HL Deb 23 June 1926 vol 64 cc542-64

LORD OLIVIER rose to call attention to the Report of the Southern Rhodesia Land Commission, recently published, in which it is proposed that out of a total area of 78,433,260 acres to be deemed available for alienation by the Crown, 48,605,898 acres shall be reserved for alienation exclusively to Europeans (now numbering in the Province about 40,000), and 28,933,362 for occupation by natives (now numbering about 800,000) and to, ask whether, as these proposals contemplate variations in the arrangements sanctioned under the Letters Patent establishing responsible Government in Southern Rhodesia, His Majesty's Government proposes to approve them; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Report to which I desire to call your Lordships' attention is, in my opinion, a document of very great importance on two grounds; first, because it proposes finally to settle certain outstanding problems which have been discussed with considerable acrimony for more than thirty years with regard to native rights in Rhodesia; and, secondly, because it proposes to accept finally and establish in Southern Rhodesia the principle of the segregation of residence as between the white Europeans and coloured people; that is to say that no European shall be allowed to own lands or to rent lands in certain areas, and no coloured person shall be allowed to own or rent land in other areas. That is a principle which the Union Government, of South Agrica have declared their intention to adopt, and it is very important at this time that, as we propose to settle the question finally, there should be some criticism of it in this country. I am very glad to know that the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, who is well informed on the subject, proposes to take part in this debate.

I should like to give your Lordships a very brief history of how we come to the present position. When the Chartered Company's forces invaded Matabeleland in 1893 they thereafter proceeded to exercise certain acts of ownership. They were remonstrated with at the time by His Majesty's Government, who pointed out that they had no title to exercise those acts of ownership, but they proceeded for many years to exercise, and to presume that they possessed, the ownership of the lands of Southern Rhodesia. The white population of Rhodesia, before responsible government had been established, protested against this view, and it was protested against very strongly by representatives and friends of the native population in South Africa and in this country. That question was filially settled by a very powerful judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1918, which declared that the Company had no ownership in the land but that the ownership was vested in the Crown.

Meanwhile, there had been continual pressure put upon the British South Africa Chartered Company and their administration to carry out the provisions of the Order in Council of 1898, which required them to assign certain lands to natives for their occupation—not to recognise any kind of title in the natives, but to assign certain lands for their occupation. That led to a very long controversy with regard to the provision of reserves which was not settled until the year 1920, after a Commission had been appointed in 1914 to go into the whole question. In 1920 or 1921 a final decision was taken with regard to reserving lands for the natives and, by that decision, 21,000,000 odd acres were allotted as lands for the sole occupation of natives under tribal tenure, and in those areas no European could own or occupy lands. That left unsettled certain grievances or certain claims of natives outside of the reserved areas. The equitable claims which were put forward on their behalf to have, not a fee simple in land, but certain interests and certain estates in land, were not dealt with and, meanwhile, the Chartered Company, on the pretext of being the owners of the land, had been exacting from natives resident upon unalienated lands a rent of £1 per head per annum, in addition to a hut-tax for public purposes. Similarly, Europeans who acquired alienated lands felt themselves entitled to regard the natives there as having no vested interest in the lands which they were occupying and also entitled to levy rents upon them.

Later, the whole question of the new Constitution of the Colony came up for consideration and at that time this question of the right to own and occupy lands was raised. In settling the Constitution of the Colony a very important decision was taken by Mr. Churchill, which was embodied in his Despatch to the Government. Up to that time it had been recognised, and it was an important recognition, that there was no discrimination as between Europeans and natives in regard to the ordinary civil right of owning or holding land anywhere in the country where they could obtain a title by purchase or by lease. In discussing the future regulations with regard to land, a representation was made that some further arrangement should be come to limiting the right of Europeans to own land in certain districts and, in his Despatch upon that subject, Mr. Churchill wrote stating that it had been suggested that specific districts should be set aside by the High Commissioner in which natives alone might acquire land, and within which Europeans should not be allowed to do so.….I have informed the delegates that the existing law enshrines a long-accepted principle, and that I should be unwilling to agree to an alteration, the corollary of which seems to be the exclusion of natives from other areas, but that if full and impartial inquiry should show, after responsible government had come into force, that some amendment of the law is necessary. His Majesty's Government would be prepared to consider an amendment. The Colonial Government has since then appointed a Commission, of which the Report is now before us, to go into this very question and to bring forward fresh considerations to enable the Secretary of State to ascertain whether he will consent to modifications of the fundamental principles in that respect.

