The Story of Melsetter

Chapter 21

In the Tribal Trust Lands in the Melsetter administrative district the population has increased to approximately 60 000 from the 5000 or so who were here when the Europeans came.The VaUngweme have no land of their own as it was refused when offered, and Chief Chikukwa still has his home on Martin Forest Reserve with many of his followers through in Portuguese territory.

In Mutambara and Muwushu T.T.Ls, with the introduction of European medicine, the cessation of tribal warfare, and a more settled way of life, the population increased while the game decreased and natural plants became insufficient to support so many people. In order to stop poverty, hardship and suffering and to prevent monetary loss and waste Government investigated the problem, and the result was the establishment of Irrigation Schemes: Nyanyadzi in Muwushu T.T.L. and Chakohwe and Mutambara in Mutambara T.T.L.

These schemes have proved successful although there are attendant problems. On the credit side is the change from a bare subsistence economy to food sufficiency and a cash economy for a significant proportion of the tribes, which has benefited not only those who directly derive their livelihood on the Schemes but also their families in other parts:
the onus of responsibility in the tribal extended family relationship is clearly borne out in the spending of money earned by the wealthier and more sophisticated for the benefit of their brethren who are still in the subsistence level of farming, and this exerts a tremendous influence.
Among the problems which have resulted from the Irrigation Schemes is the breakdown of tribal disciplines through the traditional leaders, the chiefs and the headmen: people have had to be brought in to the Schemes from many parts of the country and this has resulted in a conglomeration of people with no united purpose, single culture, discipline or social custom, and there is not the same respect for tradition and authority on irrigation schemes that one finds in the dry land areas.

Apart from the irrigation schemes, development in Mutambara and Muwushu continues to be a problem, and a solution is being sought. It is felt that stock-farming may be the answer with the possiblity of integrating agricultural practices and thus bringing some profit to all concerned; the cattle could be bred and weaned on the highveld by the dryland plot-holders who would buy fodder for winter feeding which could be grown as one of the two annual crops reaped on the irrigation schemes.

Development in Ndima goes ahead, although there is a peculiar set-up in administration: dealings in Rhodesia are with a chief who has to go for his orders to a foreign country as he can make no move without permission from his very conservative superiors and tribal spirits through the VaSwikiro in Mozambique, and this has resulted in some hold-up in carrying out recommended agricultural advances. A small area of Ndima comes directly under Chief Mutema in Chipinga administration district.

Ngorima, including Ndima, is probably one of the most potentially wealthy T.T.Ls. in Rhodesia from the point of view of natural resources: climate, good rainfall averaging over 60�, little or no frost, regular breezes, and very little evidence of disease. There has been a great deal of agricultural development, nearly all tropical and many sub-tropical crops can be grown, and over 30% of the total area is under cultivation.

There is also a big population pressure and it is impressive that the 26 000 acres of Ngorima and Ndima support a population of approximately 10 000, who are moving very fast into a cash economy. Government assists with the establishment of councils and co-operatives, and through Agricultural Extension the crops best suited to the area and which will bring in the best returns are being established. Farmers have done very well with a variety of crops including coffee, pineapples, bananas, grains, vegetables and spices: one farmer has succeeded in educating his children and has sent one to university in England out of his profits.

Ngorima is the only T.T.L. in the Melsetter area to have a Council, and it is having a struggle to function well: the Councillors have been taken on leadership courses and to see functioning Councils in other areas, and while they themselves are enthusiastic and keen on improvement, they find that the people are not yet ready to accept radical changes and have to be educated slowly. Chief Ngorima, the fifth in line, who was recently elected a Senator in the Rhodesian Senate, is progressive, but finds that he cannot move faster than his councillors will allow: if he goes too far ahead of them he may lose their confidence.

The other chiefs will not have Councils in their areas: their attitude, and that of their people, is that the modern Government is European, and they prefer that Europeans should continue to govern them. There is resistance to their being ruled by their fellow tribesmen as they do not trust one another � with some reason, as there have been many instances of people in executive offices using public money for private purposes.

The Chiefs had great influence, but since their powers were restricted after the advent of the Europeans they have become withdrawn and inclined to consider that their main function is that of guardian arid custodian of traditional customs. This has made them ultra-conservative and not interested in promoting change. Government authorities are battling to prove to them the need for beneficial proaress. Many of their people have travelled and lived in towns and entered into activities which are different from the tribal ones, and these people are apt to look down on their chiefs as insufficiently progressive.

