HC Deb 23 July 1913 vol 55 cc2025-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will state by what law or right has the Chartered Company alienated upwards of a million and a quarter acres of land in Rhodesia to Liebig's Company without the consent of the Crown or the Local Legislative Council; whether he is aware that the hulk of land is within a few miles of the Pretoria Railway, and also near the West Nicholson Railway terminus, and was specially selected for ranching by an official of the Chartered Company's land department, who regarded it as the finest ranching area in Rhodesia; whether he will inquire from the Resident Commissioner what was the previous selling price of land where Liebig's Company have acquired this concession; and what steps, if any, will be taken to secure to the settlers and natives all rights, if any, over main roads or native paths on this concession?


Under the Land Survey Regulations of 1895, made under the powers conferred by the Matabeleland Order-in-Council and approved by the High Commissioner,the administrator shall be deemed and taken to be an owner, with regard to vacant and unallotted land, and I do not understand that the consent of the Crown or Legislative Council was necessary. Some of the land is near the West Nicholson terminus and some is a considerable distance from any line that has at present been built. I believe that it is incorrect that it was selected by an official of the Chartered Company. I do not see how it would be possible for the Resident Commissioner to form any trustworthy estimate of what the land, which is mostly far away from any other land which has changed hands, would have been worth if it had not been purchased. With regard to roads, the ordinary provision required by Southern Rhodesian legislation is made, namely, that all roads and thoroughfares existing over the land shall remain free and uninterrupted unless closed or altered by competent authority.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the manager of this company is an ex-official of the Chartered Company, who is now in the land department of the Chartered Company, and has special means of valuing this land, which is the most valuable at the present moment in Southern Rhodesia?


I am afraid I was not able to catch the whole of the hon. Member's supplementary question.


Is he aware that this is a swindle between the Chartered Company and—


I would like to see that on the Paper.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the Chief Native Commissioner of Matabeleland, in his Report for 1912, says that in many instances the large landowning companies in Rhodesia holding from the British South Africa Company have given notice of their intention to charge their native tenants, in addition to the usual rent per capita, grazing fees for both large and small stock at so much per head; that this innovation has given rise to a great deal of dissatisfaction and has had a disturbing effect on the natives concerned, who naturally inquire how long they are to be subjected to these increasing demands upon them by the owners of the land, and whether there is to be no finality to these charges; that the natives hate the idea of having to give up their old kraals and associations, but the fresh demands made upon them, which are now becoming very general, have made them very uneasy in regard to their land tenure on present property; whether, having regard to these statements, he has asked for any explanation of the declaration of the administration that there are no signs whatever of unrest among the natives who may be affected, and that they are voluntarily taking steps to remove to reserves; what measures are being taken, or will be taken, to safeguard the natives' rights of occupation in Rhodesia and to protect their interests; and whether an independent commissioner will be appointed to investigate and report upon the relations at present existing between the natives and the South African Chartered Company and the companies to whom they have made alienations of land in Rhodesia?


I have seen Mr. Taylor's Report which contains the statements quoted in the question. Mr. Taylor expressed similar opinions last year. As soon as the facts were brought to my notice I wrote to the High Commissioner pointing out that a far reaching change of this character was liable to cause much disturbance of feeling among the natives, and stating that I was anxious to learn what steps the Administration deemed it practicable or desirable to take with a view to keeping the system within reasonable limits, and obviating as far as possible the dangers of unrest. The Administrator, in a dispatch dated 28th March, stated that there were no signs whatever of unrest among the natives who might be affected. In the case of one large company the original proposal had been modified to the extent that no charge for grazing was to be made unless the native had more than twenty head of cattle or 100 head of small stock, in which ease his rent was to be increased by 10s. per annum. This very moderate proposal had been accepted by a number of native tenants, and the Administrator thought that other land owners might take similar action. The native commissioners would assist those natives who decided to remove to the reserves. I have received no further evidence of trouble, for Mr. Taylor's Report which has just reached me is earlier in date, and I rely on the High Commissioner to keep me informed if any indications of trouble should appear. I see, therefore, no reason to appoint an independent commissioner to hold an inquiry.

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