This Report I have read with very great pleasure and satisfaction, because it appears to me to be the most broadminded and liberal document that I have seen emanate from any official source with regard to Southern Rhodesia on the land question. This Commission has gone fully into the question and, as I have mentioned, it has decided to recommend the principle of absolute segregation and the abrogation of the existing right of natives to acquire land in certain areas. The Commission give forcible reasons for their recommendations. I will only read one paragraph which says:— The evidence which has been given before the Commission leaves no room for doubt as to the wishes of all classes of the inhabitants of Southern Rhodesia who are affected; and we have no hesitation in finding that an overwhelming majority of those who understand the question are in favour of the existing, law being amended, and of the establishment of separate areas in which each of the two races, black and white respectively, should be permitted to acquire interests in land. Missionaries, farmers and town dwellers, the officials of the Native Department, the natives in the out districts and reserves, in so far as they can grasp the subject, and the more advanced natives are, generally speaking, all of one mind in this respect. The Commissioners go on to point out that if on this ground it is decided to abrogate the right of natives to acquire land anywhere in the Colony full compensation ought to be given to them by a liberal allotment of land in the future for their ownership and occupation.

The Commission gives various reasons, with which I need not trouble your Lordships. They appear to be fully persuaded in favour of this policy, which, I presume, it is likely that the Government of the Colony will adopt and that His Majesty's Government will sanction. There is only one other reason to which I should like to refer. It appears to me to be significant, and it is this:— In the world generally the relationships between white and coloured races tend to become more and more embittered; and, of those who have given the subject most thought, many fear that wars of extermination between the races will take place in the future unless every effort is made to secure a better understanding between them. On that account, and especially where the two races are living in the same country, it becomes all the more necessary to remove as far as possible, all causes of friction. Surely that is a very unhappy reflection to have to be made in a Government document after over thirty-three years of British rule in Southern Rhodesia.

I am bound to say, so far as there is any ground for the statement of the embittered feeling, that it appears to me to have arisen chiefly from the dissatisfaction, disquiet and unrest that arose over this particular question of native rights to the land, the uncertainty that so long prevailed, and the exactions that I have mentioned of levying rent on natives for land Which they regarded as their own. I do not know, so far as I have observed the Government of Southern Rhodesia, that there is the slightest ground for saying that there is now any other kind of oppression or unfairness to the natives in Southern Rhodesia which would justify that feeling and, from what I have seen of the Government in the Colony and of its institutions, I think they have the very greatest desire to deal in a fair and honourable manner with the native population. I therefore trust that any action that may be taken upon this Report will finally remove any sense of grievance that may have existed from the past on account of injustice to the native inhabitants in the matter of land tenure.

I now come to the details of what is proposed. We find that the total area of Southern Rhodesia is about 150,000 square miles. I am going to take square miles because that is a simpler unit than the acreage. Out of this enormous area, very sparsely populated, the Commissioners propose to set aside for future consideration about 27,820 square miles, which they do not think need be dealt with at present. On examining on the map the character of this part of the Colony it is obvious that it cannot usefully be dealt with. It is largely sandy, some of it is land in the fly belt, and some of it is forest land. It is admitted that it is not desirable for immediate occupation, and that such natives as reside upon it may be left where they are. The area proposed to be dealt with by the Commission is 122,534 square miles. Out of this area there have already been allotted to the natives as reserves, to missionary societies who allow natives to reside upon their lands, and to natives in fee simple, 34,846 square miles, or rather more than a quarter of this available land. That is already reserved for natives. Secondly, there have been granted or sold to British or European owners, many of them large syndicates or companies, altogether 48,488 square miles, rather more than one-third of the available land.

There are estimated to be in the Colony 816,000 natives against 40,000 Europeans, so that your Lordships will see that, under the present allocations to natives and Europeans respectively, each European has a potential interest in land twenty-nine times as large as that of each native. That may or may not be a reasonable economic proportion, but it appears rather startling on the face of it. Further, it is proposed by the Commissioners to divide the residue of the unalienated lands, not including the part which has been set aside to be dealt with later, into 11,431 square miles for the natives and 27,225 square miles for the Europeans. If these proposals are carried out, there would be finally set aside for the respective parties 46,277 square miles for native occupation, and 75,713 square miles for European occupation. That is to say, to each European a potential interest of thirty-three and a half times as much land as the potential interest of each native, so that three white men are regarded as economically able to exploit as much land as 100 natives. I am not discussing whether that is a reasonable expectation of the future of Rhodesia, but it is on the face of it a very startling proposal.

