History of land and agriculture in Zimbabwe: Part 20…racism entrenched in land division

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IN the early days of colonisation, all land in Rhodesia was classified into three areas: The European area which totalled 18 150 000 hectares plus a national area of
2 668 000 hectares totalling
23 486 000 hectares; and an African area of 18 200 000 hectares in extent, of which 16 100 000 hectares was attributed to tribal trust lands (TTLs) as entrenched in a section of the Land Tenure Act of 1930.
In terms of the Land Tenure Act, the interests of each race were said to be paramount in the racially divided areas, which could not be changed without following special procedures for amending the Constitution.
The African areas included the TTLs, now known as communal or rural areas, reserved and protected under the Land Tenure Act for Africans living communally under the tribal system since it was held that: “Africans, must be presented with the opportunity of moving into the cash and the capitalistic economy in the TTLs there is provision for procedures which with the consent of tribesmen will enable areas in the TTLs to be converted to freehold tenure rural areas in which African farmers may lease and own farms – the African purchase land. In business areas, in African townships, African businessmen are protected from competition by Europeans.
Because of social differences, and for the economic interests of the country as a whole, an area of Rhodesia is set aside for use and exploitation by Europeans.”
Subject to many exceptions, white settlers were prohibited from owning or occupying land in an African reserved area and vice versa; unless for some prevailing and/or future need, for members of one race to occupy land in the area of another.
Provisions were made in the legislation for multi-racial industrial and commercial areas.
For example, the need for townships for one race in the area of another; the need for occupation for members of one race in the urban and rural land area of another and the (unlikely) need for non-racial residential, commercial and industrial land, in the two areas.
Through the introduction of a ‘provincialisation’ policy, the Government enhanced the office and stature of the chiefs. Believing firmly in the ‘chiefly assertion that they are the true leaders of the African people’ gave them ‘Tribal Land Authority’.
In 1969, the Government passed legislation conferring criminal jurisdiction on the chiefs and increased their civil jurisdiction in certain cases.
By virtue of the Tribal Land Authority, chiefs and those appointed by them, had wide powers to control the allocation of land in the TTLs and gave chiefs the right to supervise cultivation.
From the onset of colonial rule in the 1890s, the Native Department had sought to replace the traditional chiefs’ rule system with the direct rule of central Government.
Under the Native Regulations, the chiefs had become minor state functionaries appointed by, and answerable to, the Native Administration, with their tenure subject to ‘good behaviour’.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs throughout the country was represented by District Commissioners in the 50 districts; they constituted the liaison between the Rhodesian Government and the community, whether European or African.
The economic development of the TTLs, through irrigation schemes, agriculture and the general promotion of commerce and secondary industry, was outwardly high on the authority’s priorities.
The promotion of commerce, both primary and secondary, was the responsibility of a body set up by the Government known as the Tribal Trust Land Corporation.
In addition to founding a comprehensive form of local government in European areas, it was official policy to introduce autonomous local authorities in African Townships in European urban areas; as stated accordingly:
“This Government has always accepted the need to distinguish between our two societies: African on the one hand and European, including the minority races, on the other.
At the local government level, there should be separate local authorities for Europeans and Africans.
It is Government policy to sponsor and encourage the progressive evolution of these townships and that they be governed at local level by the African residents.
Handing over of such authority must be matched by the competence, capacity and willingness to assume the responsibility.
It must be borne in mind that the sophisticated urban township is new to the African.
He has some way to go before he has the skill and experience to administer and undertake full financial responsibility for local government of these concentrated residential areas with the costly and complex services on which they depend.
Government supports the policy of home-ownership in these townships, believing this to be the essential prerequisite for stability and a sound basis for African advancement towards autonomy in these townships.”
Land apportionment, through the Land Apportionment Act (1930), was considered essential for both social and economic development.
Due to problems arising from apparent social differences, not the least of which was inter-marriage between Africans and Europeans, separate residential areas were retained for Europeans and Africans within urban areas.
Multi-racial residential areas were provided within urban areas for (mainly domestic) workers only.
Ironically, or inexplicably, the definitions of African and European are alike in the 1969 Constitution and in the Electoral Act.
They differ, however, in the Land Tenure Act, where they are referred to as ‘natural persons’ only.
While, socially, people of all races could meet and mix in their homes and marriages across the ‘colour line’ could be contracted, the official policy at the time was to discourage miscegenation.
A serious shortage of skilled labour was experienced during this period as a result of the rapid economic growth.
In order to attract the required volume of skilled labour, the Prime Minister, Ian Douglas Smith, on June 28 1972 stated that: “Conditions must be offered that are competitive with those which prevail in other countries which are competing for the same skills.
It is a known fact that an increasing European population results in proportionately greater number of employment opportunities for Africans.
Since the natural rate of increase of Rhodesia’s European population is relatively low, immigration of skilled Europeans has played, and will continue to play, an important part in the development of this country.”
As overcrowding in reserved areas intensified, so did land degradation and poverty for the African people.
In 1951, the Native Land Husbandry Act (NLHA) was promulgated as efforts to regulate land allocation and use in the African areas and improve land management and African farming productivity, underpinned by efforts to institute private land tenure and replace the ‘communal’ land tenure; thereby abolish what the colonial state perceived as: “The destructive ‘communal’ land tenure system in the rural areas.”
African farming methods were considered not only as primitive and therefore less productive, but also as destructive to the land.
The creation of native purchase areas (NPAs) under the provisions of the Land Apportionment Act (LAA) 1930, and the NLHA, 1951, were centred on the philosophy of ‘private property’ in complete contradiction to indigenous land values and beliefs.
Under the NLHA, it was illegal for indigenous peasant farmers to grow crops or graze livestock without a permit known as a ‘farming right’, and ‘grazing right’ to cultivate land and to graze livestock, respectively.
These farming and grazing rights expired on the holder’s death and could not be transfer to other holders.
Native Commissioners (later known as District Commissioners), had the authority to allocate land for huts, gardens and grazing. They were empowered by regulations to allocate to each peasant an area of land equal to the standard area established in terms of the Act; while a permit-holder was entitled to a unit of land limited to twice the size of the standard allocation.
The size of a cultivable unit could not be reduced below the standard area without the consent of the Native Commissioner.
The amalgamation of political, economic and legal powers bestowed in Native Commissioners was designed to facilitate state control over land and the indigenous agro-producers, and to interfere and reorganise the mode in which indigenous Africans used and occupied their land.
Due to intense opposition and under African ancient nationalist pressure, the NLHA was suspended in 1962; by which time it had only been implemented in 42 percent of the reserves.
The Tribal Trust Land Act (TTLA) of 1967, replaced the NLHA of 1951; whereby traditional chiefs were authorised to administer and allocate land in the reserves (now renamed TTLs); transferring authority over land allocation from the District Commissioners to traditional leaders; thus shifting the responsibility for rural land shortages from the state to traditional leaders, and ward off the escalating surge of African nationalism.
Behind the philosophy of the NLHA was the belief that: “Communal tenure led to misuse of land and that the security of individual land tenure would give Africans the incentives to adopt ‘good’ land husbandry and to maximise production.”
Colonial values that associated private property systems with better management of arable land played a consistent role in colonial policy and practice in the reserves.
Thus, colonisation not only involved the alienation of the land of indigenous producers, but also the restructuring of their title to land and their land tenure systems.
By breaking the bonds of tradition, the indigenous African people, as happened everywhere in the colonised world, became dependent on a minority European population
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 views and comments, email: linamanucci@gmail.com

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