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As will be demonstrated in this chapter, despite its perceived suitability to the Sanyati situation, the Act still engendered forms of resistance hitherto unknown since the passage of the LAA which preceded it. One of the stipulations of the NLHA was that, for one to be registered as a farming right holder, one had to be a cultivator of land in the area concerned on the date selected for implementation of the Act. As a result, many migrants who were absent at the time the allocations were made were simply not considered, and a considerable portion of the recognised rural village membership was deprived of its basic right to land. According to Simon C. Pazvakavambwa, in 1950, land was allocated in Sanyati on the basis of three principles; first, for settlement purposes; second, for cultivation and, third, for despasturing stock or grazing purposes. These were selfcontained units allocated on a “stand alone basis” (i.e. individual allocation). 254 However, these allocations did not anticipate three things. Firstly, that an increase in population would lead to a sub-division of the initial allocated land for cultivation. Since sons of “immigrant” farmers were not allocated land they encroached onto grazing areas or self-allocated themselves land, thereby reducing land for grazing. Secondly, it was not anticipated that there would be an increase in livestock because once a farmer got his allocation he would parcel out pieces of land to his sons. The sons would also acquire their own beasts and this had a multiplier effect. Destocking was a result of this lack of anticipation on the part of the settler government. Thirdly, the contribution of the urban economy to the rural economy through transfers was not considered. Because sons and daughters of communal farmers were not guaranteed life in the towns and mines, their only form of security was to invest in cattle in anticipation of retirement. This investment drive in cattle caused levels of off-take 255 to remain very low (around 3%) against an increasing livestock population. 256 Regarding the third point, the thinking of those who designed the NLHA was clearly spelt out by the Under Secretary in the Department of Lands and Agriculture when he remarked that “If a native enters a trade, such as shoemaking, for instance, and becomes industrialised he should not retain the right to land in the reserves … he is either a tradesman or a peasant farmer and should not be both. If he hankers after land, he should purchase land in the Native Purchase Area or a plot in a semi-urban area.” 257 In 1947 the CNC was even more emphatic when he remarked that “Once a final allocation of land [has been made], the Native will either become a peasant farmer only, adopting proper agricultural and soil conservation methods, or become an industrialised worker with his tentacles pulled out of the soil.” 258 Clearly, one of the major aims of this S. C. Pazvakavambwa, (Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, Office of the President and Cabinet), Personal Interview, Makombe Government Complex, Harare, 15th November 2004.

Levels of off-take are measured in terms of slaughters that take place or the amount of sales outside the region (external disposals) including local slaughter. Involuntary off-take can take place due to disease outbreak and other factors, but anything that reduces the number of cattle through some managed process is called off-take.

Pazvakavambwa, Personal Interview.

NAZ, S1194/190/1, Under Secretary, Department of Lands and Agriculture to Secretary, Department of Lands and Agriculture, 3 April 1947.

Report of the Secretary for Native Affairs, CNC and Director of Native Development for the year policy was to limit the number of people allowed to farm in the reserves. In fact, in postwar Southern Rhodesia where the relatively advanced urban sector demanded more African labour, senior civil servants in the government in particular were envisioning “stabilised” proletarian labour, whereby “an increasing number will become permanently divorced from the land” and “find a livelihood in the European areas.” 259 As Frederick Cooper has recently pointed out, the provision of housing for urban African labour was crucial to the stabilisation of labour. 260 The conditions of Africans in the urban areas were, however, deplorable. Several official reports and commissions of inquiry published in the 1940s and 1950s on African urban conditions revealed the dire conditions under which urban African workers lived: inadequate and poor housing, discriminatory legislation, poor wages, insecure tenure and lack of social security for African urban workers, all which discouraged many urban workers from cutting their ties to the land. 261 When the NLHA was introduced, it was expected that the consequences would create a growing class who would have no rights to farming land in the “Reserves,” and who would seek alternative livelihoods in the urban areas, and that alternative means of security would be found. It was hoped that the increasing industrialisation and economic opportunity in the urban areas would provide for this, but it did not. 262 Nevertheless, confidence returned at the start of Federation. The expansion in the economy which followed the Federation of Southern Rhodesia with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1953, fully justified this hope. Secondary industry was booming. An additional boost was provided by the 1955 trade agreement with Pretoria which significantly increased the degree of protection provided for local industrialists. 263 Nevertheless, discussion in Cabinet in the same year was dominated by the pros and cons of speeding up implementation of the NLHA, hence it focused much more on problems in the “reserves” than on opportunities created by secondary industry. 264 In the years up to 1958, the opportunities for employment of Africans in the urban industrial centres were in excess of the number of school leavers, and the population in the reserves was relatively stabilised. However, from 1958 the situation began to change as political uncertainties grew regarding the future of the Federation. In 1960, the number of school leavers began to exceed the number of openings for work. 265 The Rhodesian economy experienced an economic slump and many young men could not secure employment.

Faced with unemployment in the towns, and the absence of adequate social security ending 1946, 2.


Frederick Cooper, Decolonization and African Society: The Labour Question in French and British Africa, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 335-336.

See Report on a Survey of Urban African Conditions in Southern Rhodesia by Percy Ibbotson, Bulawayo, 1943; Edward Batson, The Poverty Datum Line in Salisbury, Cape Town, 1945; Report of the Plewman Urban African Affairs Commission, 1958 cited in Nyambara, “A History of Land Acquisition in Gokwe,” 118.

Report of the Secretary for Internal Affairs for the year 1962/63, 11.

