Land: The basis of nationhood
By Godwills Masimirembwa
LAND is the basis of nationhood, life, and earthly existence. We live on it. We get buried in it.
It is from land that we eat and drink. It is on land that we build houses, schools, hospitals, factories and other structures too many to mention. It is from land that we derive our very humanness.
It is on land that the colonialists found us as Zimbabweans tilling our land, hunting on our land, enjoying our freedom, fighting our fights on our land, in short, living on our land.
It is on this land that the colonialists fought us, and by dint of superior weapons, conquered us and violently dispossessed us of our land.
It was on this land that the colonialists looted our cattle and coerced us into exploited labour.
It was on this land that the colonialists started building houses, mining, agriculture, building
factories, establishing farms, cities and towns.
It was on this land that the colonialists perpetuated the most horrendous forms of injustice, cruelty and oppression against the black people of Zimbabwe.
It was from this land and on this land that black Zimbabweans resisted colonialism, strategised on how to dislodge colonialism, fought resistance battles against colonialists.
It was on this land that black Zimbabweans marched to neighbouring lands and flew to friendly faraway lands in search of arms of war, ideological enhancement and other forms of support to enable them to execute the armed struggle on these our Zimbabwean soils.
It was from the foreign lands that the children of Zimbabwe marched to Zimbabwean soils and waged a bloody, bitter and protracted armed struggle to dislodge colonialism.
It was on foreign lands that Rhodesian forces massacred the children of Zimbabwe, in refugee camps.
It is on foreign lands and Zimbabwean soils that thousands of Zimbabwean freedom fighters and refugees lie buried today. What they fought for and died for was the crown; the crown that is called the soils of Zimbabwe, the landmass that is called Zimbabwe. They did not die in order to occupy a house, a factory or any infrastructure on the land.
They fought and died in pursuit of one primary objective, that of repossessing the land. That there was infrastructure on Zimbabwean soils at the time of independence was just accidental.
The fight was for the land. Even if there had been no improvements on the land, the children of Zimbabwe would have taken up arms and waged the same fight against settler colonialists.
What infrastructure was there when the First Chimurenga was fought? Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi did not fight in order to occupy a house in Borrowdale, Highlands, Chisipite or a factory in Workington, for these were not there. What they fought for was this, our land.
Houses, factories, roads, bridges and all other forms of improvements may disappear, and indeed the September 11 2001 destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York, USA, was a dramatic visualisation of how infrastructure is temporary, here today gone tomorrow, how ancient civilisations may have disappeared, but the land remains, and indeed our Zimbabwean soils will remain in perpetuity as a heritage to black Zimbabweans, even if all the improvements disappear. With land you have the capacity to fight another battle, to rebuild and effect other improvements.
Thus, the fight between Britain and us is about land, not the infrastructure on the land.
Thus the fight between us and Britain is a fight in which we justly seek to continue to defend, protect and preserve our heritage, this our land, and yet on the other hand Britain’s unjust fight is to enable its kith and kin to continue to illegally possess our land despite being vanquished in the war of liberation.
It is a fight between a just and an unjust cause. We stand and fight for justice. Britain stands and fights for injustice.
Do not be told lies that the fight is about alleged abuses of human rights. Where was the Western world’s conscience when we were under the yoke of their brothers and sisters, when our land was crying out for freedom?
Do not be told lies about alleged lack of freedom of the Press, of assembly, of association or whatever other freedoms one may think of.
The fight is about land, for without land there can be no Press, no place of assembly, no association, nay, no earthly life.
That human rights must be respected is a truism recognised and protected by our Constitution.
But the traditionally talked about human rights are not the base. The base is our land. Land is the foundation of human rights.
Human rights, apart from land, are part of the superstructure, jealously guarded in times of peace, heavily proscribed during emergencies and times of war. Read any constitution of any country in the world.
But peace or no peace, war or no war, this our land will be the basis of the peace or the war. Peace is enjoyed while living on the land. War is fought on the land. Land is the key to life. Without it we are nothing as a people. We become vassals on our land orin other people’s land.
With land under our control, we determine the use it is to be put to.
With land under our control, we determine who invests on it.
With land under our control, we determine our destiny.
With land we are rich, for we have an opportunity to farm and feed ourselves.
With land we are rich, for we have an opportunity toinvest, explore, develop, improve and move from one level of development to another.
So land is the beginning. Constitutions take it for granted that the land belongs to the framers of the constitution, for without land, what is the relevance of a constitution? But because we were once conquered and violently dispossessed of the basis of our life, our victory constitution had of necessity to address the repossession of this, our land.
I hear some call the repossession of our land, land invasions, chaotic land resettlement and other demeaning descriptions. I hear some talk about willing buyer, willing seller. The truth is, land invasion was when settler colonialists violently dispossessed us of our land. There was no willing seller. There was no buyer. There was a thief, a dispossessor and a looter.
Stolen property, property obtained through armed robbery, remains the property of the dispossessed, no matter how long the dispossession. The thief, the robber and his accomplices cannot cry foul when the rightful owner repossesses his/her property, even by violent means. It is not for the thief or robber to define the method or manner in which repossession must be effected.
A thief or robber cannot seek compensation for having improved the stolen property. A thief steals a car; gets it repaired or serviced, then demands compensation when caught and dispossessed of the ill-gotten loot!
Our land was stolen. Our labour was used to improve the land. We fought the thieves, the illegal settlers, defeated them, and repossessed our land. The matter should have ended there. But we paid and continue to pay compensation for improvements.
To this writer, compensation for improvements on stolen land was and remains a national and international public relations exercise, for settler thieves and their successors in illegitimate and unjust title did not and do not deserve compensation.