The Commissioners explain that their view of the future of Southern Rhodesia is that it will be largely, so far as the natives are concerned, a country of small peasant holders whereas, with regard to much of the country in European settlement, it will be a country of large ranches and large estates. I think it is quite conceivable in the future that the development of the country will be such that we shall find that the best system is to have a large number of large estates and a very large number of small peasant estates administered on different systems, and that those natives who can spare their labour from their own holdings shall be available for labour on the large estates, occupying about two-thirds of the Colony.

The first criticism I wish to make upon the Report is that it is premature, having regard to the large amount of land already allotted to natives and to the large amount of land already in the hands of Europeans, to go forward at once and to say that we will set up for the future a division of the whole of the rest of the land into native areas and European areas. Until the native areas are really effectively occupied and until the European areas are really effectively occupied and exploited, is it not pre- mature? Is it not imprudent to say at this time that we will in the future make this absolute division? Is it not more prudent to say that, as time proceeds and as we see there is a greater demand for native holdings outside the reserves, we will make progressive assignments of land to natives adjacent to those reserves, as the Commissioners recommend, and that we will open more and more land for Europeans, as the demand arises, adjacent to the reserves for Europeans? It is most undesirable, and all experience of land questions in the Colonies will support this, to have large areas of Crown lands out of which either native settlers or land speculators can pick up or pre-empt pieces of land which are remote from established settlements. It is much better to proceed outward from established settlement because then you keep in touch with the roads, the schools and civilisation.

At the present time it seems to me premature to assume the very disproportionate division of ownership and occupation as between Europeans and natives, which the Commissioners propose in their recommendations. I would strongly urge upon His Majesty's Government in their consideration of this matter, on which the Secretary of State has to decide after conference with the local Government, to consider whether it is not premature to lay down that they will now and finally make an absolute division of Southern Rhodesia upon the basis of one white man being equal to thirty-three and a-half natives or three white men to 100 natives. It appears to me a staggering proposition.

The second point on which I wish to lay stress is one by no means overlooked by the Commissioners in their Report. It is the question of the equitable rights of natives residing either on alienated lands of Europeans or unalienated lands in the possession of the Crown. It has been urged again and again in the last thirty years that these natives have some equitable rights. The question did not come for decision before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, but the Judicial Committee made an observation which is quoted in the Commissioners' Report. I am sorry I cannot find the reference, but there was a passage in the report of the judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which stated that there were in certain native countries well-established systems of customary law with regard to native ownership of, or native rights in, lands, and that, if such customs were proved, they should be taken into consideration, but that in the present case, having regard to the grounds on which the judgment of the Privy Council was given, they did not arise at all and no question of these equitable rights was dealt with.

The Commissioners refer to that quotation and they make the following observation:— Prior to European settlement in Southern Rhodesia the land was occupied by the natives according to their tribal customs and traditions. All land in a tribal area was vested in the chief, and allotments were made by him or, on his behalf, by sectional headmen. Each member of a family had his (or her) garden land, with certain recognised claims to fallow land: grazing was communal. This system of land tenure was in vogue among the so-called Mashona and Kalanga tribes, as well as among the Banguni invaders under Lobengula and Ngungunyana. In a further paragraph of their Report they point out very pertinently that it will be seen that, as regards agriculture the rights enjoyed by the natives, although of a somewhat precarious nature, in many respects resemble our conception of individual rather than communal tenure. As regards pasturing the tenure was more of a communal nature, but taken as a whole the system bears a close resemblance to that obtaining in feudal times in Europe, where a copyholder had a holding of land and enjoyed rights of commonage over parts of his lord's domain. It has always been my opinion, and that of many persons connected with native rights in South Africa, that if there were equitable rights of natives who, from year to year, occupied and cultivated land belonging to the tribe, those rights ought to be taken into account. They should be taken into account in the same way, I presume, as William the Conqueror took account of the rights in manors which were annexed by him, and precisely in the same way as they were taken into account when a similar question arose in Fiji, and Lord Crewe decided that these tribal rights were equitable rights over land, although the land belonged to the Crown just as it was adjudged to belong to the Crown in Southern Rhodesia.

In Fiji His Majesty's Government went very far indeed. They said, in effect: "Not only shall we take account of these rights and give a secure tenure to natives on the basis of them, but we shall allow the proceeds of unappropriated land to go to the credit of a land for the benefit of the natives." Of course, in Southern Rhodesia the proceeds of unappropriated land go to a fund administered by the Crown to redeem the debt of the Colonial Government to the Chartered Company, and only after that has been done does the rest go to the Colonial Government.

