African Living Law and Reframing of GCA For Our Children

Published on 15th September 2020

From the point of view African Living Law (ALL), Zimbabwe has gone through several weeks of a misplaced propaganda war. Using social media mostly, opponents of the current dispensation created a scary scenario in which the Global Compensation Agreement (GCA) based on Section 295 of the current Constitution of Zimbabwe was construed as opening the way for the direct physical removal of most of the 300 000-to-400 000 resettled African households who benefited from the fast-track African land reclamation revolution.

On its part, the Government of Zimbabwe simply told the resettled masses and the general public not to worry, denying the allegation that the GCA would or could ever lead to the reversal of the African land revolution in Zimbabwe.

From the point of view of (ALL), the end result of this skewed controversy between Government and its detractors poses a real risk for our children because it helps in fact to hide real enduring issues of land tenure and sustainable development which will come to haunt future generations of MaDzimbahwe. 

Those real enduring issues are likely to remain hidden and to be forgotten, temporarily, unless the GCA is examined from the perspective of (ALL).

The exchanges between the Government and its detractors on the GCA revealed that Zimbabwe does not have its own home-grown think-tanks capable of offering multiple policy options in an advisory manner in situations where a discussion of matters touching on the national question is likely to be polarised, as happened over the GCA.

This instalment cannot exhaust the issues involved.  It aims only to start the process of reframing the GCA from an African living law perspective.

The first step in that framing perhaps is the obvious preliminary fact that drafters of the current Constitution of Zimbabwe ignored African Living Law and instead enshrined a colonial counterfeit called African Customary Law (ACL) in the section on ‘Traditional Leaders’.  Therefore, the Constitution can at best be viewed only as work-in-progress which still requires drastic changes (amendments).

The second step is to state the fact of African Relational Philosophy which assumes a relational (and not linear) approach to the issue of land in Zimbabwe. Linear perspective tends to focus on single issues and singular factors to the exclusion of related multiple factors. The relational approach emphasises nuanced relationships. 

In that relational approach the historical relationship between settler and mwana wevhu in Zimbabwe cannot be erased by an individual’s contract or by a paragraph arbitrarily inserted in our Constitution to exclude the African understanding.

If one takes the relational approach, it becomes obvious that resettled African farmers may never again be removed by a visible physical force from the land they reclaimed via the Second and Third Chimurenga, but they can be removed, and indeed, some have already been removed, through other means which are just as effective as blunt physical force.

For instance, the purpose of sanctions was to ensure that, given enough time, resettled land would become a liability instead of an asset for the beneficiaries. This is so because at least three factors must be secured in order to guarantee the real irreversibility of the African land reclamation movement and revolution in land tenure. 

These factors which need to be secured to guarantee irreversibility are: The occupation and control of the soil itself (physical space); the control of money (financing); and the control of time. 

Stability and sustainability in the relational African approach require the control of either a full dariro or a triad (mapfiwa) of factors.

Other features of African Living Law include the following:

A claim to be defending human rights is not the same thing as defending human life, human beings and communities.

Forgiveness or reconciliation cannot be initiated by those whose inheritance (nhaka) is not involved in the dispute or crime of forced removal and dispossession. Sponsors, donors and so-called stakeholders cannot and should not initiate, let alone offer or dictate terms of settlement of the disputed nhaka.

Like memory, African living law does not expire. It does not obey the linear sunset laws of Euro-American capitalism.  In other words in African living law of inheritance one cannot say 1890 or 1965 is too far back and should not be considered while 1997, 2000 and 2011 remain valid and should be considered for purposes of restitution.

Where the Euro-American concept of ‘human rights’ leads to a long list of alleged rights and contractual claims, the African Relational Philosophy focuses on human life, not human rights, which are now being defended by killing millions or by erasing African families and livelihoods as faceless ‘willing buyers’ or some other dismissive label. Where Euro-American human rights now allow millions of souls murdered in illegal wars to be erased as ‘collateral damage’ – not a single soul can be discarded as such in African law. Every life must be accounted for.

Where the unit to be defended in Euro-American rights is allegedly the individual and his contract, African living law defends the bloodline, the family, the individual and the means for sustaining them (nhaka). Here the land in question is the primary means. And it is at best disputable that 100 years of settler theft and occupation of African land in Zimbabwe resulted on balance in improvements for which Africans must pay.

