«CHAPTER TWO PEASANT PRODUCTION AND DIFFERENTIATION: THE SANYATI HINTERLAND (1939 – 1964) INTRODUCTION A cursory look at Sanyati communal lands in ...»
An advertisement often flighted by the Natural Resources Board (NRB) of Southern Rhodesia suggests that everywhere contours were encouraged: “Contour Ridges slow down the flow of water in our fields. They conserve the soil. They cost money to build but they save more. Keep them in good repair.” 362 In a written message, Dokotela Moyo, Vice President of the Southern Rhodesia African Farmers Union, said “African farmers could show other Africans that farming is the best science in this world” as “it is giving and will continue to give to the starving world,” adding that “it was the duty of all farmers to fight erosion and put right what has been spoilt by rains in the form of soil erosion and other agents of nature.” 363 He was probably being cautious and diplomatic enough to avoid direct mention of contours which had become a sensitive subject. In fact, all the people in the allocated area were warned regarding the completion of beacons and interrupted contours for which individual orders had already been given in terms of the Land Husbandry Regulations. Conscientising the people on the evils of erosion was prioritised because the problem of erosion was of special concern to Government, as it threatened the future of the Agricultural Industry and the National Economy. Recent statistical estimates show soil loss rates in Zimbabwe to be of the order of 50 to 80 tonnes per hectare per year from arable lands.
The Central African Daily News, First Edition, 5(176), Wednesday, January 3, 1962, 7.
“A Prosperous New Year To Farmers,” The Bantu Mirror, Bulawayo, 20(43), Saturday, January 7, 1956, 1.
Victoria Chitepo (Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism) “Foreword” in Henry A. Elwell, Soil Conservation, (Harare: The College Press Pvt Ltd, 1986).
build contour ridges. 365 Joke declared: “if these things are necessary somebody else must do them not me.” 366 Neuso’s uncle challenged the NC to take him to his (NC’s) farm and see if he was also digging these contours he was forcing them to build. He bluntly told the District Officer, Meredith, that “You can take your gun and shoot me if you want … but I am not going to dig a single contour come hell come sunshine.” 367 Similarly, in Ngezi-Mondoro Reserve, as admitted in confidential correspondence between NC Barlow and the PNC Mashonaland West, “a general order for the construction of interrupted contours on lands allocated last year  was given on 25th January , to be carried out by 1st May . To date, no effort whatever has been made to construct these and at the Assistant Native Commissioner’s [R. C. Plowden] meeting several speakers intimated that they had no intention of doing so.” 368 Resistance against contours coincided with the countrywide opposition to the proposed increase in dip fees. A report compiled by the ANC, Plowden, on meetings he held in the Reserves (Sanyati and Ngezi) to explain the increase revealed the insurrectionist mood that had gripped most rural constituencies. Sanyati is said to have received the imposition
of dipping fees with a lot of calm. According to a report by Plowden:
He revealed that a similar postponement had been arranged for Ngezi-Mondoro where collections were set to commence on 19th June 1961. However, deferring payment to a later date was not a solution. For Sanyati, the fact was that this was a calm before a storm, as nowhere in the country were such measures that had the effect of impoverishing Africans received without opposition. Resistance virtually assumed nationalistic
proportions, as NC Barlow himself testified in respect to Ngezi-Mondoro:
Barlow went further to state:
Joke Munyaka Wozhele, Personal Interview.
Chief L. Neuso, Personal Interview, Chief’s Court, Nyimo Business Centre, Sanyati, 19th October 2004.
NAZ (RC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Box 158077, Location C19.2.10R, File: LAN 9 Sanyati and Ngezi: 1951-1964,Confidential Correspondence, “Discontent: Ngezi-Mondoro Reserve,” G. A. Barlow (NC Gatooma) to the Provincial Native Commissioner, Mashonaland West, Causeway, 23rd March, 1961.