I would therefore plead with His Majesty's Government to give very careful consideration to the very strong feeling which underlies this Commission's Report that more recognition should be given to those equitable rights in native land than has hitherto been done. The Commissioners say, in regard to natives resident on unalienated lands, who number 122,000, that it was the policy of the former Government to levy a tax of £1 per head as rent in addition to the administrative Hut Tax. This rent was not very carefully collected and they recommend that natives should be allowed to continue to reside on the lands but that some rent should be levied. I suggest that the rent which is levied should be merely in the nature of a nominal quit rent, an acknowledgment of the right of the Crown, not in any respect an onerous rent and not so high as £1 per year which, for a native, is a considerable sum.

Natives still resident on European land, numbering 150,000, have not had their rights recognised. They have been subject to exaction of rent by the owners of these lands. Now the Commissioners deal very liberally with this. They say that it is clearly out of the question immediately to segregate blacks from whites. Although they recommend that most of the land shall be divided for segregation, first of all they recommend that in these areas where an immediate segregation cannot be made there should be for the time neutral areas. One of the Commissioners dissents. As regards those natives who are still resident upon private land, they say that, although natives should not be allowed to reside there longer than is necessary, those now living there should be allowed to continue to do so. After that natives should be excluded from those lands.

Further, with regard to natives who are not old-established natives on the land but who are now renting land, they condemn, and in my opinion prudently condemn, the practice of Europeans owning large estates trying to carry them on by renting them to black tenants. The system of holding large estates and renting them to black occupiers simply to bring in enough to pay the taxes is a most disastrous policy and has been recognised as such again and again in all the Colonies. They say, very reasonably, that private proprietors should be encouraged to exploit their own land and, very significantly, that it should be urged that if they can work them by white labour it is very much better that they should do so, but that they should on no account be allowed to go on renting land to squatting settlers. But if established natives are to be removed, full consideration ought to be given to such vested interests as they have, and compensation should be given to them, as, indeed, the whole spirit of the Commissioners' Report indicates. Compensation should be given to them for their removal and their disturbance.

Subject to those two criticisms, to which I hope His Majesty's Government will be able to give full consideration, both with regard to the future of the natives and their present rights, I think this is a most admirable and valuable Report, and I sincerely hope it may not only promote the economic prosperity of white settlers in Rhodesia but may promote good feeling and hearty co-operation between the natives of Rhodesia and those enterprising Englishmen who may develop large estates with their aid.

There is one further passage in the Report to which I would like to draw attention. The Commissioners say they recognise that European settlers in Rhodesia will regard what they propose as too great a concession to the natives. They say that before we abrogate the right which the natives have, at any rate on paper, to buy land in Rhodesia, we must give such compensation as will not leave any sense of injustice or of undue discrimination. They say also that the success of this scheme, if it is to be carried out, will depend, and must depend, upon the franchise of the white community, and they express the sincere hope that the white community and the white settlers will deal with it in a just and liberal spirit. If they deal with it in a spirit as just and as liberal as that in which this Report is conceived, I do not think that we need be afraid of the results of the experiment. I beg to move.


My Lords, I venture to intervene for a short time in this debate, as I have had some personal experience of the question that has been raised. I happened to be High Commissioner when the first Report, that of Sir Robert Coryndon's Committee, was presented to the High Commissioner and came into force under his auspices. I am very glad to find from my noble friend that on general lines he agrees with this new Report that has just been presented to the House of Assembly in Southern Rhodesia. In my opinion it is a very able and lucid Report and I agree with him that in its general dealings with the native population it is founded upon a sympathetic and generous view.

There is one misconception that seems to be embodied in the terms of my noble friend's Question and which appears to prevail amongst many of my friends who take rather a more extreme view of the native question than he does or than I do. I refer to the idea that this division can be founded on a sort of mathematical basis. You take the number of natives, the number of whites and the number of acres or square miles, and you divide the territory accordingly, and on that basis it would appear that the white population are getting a larger area in proportion to their numbers than the natives. That, I think, is an entire misconception of the whole position. When the land was originally divided, and certainly when the original Report which is the basis of all these arrangements was presented, that was certainly not the idea. There is no mention in the terms of reference of any mathematical basis, and it is not just a question of pounds, shillings and pence. The definite terms of reference to the first Commission were to the effect that they should consider and report upon the amount and sufficiency of land suitable for agricultural and pastoral requirements for the natives, both in the present and in the future. The present Report is founded upon the same basis. Accordingly it seems to me to be an entire misconception of the position to talk about acres per head of white or black population. What you have to do is that which I think both this and the earlier Commission did—namely, to deal with the matter in a sympathetic and generous spirit and to give what they consider to be the fullest possible amount that the natives will require now or in the future.