The dispossession of a people or a person is treated in African law as an attack on relationships, on the bloodline and on life itself, especially when it involves land and other forms of heritage and inheritance which sustain life, communities and livelihoods.

The worst thing white settlers ever did in Zimbabwe was to build a society so racist and discriminatory that only white persons could give inheritance to their children and children’s children while Africans had to treat their children as a source of welfare and as funeral insurance because of the total dispossession of the African community.  What this has meant in the light of African law is that the spirits of African ancestors demand that African society must forever explain why its children now do not have any meaningful nhaka (inheritance and heritage) to pass on.

The blatant racial discrimination enshrined in settlerism now threatens to be extended via an arrangement, where whites again are being presented as the only ones who must be compensated, through an African Constitution, for past prejudice!

The importance of Autonomous Time

Zimbabwe rejected the Eurocentric and linear view of time and history in the following ways:

It embarked on a revolutionary African land reclamation movement contrary to the externally promoted roadmap which claimed that land revolutions were a thing of the past and inconsistent with a globalised civilisation.

It foregrounded the liberation war heroes and war veterans to spear-head land reclamation, contrary to the neoliberal language which kept repeating that ‘we are no longer in the bush’ in order to suggest that the liberation war veteran’s time had expired.

When the British Commonwealth was employed to stop the land revolution, Zimbabwe proudly left that Commonwealth at a time other African countries were applying to join.

When Britain, Europe and the US imposed illegal sanctions on the country, Zimbabwe acted in terms of its own sense of historical time to foreground its Look East Policy, based on the experience of the liberation war years.

Sanctions and the loss of control of Autonomous African Time

The illegal white sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe since 2001 compromised the land revolution and led to loss of control over autonomous African development time in the following ways:

Every year since 2002, Zimbabweans are gripped with suspense, wondering whether or not Europe and the US will lift the sanctions. During that time, the Rhodesian lobby and he opposition have agitated for the continuation of the same sanctions.

One effect of the same sanctions on the economy was to induce the mass emigration of mostly young Zimbabweans who now constitute what is called the Diaspora. These are young people who should have inherited and developed the reclaimed and resettled farms using new talent. Even if sanctions are lifted and Diasporans come home, Zimbabwe will have lost control of its own development trajectory.

Since most of the resettled war veterans and other Zimbabweans on the land were already advanced in age by the time of the fast-track resettlement programme, sanctions mean that these new farmers in 2020 are now getting too old to farm before they have had a chance to do their best. They have lost time fighting illegal sanctions instead of farming according to their original vision and plan.

Meanwhile, the sons and daughters of these resettled elders have either been forced to emigrate to the Diaspora or have been discouraged (through the effects of sanctions on the economy) from embracing and pursuing farming on resettled land which the Press and donors routinely call ‘disputed land’.

Meanwhile, Africans in South Africa and Namibia are taking a wait-and-see approach to land reform for fear of being punished by the West as happened to Zimbabwe. The gist of this scenario for the whole region is that the generation of war veterans may die with their vision and determination to fully reclaim the land and use it optimally. Many of their children will at best hesitate to follow them because of what white people and white countries have done to Zimbabwe. The African revolution’s succession time and plan will have been scuttled.

But the struggle is not over

But since real sustainable power rests on control of three bases –time, space and money – the struggle for full autonomy and sovereignty could not be completed only by acting in our own historical time and taking over the space constituting agricultural land.

The manipulation of money could get people moving involuntarily again. The imperialists understood that our currency was vulnerable and they understood that space meant more than just land or agricultural land. Therefore, a war was unleashed on the Zim dollar and the resistance against African land reclamation moved to cities, mines and factories. 

While the imperial financial agencies waged war on the Zim dollar, the sponsored regime change parties staged IMF riots and industrial stay aways in cities.

Historical illustration of the triad of time, space and money

The invaders of Zimbabwe, otherwise known as the Pioneer Column, started by occupying the land space of Zimbabwe.  Outside the areas of direct occupation the Africans continued to live within their own time and to work according to it.

