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Received Wisdom on the African Environment” in T. Griffiths and L. Robin (eds.), Ecology and Empire:

Environmental History of Settler Societies, (Edinburgh: Keele University Press, 1997), 87-101; “African History and Environmental History,” African Affairs, 99, (2000), 269-302; “South African Environmental History in the African Context” in S. Dovers et al (eds.), “South Africa’s Environmental History :Special Issue: Environmental History,” Kronos, 29, (2003), 222-26 and Beinart and Joann McGregor (eds.), Social History and African Environments, (Cape Town: David Philip, 2003). For another critique of Beinart see Lance Van Sittert, [Review of The Nature of Power: Cape Environmental History, The History of Ideas and Neoliberal Historiography], The Journal of African History, 45(2), July 2004, 1-22. For other comparative sources on soil conservation in Africa see Tilley on the African Survey; Carswell on Kigezi Uganda; McCracken revisiting the “Dead North” and Yngstrom on Dodoma, Tanzania cited in Sittert, “The Nature of Power,” 4. For a detailed history of the Cape Administration and its environmental interventions see K. Brown, “Progressivism, Agriculture and Conservation in the Cape Colony c.1902-1908,” PhD thesis, University of Oxford, 2002.

Opposition to conservationism was not a novel phenomenon to colonial Zimbabwe alone. In South Africa’s Cape Province there were numerous incidents of opposition to it especially from the Afrikaner community. For Cape Afrikaner opposition see M. Tamarkin, “Flock and Volk: Ecology, Culture, Identity and Politics Among Cape Afrikaner Stock Farmers in the Late Nineteenth Century,” paper presented at African Environments Past and Present Conference, Oxford: St Antonys College, 5-8 July 1999 and Nel, “For the Public Benefit” and for African opposition in the Cape see P. Scully, “The 1914 Dipping Disturbances: An Analysis of the Effects of the East Coast Fever Regulations on East Griqualand Society,” Honours dissertation, University of Cape Town, 1984 and C. Bundy, “We Don’t Want Your Rain, We Won’t Dip: Popular Opposition, Collaboration and Social Control in the Anti-Dipping Movement, 1908 in W. Beinart and C. Bundy, Hidden Struggles in Rural South Africa: Politics and Popular Movements in the Transkei and Eastern Cape 1890-1930, (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1987), 191-221 cited in Sittert, “The Nature of Power,” 19.

The battle against destocking, for instance, dates back to the Rhodesdale days when some 320 squatters who owned 20 head of cattle or more protested against forced destocking and other colonial injustices. In 1950, the ANC Que Que summoned these cattle owners to his office and warned: “Some of you have 100 head … We cannot allow you to continue destroying the grazing, and the land itself and the water supplies … By the end of next year [1951] you must all have reduced your stock to 10 head … Sooner or later you must leave Rhodesdale … I do not think you will be permitted to take large heads.”383 These livestock owners, led by John Jack and his sons who owned a large herd and over 500 acres of land, asked many incisive questions about destocking i.e.

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These questions duly demonstrate the hardly controversial proposition that indigenous agency was one of the most effective ways of challenging a hamfisted political machinery to abandon irrational economic practice. In fact, in the face of worsening resistance to destocking, the NC Gwelo ordered the ANC Que Que to stop using what he termed “shock tactics or giving out discriminatory orders.” 385 It was not surprising, therefore, that by 1951, some of the officials in the Native Department denounced destocking measures as “not only vague but that they should be suspended until a clear and proper policy on the issue was formulated.” 386 A prevailing view is that African states “capture” small-scale farmers, exploiting them and rendering them politically marginal and powerless to make an impact on governments and the policy process. 387 This chapter takes issue with the view that NAZ, LS104/1/50 ANC Que Que to NC Gwelo, 7 June 1950 cited in Nyambara, “A History of Land Acquisition in Gokwe,” 64-65. See also Ranger, Peasant Consciousness, 121-122.

NAZ, S1018/13A, ANC Que Que to NC Gwelo, 7 June 1950 cited in Nyambara, “A History of Land Acquisition in Gokwe,” 65 and in Bhebe, B. Burombo, 87.