There is one other point to which my noble friend referred and concerning which I think there is again some misconception. He asked whether His Majesty's Government proposed to approve of this recommendation. If he had asked that question when I had the honour of holding the position of High Commissioner the answer could have been given by His Majesty's Government. When I was there the High Commissioner, subject of course to the Secretary of State, had practically full control over all these matters. He could accept or refuse a Report and amend or alter it in any sense that he desired. I am glad to think that this position and this authority have now disappeared. Southern Rhodesia has been given self-government and is now a self-governing Colony. The Coryndon Commission was appointed by the High Commissioner and reported to the High Commissioner. This second Commission is appointed by the responsible Government of Southern Rhodesia, and reports, not to the High Commissioner or to His Majesty's Government, but to the Governor in Council, who sends it by way of information to His Majesty's Government.


May I ask the noble Earl a question? Do I understand that Mr. Churchill's reservation, which I took as being a reservation of some power of interference, did not imply any power of further interference when the Constitution should be altered?


I was going to deal with that point. So far as the acceptance or refusal of the Report is concerned, that is not for His Majesty's Government but for the Government of Southern Rhodesia to decide for themselves. On the other hand, as my noble friend pointed out in his speech, there is in the Letters Patent a clause which deals with the rights of the natives to acquire land, if they choose, throughout the whole territory, and it is quite within the competence of His Majesty's Government in considering the matter to consider whether the proposals made for the benefit of the natives and the increased area given to them are sufficient to compensate for the loss of that right. That is a matter for negotiation with the Southern Rhodesian Government, and it is not for the moment the Imperial Government who can finally decide the matter. It is for the Southern Rhodesian Government itself to decide it. I feel certain, from what I know of the very friendly feelings which subsist between the imperial Government and the Southern Rhodesian Government, that neither of them will stand on their dignity in the matter, but will endeavour to meet one another in this respect. I feel quite confident that no difficulty will arise in respect of this Report, and that it will be accepted by both of them in the spirit in which it was written.

My noble friend referred to the question of opinion in Rhodesia itself. Of course the Rhodesian Government, in deciding whether they will adopt this Report, have to consider the state of public opinion in Southern Rhodesia itself. I will venture, if I may, as a very sincere friend of Southern Rhodesia, to express the very strong hope that they will look at this matter from a large point of view, from a generous point of view, and from the point of view that it is very important for the country itself to have this question settled once for all, and that they will be prepared to make some sacrifices in order to attain that object and to have the matter settled now and for ever. On that point I am afraid that I do not agree with my noble friend. He thought that it was premature to decide this matter at present. No doubt some difficulties may arise in deciding it as early as this, but I am quite confident that it is in the best interests of Southern Rhodesia, looking to the future, that this question of the delimitation of the native area between the white and black populations should be settled at the very earliest moment before further difficulties arise.

If one wanted an argument in favour of that, it is only necessary to look to the Union of South Africa itself, where, very unfortunately, in earlier days before the white population became what it is and before the black population was as numerous as it is now, they did not have the opportunity which is given to Southern Rhodesia, in having a delimitation of the territory of the country between black and white, of avoiding the vast number of difficulties which they are now encountering and also the great amount of friction and ill feeling which naturally arise between the two races. Accordingly I think my noble friend is wrong in suggesting that it is premature to come to a final decision now. I believe that the earlier that decision is made the better, and any difficulties which may arise in regard to it can easily be arranged later on.

In two respects this Report contains new proposals. It proposes what are called purchase areas of some six or seven million acres which are not to go into or be absorbed in the existing native reserves but are to be kept separate for other purposes. It proposes also—a point to which my noble friend has referred more than once—that in dealing with this matter it is necessary to abrogate that right of the natives which they have at present under the Letters Patent which created the Constitution—namely, the opportunity and power of acquiring land in any part of the Colony. My noble friend has already pointed out that the Commission went into this matter very carefully indeed, and they came to the conclusion that all classes, and both races, would be in favour of abrogating that right if at the same time justice were done to the natives in respect of giving them larger areas. It will save friction, difficulties and doubts in the future, and it is really to the advantage of all parties and all sections that that right, which at present exists, should be abrogated. They carefully considered what quid pro quo should be given to the natives. Going into the matter very carefully, and giving full recognition to the loss, so far as it is a loss, of the natives, the Commission believe that the proposals which they recommend make sufficient provision for suitable land at the present moment arid for the future interests of the natives themselves. They have also reserved some 17,000,000 acres, which will not be actually finally delimited at the present moment, in order to rectify any mispro- portions which they may have arrived at in making their Report now. Therefore I think that not only are their present recommendations very sound, but they are providing in the future for the rectification of any mistakes which may have been made in their calculations.

