The Struggle For Land in Zimbabwe (1890 – 2010)


In 1895, the remaining Ndebele cattle were enumerated and out of the realistic estimate of over 200 000 since the beginning of the war in 1893, only 74 600 cattle remained, writes Dr Felix Muchemwa in his book The Struggle For Land in Zimbabwe (1890 – 2010) that The Patriot is serialising.

THE number of cattle looted by European settlers and the British South Africa Company (BSAC) has been variously estimated from a minimum of 125 470 to a maximum of 280 000 cattle.
The BSAC official grand total of Ndebele cattle at the conclusion of the war in January 1894 was stated as 125 470 cattle and the figure totally contradicts the initial estimate of 200 000 given by the High Commissioner, Loch, in Cape Town, on December 21 1893, when he informed the Secretary of State that: “the number of cattle belonging to the King in Matabeleland, (to) be variously estimated from 200 000 upwards.”
Captain Goold-Adams, who was in charge of all ‘loot’ cattle at Inyathi, estimated that: “There were in the country 200 000 head of cattle.” (Stigger P, 1980: pp.32-33)
It is possible this is the figure that must have informed the High Commissioner’s estimate.
Among various other authors, A.J. Wills (1985) and A. Phimister (1988) also give a maximum figure of 200 000 cattle.
Stigger gives a maximum figure of 240 000 cattle and Ranger (1967) gives a maximum figure of 280 000 cattle immediately before the war.
With the majority of authors estimating around 200 000, the BSAC figure of 125 470 ‘loot’ cattle as given by the Administrator of Salisbury to London, in an official report in June 1897 comes across as part of the BSAC’s concealment of the actual number of Ndebele cattle the company looted in Matabeleland between 1893 and 1896. (Stigger,1980: p.43)
Its use by many historians has led to disinformation and inaccurate calculations such as the often quoted ‘two thirds’ Ndebele cattle lost to the Company. (Gariake and Proctor,1987: p.98)
In 1895, the remaining Ndebele cattle were enumerated and out of the realistic estimate of over 200 000 since the beginning of the war in 1893, only 74 600 cattle remained.
Of this number, 1 100 cattle were put aside for police rations.
40 930 cattle were redistributed back to the Ndebele people, but only for safe-keeping for the benefit of milk only.
Of the remaining 32 870 cattle, 8 850 cattle were assigned to Sir John Willoughby, whose managing director was Captain Heyman, chairman of the Loot Committee and also, member of the Land Commission of 1894.
Of the remainder, 17 020 cattle were assigned to farmers in Matabeleland and 7 000 cattle were assigned to farmers in Mashonaland. (Stigger,1976:p.49)
By 1895, Matabeleland was already holding 15 000 Ndebele ‘loot’ cattle on European farms. (BSAC Directors Report 1894 -5)
The addition of 17 020 cattle brought the total figure of cattle on European farms in Matabeleland to 32 020.
Meanwhile, the Land Commission of 1894 had in its final report recommended that the BSAC should ‘acquire Dominion’ over all Ndebele cattle and that ‘No injustice would be done to them by the dominion being vested in the Company. (Stigger,1980:p.39)
As a result, the BSAC had retained legal rights over all cattle in Matabeleland under the Matebeleland Cattle Proprietory Regulations 1895, and Government Notice No. 49, BSAC, Government Gazette No 26 VI 1895 published on June 26 1895.
This meant the Ndebele were left without a single cow of their own.
The BSAC’s acquired dominion over all Ndebele cattle also confirmed the 40 930 cattle redistributed back to the Ndebele people were purely for herding and safe-keeping.
European settlement in Matabeleland
As already seen in the last chapter, Matabeleland had been conquered dramatically and painfully.
Yet, ironically the news of the seizure and destruction was not received with celebration by the Shona who, over the previous 35 years had borne the brunt of Ndebele raids.
Compared to the post-conquest events unfolding in Matabeleland, those raids now appeared like dancing parties.
The Shona people now realised, after the conquest of Matabeleland, that, though highly resented, Ndebele raids had had the limited objectives of cattle rustling that left Shona territories completely intact.
By contrast, the European conquest of Matabeleland was total and carried with it unlimited objectives on land, property and people (both Ndebele and Shona).
Both suffered equally from the white settler invasion.
Their land was now completely taken over by the invaders.
They no longer had any legal right to their land.
They were now ‘tenants’ on ‘locations’ in white settler farms, subject to paying ‘rent’ and ‘hut tax’.
Headman Faku later graphically summarised this position to Rhodes during the course of the First Chimurenga, when he complained that his people had, ‘no longer any land they can call their own’. (Palmer,1977:p.64).
With Lobengula gone, the conquest of Matabeleland also gave white settlers courage to live on the land they had pegged in both Matabeleland and Mashonaland.
Ex-volunteer farms mushroomed within the 60-mile radius (96,5km) of Bulawayo which the Ndebele people had lost in the early months of occupation. (Stigger,1976:p.42)
By early January 1894, most land claims north of Bulawayo had been registered and by May, most had been occupied, starting from near Bulawayo, up to Shiloh Farm which was granted to a Mrs H. Thomas, widow of a pioneer missionary.
To the south-west of Shiloh Farm lay a Mr W. Howard’s Galetu’s Kraal farm while Arthur Rhodes held several farms on the headwaters of the Bembesi River by March 1894. (Stigger,1976:p.41)
South of Bulawayo, much of the land was occupied by mining and land development syndicates.
Syndicate representatives had been able to peg land claims without using the Victoria Agreement from April 26 1894 and by August 1894, the number of such development syndicates in Matabeleland had risen to over 200. (Stigger,1971: p.23)
Prominent among the development syndicates were the Matabele Gold Reefs and Estates Company which held a total of 221 000 acres of land, 775 gold claims and 1 200 cattle and the Mashonaland Development and Exploration Syndicate Ltd. The Matabele Gold Reefs and Estates Company occupied 250 square miles of land on the Umzingwane River valley.
The Mashonaland Development and Exploration Syndicate Ltd which was managed by Han Sauer, who was also the local manager of the Rhodesia Exploration Syndicate ‘which initially controlled four blocks (of land) running into very many thousands of acres of land and held 1 600 cattle by March 1895’. One of the blocks of land was the 81 000-acre Sauerdale, which was quickly disposed to Rhodes. (Stigger,1971:p. 21)


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