(Part One and Two of this series appeared as Civil Society Desperate for Funds)
IT should be every black Zimbabwean’s most sincere prayer that the National Transitional Justice Working Group that has taken it upon itself to ‘interface between transitional justice stakeholders and the official transitional justice processes in Zimbabwe,’ is not a neo-colonial project sponsored to dupe the black victims of brutal British occupation to entrench white settler rights founded on the satanic abuse of black people.
At the same time, the NTJWG remains invited to a human rights tour of the history of Zimbabwe. Part 3 of the unfolding human rights catastrophe is solely about the Land Apportionment Act of 1931.
In retrospect, it forms an astonishing backdrop to the hullabaloo the British and their Rhodesian sons and daughters are currently making about alleged human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
The multitude of seemingly haphazard crimes against black humanity that had been unfolding since the Berlin Conference in 1884, finally ‘sedimented’ into a strange rule of law. An act of law pre-meditated to oversee the cold bloodied genocidal extermination of a people; harvesting the lives of generation after generation of black people.
Chitepo’s interrogation of the Land Apportionment Act of 1931 in a speech he made in Australia in 1974 constructed a cast iron indictment of British human rights conduct in Zimbabwe and Africa in general. It is a critical historical document which the NTJWG could use to build an unambiguous reparations case against Rhodesians.
Incidentally, the following year, on March 18 1975, Chitepo was assassinated by Chuck Hind, a former British intelligence operative then a mercenary helping his Rhodesian kith and kin racist Rhodesia alive.
In retrospect, one would expect Rhodesians who are today shouting and calling upon the world to punish the alleged violation of their own human rights in Zimbabwe to introspect and feel remorse about their role in sustaining an institutional genocide against victims who in 1980 decided to be human enough to forgive and even wait another ten years to recover land they had already won in war.
I am sure black Zimbabweans would be surprised if the NTJWG came up with any evidence of contrition among the Rhodesians.
The late liberation icon Herbert Chitepo said:
‘The Land Apportionment Act was introduced in nineteen hundred and thirty-one … Africans may not own this land or that land. They must own only that land. The land that was chosen for African occupation was obviously those portions which the white people in their greed had not taken. Why had they not taken it? Because it wasn’t good. So, you get a situation today in which in actual fact the so-called fifty percent of the land that is reserved for the now six million African people is actually the poorest, the most barren and the most disease infected because all the best of the land had already been taken even by the time that the Land Apportionment Act was introduced in 1931. It had already been taken by the white people. But, even that which had not been taken, if it was good, it was recommended to be set aside for European exclusive occupation and use.
‘(This) is a serious situation.
‘To us, the essence of exploitation, the essence of white domination is domination over land. That is the real issue. The essence of what they have done to us … the deprivation that they have done by taking the land away from us. And this is a very serious situation if you realize on their own estimation, that is an estimation of the white settlers themselves in Zimbabwe, the six million population of our African Zimbabweans today will in twenty years increase to something like twelve million. It will double itself. That is their own estimation. Now … they have now decided under the latest amendment to the land apportionment law that 50 percent … just over 50 percent is reserved to Europeans and only … just under 50 percent is reserved for Africans. If you try to allocate that amount of land per head, there is something like 200 acres per white head in Zimbabwe, and just about eight acres per black head. In another 20 years if the African population does double itself, there will be only about four acres per black head. The white areas will probably have increased because as a matter of fact we don’t anticipate that they will increase in their population rise.
‘If you add another twenty years, from that it will come down to probably just about two acres per head.
‘What does this mean?
‘This means a process of almost the equivalent of homicidal or genocidal extermination of a people.
‘How can 12 million … 24 million people live on that small amount of land?
‘They can’t survive.
‘Because they can’t survive, what must they do?
‘They must sell themselves in slavery to white capitalists and imperialists. The ones who have designed this law for the very purpose of making sure they can drain the African labour into their own industries, into their own farms, into their own mines. Exploit them! Pay them next to nothing, because they have no alternative. They must try to live.
‘This is the situation, and you can see the whole of the land issue has been made basic. It is the beginning of every other form of exploitation that is in Zimbabwe … in industry, in education, in every other form. This is the beginning. This is the base of the exploitation.
‘Obviously you must appreciate that if there is any group of people in a country who are affected, and hurt and injured more than any other group on land issues, it is the peasant. The ordinary man and woman who is living on a plot of land in his country.
‘I think everybody who knows about revolution knows that revolution has been about land everywhere in the world. It is about land because land is the thing on which you live. You build your house on it; you get your food from it. Life is sustained on the land, and without it you are really facing death. That is what revolution is about.’
Chitepo was a visionary. Over thirty years after the fallen hero had spoken, a later-day British settler, Benjamin Freeth, son-in-law of apartheid war criminal Mike Campbell, asked the sick question: ‘If they (black people) do not work for us, whom do they work for?’
And, the question was posed as if to prove Chitepo’s point that the Land Apportionment Act of 1931 had been ‘designed to drain the African labour into their (whites) own industries, into their own farms, into their own mines. Exploit them! Pay them next to nothing, because they have no alternative. They must try to live.’
Incidentally, Chitepo had warned his black kith and kin to be wary of the likes of Benjamin Freeth and Mike Campbell. He had said: ‘This is the sought of mental outlook that we are dealing with in Zimbabwe. The outlook of the white man who comes to settle there to regard us in status as a natural resource available for exploitation.’
If the NTJWG is genuine then it should adopt the Land Apportionment Act of 1931 as documentary evidence that has no ambiguity about the identity of the criminal and the identity of the victim. It is not ambiguous about who deserves compensation and who must pay reparations.
(To be continued in Part 4)