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who were minors or had lost their farming rights or grazing rights for one reason or another. A teacher asked if members of his profession and other workers could hold land.

The NC Belingwe (Hayes) replied that they could in their own home areas provided they complied with the demands of the Act. 406 Clearly, the NLHA was applied with a great deal of haste. The 5-year plan to apply the Land Husbandry on the 40 million acres in all the African reserves, which was announced by the Minister of Native Affairs, P. B. Fletcher, in July 1955, was said to be in full swing. A progress report released by the Agricultural Department on Wednesday (14th November, 1956) for the 3 months ending September 30 showed that the work was ahead of schedule. 407 For example, the acreage planned to be surveyed and allocated in 1956 was 2 702 000 acres, but on the 30th of September 2 882 166 acres, which exceeded the 1956 target, had already been done. Conservation planning, including the demarcation and centralisation of lands, was reported to be completed on 2 291 217 acres, which was 84% of the 1956 target, and allocation of rights completed on 768 767 acres, which was 28% of the 1956 target area. 408 The report admitted that there was a general shortage of African Agricultural Demonstration staff. The shortage, it was argued, was, fortunately, not being felt in some areas where the Act was being implemented because the areas were small (e.g. Sanyati), but, it was observed that, unless the output of demonstrators was stepped up considerably, there would be difficulty in carrying out follow-up work, as large areas would be completed next year (1957) and in subsequent years. 409 Fletcher announced the following plan to deal with the shortage of African staff: “We will have to make more use of Supernumerary Demonstrators to make up for this shortage. Pegger staff is up to strength in all provinces except Matebeleland [sic] and in that province arrangements are in hand for training the additional 31 peggers required.” 410 One of the factors that heightened opposition to the NLHA was that rural farmers needed to be given authority to graze their cattle. Grazing stock without permission was a punishable offence. Chief Sigombe Mathema of Wenlock, Gwanda Reserve, and his right hand man, Headman Masole Nkala, for example, were among the 11 people who were arrested at Wenlock on Tuesday (9th January, 1962) for grazing stock without permits. 411 The Central African Daily News Correspondent in Gwanda reported: “it appears there were also other people who had been arrested in Wenlock in connection with such offences as failure to dip their cattle and refusing to destock their cattle,” adding that, “… what is upsetting the people very much is the presence of police jeeps in the area shortly after the ‘troops had been around before Christmas, terrorising the people.’ ” 412 “The Husbandry Act: Partial Solution to the Problem of Land Rights,” 1.

“Husbandry Act Being Implemented Faster Than Expected,” The Bantu Mirror, Bulawayo, 21(36), Saturday, November 17, 1956, 1.

“Husbandry Act Being Implemented Faster Than Expected,” 1.



“Chief Arrested For Alleged Stock Offence,” The Central African Daily News, First Edition, 5(185), Saturday, January 13, 1962, 1.


According to the Daily News Political Correspondent “Ukuru,” the United Federal Party Paper for Africans, had forecast the repeal of the Land Apportionment Act (which became the NLHA after several amendments) in its entirety in 1962. The paper also predicted the abolition of the Native Affairs Department. 413 “Ukuru” projected that the year 1962 would be remembered in history as the year in which “true freedom” would be achieved in Southern Rhodesia,” because, by the end of 1962, there will not be a trace of racial discrimination left on Southern Rhodesian Statute Books.” 414 The paper told Africans that “The big news of 1962 will be the complete repeal of the Land Apportionment Act. This means that you, if you can afford it, will be able to buy land and live wherever you like in Southern Rhodesia, even in the big towns like Salisbury and Bulawayo.” 415 Predicting the abolition of the Native Department it said: “It is certain that the Native Department will be abolished completely, following the recommendations of the Robinson Commission; and that its place will be taken by an administrative Department that will deal equally with the problem of all races.” 416 Two important scenarios emerge from this. On the one hand, the paper’s prediction was quite apt as the NLHA was eventually not only suspended but abandoned in 1962. On the other, the forecast that a new department bent on achieving parity between the races would replace the Native Department was to prove a misplaced and pretentious hope as the UDI era killed all this optimism. Incidentally, the UDI Government of Ian Smith and its State Departments became even more authoritarian and racist than “Ukuru” had ever imagined.