In that connection I should like to bring one point to the attention of my noble friend. There are 17,000,000 acres of land which for the moment are not to be actually delimited. What I am rather afraid of is this. It is true that these lands are fairly outside the centre, somewhat inaccessible and not much occupied at present, but I think it is important that some definite provision should be made that during the interval, before this land is finally delimited, claims shall not be jumped, so to speak, by the white population, but that security shall be given that there shall be no occupation by whites or natives which would prejudice future arrangements. In regard to this land the Commission suggests that only short leases should be given. I think even that is going too far. The 17,000,000 acres can very well remain unoccupied for a few years, until the moment arrives for their future settlement, and I think it will be well worth while for the Colonial Office and the Government of Southern Rhodesia to consider whether any occupation by natives or whites, and certainly by whites, of this land shall not he prohibited until a settlement is made.

There is another point to which the Commission refer and to which I know some of my friends who are specially interested in this question attach great importance. They suggest that instead of these considerable numbers of reserves—some of them are rather small, so that the map looks like a plum pudding with plums here and there—there should be a large reserve or two large reserves kept for the blacks, and two large reserves for the whites. That, in principle, no doubt, has a great deal to be said for it, especially from the point of view that the natives would be better able to have their native councils and manage their own affairs. That is a matter to which I attach great importance. I think it is possible that the Coryndon Commission originally did dot about small reserves in rather too large numbers, but the present Commission have, I think, very wisely, when adding six or seven million acres to the native reserve under the purchase areas, in every case joined them to the existing reserves, and filled up awkward gaps between reserves, so that the result of this addition of millions of acres will be to enlarge the native reserves and diminish the objection taken to the present number of them.

But the real difficulty, as the Commissioners point out, is that it is not really feasible to consider at this time a large black and a large white reserve. It would mean a great removal of natives, and although Southern Rhodesia is a very prosperous part of our Dominions, and I think is going to be still more prosperous, it would cost a great deal to carry out the proposals with regard to purchase areas; they could not bear the burden in order to diminish the numbers of and enlarge the existing areas. I saw some comments on this by some of our very pro-native friends. They said it could be very easily done, because the Imperial Government could come to their assistance, buy the land and present it for nothing. I am afraid that we have too many burdens of our own to consider that as a feasible proposition.

There is another point. I do not know whether my noble friend referred to it, except incidentally, but I know there is a great deal of feeling in regard to it on the part of those who, like Mr. Cripps and others, take the rather extreme native view. In regard to those purchase areas which are going to be joined to the reserves, but not added to them, the Commissioners report that in their opinion they should only be occupied on the basis of individual tenure and purchase of freehold, and not thrown into the ordinary native reserve in which there is communal tenure. They believe that the more intelligent, more enterprising and more active natives, who at the present moment would like to buy the purchase land and develop it satisfactorily, and who under the communal system in the native areas have no opportunity properly to develop land, ought to be encouraged to buy, develop and improve the land. They point out, with truth, that, after all, so far as the communal tenure is concerned, the 21,000,000 acres in the present native reserves are cultivated under communal tenure, and they state that there are very considerable demands for individual tenure among progressive natives.

It seems to me, therefore, very wise to reserve the six or seven million acres in the first instance for individual tenure, and thus give an opportunity under good conditions for ascertaining whether there is a real demand for individual tenure—which on merits is far the better system—as compared with communal tenure. If it appears that there is no demand for individual tenure, these six million or seven million acres could be added in the ordinary way to the native reserves. I would ask my noble friend again on that point if the Southern Rhodesian Government could make it clear that, if it be found that there is no demand for individual tenure, these six or seven million acres should not be in any way taken away from the natives, but should be added as ordinary parts of the reserves. They must be secured in that even if individual tenure is found not to be required.

There is one final point, and it is one upon which I personally dissent from the proposals of the majority of the Commission. The majority of the Commission propose that certain areas, which they call neutral areas, covering about a million acres, shall be available for purchase and occupation by both blacks and whites. They think that there might be a demand for such a form of tenure, and that in many instances it might be hard on the whites on the one hand, or on the natives on the other, to remove them from these areas. I confess that I agree with Mr. Atherstone, who is in a minority in this matter, that if you are going to carry out this segregation it is a very great pity to leave ragged ends and to leave indefinite a million acres at various points touching the black and white areas, which will lead to the friction which these proposals are intended to prevent. I hope that the Dominions Department and the Southern Rhodesian Government, after they have considered that point, may turn it down, because it is the only point on which the Commission were not unanimous, and it is one upon which the minority happened to be right.