The next step was for the invaders to impose hut tax which had to be paid in cash, controlled by the invaders. This began the process of controlling African time, as the Africans either sold livestock and grain to raise the cash for tax or they sought employment for the purpose of earning tax money.

Forced labour was also used when the invaders realised that they had inadequate liquidity to pay wages. The imposition of forced labour and forced taxes ensured the abolition of African currency or anything which served as an autonomous mode of exchange before colonisation. At first South African or British money was used, later to be replaced by Rhodesian setter currency.

These moves completed more or less the settlers’ control through the domination of space, time and money. It is obvious that with the triad of settler control in place, the African’s ability to come and go on their own land was now in the hands of the settlers:  people moving about to sell livestock and produce to raise cash; people moving from the reserves to seek white employment; people moving to white areas to fulfil forced labour obligations, and so on. At this stage, the remaining African spaces were now mere enclaves of the settler economy significantly called African Tribal Trust Lands.

Later on, a hierarchy of currencies was also introduced, with the British Pound sterling being superior to South African currency and to Rhodesian currency. These differences could also be used to induce movement of Africans across long distances to work on the Witwatersrand according to the rules of the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WENELA). This simply proved that there were other ways of removing Africans from their land apart from physical force.

In all these movements, just like in movements from a war-zone, migrants devalue themselves when they cannot stay and keep their space and historical time.  They become a sort of loot available for those who now control their time by controlling the new space, labour or other means of exchange.

The 2000-2009 crisis in Zimbabwe

To counter the Third Chimurenga, white settlers and their imperialist supporters compensated for their loss of control of agricultural space (land) by moving the struggle to cities and industry; by waging war on the Zim dollar; and by making all their ‘foreign currencies’ fabulously attractive in order to induce Zimbabweans to abandon their space and time and move to the so-called Diaspora in search of the temporarily superior currency where they would no longer be in charge of their own space or time use. Today, the Diaspora is quite big compared to resettled farmers at home.

The context of the GCA

The GCA in the context of the brief history explained here creates the possibility of at least three risks, which can lead to the reversal of the original purpose of the land revolution:

The first one is the risk of enlarging the national debt through the global fundraising of US$3,5 billion to compensate former white farmers. The conditionalities embedded in the funding agreement(s) could result in increased indebtedness for the people which would mean continued lack of investment in the 300 000-to-4000 000 resettled African households who are not included in the GCA and who are referred to by donors as people ‘occupying contested land’ and therefore not eligible for investment or aid.

The second risk arises from the direct differential financial consequences of investing US$3,5 billion compensation on the side of a white minority juxtaposed with an overwhelming African majority who have endured at least twenty years of sanctions aimed at making sure they fail as beneficiaries of the African land revolution. I have already demonstrated how such differential movements of money induce the involuntary movement of people. What we call the Diaspora today was not moved from here to Europe, US and elsewhere by physical force but by the manipulation of money.

The third risk is the moral hazard arising from scientific ecological evidence showing that the occupation of stolen African land by a white settler-minority in Rhodesia and later in Zimbabwe on balance can never yield a credible result called ‘improvements on the land’, let alone an objective acceptable basis for compensation.

Precisely because the real asset in the entire history of African struggle was and still is the land itself, the available  scientific evidence points to massive if not irreparable  damage inflicted upon African land by the former white settlers: including land degradation, hyacinth weed, chemical contamination, and the uses of animal diseases as weapons of war. 

On the surface, without going very far, there is a scientific paper by James Wilson, Walter Brediger, Thomas Albright and Julie Smith-Cagen titled, ‘Reanalysis of the anthrax epidemic in Rhodesia, 1978-1984’.

Besides these forms of damage, more than half a century of colonial tobacco farming caused massive damage to African soils.  Most of the chemicals used throughout those years are now banned worldwide.

Given the history outlined here briefly, the most surprising thing about the GCA is that the intended white beneficiaries, whether under BIPAs or not, have the guts to accept ‘compensation’.

This is an issue of heritage and history which our children on both sides are likely to face long after we are gone. African living law has a tendency to endure beyond the life spans of written documents. 

Otherwise Mbuya Nehanda would not be resurrecting on Julius Nyerere Way which for a long time had become King’s Way.

By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

Courtesy: The Patriot

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