Land Issues

15 02 2008

Fabion is a decent guy and also one of my foremen. I think I have mentioned him in this blog before;  he is also a genuine warvet (war veteran), is totally reliable and useful as a driver. So I was somewhat taken aback when he came to me at the beginning of this month and said that he wanted to leave.  On closer questioning it emerged that it was all about a land issue.

When his father died he left the children a plot of land in the Rushinga area of north eastern Zimbabwe. He owned the land by dint of occupation as it was land allocated him by the district chief so he did not have title to it. Fabion’s siblings were not interested and he has farmed it ever since with the help of a youngster to keep an eye on things when he is absent. He has a few goats and cows and crops it in the summer as it does not have any irrigation.

This rainy season has been especially heavy in the northern regions and one of the cows got bogged down in the mud. Instead of helping out the neighbours simply ignored it whilst it died over a period of a week (the youngster had been called off on another errand by his father). I mentioned that community spirit seemed to be entirely absent.  Fabion agreed and a couple of weekends ago when he went back to see what he could sort out, the area headman also complained of the same problem. I asked why another person could not be found as a caretaker but it seemed that no one was interested. It’s a curious phenomenon this; why work for money when you can do nothing and not get paid at the same time. A neighbour was looking after things for the time being but was not interested in anything long term and was demanding a goat a month from March onward. This is of course totally unreasonable and unsustainable. I asked if the neighbour would be interested in a partnership to pool resources and build up a substantial goat herd but Fabion was not optimistic; “You cannot talk to these rural people like that”, he said. “They just don’t understand business like that”.

Fabion is reluctant to leave my employment and I have not run out of ideas just yet. It is certainly nothing to do with money but he knows that if he is not on the land or does not have a presence there he will lose it. I guess that unlike me he actually does have a pension plan!

In the traditional Shona (black) culture, the people have always looked up to their leaders for behavioural guidance – probably more so than the whites as they tend to think; well if he can do it then it must be OK. With the government hierarchy behaving extremely badly at the moment it is not surprising that the locals are losing their community spirit and will only help themselves.

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