NAZ, S160/LS100/3A (106/1/50) Movement of Natives, NC Gwelo to ANC Que Que, 9 June, 1950 cited in Bhebe, B. Burombo, 87.

Bhebe, B. Burombo, 87.

Cited in Burgess, Smallholders and Political Voice in Zimbabwe, 1. The term “capture” is derived from smallholders are inevitably powerless and perpetually vulnerable to exploitation by presenting the case of Zimbabwe where smallholders have acted effectively and have developed the political and economic voice necessary to influence the state and the policy process. Smallholder influence played a significant role in the agricultural and social transformation of Zimbabwe’s rural areas. In the literature on states, agricultural policy and smallholders in Africa, a debate has been waged between those who believe that governments can be reformed to play a more positive role in agriculture and those who think that agricultural institutions need to be privatised and market forces emphasised. 388 Thus, in this debate, insufficient attention has been devoted to the issue of how farmers might think, speak and act in the process of shaping governments and their agricultural policies. Instead, farmers are referred to as victims – vulnerable and politically anaemic.389 The received wisdom that smallholders are incapable of counteracting the harmful agricultural policies of African governments has been articulated since the 1970s. 390 It is important to note the non-validity of the assumption that small farmers are inevitably disorganised and incapable of influencing governments. 391 Indeed, in Sanyati, issues raised by farmers were responsible for defining policy and differentiation developed much more rapidly than previously anticipated despite the proscribing effects of the NLHA. As Ian Phimister has pointed out, interpretations of African agriculture are polarised between scholars who see peasant cultivators as “collapsing beneath accumulated weight of discriminatory practices, or surviving as a significant economic force well into the 1950s.” Such views, according to Phimister, obscure the large differences in experience between regions. 392 By specifying processes of rural differentiation, it is possible to reconcile evidence of immiseration with signs of poverty.

Hence, while some studies are concerned with examining the mechanisms by which peasants were exploited, 393 others have moved beyond this to emphasise peasant agency by showing how peasants, through various forms of resistance, often frustrated settler efforts to introduce and institutionalise conservation measures such as contours and destocking among rural communities. As a social and economic class, peasant farmers remained intact. These circumstances reflect that Africans knew something about their Goran Hyden in his study of an “uncaptured peasantry” in Tanzania. See Goran Hyden, Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Underdevelopment and an Uncaptured Peasantry, (London: Heinemann, 1980).

Burgess, Smallholders and Political Voice in Zimbabwe, 1. See also Robert H. Bates, Markets and States in Tropical Africa: The Political Basis of Agricultural Policies, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

Burgess, Smallholders and Political Voice in Zimbabwe, 1. For a Malaysian (Southeast Asian) comparative study on the almost permanent conspiracy of those regarded by society as “the weak” (the peasantry) against “the strong” (the rich, who often craft the legal codes governing the ownership, use and disposal of land and other resources) see James C. Scott, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985), 1-389.

Ibid., 2.

Ibid., 177 Phimister, “Commodity Relations and Class Formation in the Zimbabwean Countryside, 1898-1920,” Journal of Peasant Studies, 13(4), (July 1986), 239-57 and Phimister, An Economic and Social History of Zimbabwe.

Isaacman, “Peasants, Work and the Labour Process: Forced Cotton Cultivation in Colonial Mozambique 1938-1961,” Journal of Social History, 25(4), (1980), 581-615.

environments and that such knowledge ought to inform the design of conservation and development schemes on the part of colonial officials and that European science should build on local knowledge. 394 Contrary to arguments that denigrate peasant agency, it can be noted that resistance to the NLHA was quite rife among the “immigrants,” the majority of whom comprised the rural elites. Convinced that “good farming methods were almost impossible to enforce with lasting results under a communal system … [and that] there was great danger of further soil deterioration throughout the Reserves unless the system of land tenure was rapidly changed,” the Southern Rhodesian state decided to speed up the Act’s implementation. 395 A Five Year Plan was drawn up, which envisaged the transformation of about 30 million acres of “Native Reserves” by 1961. Nevertheless, this greatly accelerated programme, which turned on determining who had, and who did not have, access to land, cattle and an array of other resources in the “reserves,” meant that African opposition could hardly be prevented.

