Whose Land is Ours, Anyway?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008 

By Rejoice Ngwenya 

Rejoice NgwenyaJustice for Agriculture [JAG] is a remnant representative group of commercial farmers. They have just published results of a report on human rights violations attributable to the Zimbabwe government’s constitutionally unjust and highly politicised expropriation of farms owned by white Zimbabwean citizens. 

This places the land debate back on the national podium. Of greater interest is that a SADC tribunal ruled that Robert Mugabe’s Fast Track Land Reform had more sinister than noble motives, a case vindicated by the total failure of so-called ‘resettled’ farmers to mitigate the devastating food deficits that have thrown Zimbabwe onto the brink of disaster.    

Since year 2000, ZANUpf apologists have routinely argued that the indigenous Shona and Ndebele are the original ‘owners’ of the land that Mugabe parcelled out willy-nilly to party stalwarts. Among these are misguided intellectuals who completely choose to ignore that African history is clear on that around AD 1000, according to Wikipedia, Bantu tribes began to expand into Bushmen occupied areas thus pushing them to more inhospitable areas such as the Kalahari Desert. This source continues: “Nearby there are the Murewa Caves and other sites with rock paintings of the San. These paintings are at least 1000 years old.

Bantu-speaking farmers, either Khoisan settlers or Iron Age migrants from the north, were the first occupants of the Great Zimbabwe site in the south of the country. Between 500 and 1000AD, the Gokomere (a Bantu group) enslaved and absorbed San groups in the area.” Thus when one calls for a complete reversal of this sick political joke called land reform; it seems to be compatible not only with the SADC Tribunal judgement, but also a Botswana court ruling. Wikipedia says: “In December 13, 2006, the Bushmen won a historic ruling in their long-running court case against the government. By a 2-1 majority, the court said the refusal to allow the Basarwa into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) without a permit was "unlawful and unconstitutional." It also said that the Bushmen were "forcibly and wrongly deprived of their possessions" by the government. Wikipedia has more to say: “The original Shona occupants of Zimbabwe are all embodied under the umbrella name “Hungwe”. The conquerors of the Hungwe fall under the blanket name “Mbire”. It is believed that it was the Mbire who were the founders of the Mutapa Empire as well as the Rozvi Empire which was destroyed by the various Nguni tribes that passed through the land of Zimbabwe during the Mfecane wars. Namely, the Ndebele tribe, who now occupy southwest Zimbabwe and the Shangani tribe in the southeast of Zimbabwe. The Hungwe settled in Zimbabwe for probably two to three hundred years before the Mbire arrived.” “ The Mbire took over the land of Zimbabwe around somewhere between 1000 and 1050 AD. Their invasion from across the Zambezi River marked the beginning of the dynasty of the Mbire Empire which is commonly known as Mutapa Empire (state). The Mutapa Empire or Mbire Empire covered most pasts of present day Zimbabwe. The empire incorporated most of the whole of Mozambique, South of the Zambezi River and north of the Sabi River down to the sea. Some of the present day South Africa tribes are known to have been segmented from the Shona (best known ones are the Venda and Lovendu). The expansion of Mbire Empire, include the following Shona tribes Barwe, Manyika, Ndau, Korekore, Shangwe, and Guruuswa. The Mwanamutapa Empire, headed by a ruler of the same name, was founded about 1420 among the Karanga people and was centred at Great Zimbabwe. By the mid 1440’s, the empire included almost the entire Zimbabwean plateau and extensive parts of what is now Mozambique.”
Wikipedia concludes the section on Shona by noting: “The Mutapa empire started its decline around 1500 AD, power struggles among the Mbire resulted in fall of the Mutapa state and the founding of the Rozvi Empire in the South West of present day Zimbabwe. Further splits resulted in the fragmentation of these empires, which led to the innumerable autonomous Shona tribes found in present day Zimbabwe.” It is from this era that ZANUpf chooses to endorse land ownership, an angle that focuses more on the later conquest of the Shona by the Pioneer Column in the 1890’s than the obliteration of the Bushmen by the Bantus of the pre-Hungwe generation.

The Zimbabwean Ndebele, says Wikipedia, enter the fray in the mid 1800s: “In 1821, Mzilikazi a Nguni military commander under Tshaka, king of the Zulu, came into conflict with Tshaka and then fled the Zulu domain, migrating with his followers first to near Basutoland (now Lesotho). … After his further defeat at the hands of the European settlers of the Transvaal (South African Republic), Mzilikazi moved northward, and invaded what is Southern Zimbabwe today and established the Matebele Kingdom, ultimately settling in Matabeleland (Zimbabwe); they subjugated the surrounding Shona or Mashona. Mzilikazi’s successor, Lobengula, extended the tribe’s power, absorbing Sotho, Shona, and other extraneous tribal elements… These are Bantu-speaking people of south-western Zimbabwe who live primarily around the city of Bulawayo.”

My point is that when some ‘nice’ white citizens, human rights activists and to a great extent, moderates of both formations of the Movement for Democratic Change [MDC] advance a case of non-reversibility of Mugabe’s land expropriation, they have an eye for reconciliation. But on my part, the banditry that was inflicted on innocent citizens by a political party seeking to renew its life in the name of ‘land reform’ is a compelling motive for reversibility. Perhaps, just perhaps, land gurus like Dr Sam Moyo could have proffered a dozen and one methods of civilised land reform, but now Zimbabwe is faced with five thousand citizens who were abused, raped, killed or exiled. By a simple admission that this land is not as mine as it was not theirs, I put myself in a frame of, as JAG says: “Full and fair compensation/restitution for all those adversely affected by the so-called “Land Reform” Programme.”
Adopting Cecil John Rhodes expansionist and conquest mentality to please cronies can accrue Robert Mugabe pan Africanist udulation and applause, but the record is that he has meted retributive rather than equitable justice. The Shona and Ndebele are just as guilty of obliterating an ethnic grouping as ZANUpf’s land reformists. The Bushmen have a strong case against us, hence I concur with JAG’s accurate conclusion that: “The promotion of national unity in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector [is necessary] in order to resurrect Zimbabwe’s agricultural industry.”