In all the T.T.Ls. great developments have taken place with Government assistance particularly since the last war. Before that there was resistance to such things as modern medicine: the tribesman preferred to go to his nganga whose ways and methods he understood, and even today he is happy to consult with tribal spirits, the mondoro or Vadzimu, at every opportunity, particularly to seek supernatural methods of treatment when modern methods have failed.
The early resistance was gradually overcome when modern methods showed a quicker, easier and less painful cure: the prevention and cure of malaria and the quick results of aspirin were much appreciated and injections have made a great impression. It has come to be recognised that European medicine is superior in many ways to treatment by the nganga and herbalists through the tribal spirits, but there are well-known witchdoctors around here who are still consulted on occasion.

Before the war there was resistance to education and many local schools were only a third full. When encouraged to send their children to school, the kraal heads and the  parents said that they and their parents had managed without education and they did not see why their children needed any. Sending them to school would mean a great upset as each child had certain duties to perform: the girls had to fetch water and wood and the boys had to herd the goats and cattle, and if they went to school there would be nobody to do this work. Sometimes when Government officials went round they found only the parents at home � the children had been sent up into the hills to hide.

The need for education was felt first in the urban areas which cannot, however, be isolated from the rural areas as there is constant communication between them. When buses became regular there was much travelling between town and country, and people who had seen something of life outside the tribal areas realised the need for more education and literacy and brought home their ideas and were assisted by returning soldiers who had seen service in other countries. Other contributory factors were newspapers in the vernacular and the influence of the radio.

After the war educational facilities developed rapidly in Melsetter. Mainly under the Missions many primary schools were established and Secondary Schools opened at Mutambara, Rusitu, Biriwiri and Nyanyadzi.  90% of the children of the district can now get five years of schooling at least: there is a fallout from Grade V and only those with marked ability can go forward to the secondary schools, but the number going to Upper Primary Schools is probably higher than in other districts, in spite of the fact that in a few very remote areas little need is yet felt for any education.

With their religion of ancestor worship, individuals even today get into situations where they feel that there is nothing that they themselves can do, and go to their spirits to seek advice, although in some instances much of the ritualistic preparation to ensure the proper approach to the spirits has fallen into disuse because so many who were qualified to carry it out died without passing on their knowledge. Recently chiefs have been criticised for not carrying out the proper processes for propitiating the spirits, and some of their ancient customs are being revived. When Chief Tamanewenyu of Muwushu died in January 1970 every cockerel in the Reserve was slaughtered on the orders of his son, one of the VaKuru.

Various animals, birds and insects are associated with the spirits and are taboo and may not be killed or eaten.
In tribal custom the extended family is still very strong with specific rules for individuals to inherit their responsibility of looking after and caring for relations who may be left without visible means of support. In 1968 there was some food shortage, and European organisations handed out food to those who they considered were in most need of it, without consulting the chiefs. This led to a certain amount of criticism, as it was felt that the Europeans were breaking the custom of extended family relationships, and if somebody breaks the cycle then the relatives consider that they are no longer responsible for the person who has been supported by outsiders.

There are seven Purchase Area farms in the District and these, under title, are being developed satisfactorily. Most of the Tribal Trust Lands have flourishing business centres, and in all road improvement has led to general development.

The forestry Companies carried on tree planting and expansion. All have fire towers, and between them they have well over 1 000 miles of internal roads built and being maintained. The Forestry Commission, Charter and Tilbury have their own sawmills, and on Gwendingwe the sawmill is run by a sister Company, A. C. Moore (Pvt.) Ltd., to whom the Estate delivers the logs and the further handling is an independent process. Heavy timber lorries transport timber from Melsetter to Umtali in a steady stream.

Melsetter�s appearance has changed with the coming of the Companies as tree-clad hill-sides cover vast areas, but the magnificent views may still be seen. Afforestation is established, and it is envisaged that industries based on wood may follow. One snag appears in the sawmills� incinerators, which belch forth smoke all day and night and spoil the lovely clear air.

The Rhodesian Wattle Co. is small by world standards, and when the world extract market became oversupplied they considered ways of diversifying and invested in cattle which are run on all the Estates: on Charleswood wattle was given up entirely in favour of cattle and large acreages of maize grown as feed. Sugarcane is grown on some Chipinga estates, and raw sugar is manufactured at Silverstream factory during four months of the year, with the production of wattle extract limited to the other eight months. In 1969 the Rhodesian Wattle Company was bought by Lonrho Ltd.
The Forestry Commission has a Research Station at Muguzo, where forest trees from all parts of the world are raised for experimental planting in different parts of the district. Sample plots have been marked and measured on Commission land and on most private forests.