This opposition, in turn, fuelled the expansion of mass nationalism in the second half of the 1950s. “Any act whose effects undermine the security of our small land rights,” declared the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (ANC) in 1958, “dispossess us of our little wealth in the form of cattle, disperse us from our ancestral homes in the reserves and reduce us to the status of vagabonds and as a source of cheap labour for the farmers, miners and industrialists - such an Act will turn the African people against society to the detriment of the peace and progress of this country.” 396 The NLHA, remarked George Nyandoro, was the best recruiter Congress ever had.” 397 According to Phimister, by 1961, rural resistance had escalated to an extent where it was assuming the dimensions of “a major revolt against the Act.” 398 Illustrating the volatility of the situation throughout the country as a result of opposition to the Act, Ngwabi Bhebe quotes Nyandoro as saying: “In October-November we [the ANC] received at our newspaper office reports from all over the country – Belingwe [Mberengwa], Enkeldoorn [Chivhu], Matobo, Sinoia [Chinhoyi], Umtali [Mutare] – of school buildings, teachers, houses, cattle-dipping tanks, beer-garden shelters being burnt down or destroyed.” 399 Land allocation maps were torn up by angry villagers, and Land Development Officers and their assistants assaulted. “Resistance got to the point where DCs [District Commissioners] could no longer hold meetings and the administration was grinding to a halt.” 400 In early 1962, implementation of the NLHA was suspended. Various writers For a more detailed argument on this see Arensberg, “Upgrading Peasant Agriculture,” 63-69.

Garfield Todd Papers, Cabinet Minutes, 6 May 1955 cited in Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 227.

Cited in C. Nyangoni and G. Nyandoro (eds.), Zimbabwe Independence Movements: Select Documents, (London: Rex Collings Ltd., 1979), 15.

K. Brown, Land in Southern Rhodesia, (London: The Africa Bureau, 1959), 2.

Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 228.

N. Bhebe, “The Nationalist Struggle 1957-1962,” in C. S. Banana (ed.), Turmoil and Tenacity:

Zimbabwe 1890-1990, (Harare: The College Press, December 1989), 94-8.

Bhebe, “The Nationalist Struggle 1957-1962,” 94-8. See also Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 228.

have emphasised the poor planning and arrogant implementation which characterised the

Act.401 “Planning was by no means thorough,” concluded Bulman:

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Events leading to the abandonment of the NLHA in 1962:Several official attempts were made to save the Act from imminent demise. The NC of Belingwe (Mberengwa), Hayes, in his speech addressing the Belingwe Branch of the African Teachers’ Association at Masvingo Mission on 21st July, 1956 outlined the objectives and implications of the LHA: “Africans,” he said, “have been clamouring for such things as land rights, security of tenure and title deeds for many years. The Government has in the Land Husbandry Act evolved a partial solution to the problem as can be seen from the way it is being implemented in the target areas at the moment.” 403 He went on to say that the Act aimed at developing the Reserves economically and stressed the point that farming was not the only means of gaining a livelihood as there were many other avenues both in the rural and urban areas [probably encouraging labour migrancy]. 404 Explaining the meanings of certain technical terms found in the LHA, Hayes seemed to be at pains to come up with clear definitions of farming rights, grazing rights and the holding capacity of a grazing area.

After Hayes’ speech which was described as enlightening by his colleagues in the colonial government, many of the people present at the meeting fired a barrage of questions at him. Answering a question about who had the right of farming in the reserves, he said that all Africans had the right with the exception of minors and unmarried women. 405 Clarifying his reply, he said that all non-indigenous Africans [probably referring to labour migrants from Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique] had no right whatsoever to hold land in the reserves; the same applied to all indigenous Africans Planning errors on the part of the implementors of the Act have been emphasised by G. Kingsley Garbett, “The Land Husbandry Act of Southern Rhodesia” in D. Biebuyck (ed.), African Agrarian Systems, (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), 194; Machingaidze, “Agrarian Change from Above,” 557-589;

and Duggan, “The Native Land Husbandry Act of 1951 and the Rural African Middle Class of Southern Rhodesia.” Bulman, “The Native Land Husbandry Act of Southern Rhodesia,” 15.

“The Husbandry Act: Partial Solution to the Problem of Land Rights,” The Bantu Mirror, Bulawayo, 21(21), Saturday, August 4, 1956, 1.



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