Original Research

The colonial state, land-use policy and local responses in Seke Reserve, Rhodesia: 1935 to 1958

Eric K. Makombe, Clement Masakure
New Contree | Vol 91 | a249 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/nc.v91i0.249 | © 2024 Eric Kushinga Makombe, Clement Masakure | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 July 2023 | Published: 18 April 2024

About the author(s)

Eric K. Makombe, Department of History, Heritage and Knowledge Systems, Faculty of Arts, University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe; and Department of History, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Clement Masakure, Department of History, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


From the late 1920s onwards, the state in colonial Zimbabwe began reordering African areas to arrest an impending ecological disaster while increasing their carrying capacity. The state introduced far-reaching land-use measures anchored on several immutable tenets, such as that African reserves had to finance their own progress and sustain themselves within the demarcated boundaries. The reordering within Seke Reserve began with centralisation in 1935 and was reinforced following the passage of the Natural Resources Act of 1941 and the Native Land Husbandry Act (NLHA) of 1951. This article is one of the few studies that grasp these three colonial policies simultaneously and highlights the knock-on effects each had on the other. It sheds light on these land-use measures, explores their implementation and impacts and shows how the locals responded to these changes. The period under review in this article has generally been given cursory attention as a fleeting backdrop to why the colonial state implemented the NLHA. Nonetheless, this article maintains that the critical factors that led to the demise of the NLHA are certainly discernible in this period. Hence, we assert that the colonial state’s insistence on proceeding to enact the NLHA was just another classic example of colonial arrogance and the scapegoating of Africans for the agroecological problems in the reserves. The article made extensive use of archival material from the Native Affairs Department as well as from the phenomenological recollections of several elderly inhabitants within the Seke Reserve captured through oral history interviews.

Contribution: The clarification of the interdependence of the three colonial programmes regarding existing land-use policies, their implementation, impacts and local responses significantly adds to the limited body of knowledge currently available.


Seke; colonial; land; centralisation; Natural Resources Act; Native Land Husbandry Act; African; indigenous farming practices; cattle; conservation

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 15: Life on land


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