The purposes of the Land Husbandry Act, 1951, were:

(1) To regulate conservation measures and ensure good farming practices;
(2) to relate the stocking of each area to its carrying capacity;
(3) to allocate grazing rights to individuals;
(4) to redistribute arable land into compact and economic units, and to register each individual’s holding of land.

No one – black or white – has ever seriously denied A that the Land Husbandry Act was logical and necessary. In the words of Mr George Kay, former Professor of Geography at the University of Rhodesia, ‘deterioriation of the African areas … (had) reached alarming proportions by 1950’.1 M. L. Rifkind described the Act as ‘one of the most progressive measures attempted in Africa’.2 And yet it failed.

This failure may be put down to several factors:

(a) A lack of recognition of the communal nature of the tribal system, and of the ‘intricate network of relationships’3 which spring there from;
(b) many individuals were deprived by the Act of their right to land,4 but were not given any compensatory form of social security within the urban community;
(c) the Chiefs in many cases resented the loss of their authority to allocate land to individuals;
(d) to the rural African, cattle mean wealth – and de-stocking can easily be portrayed as a lessening of that wealth.

With so many causes for suspicion it is perhaps not surprising that, from 1957 onwards, the ANCongress (and later the NDP and ZAPU) made use of the Land Husbandry legislation as a major weapon to arouse resentment against the authorities. As George Nyandoro later said: “It was the best recruiter Congress ever had.”5

1 Rhodesia: A Human Geography (University of London Press, p. 86, 1970).
2 Rhodesian History, Vol. 3, 1972, p. 59.
3 G. Kay, p. 88.
4 ‘By 1959 there were 102 000 families entitled to, but without, land’ (G. K. Garbett, The Land Husbandry Act of Southern Rhodesia in African Agrarian Systems).
5 Quoted by M. L. Rifkind (Rhodesian History, Vol. 3, 1972).