This speaker had a large following in the area which he used to spread the gospel of resistance. Partly as a result of his influence in Headman Chizinga’s area, marked opposition was also voiced at the receipt of the two Land Husbandry Orders (increased dip charges and contours). Speakers maintained that more time should have been given to complete the interrupted contours and when asked suggested three years. Other speakers intimated that they wanted the order cancelled as they had no intention of completing these contours. Some of Neuso’s followers demonstrated their disenchantment with contours and the increase in dipping fees when they filled up dip tanks with logs and burnt down demonstration schools, for example, Sirambe Farmer Training School and Katsime (Katsimi) Farmer Training School in Neuso and Wozhele’s areas respectively.372 (See Map 8 showing these areas). Strong criticism of the Government in raising dipping fees was persistently made by the riled village head, Makwawarara, who accused the ANC, Plowden, of “having reduced his stock holding, allocated him too small an acreage of land and now intending to ruin him with an exhorbitant charge for dipping his cattle.”373 Another speaker in Headman Chikowore’s area asked if the raise in dipping charges was not due to the fact that the Government had to maintain the same staff for a decreased number of cattle in view of the Government’s countrywide destocking programme. 374 Chiefs Nyika (Ngezi-Mondoro) and Wozhele (Sanyati) supported these taxation measures, hence they were accused of collaboration with the regime. The Kraal Heads, in general, co-operated with the NC with the production of addresses of defaulters in their areas. Chief Neuso (Sanyati), however, chose to remain aloof and did not attend the two major tax collection meetings, signifying his displeasure with the proceedings.
In the light of African opposition, the NC (Barlow) was hesitant to impose penalties on offenders for fear of aggravating the situation: “It is realized that the Act [NLHA] lays down penalties, but it will be difficult to enforce such orders in the face of a mass refusal.” 375 He emphasised the volatility of the situation when he stated to the Provincial Native Commissioner, Mashonaland West: “I do not wish to be alarmist in this matter, NAZ (RC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Box 158077, Location C19.2.10R, File: LAN 9 Sanyati and Ngezi: 1951-1964,Confidential Correspondence, “Discontent: Ngezi-Mondoro Reserve,” G. A. Barlow (NC Gatooma) to the Provincial Native Commissioner, Mashonaland West, Causeway, 23rd March, 1961.
Andrew Kachinga, (Gambiza Village Head), Personal Interview, Chief Neuso’s Court, Nyimo Business Centre, Sanyati, 19th October 2004. Also Ephraim Parayangiwa, (Parayangiwa Village Head), Personal Interview, Kasirisiri turn off, Chief Neuso’s Court, Nyimo Business Centre, Sanyati, 19th October 2004.
NAZ (RC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Box 158077, Location C19.2.10R, File: LAN 9 Sanyati and Ngezi: 1951-1964, “Ngezi-Mondoro Reserve,” ANC Gatooma (R. C. Plowden), to the NC Gatooma, 23rd March 1961, 1.
NAZ (RC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Box 158077, Location C19.2.10R, File: LAN 9 Sanyati and Ngezi: 1951-1964, Confidential Correspondence, “Discontent: Ngezi-Mondoro Reserve,” G. A. Barlow (NC Gatooma) to the Provincial Native Commissioner, Mashonaland West, Causeway, 23rd March, 1961.
but do think there is a possibility of trouble over these dip fee collections. I would be grateful for advice as to the action to be taken if people do as they threaten, only produce 2/- per head. Should it be refused or should it be accepted as a payment on account?” 376 Not only dipping fees but also tax collections were detested. Tax evasion was a chargeable offence. Accused persons were charged for contravening Section 4 (2) read with Section 7 (1) of the Native Tax Act (Cap. 78) as amended. 377 In 1960, P. F. Parsons, the Acting ANC Gatooma, wrote to the Registrar of the High Court; “it is not uncommon for natives [recalcitrants] to be charged with failing to pay ten or more years tax …” He proceeded to say: “Offences against the Native Tax Act, are on the increase, and because of the difficulties of keeping track of defaulters, it is easy for a native to evade payment of tax if he so desires. It is felt that some sterner action must be taken in order to put down the offence so far as is possible.” 378 In juridical matters, Chief Wozhele and Neuso reported directly to the NC Gatooma. 379 In fact, some tax collecting points were set up in both Sanyati and Ngezi Reserves. At such gatherings (tax collection meetings), it was not uncommon to find people who told the Chiefs, Headmen and Kraal Heads that they were not going to pay. However, they were compelled to do so through tax patrols mounted by the Police. Patrols were employed to check any “blatant disregard of the tax laws of the country,” but they did not mark the end of resistance. 380
Opposition to conservation and peasant agency:-
In Southern Rhodesia’s interventions in rural agriculture, it is important to note that, in the two decades between the 1950s and 1960s, conservationism loomed large. The almost ubiquitous pre-occupation with soil conservation and the conservation of other natural resources have been seen as central to agricultural development. 381 Government reports NAZ (RC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Box 158077, Location C19.2.10R, File: LAN 9 Sanyati and Ngezi: 1951-1964, Confidential Correspondence, “Discontent: Ngezi-Mondoro Reserve,” G. A. Barlow (NC Gatooma) to the Provincial Native Commissioner, Mashonaland West, Causeway, 23rd March, 1961.
