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The influx of white immigrants from Europe in the post-war period necessitated the evictions of a large number of Africans from Crown and Alienated Lands. To make way for the new immigrants, recourse was made to the policy of eviction of Africans from land so designated as Crown Land by the LAA, which, for security reasons lay somewhat dormant during the war years. The decade 1945-1955 saw at least 100 000 African “squatters” all over the colony being moved, often forcibly into overcrowded “reserves” and the inhospitable and tsetsefly-ridden Unassigned Areas. 244 Despite efforts by the Department of Conservation to get rid of the tsetse fly menace through massive spraying campaigns and the engagement of “magotchas” 245 (tsetse fly hunters), 246 the tsetsefly was never completely eradicated. Notwithstanding this, many people were still moved and resettled in the small and overcrowded Sanyati Reserve under the NLHA.

These categories were defined as follows: European Area consisted of European owned land; Native Reserves were those enshrined in the Constitution and within which land was allocated according to African customary laws; Native Purchase Area was reserved for acquisition as farms for individual Africans and was regarded as compensation for the loss of the right to purchase farmland anywhere else in the country; Unassigned Area consisted of European – owned land, which if the owners so wished, could be transferred to Africans and thereafter would become a permanent part of the Native Purchase Area. The Forest Area consisted of land set aside for development as Forest Area Reserves, legally it lay within the European Area. The Unassigned Area consisted of poor, inhospitable land left under the unfettered jurisdiction of the state to be distributed at a later date among any of the other categories. See George Kay, Rhodesia: A Human Geography, (London: University of London Press, 1970), 51 and Second Report of the Select Committee on Resettlement of Natives, Salisbury: Government Printers, (1961), 15.

Palmer, Land and Racial Domination, 243.

“Magotchas” was a term that was used in the context of the massive and intensive tsetse campaigns mounted by the government in the 1940s and 1950s to describe the tsetse fly hunters and the ruthless way they killed these insects. The method of killing tsetse fly by spraying their host (cattle) with toxic chemicals, which killed them instantly, was synonymous in local circles with literally butchering, torching, “braaing” or roasting (“kugocha” in Shona) these marauding pests/creatures.

NAZ, MF 557: Mashonaland South Province: Gatooma District (Ministry of Internal Affairs), 6; See also NAZ, MF 707; Mashonaland South Province: Gatooma District (Ministry of Internal Affairs); or NAZ, S2929/1/9: Sanyati Tribal Trust Land: Gatooma District (Ministry of Internal Affairs).

The Act, which was a key feature of the 1950s, was justified on the grounds that, by the end of the Second World War, Southern Rhodesia’s “Native Reserves” were seriously overcrowded and overstocked. An official investigation found that more than half of the so-called reserves were overstocked with cattle by 145%. The government responded to this situation by publishing a Native Reserves Land Utilisation and Good Husbandry Bill in 1948 which was later promulgated as the NLHA. Its stated objectives were wideranging: “to provide for the control of the utilisation and allocation of land occupied by natives; and to ensure its efficient use for agricultural purposes; and to require natives to perform labour for conserving natural resources and for promoting good husbandry.” 247

Phimister states that, the Act’s more specific objectives were:

(i) to provide for a reasonable standard of good husbandry and for the protection of natural resources by all Africans using the land;

(ii) to limit the number of stock in any area to its carrying capacity, and, as far as practicable, to relate stock holding to arable land holding as a means of improving farming practice;

(iii) to allocate individual rights in arable areas and in communal grazing areas as far as was possible in terms of economic units (See Table 2.2), and, where this was not possible due to over-population, to prevent further fragmentation and to provide for the aggregation of fragmentary holdings in economic units;

(iv) to provide individual security of tenure of arable land and individual security of grazing rights in communal grazing areas; and to provide for the setting aside of land for towns and business centers 248 in the (v) African areas. 249 Southern Rhodesia, Native Land Husbandry Act, No. 52, 1951, Salisbury, 1952, 893 cited in Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 225-226.

This was one of the earliest hints of the government’s desire to eventually adopt the Growth Point Policy which culminated in the establishment, in 1974, of the Sanyati Growth Point or Business Centre. It was an irrigation-based Growth Point. A preliminary evaluation of the origins and effects of a regional policy commonly known as the growth point strategy in Zimbabwe has been presented in Tshenesani Nigel Tapela’s 1985 study. He discusses this policy in terms of its contribution to both rural development and decentralised regional development. The period 1956-1975 marked the height of the “Decentralisation Policy” Debate in Zimbabwe. Chapter 2 of my thesis will address both the theoretical and practical basis of the growth point policy in Sanyati. For further discussion of this policy see Tshenesani Nigel Tapela “Growth Points and Regional Development in Zimbabwe: A Case Study of Sanyati, MA dissertation, Monstreal: School of Urban Planning, McGill University, October, 1985, 1-105, and K. H. Wekwete, “Growth Centre Policy in Zimbabwe: With Special Reference to District Service Centres” in N. D.

Mutizwa-Mangiza and A. H. J. Helmsing (eds.), Rural Development and Planning in Zimbabwe, (USA:

Avebury, 1991), 187-221.

Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 226.

Table 2.2: Recommended allocations of land and stock under the Land Husbandry Act.


–  –  –

Source: Adopted from M. Yudelman, Africans on the Land, 120-1 and B. Floyd, Changing Patterns of African Land Use, 140-3.

Essentially the Act was an attempt to attack the multifarious problems of erosion, land fragmentation and tenure, migratory labour and African agricultural traditions. Under this Act a “standard area” or “economic unit” of land was allocated per family unit (comprising a man, his wife and three children) by the NC under the direction of the CNC as primary allocative authorities, thus effectively usurping the right to allocate land by traditional chiefs. A “standard” or “economic” unit was defined by the architects of the Act as “a piece of land which, if farmed according to recommended procedures laid down by the Department of Native Agriculture, would serve not only to support the holder and his family at subsistence level, but was expected to be capable of producing a crop surplus for sale.” As illustrated in Table 2.2 above, the size of the “standard” unit was fixed according to the climatic and ecological configuration of each area, for instance, in high rainfall regions the standard holding was 6 acres, ranging to 15 acres in the driest areas. Ideally, a holding in the 28-inch rainfall area would have 8 acres of cultivable land. The producer’s stock would require 10 acres of grazing land per animal unit. His total requirement would be 68 acres, with the 8 acres of arable land to be farmed under crop rotation, combining a 2-acre fallow with grain and leguminous crops, which, if supplemented by the manure from cattle, would preserve the nitrogen in the soil. The position adopted by the Act has been backed by Ian Douglas Smith, the former Prime Minister of Rhodesia, who has pointed out that the original type of agriculture in the country was what he called “peasant farming,” arguing that in the pre-colonial period “The people [Africans] … didn’t know anything about modern cropping, the use of manure and artificial fertilisers i.e. they didn’t understand scientific farming, for example, green cropping, crop rotation and the use of legumes.” 251 This stipulation in the Act was aimed at intensifying production by changing what was perceived as the haphazard Cited in Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 227. N.B. The size of holdings was to depend on climatic conditions. More precisely, the size of “a full standard holding” depended on the size of the arable holding, and the amount of grazing land needed to maintain the livestock. All of these factors were to be adjusted according to rainfall conditions.

* This represented one large animal (for example, a cow) or two sheep, or three pigs, or the equivalent in other animals.

Ian Douglas Smith, Personal Interview.

system of “shifting” cultivation (referred to as “slash-and-burn” agriculture or chitemene in parts of Northern Zambia), to one more suited to a sedentary type of agriculture. 252 The NLHA was also intended to terminate what were perceived as “traditional” practices of land tenure by introducing “individual ownership.” The architects of the Act hoped that the concept of ownership would help reduce land fragmentation and give incentives to the peasant farmer to undertake improvements on the farm which in turn would assist in checking soil erosion thereby increasing agricultural productivity. Furthermore, the colonial state attempted to systematise land distribution in order to check African competition against white settler farmers while at the same time injecting some sort of egalitarianism which was believed to be an aspect of African “traditional” land holding practice.

It is important to note that, while the Act sought to equalise land holdings for the majority of rural households, it also created conditions for the emergence of a small class of large land holders. In Sanyati, these were among the many peasants who had challenged the 8acre allocations per household. Given the very low rainfall it received and that it was not well endowed with fertile soils, the allocation of 8 acres per family was staunchly resisted. This land area was too small to sustain a family and their animal possessions neither was it sufficient to produce a saleable surplus as stipulated in the Act. Sanyati, being a land-scarce area compared to Gokwe was, therefore, more prone to erosion and an organised pattern of migratory labour.

It seems ironic, according to Holleman, that the primary motivation behind the NLHA that the land could not continue to cater for the subsistence needs of an ever-growing rural population had in fact long since been accepted by rural communities themselves. In colonial Zimbabwe evidence abounds that since the turn of the century, the peasant economy had ceased to depend entirely on agriculture, in that most cash requirements derived from wage incomes outside it. For Holleman, the stage had long since been reached whereby a large proportion of the average rural household income derived not from agriculture but from migrant labour. 253 This shift in economic orientation by the migrant labourers was a result of the despicable size of household land holdings in Sanyati reserve. After land allocation under the NLHA, as revealed by the Mangwende Commission of Inquiry of 1961, although some landholders cultivated 10 or more acres, many households actually cultivated much less than the standard allocation of 6 to 8 acres. In areas of excessive land pressure such as Sanyati the restricted size of arable lots per family is attributable to the scarcity of available land. Thus, in Sanyati, where the land was less available than in neighbouring Gokwe, it seemed appropriate for the officials to apply the “tight formula” under the NLHA allocations as it was a question of survival for the landless peasants or those whose economic needs were not fully catered for by the restricted 8-acre allocations, to indulge in labour migrancy and other off-farm activities.

Yudelman, Africans on the Land, 121, cited in Nyambara, “A History of Land Acquisition in Gokwe,”

77. N.B. The chitemene system is discussed in greater detail in A. Roberts, A History of Zambia, (London:

Heinemann, 1976), 8 and 87.

Holleman, Chief, Council and Commissioner, 63.

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