, and natives are asking and obtaining higher prices than ever before."184 At an indaba in early 1918, however, Sialiondo, speaking for Chief Mwanacingwala, complained directly to visiting commissioner H. C. Marshall of low prices offered by white traders. 185 Other Tonga objected to rising prices for consumer goods. The war had caused some scarcity of such goods, and higher prices (especially for clothing) were noticeable at least as early as mid-1916. 186 Willis observed in early 1918 that despite the many cattle being traded in Magoye, the trade in imported goods had lagged behind: "owners of stores are of the opinion that the natives are hoarding their money, and that the increased prices in Kaffir goods had kept them from spending." 187
The years 1904 to 1918 mark the real arrival of the imperial economy on the Tonga Plateau. In Hopkins' terminology for West Africa, the Plateau's economy had been "opened," and henceforth would be increasingly affected by trends and circumstances originating far beyond the Plateau itself. 188 The imposition of taxation and labor coercion backed by the colonial state greatly curtailed the possibility of Tonga non-participation in the imperial economy. Labor migration southward reached an all-time high. But more dramatic change on the Plateau itself was represented by the development of the railway strip, which created an enclave of European-dominated economic activity on what had been Tonga land. The railway and the Katanga market stimulated agricultural commodity production not only by Europeans, however, but by Tonga as well.
Meanwhile, Tonga domestic communities were in fact rebuilding their indigenous economy after the difficulties of the previous few decades, a process detailed in Chapter 6. The option of produce sales prevented the Tonga, unlike the Mpondo described by Beinart, from being "locked in" to l0abor migration even while this rebuilding took place. 189 Furthermore, as the complaints about prices and hoarding of money just mentioned suggest, the Tonga were increasingly sensitive to the terms on which they participated in the imperial economy. Perhaps an Anglican missionary at Mapanza put it best. The Tonga "have learned somewhere," he wrote with apparent irritation, "to expect payment for everything." 190