Convicting Africans for settling on Crown Land made the situation worse as far as the survival of the NLHA was concerned. For example, 75 men and women were reported to have appeared in the Gutu magistrate’s court to answer charges under the Land Apportionment Act. 417 A Correspondent of The Daily News in the area said that the accused were charged under Section 8 (2) of the Act and that Advocate Herbert Chitepo (Zimbabwe’s first black lawyer) of Salisbury (Harare) conducted the defence. Of these, 52 (50 men and 2 women) were formally charged for contravening the Act. According to the Correspondent, although these people pleaded guilty to the charges levelled against them, they, however, maintained that they had settled on the Crown land which was close to Devure Native Purchase Area simply because “they had nowhere else to go,” and assured the magistrate that “they would be prepared to go anywhere in Southern Rhodesia where land could be made available for them.” 418 Land shortage and poor economic planning did not ameliorate the situation either. As Phimister has pointed out, the NLHA tried to impose “a mixed farming system of grain and cattle all over the country … [but] this system was quite unsuited to the low-rainfall “Land Apportionment Act Goes this Year,” The Central African Daily News, First Edition, 5(187), Wednesday, January 17, 1962, 1.




“Settled On Crown Land: 52 Convicted,” The Central African Daily News, 5(188), Thursday, January 18, 1962, 1.


areas [such as Sanyati], [while] in the high-rainfall Eastern areas, a great potential for intensive cash-crop farming was ignored.” Consequently, productivity fell and per capita income actually declined. On the whole, the Act “had been implemented too quickly and on too large a scale. It had been imposed from above, and where Africans had expressed doubt and advocated caution, they had been ignored. Not [sic] sufficient attempt had been made to gain understanding and support for the changes involved, and the high-handed, accelerated implementation had antagonized many, both through the mistakes made, and the failure to hear complaints.” 419 Recent studies have also not missed the intensity of peasant opposition to the NLHA.

Ranger, for example, has written of “embittered peasants … and returning labour migrants who found themselves without land or cattle entitlement.” Similarly, Bhebe has described how many villages “were deserted, their occupants hiding in the bush,” when government officials arrived to enforce Land Husbandry measures. Obviously influenced by Benjamin Burombo, in 1955, at a large meeting in Shangani Reserve at the beginning of the ploughing season, people “declared that they were not going to have anything to do with the Land Development Officers, the Demonstrators and other agricultural Officers.” These were not empty threats, as the local Native Commissioner soon discovered.

–  –  –

On the whole, Africans resented the Act because it hampered their economic progress and did not intend to foster an African middle class in the reserves, but as far as the whites were concerned, any effective scheme for raising the reserves from impoverishment would have threatened the very basis of settler society. Quite plausibly, Floyd has noted that the NLHA was opposed by a broad and clearly diverse section of rural African society. Floyd, for example, conceded that “malcontents” included “those who have suffered considerable reductions in land and cattle, or those who have been

caught in violation of some phase of the Act,” 421 while Ranger has acknowledged that:

almost everyone in the reserves opposed it. In many reserves, entrepreneurial peasants farmed quite large areas of land. Under Land Husbandry they would have been allocated the standard 6 or 7 acres, so they naturally opposed its implementation. Many chiefs resented the loss Bulman, “The Native Land Husbandry Act of Southern Rhodesia,” 17 and 20.

Bhebe, B. Burombo, 107 and 108.

Floyd, “Changing Patterns of African Land Use,” 269.