South African State Archives, Pretoria, HEN 710 Vol. 3896, High Commissioner, Salisbury, to Secretary for External Affairs, Pretoria, 8 December 1954; Cape Argus, 7 July 1955 cited in Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 232.

Todd Papers, Cabinet Minutes, 6 May 1955 cited in Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 232.

Gloria C. Passmore, The National Policy of Community Development in Rhodesia with Special Reference to Local Government in the African Rural Areas, (Salisbury: University of Rhodesia, 1972), 30.

there, many young men were thrust back to the only form of security they knew – a piece of land in the “reserves.” Yet, they were denied that security. 266 In these circumstances, it is no wonder that strong resentment to the Act stemmed from the younger generation who did not qualify for initial rights to land, and for whom there was no land available to enable such rights to be granted. For the African nationalist groups, according to George Nyandoro, the Secretary General of the African National Congress (ANC), the NLHA “has been the best recruiter Congress has ever had,” and the nationalists drew much of their support from young urban workers rendered landless by the Act. 267 In fact, opposition to the Act was not only confined to the landless young men, it was equally strong among rural accumulators who saw the Act as a constraint on their accumulation. These rural accumulators took over the leadership of rural opposition to the colonial administration. They joined the ANC and became some of its staunchest supporters. In Makoni district, Ranger found out that the key leaders and opponents of the colonial administration in the aftermath of the NLHA were not landless young men, but members of the chiefly family, headmen and male peasant elders over 40 years. One of Ranger’s informants told him that “… You will find these [elders] on Kraalhead dares, school Boards, church leaders, etc … You will find the over 40s have a big influence for they are usually the ones with land, house and cattle.” 268 No matter how active the young men may have been in the nationalist parties, Ranger argues that the core of peasant radical nationalism in Makoni were the resident elders, who were determined to retain their hold on large plots. Chief Wozhele together with his royal lineage were not prepared to give up the practice of overploughing because in Rhodesdale they cultivated fields of up to 40 acres which was five times the standard allocation in Sanyati. In an interview, he confessed that “people disliked the NLHA because they were used previously to a life of no control.” 269 Despite the strictures imposed by the Act, Ndaba Wozhele and his kinship group, Mudzingwa, Tiki, Vere, Sifo, Ngazimbi and Mazivanhanga clung on to their abnormally extended plots and remained some of the largest cattle owners in the area.

It can be argued that chiefly lineages and resident male elders resisted the NLHA because the Act rendered them powerless in the allocation of land since their cherished prerogative to distribute or redistribute land among their subjects had been usurped.

Norma Kriger notes that “Loss of the right to allocate land so outraged chiefs in the early 1950s it looked as if they and the nationalists would forge a lasting alliance.” 270 Phimister similarly argues that Duggan, “The Native Land Husbandry Act”; Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves”; Report of the Secretary for Native Affairs for 1962/63.

Ken Brown, Land in Southern Rhodesia, (London: The African Bureau, 1959), 2.

Ranger, Peasant Consciousness, 163.

Chief M. T. Wozhele, Personal Interview, Chief’s Court, “Old Council”/ Wozhele Business Centre, Sanyati, 17th October 2004. During this interview, the Chief was ably assisted by Headman Samson Mudzingwa and Maunganidze Nyahwa (all members of his court).

Norma Kriger, Zimbabwe’s Guerrilla War: Peasant Voices, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 67. See also POZ Library, FR 641 Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Discontent in the Mangwende Reserve (The Mangwende Commission), 1961, 1-202.

–  –  –

It appears, therefore, that African nationalism in colonial Zimbabwe in the 1950s and early 1960s exhibited tendencies towards solidarity for a common cause between landless young men, elders and local leaders and rural accumulators alike. This apparent solidarity across generational and class lines was, however, to be short-lived. When the guerrilla war intensified from the mid-1970s, there developed a significant shift in rural alliance from solidarity for a common cause to divisions clearly along generational, class and gender lines. These issues will be explored further in chapter four.

Thus, the application of the NLHA evoked one of the greatest forms of resistance from rural Sanyati, which, among other things, forced the colonial state to suspend the implementation of some of the most controversial provisions of the Act especially the new principle of individual farming and grazing rights which was in conflict with old concepts regarding the security of rural tenure; and the haste as well as the totalitarian manner in which the Act was implemented particularly during the “speed-up” period from 1956 to 1961. 272 According to Holleman, the Act became one of the most contentious measures passed by the colonial parliament and a clear target for bitter attack and resentment by the Africans. He argues that the Act faced stiff opposition because it was “discriminatory and restrictive and agrarian and therefore became almost inevitably associated with the Land Apportionment Act (1930), one of the most hated symbols of white authoritarianism and exclusiveness to the African.” 273 As already noted, Holleman has revealed that many young males who were away or absent performing migrant labour for periods ranging from a few months to several years were not considered for land allocation under the NLHA. 274 This stipulation in the Act, “though logical from the legislator’s point of view, was often misunderstood and caused hardship and widespread resentment in the African communities. The individual claims to farming rights were to be based on actual occupation (‘lawful cultivation’) at an arbitrarily appointed date line.” Such a stipulation was completely “foreign and wholly irrelevant to land rights in indigenous society, which are based on membership of the local communities, a membership not affected by a person’s temporary absence on migrant labour” 275 Holleman further argues that conflict became inevitable when, upon the implementation of the NLHA, “the statutory requirements of security of tenure deprived a considerable portion of the recognized rural village membership of what it had Phimister, “Rethinking the Reserves,” 239.

Holleman, Chief, Council and Commissioner, 56.

Ibid., 61.

Ibid., 37.

Ibid., 65.

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