By Dr Michelina Andreucci
THE forthright speaker at the meeting held in the presence of the Native Commissioner of Gatooma (now Kadoma) had a large following in the area which, they said, he used to “… spread the gospel of resistance.”
Partly as a result of his influence in Headman Chizinga’s area, marked opposition was also voiced at the receipt of the two Land Husbandry Orders, namely: the increase in cattle dipping charges and contour ridges.
Speakers maintained that more time should have been given to complete the interrupted contour ridges and when asked, suggested three years. Other speakers at the meeting intimated that they wanted the Order cancelled as they had no intention of completing the contour ridges.
In fact, some of Neuso’s followers demonstrated their disenchantment with contours and the increase in dipping fees when they filled up dip tanks with logs and burnt down demonstration schools; among them were Sirambe Farmer Training School and Katsime (Katsimi) Farmer Training School in Neuso and Wozhele’s areas respectively.
Strong criticism of the Government in raising dipping fees was persistently made by the angry village head, who accused the Assistant Native Commissioner (ANC) of “… having reduced his stock holding, allocated him too small an acreage of land and now, was intending to ruin him with an exhorbitant charge for dipping his cattle.”
Another speaker in Headman Chikowore’s area asked if the raise in dipping charges was not due to the fact that the Government had to maintain the same staff for a decreased number of cattle in view of the Government’s countrywide destocking programme.
Both, Chief Nyika of Mhondoro-Ngezi and Chief Wozhele of Sanyati supported the taxation measures, and hence they were accused of collaborating with the Rhodesian regime.
In general, however, The kraal heads co-operated with the Native Commissioner (NC) with the production of addresses of defaulters in their areas.
However, to signify his displeasure with the proceedings, Chief Neuso of Sanyati chose to remain standoffish and did not attend the two major tax collection meetings.
In the light of African opposition, the NC, was hesitant to impose penalties on offenders for fear of aggravating the situation: “It is realised that the Native Land Husbandry Act [NLHA] lays down penalties, but it will be difficult to enforce such orders in the face of a mass refusal.”
He emphasised the volatility of the situation when he stated to the Provincial Native Commissioner (PNC), Mashonaland West: “I do not wish to be alarmist in this matter, but do think there is a possibility of trouble over these dip fee collections. I would be grateful for advice as to the action to be taken if people do as they threaten, only produce 2/- (two shillings – 20cents), per head. Should it be refused or should it be accepted as a payment on account?”
Not only the cattle dipping fees but also tax collections were detested by the people. Tax evasion was a chargeable offense.
Accused persons were charged with contravening Section 4 (2) read with Section 7 (1) of the Native Tax Act (Cap. 78) as amended.
In terms of Section 8 (2) Act 52/51 the maximum number of animal units to be grazed was fixed at 10 per holder. The quality of grazing in Sanyati varied from a carrying capacity of between 16 in some parts to 20 acres per beast in others.
In 1960, the AANC of the now Kadoma wrote to the Registrar of the High Court: “It is not uncommon for natives [recalcitrants] to be charged with failing to pay ten or more years tax ….”
He proceeded to say: “Offences against the Native Tax Act are on the increase and because of the difficulties of keeping track of defaulters, it is easy for a native to evade payment of tax if he so desires. It is felt that some sterner action must be taken in order to put down the offence so far as is possible.”
In juridical matters, Chief Wozhele and Neuso reported directly to the NC in Gatooma.
In fact, some tax collecting points were set up in both Sanyati and Ngezi reserves. At such tax collection gatherings (meetings), it was not uncommon to find people who told the chiefs, headmen and kraal heads that they were not going to pay.
However, they were compelled to do so through tax patrols mounted by the police.
Mounted police patrols were employed to check any “… blatant disregard of the tax laws of the country,” but they did not mark the end of resistance.
During the implementation of the culling and destocking measures, indigenous peasant farmers who owned more cattle than the stipulated maximum (of 10) were required to slaughter or sell the excess animals.
To ensure that farmers abided by these rules, the said cattle’s tails (miswe in Shona) would be cut by the dip tank officers as a mark that they were excess to requirements and should be disposed of, hence ‘nhimuramuswe’ or ‘gura muswe’.
On the next cattle dipping day, if a farmer brought such cattle for dipping, then the dip officer was entitled to take legal action against the farmer for refusal to comply with destocking regulations. However, rural accumulators often succeeded in hiding the excess animals by either dipping them after the official dipping exercise or registering them in the names of their relatives.
Dr Michelina Rudo Andreucci is a Zimbabwean-Italian researcher, industrial design consultant, lecturer and specialist hospitality interior decorator. She is a published author in her field. For comments e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org