–  –  –

According to Phimister, without exception opposition to the Act came overwhelmingly from those people whom it threatened to render landless and Holleman was emphatic on

this point:

–  –  –

As already noted, some of the severest critics of the Act were the landless, most of whom were absent from the reserves performing migrant labour. In the Mondoro Reserve, it was reported on 2nd October 1961 by Chief Nyika and Headman Chizinga and Mudumwa that European type Beers and Wine were being sold at week-end assemblies in the Reserve which were disguised as “Tea-Parties,” 424 but in essence these were meetings to map the way forward in the light of the NLHA’s cruel dictates. Confirming the same, Bulman noted that “In the towns, there were the stirrings of unrest, which spread to the reserves at weekends, from those who felt themselves dispossessed of a birthright.” 425 “If a man is told that he has no Native Land Husbandry rights and that he cannot be given any,” Bessant quoted a government commission as reporting, “then he is a ready-made supporter of the National Democratic Party [successor to the African National Congress] which promises land to all … he is ready to lend ear and hand to carry out the various illegal and subversive activities … Why not, he thinks: he has no job and no land, so what has he to lose?” 426 “Above all”, concluded Ranger, “those young men who were away in the towns and who lost land rights at the time of registration opposed implementation very strongly.” 427 Clearly, the authors of the NLHA grossly underestimated the number of people who would lose their right to land. From the very beginning, official calculations were thrown Ranger, Peasant Consciousness.

Holleman, Chief, Council and Commissioner, 206.

NAZ (RC), Ministry of Internal Affairs, Box 158077, Location C19.2.10R: File: LAN 9 Sanyati and Ngezi: 1951-1964, “Beer Drinking Assemblies: Ngezi-Mondoro Reserve,” R. L. Westcott (NC Gatooma) to the Member-in-Charge, B.S.A. Police, Featherstone, 3rd October 1961.

Bulman, “The Native Land Husbandry Act of Southern Rhodesia,”14.

Leslie Bessant, “Coercive Development: Peasant Economy, Politics and Land in Chiweshe, Colonial Zimbabwe, 1940-1966,” PhD dissertation, Yale University, 1987, 252, cited in Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 234.

Ranger, Peasant Consciousness.

out by a greater than expected degree of over-crowding in many reserves. 428 The plan was also not sufficiently flexible to accommodate the thousands of people who attempted to return to the reserves when they lost their jobs during the economic recession precipitated by a slump in the price of copper after 1957. 429 What can be gleaned from all this is that the issue of land rights affected a large and growing constituency, and it is least surprising that resistance to the NLHA was the embodiment of the numerous grievances the people had against the totalitarian and irrational nature of the Act, let alone the unrepresentative nature of the government. The slow tempo of African agricultural development up to the abandonment of the Act can be explained in this context.

Peasant differentiation defies NLHA dictates:-

It is true that reserve entrepreneurs made concerted effort to survive in an otherwise difficult political and economic environment. As suggested by Phimister, rural elites were not destroyed by the Act. They were indeed some of the most vociferous opponents of the Act. This seems to contrast sharply with the belief that “entrepreneurial” peasants comprised only a tiny and dwindling minority of reserve inhabitants, whose backs were broken by the NLHA’s implementation, and whose protests were unimportant compared to those of the landless poor. Quoting Ranger, Phimister says “During the 1930s the Rhodesian government [had] set its [sights] against the kind of ploughman entrepreneurs who were emerging on a significant scale within the Reserves,” as “The redistributive procedures of ‘centralisation’ and ultimately of Land Husbandry were used to undercut such men; and … destocking of cattle was similarly used to reduce differentiation among cattle owners.” 430 However, the assumption that “rural entrepreneurs” did not engage in cash-crop production and became differentiated is grossly misleading.

In fact, evidence to the contrary is galore. Le Roux has revealed that, at the end of the 1940s an estimated 52% of cultivated land in the reserves was farmed by 30% of the peasantry. 431 This meant that there was increased land and cattle ownership despite stipulations of the NLHA as well as destocking measures. Having largely evaded earlier Native Department attempts to limit the acreage they could plough and the number of cattle they could own, this category of producers were no less determined to go their own way in the 1950s, and they did so with considerable ingenuity and remarkable success.

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