On Charter Estates planting rates were increased from 1 500 to 5 500 acres a year spread over eight sections, each of which is managed by a European forester and 50-180 Africans, with a Forest Officer in charge. Of the 34000 acres so far planted the principal species are Patula with up to 20% of Elliottii and Taeda pine, and nearly 2000 acres of eucalypts, and a further 3 000 acres will be planted when all the suitable land is in production. The purchase of further land extended Charter boundaries, and a slow consolidation has resulted in a single large holding today of 45000 acres in the upper Nyahode catchment, with Welgelegen a separate 6500 acres, and the Chartered Company is the largest private timber grower in the country.
About $4 million has been invested, of which some $2,200,000 represents plantations, and at maturity this figure will have risen to $8 to $10 million as conventional sawmills keep pace with timber yields. The mill at Fairfield processes three quarters,  rising to one and a quarter million cubic feet log input yearly derived principally from thinnings; it yields mainly boxwood and the better processed building lumber will follow in increasing proportion as the forests become older; and plans are well advanced for sawmill stages advancing to two million cubes input by 1971, and later to 7-8 million.
The General Manager of the autonomous Eastern Forest Estates directs forest activity, and Charter has a staff of 18 Europeans, with the foresters supported by a technical and administrative headquarter unit. 670 Africans are employed, of whom 100, under three Europeans, run the sawmill. In 1965 the B.S.A. Co. amalgamated with two mining financial companies and became Charter Consolidated, and shortly afterwards Charter Forest Estates with other interests in Rhodesia were sold to Anglo-American who are today responsible for control and finance.

Tilbury Estate is a hive of activity and has a population of 12 European families and 560 African employees.

Gwendingwe Estate is divided into four sections each with its own labour force, machines and headquarters: Headquarters section under the Manager consists of administration, workshop, maintenance, repairs, houses and water supplies; Brackenbury is self-sufficient under the Farm Manager and assistant; Forestry has a Forest Manager and assistant; and the Orchard Manager runs his section with his assistant. About 5 500 acres of pines, 1 000 acres of wattle, and 200 acres of gums have been planted, and further planting is continuing.
In round figures 300 acres a year are felled and 400 planted, so that the plantation will come into a sustained yield with the same number of trees being felled and planted after 20 years, after which capital charges become impossible; enormously heavy logs cost more to log; and with the trend towards reconstituted board, finger-jointing and lamination, large diameters are not desirable. With 17-year old trees logs are quite often 20� long with a 14� or 15� tip, and are difficult to handle especially in steep country.

Through the dry season two Europeans and about 50 Africans are on standby fire duty, and the crews of the fire vehicles are on duty all the time: they have their own compound and are always there, always familiar with the routine, and always trained. To compensate for their long spell on duty they are given two months� paid leave in the wet season, and seem very happy with the arrangement.

Gwendingwe employs, with seasonal fluctuations, between 350 and 400, and with their families the African population is between 600 and 800, and the development of the compounds in the form of African villages is encouraged. Each Section�s bossboy is the village headman and has the responsibility of seeing that village life is organised on traditional lines and that the disciplines which would guide their lives at home are observed.
The labourers tend to group into tribal or family groups, and go to work with their own bossboy whose position is gradually enhanced as he grows older and the younger men, who were children under him, come into his gang. This system is working very well, and there is much visiting between the villages and inter-village competition in sports and other activities.

The housing is round brick huts, cement-floored, and a family unit is two living-huts and a kitchen-hut; a unit may also be occupied by four bachelors, two sharing each of the living-huts, and cooking communally. Pay is given in lieu of rations, but meat or fish is issued weekly. The trading store is leased to outside interest. The Estate sells commercial African beer but has not yet built a beerhall; no brewing is allowed, but the staff can buy as much as they want: rather than all walking up to tbe centre, they usually send their women along to bring back ten or twenty gallons to the village, where they then have their own beerdrink.

The clinic is simply a casualty clearing station and ordinary clinic, but has some facilities for inpatients with a female ward and some compound units outside for men. The clinic has as a major aim a Family Planning campaign and has plans for mothercraft and a wide range of child care and hygiene training. It is supervised by Annabel Hayter who is a fully trained Sister, and is run by an African nurse whose husband is a Public Health visitor based at Gwendingwe and who also does public health work in Mutema Tribal Trust Land. A tremendous number of patients come from Mutema, and as this is becoming a problem a small fee may have to be charged.

There are about 90 pupils in the school, for which Gwendingwe Estate supplies and maintains the buildings and pays for the equipment. The Government pays the teachers and the school is supervised by Rusitu Mission. Education up to Grade Five for the families of all employees is entirely free.