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«CHAPTER TWO PEASANT PRODUCTION AND DIFFERENTIATION: THE SANYATI HINTERLAND (1939 – 1964) INTRODUCTION A cursory look at Sanyati communal lands in ...»

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To some extent they were helped by the fact, as indicated previously, that the initial implementation of the NLHA was extremely slow. It was largely confined to three reserves, and, even when the whole process was speeded-up between 1955 and 1961, the very haste with which it was carried out conferred an important degree of protection on better-off cultivators. “Consider the consequences of speed,” warned one observer in 1959. “Shoddy and inaccurate work can result in the field; errors in census taking can create serious difficulties as the later stages of the Act are implemented … Pacing of P. Hamilton, “Population Pressure and Land Use in Chiweshe Reserve,” Rhodes-Livingstone Journal, 36, 1964 cited in Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 234.

D. Clarke, Unemployment and Economic Structure in Rhodesia, (Gwelo: Mambo Press, 1977), 8-9.

Ranger cited in Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves.” Le Roux, “Survey of Proposals for the Development of African Agriculture,” 34.

lands by foot rather than taping or chaining can lead to errors in acreage calculations of 20 to 25 per cent … A hasty and inaccurate check on number of livestock at [the] Kraal appreciation [Stage] will be perpetuated under the stock control regulations of the NLHA.”432 This over-emphasis on speed meant that government officials inevitably skipped stages in the Act’s implementation. The insurmountable problems caused by the shortage of competent staff as well as other difficulties caused certain key provisions of the Act to be quietly abandoned. For example, “the requirement that arable land should be matched by a grazing area sufficient to enable the maintenance of fertility was dropped, cultivation rights were permitted in the grazing areas and a substantial degree of overstocking (30 per cent) was tolerated.” 433 In a recent study, Phimister states that, at the end of 1961, shortly before implementation was suspended, individual land allocations had been made in 54% of the area proclaimed in terms of the Act. As this applied only to 78% of the total acreage of the reserves and so-called Special Native Areas, it meant that even the formal implementation of the NLHA was confined to about 42% of reserves.

These figures suggest that, in nearly 60% of the reserves, cultivators were left in possession of their existing land holdings, and even where the provisions of the NLHA were carried out, deficiencies regarding staff made implementation difficult. For the limited staff that was available to the Native Department, any attempt at curbing madiro ploughing far exceeded their capacity. There were numerous cases of people selfallocating themselves land (“kuita madiro”) 434 upon arrival from Rhodesdale in 1950.

Self-allocation and the size of land they self-allocated themselves was dependent on the availability of individual or household productive resources like labour, draught power and other equipment (“zvibatiso”). When the NLHA was eventually implemented in Sanyati in 1956, it tried to limit allocations to the stipulated 8 acres but people who had self-allocated themselves more than the 8 acres tended to resist this limitation. Hence, “illegal extensions take place, or the ploughing of vacant plots is done by unauthorised people.” 435 The rampant nature of madiro is clearly reflected in Bhebe’s confession that Out of the 15 acres which we had ploughed over the years, carefully cleared, annually fertilised with cattle manure only three acres were allocated to my mother and the rest was given to other people. Our savings also consisted of over 30 head of cattle and over 50 goats. The stock permit that was given to my mother authorised her to graze only 6 head of cattle. The rest of the stock we were supposed to dispose of at once by selling or slaughtering … Had we complied with the dictates of the colonial regime, my brother and sister and I would never have afforded the Floyd, “Changing Patterns of African Land Use,” 339-40.

H.Dunlop,“Land and Economic Opportunity in Rhodesia.” Rhodesia Journal of Economics, 6, (1972), 7.

Fore more detail on “madiro” (Freedom ploughing) see Nyambara, “A History of Land Acquisition in Gokwe.” NAZ, S160/LS/103/1A/50, Additional land required for occupation by natives, unassigned area, report of 25 August 1950. See also Southern Rhodesia, Report of a Commission of Inquiry into the Cold Storage Commission of Southern Rhodesia (Danziger Report), Salisbury: Rhodesian Printing and Publishing Company, 1952.

