Colonialism: How the British Reneged On Land Agreement With Zimbabwe

Thatcher Mugabe Land Agreement
It was British abandonment of their legal responsibilities that led to the land crisis in Zimbabwe

AFRICANGLOBE – I watched the recent BBC Hard Talk programme in which presenter Stephen Sackur raised a number of issues, among them land, with Zimbabwe’s Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

According to Sackur, the British must have a say on what the people of Zimbabwe do with their land, more than 30 years after the Union Jack was brought down at Rufaro Stadium in Mbare by Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne.

As a nation, Zimbabwe will not meddle in the political, economic or social affairs of Britain. The British must take a leaf from our own foreign policy. The point is, the British are to blame for the controversy surrounding the land issue in this country.

Land, not racism, was the raison d’etre of the liberation struggle that began in 1896.

As the former colonial criminals, the British promised, but later reneged on the important issue of compensating Zimbabweans for their land that had been stolen from them by the British in 1890.

Any attempt to resolve the land issue that ignores the historical fact that the British were responsible for the expropriation of land from the people of Zimbabwe, the legitimate owners, will not bring the matter to rest. One wrong, they say, cannot atone for another.

The Lancaster House Constitution, drawn in London in 1979 and brokered by the British left one key word – restitution. This is the act of compensation for loss or injury by reverting as far as possible to the position before such injury occurred.

But the British assured the Zimbabwe that they would offer money to buy land to resettle landless Zimbabweans.

Germany paid millions to Israel to atone for the gassing of Jews at Auschwitz. In Australia, the native Aborigines won their case and have been paid for land that they lost to the White invaders. A similar development took place with the Maoris in New Zealand.

Nearer home, in Namibia, the Hereros threatened to take their case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, until the German government officially apologised for the 1904 genocide. No financial restitution was made officially despite the demands made by the Hereros when the 110th anniversary of the genocide was commemorated.

But the German government upped its financial assistance to its former territory because of this particular case.

The land problem in Zimbabwe stems from the imperialist and blood thirst of Cecil John Rhodes, the British genocidal maniac and buccaneer capitalist who wanted no other flag, besides the Union Jack in central Africa. In fact, his long term dream was to hoist the Union Jack from Cape Town in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt.

After the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in South Africa in 1885, there was the inevitable gold rush. Many White infiltrators, the British, Portuguese, Dutch and even the Americans were hoping that somewhere “up north” there was another gold rich belt like the Rand.

The land up north was Mashonaland and Matabeleland- what is now Zimbabwe.

Many White invaders trekked to Bulawayo to negotiate with the Ndebele King, Lobengula for concessions to mine in Mashonaland and Matabeleland. They included hunters and missionaries, notably Rev John S Moffat, the son of Robert Moffat who in 1859 had set up the first mission station at Inyati for the London Missionary Society.

The first document through which Lobengula gave his land away was the Moffat Treaty, signed on 11 February 1888. Essentially, it was meant to cement relations between the Ndebele under Lobengula and the British. Unknowingly, Lobengula, who was illiterate, worked through a White interpreter and undertook to make no treaties with anyone else and not to give land to anyone else without the consent of the British, who had an office in South Africa.

Zimbabwe Land Reform White Farmers
Before Zimbabwe’s land reform some White settlers owned land the size of small countries

This treaty, initiated by Rhodes, was signed by Rev John S Moffat and Lobengula, who put his thumb print on the document.

Eight months later, another group of sly British criminals, Charles Dunnel Rudd of Kimberly, Rochfort Maguire of London and Francis Robert Thomson of Kimberly visited Lobengula.

They sealed a land deal, the Rudd Concession on 30 October 1888.

This document gave the three men and their associates and companies the right to mine but no right to hold land or to govern the country. Yet, ultimately, this is what they ended up doing under the British flag.

Lobengula never received the promised 180 sterling pounds every month, the 1000 Martini – Henry Breech loading rifles and the hundred thousand rounds of ammunition and the steam gun boat for the Zambezi.

The White signatories reneged on their word and the document turned out to be a sham. Thus the Zimbabweans were robbed of their mother land by the White invaders.

Lobengula, it must be noted, didn’t appreciate the enormity of those documents. At best, he was overawed by the British, their guns, their sweet sugar and their looking glass, among other novelties.

But the colonial story did not end there. In October 1889, Rhodes cunningly obtained the Royal Charter from the British government to secure full control of Mashonaland and Matabeleland.

Part Two