I am much obliged to your Lordships for allowing me to make these observations. I have made them not only in view of the speech of my noble friend, with nearly all of which I agree, but because outside this House certain criticisms have been made with regard to these Reports. I have dealt with these criticisms as far as I could, but I think it is an advantage that they should be corrected, because I think there is much misconception on the matter. I desire to give my hearty support to the Commission, and I trust that His Majesty's Government, the Government of Southern Rhodesia, and the Southern Rhodesians themselves will accept its recommendations in the spirit in which they are offered to the country because I am sure it will be to their advantage in the future to have this great question settled on a satisfactory basis.


My Lords, I feel certain that you will not expect me—I feel certain at any rate that the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, who raised this Question, will not expect me at this moment—to give any very definite answer to the Question which he has raised. I will explain why before I conclude my remarks. But I should like to add that I am very glad to have this opportunity of saying a few words and of explaining the position of His Majesty's Government in regard to this matter.

First of all I should like to refer to the circumstances in which the Commission was appointed. In the Order in Council under which Southern Rhodesia was administered by the British South Africa Company prior to the grant of responsible government in 1923, there were two main provisions with regard to the natives and the land question—first of all, a provision that the Company were from time to time to assign to natives land suitable and sufficient for their occupation, either as tribes or as portions of tribes; and secondly, a provision that a native might acquire and own land under the same conditions as a person who is not a native.

Under the first of these provisions the Company set aside large areas for reserves for the natives for tribal occupation, and in the year 1914 a Commission was appointed by the High Commissioner for South Africa, the object of which was to determine the amount of land for such occupation, having regard not only to present requirements but also to future necessities. The recommendations were accepted by His Majesty's Government, and were, I think, as the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, pointed out, intended to constitute a final settlement of the amount of land to be set aside as native reserves. This land is vested by Order in Council in the High Commissioner for South Africa and set apart for the sole and exclusive use of the natives.

The other provision mentioned related to the acquisition of land by natives on the ordinary European system, that of individual tenure. The native has not availed himself so far of this provision to any great extent. The Europeans in that territory have acquired about 31,000,000 acres, whereas the natives have acquired only some 45,000. Nevertheless, the provision that the native could acquire land on the same conditions as Europeans does establish an important potential right which, it is quite possible, may be made much more use of in the future than it has been in the past.

The question has been raised as to whether such indiscriminate acquisition of land in Southern Rhodesia would be desirable, and whether it would not be better in the interests of the native that special lands in the vicinity of the reserves should be set aside for them for individual tenure. A suggestion of this kind was made by a delegation which came over from Southern Rhodesia in the year 1921, when their purpose was to discuss negotiations with regard to the grant of responsible government to Southern Rhodesia. But His Majesty's Government on that occasion did not feel that they had sufficient information at their disposal to agree to any alteration of the existing provision being inserted in the new Constitution. The noble Lord, Lord Olivier, in his speech referred to the Despatch which Mr. Winston Churchill, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, addressed to the High Commissioner on this subject, and I will not repeat the words which he himself read out of the Report. But in consequence of this suggestion the Southern Rhodesian Government appointed a Commission. His Majesty's Government were asked to select and nominate a Chairman, and the person so selected and nominated was Sir William Morris Carter. As your Lordships probably know, Sir William Morris Carter has had a very distinguished career in the Colonial Service and has recently retired. Amongst other important positions which he has from time to time held is that of Chief Justice of Uganda and Chief Justice of the Tanganyika Territory.

The Commission undoubtedly produced, as noble Lords have pointed out, a very interesting and able Report and the conclusions which they reached can, I think, be summarised in this way. The policy of setting aside defined areas outside the reserves, within which the acquisition of land should be confined to natives and Europeans, was both practicable and desirable. It will not be expected, I am sure, that I should summarise the proposals alit are contained in this Report on an occasion like this, but there are certain figures which are given in the Question which appears upon the Paper in Lord Olivier's name that I think require a little elucidation. Lard Olivier, in his remarks, dealt with this land in square miles. I have not had the time during the speeches that have been made to convert those square miles into acres and, therefore, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I will deal with them in acres and not in square miles. The total area of Southern Rhodesia is 96 million acres. The amount that has been alienated so far to Europeans is 31 million acres. The native reserves consist of an area of 21,500,000 acres. In addition there are 1,500,000 acres occupied by urban areas, forest areas, the Matoppo National Park and the mission lands, the last-mentioned of which, I think, may be regarded as held in the interests of the natives. There remain, therefore, 42,000,000 acres of which the Commission have left for future determination areas amounting to 18,000,000 acres, and in the rest of the Colony it is proposed that there should be created native purchase areas of about 7,000,000 acres, which would in some cases require the expropriation of European land, leaving altogether about 17,500,000 acres for Europeans.