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The basic point being conveyed by the foregoing is that a large number of better-off peasants came through the NLHA, if not exactly unscathed, then more or less intact. So much so, in fact, that in the 1950/60 season 30% of reserve producers were now working 63% of all cultivated land. What is clear from this is that the trend towards an unequal distribution of the area under cultivation was more pronounced at the end of the decade than it had been at its beginning. Cattle ownership had also become more unequal and this is validated by Roux’s assertion that: “as with crops two types of cattle owner[s] had developed by 1960. One was a small-scale owner with a subsistence herd, the other was a large-scale owner who supplied the beef market.” 437 Over the same period, the real incomes of this “upper 30 per cent of African producers” were consistently higher than those of the lowest paid urban workers, and expanded faster than those of the majority of reserve cultivators. 438 Far from the Land Husbandry Act checking “entrepreneurial individualism,” 439 the “wealth gap between these two classes of farmer” actually increased during the 1950s. 440 This does not imply, though, that opposition by “reserve entrepreneurs” to the NLHA was any less fierce after having escaped most of its provisions. On the contrary, it implies that resistance from this source was much more important than previously suspected.





Alienated and embittered by the attempts of successive settler regimes to wrest control over the dynamics of rural accumulation from their grasp, a significant number of richer peasants turned away from co-operation with government agencies to embrace nationalist politics. Along with rural businessmen, school teachers and headmasters, as well as some chiefs and headmen, they assumed leadership positions in branches of the African National Congress (ANC) and the National Democratic Party (NDP). In Matabeleland’s Wenlock district, for example, the first chairman of an ANC branch was “the agrarian entrepreneur, Mark Docotela Ncube,” while at the other end of the country a few years later, the leaders of rural dissidence “were not landless young men or itinerant traders but members of the chiefly family, headmen and male peasant elders.” 441 Undoubtedly, the grievances and aspirations of this “upper 30 per cent of African producers” crucially shaped both the kind of opposition to the NLHA and the particular brand of nationalism which was emerging at the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s. This very strong opposition was to remain an ingrained feature of the liberation war years in Zimbabwe.

Bhebe, B. Burombo, 5-6.

Le Roux, “Survey of Proposals for the Development of African Agriculture,” 38-9.

Yudelman, Africans on the Land, 244.

Ranger, Peasant Consciousness, 75.

Le Roux, “Survey of Proposals for the Development of African Agriculture,” 37.

Ranger, “Origins of Nationalism in Rural Matabeleland: The Case of Wenlock,” unpublished, 1990, 36, cited in Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 239. See also Ranger, Peasant Consciousness, 162.

In fact, as far as resistance to the implementation of the NLHA was concerned what was specific about the Sanyati experience was the combined involvement not only of the agrarian entrepreneurs but also the participation in resistance to the Act by the poorer peasantry as well. Chiefs and headmen opposed the NLHA but not in as vociferous and open a manner as some of the traditional leadership in Mhondoro “Reserve.” Chiefs like Wozhele tried to exploit the position vested in them by the state to amass wealth by claiming ownership of multiple pieces of land some of which they bequeathed to their children/offspring. The Sanyati example reveals that the recent roots of differentiation were steeped in the community’s averseness to measures that were aimed at limiting the African’s economic opportunities. The people’s hate of the NLHA dates back to the early 1950s when this Act was deployed to force African farmers out of the so-called white ranching areas. On the whole, between the 1950s and 1960s this northwestern frontier portrays a wide array of complexities that determined rural differentiation and highlights the rather ambiguous relationships that distinguished the rich from the poor in what then was a predominantly rainland/dryland area. Although the power balancing strategies of the state and the preponderance of a single social category (i.e. the master farmer category) were emphasised to structure the rudiments of order and progress in rural development it can be noted that the master farmers were forever mindful of the hegemonic inclinations of the state. On the other hand, the fears of subjugation by the state and the master farmers on the part of the poor categories were quite pronounced. In Sanyati, therefore, the less-to-do peasants’ awe of the balancing as well as bandwagoning strategies of the state informed the nature of their resistance to such prescriptions as the NLHA. These nuances, which constitute how rural Sanyati was ordered and how differentiation progressed in this arid region have been captured in the broad categorisation of the local peasantry into “progressive” and “backward” farmers. The latter term was used in a generic fashion to refer to all farmers/agrarian classes who resisted the so-called modern methods of farming which in reality entailed European methods of farming. They were seen as lagging behind. However, their action was a clear manifestation of resistance against the state whose inclinations during the colonial period as evidenced by the NLHA constrained or were not in favour of bolstering the peasant farmer in general.

