Grievances that emerged after colonial occupation Injustices of the colonial era catalysed the liberation struggle. Zimbabweans gathered to celebrate 44 years of Independence at Murambinda B High School, Buhera last week

Pathisa Nyathi Correspondent

AS we continue to celebrate our independence, it is time to reflect and take stock of colonial conditions in the aftermath of conquest.

At the same time, we should at all times, remain mindful and cognisant of what Africans lost to keep the development trajectory on course and in focus.

When that is done, we may avoid the temptation of missing, through sins of either omission or commission or both, the temptation to deviate from the original principles and values that thousands of sons and daughters of the soil sacrificed their lives for.

Colonisation was driven and powered by insatiable economic lust. Africa’s natural resources, in particular minerals such as diamonds and gold were in great demand.

The Scramble for Africa, actually the scramble for African wealth, began in earnest when in Germany, the Berlin Conference was convened to iron out colonising modalities with a view to avoiding conflicts and quarrels among European colonisers.

In the case of Zimbabwe, the colonising authority was the British South Africa Company that had been created by arch-imperialist Cecil John Rhodes.

In 1890 Mashonaland was invaded and occupied. The feverish search for gold commenced.

However, the gold was not found in sufficient quantities as had been painted by writer Rider Haggard. So, the famed King Solomon’s mines were located in Matabeleland.

By the month of July in 1893, an excuse was found in what has come to known as the July Incidents that culminated in the attack on and demise of the Ndebele State.

In Matabeleland, reserves were carved out where the defeated Ndebele people were to be settled.

In 1894, a commission was set up to identify marginal lands not fit for white occupation. The identified reserves were the Shangani, comprising Nkayi and Lupane.

The other reserve was the Gwayi, west of the Gwayi River.

The colonial condition was one that sought to oppress and repress Africans.

In 1896 Imfazo II was staged where the Ndebele and later, in July, the Shona fought the colonists with a view to reverse the conditions to which they were being subjected.

Guns were no match for the more modern weapons that the white colonists had at their disposal. It would take several decades of trade union, nationalist and the armed struggles to reverse the colonial state with its endemic oppression and repression of blacks.

There were urban and rural conditions that provided for the initiation of and impetus for the struggle to attain independence and freedom. In this article, we shall confine our thrust to the rural grievances in rural areas.

Soon after conquest. Africans, hitherto occupying prime land, had their lands alienated and taken over by whites.

This land dispossession was accentuated by the shift in emphasis from preoccupation with mineral exploitation to agriculture.

More and more land had to be availed and the answer to that was vicious land alienation that ensued.

Africans were evicted and resettled in marginal lands with low rainfall, poor soils, and sometimes hot temperatures and infested with the tsetse fly. In the Shangani Reserve in particular, there was the plant known as umkhawuzane, that when cattle consumed, died.

Racism and the colour bar permeated all policies and all facets of life in Southern Rhodesia. In due course, the Land Apportionment ACT (LAA), was promulgated in 1930. Land was to be racially divided. The Native Purchase Areas (NPA’s), imithengazwe were established, in some cases to serve as buffer zones for land-based white commercial enterprises.

Wild animals were not to be spared either, national parks were created for their occupation. In the Matobo National Park that was created in about 1951, there was spirited resistance from Sofasonke, a resistance movement led by Nqabe Tshuma. They even solicited assistance from trade union movements such as those led by Masotsha Ndlovu and Benjamin Burombo. Their resistance was quashed and Nqabe went to live at Nkanini in the Mbongolo lands.

All these moves resulted in increased pressure on the land for both agriculture and grazing. The Land Husbandry ACT (LHA) was enacted in 1951, resulting in increased rural grievances when their cattle herds were culled. Peasants perceived livestock as sources of wealth and their sustenance.

Peasants were forced to create contour ridges in their crop fields so as to minimise soil erosion and retain soil moisture. All these measures led to heightened rural grievances that, in conjunction with urban ones, spawned the development of nationalist movements that began demanding better treatment and ultimately demanding freedom and independence. When independence was denied, the only option open to Africans was recourse to the armed liberation struggle that culminated in the granting of independence on April 18, 1980.

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