To my brothers and sisters in the cities and towns, in the low and high-density suburbs, let there be no confusion on fundamental issues. Yes we need food, but let us not betray our land for the sake of a loaf of bread, a packet of sugar, a packet of maize meal.
In the face of adversity contrived and perpetuated by our former masters and their accomplices, let us remain resolute in defence of our land.
Let us soldier on with the little on our tables, seeking always to defeat the enemy, improve our lot, and knowing always that our just fight will bring joy in the morning.
The acquisition of farming equipment by the Government of Zimbabwe for distribution to resettled farmers, the rehabilitation of irrigation facilities, the funding of agriculture, the pursuit of a just and equitable industrial and commercial shareholding dispensation is premised on the fact that the land is ours. Without land all these endeavours would be meaningless.
Some among us cannot stand the heat from neo-colonialists, baulk from the slightest hunger pangs, and so like the children of Israel in the desert, are demanding to go back to Egypt where they thought food was in abundant supply.
Some in our midst want to go back to Rhodesia where there was a mirage of plenteous living. There was suffering in Rhodesia. The land had been stolen and we were made slaves in our own land. We were fed crumbs from the master’s table.
Let those in the know redouble their efforts and resolve to teach our lost brothers and sisters and bring them back into the fold. The fold of the spirit of nationalism, patriotism and the defence of our motherland, this, our Zimbabwe. We must not tire to repeat the words: "Land is the economy, the economy is land." Land is the author and finisher of our earthly life. You can only improve that which you have. We now have our land. Let us defend it, as we improve it.
The land is our heritage. We owe it to ourselves,today, tomorrow and to posterity to guard and protect it. As we prepare for the 2008 harmonised elections, let us hold fast and steady to the truth — that economic suffering is transient, but our land is our heritage, compelling us to reject those who want to turn back the clock of time to colonial days, but retain in political office a political party that fought for and brought back the stolen crown, this our land.
Why Africa should support Mugabe
Tue, 28 Aug 2007
There is nothing more exhilarating and empowering than a change of consciousness. The biggest reason for the lack of development in Africa has been the poor leadership on the continent and Western economic interest. The case of Zimbabwe is making waves right now because of the awakening of the conscience of the leadership.
Regardless of what one thinks of Mugabe what happens to Zimbabwe will set the tone for Namibia, South Africa, and Mozambique when it comes to Land reform and redistribution of resources from the white minority to the black majority.
The international assault against Zimbabwe for Mugabe returning land occupied by white farmers to indigenous Africans is unjustified because the real victims have been the Zimbabwean people. No emphasis is made of the billions owed to Zimbabwe by Britain. Independence means that Zimbabwe has the right to decide what to do with her resources since Britain did not honor the terms and conditions of the Lancaster agreements.
The modus operandi now on the continent is that African governments must compensate white farmers for "their" land, but no mention whatsoever of compensating Africans for the stolen land, resources, and national treasures. Families have been displaced, communities were turned into laborer camps, and the fruit of the land is still being enjoyed by the minority whites.
Land and resources in Africa were not bought or negotiated for, they was taken at gun point and if the original inhabitants want them back now they have to pay for them. Any mention of reparations by an African leader is met with hash objection and criticism, he will be vilified and seen as a militant.
The rationale for extending colonialism and apartheid in Africa was because Europeans argued that Blacks were not intelligent and capable of handing a modern political state. Any government that tried to serve her interest against the interest of the West was sabotaged and replace with a dictator that maintained Western economic interest.
Why did we not see this kind of backlash against the regimes of Mobutu, Eyedama, Biya, Boigny, and others, instead the West was silent just like they were with Mugabe when he protected their interest but turned on him when he woke up and decided to collect money owned to Zimbabwe by Britain.
The support of African dictators by Western power serves two points. First, it maintains their dominance and control of Africa’s resources. The West will not make the mistake they made from 1820 to 1885 when they decided to trade fairly with Africa after the abolition of slavery.
Rubber, cotton, palm oil, and ivory that used to be taken for nothing had to be bought at market prices, this was crippling the European economy while Africa experienced a period of economic resurgence and immense wealth distribution.
When they could not afford to but the raw materials needed to fuel the industrial revolution, they simply decided to invade and colonize the continent. Secondly, these failed African states perpetuate the stereotype of the African being inferior and legitimize the meddling into African affairs by non-Africans.
We need to support Zimbabwe because the success of her means that an African state can survive and function without the aid or interference of the West. This is important in dispelling stereotypes and popularly held by racist beliefs about the inferiority of the Black man and his inability to organize and govern himself (with disregard to history).
Success will also mean that other African regimes maintaining Western interest at the expense of their people will not be tolerated, lessons learned and policy implemented in Zimbabwe could be duplicated in other countries that are facing similar situations. Most of all, the intangible feeling of pride and brotherhood will flow throughout the continent.
Progress has been made in Zimbabwe since the assault and economic sabotage began from Britain and her allies. Debts to IMF, World Bank, and commonwealth have been paid off, new tractors arrived in time before the raining season, construction and economic policies are in place.
It is important for everyone to have realistic expectations about how soon we will begin to see changes from policies that have been implemented. Failure is not an option at this point and demonizing Mugabe will not help the situation, we need to do whatever it takes to support the Zimbabwean people during this period of transformation. In the words of Sekou Toure of Guinea who was vilified after defying the French ‘the Guinean people preferred poverty in freedom than to riches in slavery’.
George Nyan is a Consultant with Africa Political & Economic Strategic Center and writes from Nigeria