Clearly, the scope for accumulation in the 1950s and 1960s was normally strictly limited by government planners of the day, who tended to limit the acreage and level of production of these individual producers in line with the quality control and technical criteria set by the state. As Cowen has suggested in another context, the aim of such measures is to generate the development of an undifferentiated middle peasantry, producing high-grade export crops (e.g. cotton in the case of Sanyati) under “controlled and increasingly technically advanced methods of production and to avoid the uncontrollable aspects of rich peasant differentiation.” 442 The advent of cotton in 1963 Cowen makes the point that this form of development of commodity production is preferred by international capital as obstructing any tendencies towards the formation of an autonomous national

bourgeoisie. See M. P. Cowen, “Capital, Class and Peasant Households,” Unpublished Paper, (Nairobi:

Mimeo, July 1976) cited in Raikes, “Rural Differentiation and Class-Formation in Tanzania,” 286.

and its influence on the differentiation process was quite considerable. In fact, the state tried to arrest rural differentiation to no avail.

Introduction of cotton and socio-economic differentiation:In spite of the unfavourable political climate, the 1960s witnessed increased rural differentiation as some peasant households with sufficient resources diversified their agricultural pursuits and took to cotton cultivation. Far from being mere pawns in the colonial game, peasant households mainly of Madheruka extraction took the initiative and cultivated cotton and prospered, while others (notably the Shangwe and Madheruka with inadequate resources) objected to cotton growing 443 and these malperformed economically. 1963 marked the introduction and development of cotton agriculture in Sanyati and the crop had significant ramifications on the process of differentiation. Rural households participated in cotton growing at various levels because of differential access to essential productive resources such as credit, labour, land, farm equipment (“zvibatiso”), other agricultural services like demonstrator advice and access to limited and distant markets in Kadoma. Those who embraced cotton earlier and possessed the requisite resources unquestionably became a “black capitalist entrepreneurial class.” In other words, it was towards these few leading prosperous farmers (Master Farmers) 444 that the colonial agricultural officers devoted most of their efforts by giving them the advice they needed. In addition, Master Farmers dominated the growing of cotton because of the knowledge of farming which they brought with them from their areas of origin (e.g. Rhodesdale). They also dominated the co-operative societies through which much of the credit to purchase inputs as well as technical advice were channeled. Due to their growing influence, Master Farmers had access to adequate co-operative and hired labour in addition to family household labour. In this vein, therefore, cotton was to become one of the major causes of differentiation among the Sanyati peasantry.

As already noted, the majority of the rural households who lacked access to adequate essential productive resources derived limited if any benefits from participation in cotton growing. Actually, some of the resource-poor households did not grow cotton, but rather became a source of labour for the large-scale farmers. Quite appropriately, Worby has recently observed that, the introduction of cotton and the cotton boom that followed “generated its own regionally based class of aggressive entrepreneurs who were crossing residual historical boundaries in land tenure and labour markets to constitute a nascent class of large-scale black agrarian capitalists.” 445 Those who did not join the bandwagon invariably lagged behind and constituted a class of less-to-do peasants. Although this latter category was poverty-stricken, the argument in this study is that its predicament did Nyambara, “Colonial Policy and Peasant Cotton Agriculture in Southern Rhodesia, 1904-1953,” 84. See also Nyambara, “ ‘Madheruka’ Master Farmers and the ‘Shangwe’: Ethnic Identities, Cotton Agriculture and Socio-Economic Differentiation in the Gokwe District of Northwestern Zimbabwe, 1963-1979,” Northwestern University, May 1998, 1-50.



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