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Back to the roots : A second land reform in the offing

10 Oct 2017 at 07:18hrs | Views
Whilst it is doubtless that the country's land reform program was a milestone in the achievement of political and economic freedom for the generality of Zimbabweans, it has emerged that there are still some loose ends in its historical and cultural perspective.
Ownership of territory has been a major cause of most conflicts world wide.

Without a land to call their own a people can not stand to be what they claim to be. Therefore the land reform program initiated by government nearly two decades ago was landmark in the replenishment of our national identity.

However, although the land acquisition program catered for the nation at large, it did not seem to resolve the burning issues of individual groups whose territorial identities today remain distorted by the tyrannical colonial land policy.

Whilst certain individuals own multiple farms, some of them under utilized, certain clans that participated in the First Chimurenga in a bid to thwart the settler's calamitous land expropriation are scattered homeless in a land where their ancestors died to regain.
The on going out cry by the Bepete clan for the restoration of their ancestral lands is a point to ponder in this respect.

"These were issues that should have been resolved under the auspices of the land reform program. Our elders before they died told us they once lobbied for the restoration of our ancestral land sometime after independence, but nothing came out of it," said the clan's spokesman, Joseph Bepete.

Straddled across the border over the the Vumba Mountains NeBepete's chiefdom originated well before the advent of colonialism. Chief Ne Bepete was one of the most powerful and warlike chiefs in the east of the Zimbabwean past, whose status was later diminished by the whiteman's coming.

Several antithesis have tried to raise the idea that Bepete was a minor kraal head under Chief Chirara who is found inside Mozambique. However truth can tell us that a minor village head can not be in control of the whole Vumba area and a part of Mozambique.
Mr Authur Chinaka, the clan's interlocutor said, "There is much light for my uncles. Yes theirs was not a village but a chiefdom. Chief Ne Bepete's prowess was self evident through his possession of the most fertile and humid land in the country at a time one would not do so without military muscle."

A military chiefdom, Bepete was known to be a major military ally of Chief Mutasa during the turbulent era of sporadic battles between Chiefs Mutasa and Makoni. Bepete and Mutasa had mutual respect for one another since they had inter- married.

And from common sense, during that era of low population density a kraal head could not have had raised an army for battle.

Chirara came to Bepete as an agent of Chief Makoni, but pretending to be begging for hunting in the [matsoka] thick rain forests as was Vumba during that time. His real intention however was to weaken Bepete whose military aid to Mutasa had to be abated.

The deception was later discovered but, it was after Chirara had already gained some foothold south-east of the chiefdom.

Another serious debacle came with the schism between Ne Bepete and his brother Ne Ngomasha who was in charge of the area towards present day Penhalonga.

The final blow to Bepete's chieftainship came with the arrival of the colonisers. Though he fought alongside other eastern chiefs with the recognition of Nehanda and Mkwati he also suffered the same fate as other defeated African fighting chiefs.

First, the Chiefdom was torn in two between the BSAC and the Portuguese. Sooner the British took over what remained on the Rhodesian side resulting in the scattering of family members across many areas of the country, especially in the eastern districts. This displacement sealed the fate of the Bepete Chieftainship. What remains on the Mozambiquean side is a fragment of the mighty that was corroded by imperialism.

In the 1930s the Wattle Company took over what had been part of Ne Bepete's wonderful land.
Now that Zimbabwe is free and its people are being empowered, Bepete's people are calling for the restoration of their ancestral lands.

According to the clan's spokesman, "How and where will we perform our rituals to appease our ancestors who lie in the Chiurairwe hills inside the Wattle plantations when we no longer have a land to call our own, a land that identifies with the whims of  our history," he queried.

"We are set to meet the District Administrator and table our query, and we expect a reply that appeals to our blood, failure of which the battle will finally end in the Vumba heights. Our clan has contributed a lot to the development of this country, we will only feel respected and recognized once our land is given to us. I talked to the Provincial Adminstrator some time ago and he acknowledged authenticity of our chieftainship, " he went on.
This year's agricultural season proved the country's land reform exercise a success following a bumber maize harvest realized under  favourable weather condtions and the precision of government's Command Agriculture and the Presidential Inputs Scheme.

However this success should not exceedingly blur the actual potential that Zimbabwean agriculture has in store.

The land reform program still has to traverse another mileage for our people to extract the best in terms of productivity.

There is still some land lying idle in various parts of the country, and there are still some people, apart from the Bepete clan, who are still in need of some land to eke out a subsistent living.

There are many social units across the country, units whose maintenance would promote the purity of our national identity, that were not recognized during the land reform project.
 For whom was the land redistribution program meant? Wasn't it for the people who had lost their land during colonial occupation?

Some sense of protection should have been given to these people, these familial groups and clans that were directly and  bitterly affected by the crude settler land robbery.

The land revolution shouldn't have been used as a platform for the emergence of modern day land barons who own multiple farms whilst others pay the price by not having something at least that defines historical identity such as land, after all  in their own native country.
After the acclaimed success of the land revolution no one should now live 'homeless', detarched from the roots, without which one can not call self. Not in a free Zimbabwe.

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Source - Teddie Bepete
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