NAZ (RC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Box 99233, Location 14.18.9R, File: JUD 9 Review and Appeal JUD. High Court; JUD 9 to 23 (1957 to 1964), “Review Case No.71 of 1960 Before the Court of the Native Commissioner for the District of Gatooma,” 17 October 1960.
NAZ (RC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Box 99233, Location 14.18.9R, File: JUD 9 Review and Appeal JUD. High Court; JUD 9 to 23 (1957 to 1964),” Jud 9/1/60, Office of the NC Gatooma.” NAZ (RC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Box 99233, Location 14.18.9R, File: JUD 9 Review and Appeal JUD. High Court; JUD 9 to 23 (1957 to 1964),” Jud 18, Judicial – General Correspondence.” NAZ (RC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Box 158077, Location C19.2.10R, File: LAN 9 Sanyati and Ngezi: 1951-1964, “Tax Patrols: Sanyati and Ngezi Reserves,” ANC Gatooma (R. C. Plowden) to the NC Gatooma, 23rd March 1961, 1.
For an elaborate discussion of conservation in the context of development in Southern Rhodesia see Phimister, “Discourse and the Discipline of Historical Context: Conservationism and Ideas About Development in Southern Rhodesia 1930-1950,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 12, 1986, 263-75.
Phimister’s article can be lauded for the way it critiques William Beinart’s “Soil Erosion, Conservationism and Ideas About Development: A Southern African Exploration, 1900-1960,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 11, (1984), 52-83. Beinart has used his article to argue for a Southern African conservationist ethos, but abandoned the idea after it was criticised by Phimister for Southern Rhodesia. Nearly all of Beinart’s works on conservation are not broadly Southern African but they emphasise Cape liberal conservationism and progressivism. Good examples to illustrate this are: Beinart, The Rise of Conservation in South Africa: Settlers, Livestock and the Environment, 1770-1950, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); “Environmental Destruction in Southern Africa; Soil Erosion, Animals and Pastures Over the Longer Term” in T. S. Driver and G. P. Chapman (eds.), Time-Scales and Environmental Change, on colonial Zimbabwe were intended to suggest conservation’s broader appeal than opposition to it. These, however, contradict reality, not least of all because of their resolutely official perspective and disregard for popular African opposition 382 to state agricultural improvement in Sanyati.
Opposition to nearly all governmental action was synonymous with opposition to the rather unsympathetic bureaucratic state machinery and its authoritarian conservationist prescription, the NLHA. As amply demonstrated by the pundits of the Act, the number and quality of state functionaries on the ground was a crucial determinant of success. The Native Department was grossly understaffed and its efforts at rural agricultural improvement token. Agricultural improvement could not be achieved by imposing settler conservationist ideology on African subjects. A lot of persuasion and a great deal of transparency in implementation on the part of state officials coupled with an exercise to consult widely with their conservationist targets (Africans) would have carried the day for them. Shunning the latter meant that the NLHA was going to be implemented in Sanyati under the most unfavourable circumstances which militated against success.
Mamdani can be used to affirm the acute vulnerability of tribal subjects under communal tenure not only to illustrate summary dispossession but also draconian direct interventions to dictate land use. Conservation or the NLHA can be used to underpin the racially motivated social-engineering which was uninformed by any real understanding of or even interest in the African agricultural experience. The Act was ultimately deployed as a class weapon by Chiefs and other reserve entrepreneurs to resuscitate their fledgling economic fortunes, and wage a war against it.
(London: Routledge, 1996), 149-68; and in M. Leach and R. Mearns (eds.), “The Lie of Land: Challenging