Chapter 4
THE RIGHT TO POSSESS LAND

Far from being a technical administrative problem, land rights in most of Africa, and certainly in the Federation, are the most important of civil rights. It is for this reason that jurisdiction over land was, by the 1953 Federal constitution, assigned to the Territorial Governments.1

To the African, his relationship to the land represents not only his day-to-day livelihood but the entire complex of his traditional, tribal- social system and the security of membership in a miniature welfare- state. This relationship between the man, his land and his tribe is gradually dying, especially in Southern Rhodesia where the chiefs and headmen have been largely deprived of their powers over land in favor of the Native Commissioners,2 but it is still an important force in much of the Federation.

To the European, land means wealth; and wealth means political power which in turn assures the perpetuation of wealth. The vast Nyasa tea plantations, Rhodesian tobacco farms, cattle ranches and mines filter the realized wealth of the country, leaving a rich deposit of profit, power and indispensability with the white three percent of the population.

Yet, more important to the Europeans, perhaps, than the estates are the empty tracts reserved for future settlement. These are the lands to attract immigrants, the new blood on which the growth of European civilization in the Federation depends. These, also, are the virgin fields eyed covetously by those Africans reduced by land-hunger to sub-subsistence plots of ground.

It is because land has become so much the center of the system of values both of the Europeans and the Africans that its disposition is perhaps the most crucial of central African issues dividing the races.

-64-

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