The land issue did not start in 2000


IN his book, The Struggle for Land in Zimbabwe, the late Retired Brigadier General Dr Felix Muchemwa writes: “According to Shona people, all land belonged to Mwari (God), with spirit mediums or ancestral spirits of the Rozvi Mambo and the various chieftaincies serving only as custodians.”
As such it has always been considered a duty by locals under the leadership of elders to protect and preserve the land.
They owe it to the Almighty who has blessed them with the land.
When the issue of returning land to indigenes, forcibly taken by vapambevhu is mentioned, many are quick to dwell on the Land Reform Programme implemented in 2000.
Looking back at the country’s history, it is evident even before the 17th Century, the fight to ensure land remains in the hands of its rightful owners was there.
Any threats to disturb the status quo, where locals benefit from their land, have been met with resistance.
Locals have not at any point in history taken lightly the protecting, defending and preserving of land for future generations.
In the book under review, Chimurenga 1: The Anti-Portuguese Liberation War (1675-1695), historian Aeneas Chigwedere traces history, proving how in the 17th and 18th Century locals rose against foreigners taking away their land.
The book is a clear indication that the land issue did not start in 2000 as narrow-minded thinkers would want to project it.
“The background to the Anti-Portuguese Chimurenga takes our history to the year 1500 i.e. the advent of the Portuguese in our land,” reads part of the foreword.
“Conflicts between the intruding Portuguese and the African Community start seriously after the murder of father Gonzalo da Silveira in 1561 by the Mutapa.
“This book pushes our history back by 400 years from 1890 in order to cover this aspect.”
The writer highlights an important aspect on the need to understand history.
In order for one to get a clear picture of a people’s journey, it should be told from the beginning.
With all the details, younger and future generations will understand the need to protect and defend the land.
Land belongs to locals and as such, they should never at any point betray efforts by their forefathers who have always defended it, as history proves.
“We have been a Nation treated as virtually without history before 1890 – the advent of the British South Africa Company,” writes Chigwedere.
Chigwedere chronicles how the Portuguese, after being attracted by rich minerals in the country, especially gold and fertile lands, sought to take over.
“The Portuguese started to establish prazos (private estates) in the interior, especially up the Zambezi Valley,” writes Chigwedere.
“These prazos were created by force of the lands wrested from African chiefs.
“The latter were simply driven off to look for new lands elsewhere.”
Through Chigwedere’s narratives, it is clear the whiteman has always bullied Africans.
What the Portuguese did was to be repeated by the British in the 19th Century.
Destroy, plunder Africa’s resources and ill-treat locals has been their way of dealing with Africans.
“The prazeros (estate owners) relied on slave labour for all their labour needs,” writes Chigwedere.
“Firstly they created private armies to protect their prazos.
“These were the private armies generally known as ‘machikunda’.
“They were also used to raid and capture slaves from neighbourhoods.
“In this way, the Portuguese adventurers very much disrupted Africa political and social systems and in that way, came into serious conflict with both the African political and religious leaders headed by Chaminuka and Murenga.”
Given the prevailing situation on the ground, the leaders knew something had to be done.
People were not happy.
They were marginalised.
It was time to get organised and defend their territory.
“Between 1670 and 1680, the chiefs in the affected regions — the north, north-east and east — had started to consult to find a common solution to the Portuguese menace,” writes Chigwedere.
“The verdict from Murenga was that the Portuguese should be driven out of the country and that their African allies should be invaded and deprived of their chiefdoms.”
With the instructions from Murenga clear, locals prepared to fight the enemy.
“The two provinces, Mbire and Guruuswa, formed a solid military alliance and in 1677, launched the invasions of the north into the Zambezi Valley and east beyond Manicaland, driving the Portuguese to the Indian Ocean and seizing the territories of the African chiefs who had supported them,” writes Chigwedere.
“The wars went on up to 1695.”
Victory against the Portuguese was just marking the beginning of many others to follow against those threatening to take away land from locals.
To this day, the fight continues and victory for indigenes remains the order of the day.


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