Sanyati’s carrying capacity…colonials’ double standards


THE eviction of indigenous people from European designated land was repeatedly carried out swiftly; often within just a week.    

Any cases of resistance against the intended evictions were reported to the British South Africa Police (BSAP).  

A case in point, is that tabled by the acting Native Commissioner, Gatooma, for investigation by the member-in-charge, Battlefields, in terms of the alleged breach of the Land Apportionment Act 1941 (Rhodesdale): “In 1950 a large number of natives living on Rhodesdale, Selina Block, your area, moved to the Sanyati Reserve. 

A number moved on to neighbouring farms to avoid removal to the Reserve.  

I have recently (sent) two Messengers warning the remaining natives to move in terms of Proclamation No. 8/52.  

The Messengers report that a large number of natives who were living on Rhodesdale have moved with their cattle onto a farm owned by ‘Torr’ across the Ngezi River. 

This European may be of Silver Star Ranch in your area. 

The messengers say these natives are not full-time workers. There is no record of any Labour Agreement under the Land Apportionment Act in this office. 

Would you please investigate and prosecute if facts permit.”

Upon investigation, the allegations that a large number of natives living on the Silver Star Ranch were categorically denied by the owner of Silver Star Ranch, whose full defence was: “I understand the nature of the enquiry, i.e. natives moving from Rhodesdale to my farm (Ranch) with their cattle etc., and not working full time, and myself not having a labour agreement with them.  

Definitely no natives, to my knowledge have come from Rhodesdale to my farm as squatters. 

All the natives on my farm are signed on by me, and I give them full-time work.  

I came to Silver Star Ranch in February 1947. 

There were three times as many natives squatting on the farm as there are now.

The NC (native commissioner) of Que Que (Kwekwe), interviewed these natives on the farm in October 1947. Previous to this, these natives were working for me on a squatter basis, i.e. three months work, and three months off work. 

The NC gave them the choice of either becoming full time workers, or leaving the property. 

Two thirds of these natives left for Mzingwa (Mudzingwa) area, Rhodesdale, and the Goldfields Area. 

The remainder stayed on as permanent workers. 

They have been given the privilege of working some of my land for themselves, providing that the land was protected in conservation. 

They have been allowed to keep cattle but on a much reduced scale.  

With the quarantine of epivagenitis on my farm at the moment, I have been unable to carry out the de-stocking, excepting for the male oxen stock. 

Since 1947, no natives have been allowed on this farm from Rhodesdale. 

If any have arrived here, I am unaware of it. 

All the natives on Silver Star Ranch were taken over in 1947, February, in similar squatter agreement as the Rhodesdale Squatter Agreement.”

After investigation and on the basis of the rancher’s polished defence, the member-in-charge, Battlefields, had no option but to exonerate him which illustrated the flimsy grounds on which the initial allegations were made against this farmer. 

Clearly there were numerous deficiencies and frailties in the manner the investigation had been conducted, thereby forcing the member-in-charge to conclude that the Silver Star’s rancher’s account was correct i.e.: “…. that no natives have moved from the Rhodesdale area to his farm to avoid going to the Sanyati Reserve and that the natives at present on his farm have been there since he took over the farm in 1947 and that they are all working full time for him.” 

However, given the need for labour on big ranches such as Silver Star, the rancher’s response to the allegations of harbouring squatters can be interpreted in two ways.  

On the one hand, being near to the Mhondoro Reserve, it is possible Bartlett-Torr received plenty of labour whenever he needed it and so might not have desperately required the labour of the Rhodesdale evictees. 

On the other, it is likely that he was conniving with the squatters so that he would retain their labour for his seasonal requirements.

Although exact figures have not been provided, by 1953 it appears, the Sanyati Reserve was already overcrowded and the office of the acting Native Commissioner, Gatooma (Kadoma), was making frantic efforts to block new claims to land by people who felt they had a right to move to the district consequent to the move from Rhodesdale, Gatooma District, to Sanyati. 

People needed to be registered by the acting Native Commissioner in Que Que at the time of the movement in order to be legitimate claimants to land in Sanyati, or thereafter; Que Que needed to confirm them as authentic ‘leftovers from mass movements’. 

The acting Native Commissioner in Gatooma was particularly querying the authenticity of a certain Matembo-Sayimoni (registration No. J 2022, Que Que) and Shebeni’s (No. X 3185 Que Que) claims because their names did not appear on his lists and thus constituted what were deemed to be ‘irregular removals to Sanyati’.

Accordingly, the acting Native Commissioner issued an injunction to prosecute those people who had moved without the express permission of the acting Native Commissioner for Que Que.  

It read: “Matembo-Sayimoni and Shebeni are no doubt exploiting a situation which has not been buttoned up properly.  All Natives that do not appear on our lists should be prosecuted if they have moved without any advice of removal from Que Que.”  

However, it is likely that the two might have gone to work (wage employment) and were not registered at the time of the movement and who, incidentally, had lost their right to land ownership in the ‘reserve’. 

In subsequent correspondence with Que Que, the acting Native Commissioner, Gatooma, was prepared to reconsider Shebeni’s case only if it was verified that their names existed on the original Rhodesdale list of evictees to Sanyati arguing: “I have closed the general list and if these persons should have been included in the Rhodesdale lot I can accept them but if they are from other kraals I cannot do so, as this would only start a series of unauthorised movements for the future.”

In essence, this signified that, officially, the unprecedented illegal movement of indigenous people to the Sanyati Reserve had been completed and that any new ‘entrants’ would be a further strain to the existing carrying capacity of the area.

Sanyati was an irrigation-based Growth Point.  

It was one of the earliest indications of the Southern Rhodesia 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. 

Dr Michelina Andreucci is a Zimbabwean-Italian researcher, industrial design consultant, lecturer and specialist hospitality interior decorator. She is a published author in her field.  

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