The recommendations of the Commission are not entirely unanimous and they will undoubtedly require very careful consideration before they are agreed to. The Report is that of a Commission appointed by the Southern Rhodesian Government. As your Lordships are aware, a delegation of Ministers from that part of the Empire is at present in this country for the purpose of discussing with the Secretary of State certain matters affecting the future of the Colony and it is understood that the question of the adoption of the general principles of the Commission's Report will be included it, those discussions. But I would ask your Lordships to notice this. The discussions have not yet begun and, therefore, I feel certain your Lordships will not expect me at this stage to make any statement upon the policy that is to be pursued. I would, however, in conclusion, make this observation. All the points and criticisms that have been made in the course of this debate by both Lord Olivier and Lord Buxton will be most carefully noted. I can assure both noble Lords that His Majesty's Government will not arrive at any decision with regard to the amendment of the existing Constitution of Southern Rhodesia without a most careful and thorough examination and consideration of all the aspects of that question, which, I am sure they will agree, is a matter of very great interest and importance to all sections of the population in Southern Rhodesia.


My Lords, there is one point that I omitted, and I should like to put it now if I may be allowed to do so. It is this. In reference to the question of the neutral areas, if that proposal is turned down I hope that the Dominions Office and the Rhodesian Government will see that half the area proposed will remain native.


My Lords, my noble friend will realise that I cannot give him any definite undertaking, but I will make a representation on that subject to my right hon. friend the Secretary of State with a view to its being noted when the conferences begin.


My Lords, I think I have been most fortunate in extracting from the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, a contribution to this debate, and such a satisfactory reply, so far as it goes, from the noble Earl, Lord Clarendon, who has promised us as much as we could reasonably expect. There is one thing that the noble Earl, Lord Buxton, said upon which I desire to comment. He took exception to the phraseology of my Question asking whether His Majesty's Government proposed to approve certain proposals. No doubt the noble Earl is properly sensitive with regard to the constitutional rights of self-governing Colonies, but where there is reserved in the Constitution under certain contingencies a power to His Majesty's Government to consent or not to consent to something, I do not think it is an abuse of language to ask whether His Majesty's Government propose to approve proposals that involve an alteration of that Constitution and the abrogation of that reservation to which the noble Earl referred—the right of natives to purchase land in or about unalienated lands. It does not seem to have been at all indiscreet on my part in those circumstances to ask whether His Majesty's Government propose to agree to the proposals.

There are one or two other points that I should like to touch upon. I am very strongly in sympathy with what the noble Earl said with regard to the desirability, if it can possibly be done, of making larger reserves so that we might have a real development of tribal civilisation. I am sorry that has been made impossible in Rhodesia, because it was not the policy of the Chartered Company or previous administrations to encourage any kind of development of native government. They rather tried to break it up and to divide the natives into many segregated reserves. That policy, I fear, has gone rather too far at the present time to make it possible to carry out that idea in Rhodesia, but it might be done in Zululand, where we have the native living side by side with the European under a single Constitution.

With regard to the question of communal or individual purchasing in the native purchase areas there is this to be said. The Commissioners say that it is true there are only 45,000 acres that have been bought wilder the present circumstances. They say that at the present time two things have been the cause of that. First of all, that the natives as a whole do not understand anything but the communal tenure, and that has been used as an argument for allowing them to buy by communal tenure in the native areas. Secondly, they do not like to buy in European areas even if they can get land sold them. They find it difficult to get land there and, even if they do, it is made clear to them that they are not welcome. That is partly the cause of this segregation. The Commissioners say that once this proposal is carried out and the natives understand that they can get land in this way there will be an enormously increased demand for purchases in severalty and the small native demand will be greatly enlarged.

With regard to the general question, it is a matter for discussion between His Majesty's Government and the representatives of the Colony as to whether this large apportionment should be finally made. The noble Earl suggested that as a margin for the future the 17,000,000 acres proposed to be reserved will be sufficient. I should like to see that margin made larger. Although it is a fact that the Commissioners have been asked to say how much land will be sufficient for natives, I contend that it is impossible to say how much land will be sufficient for natives thirty years hence or whether the white population will increase as fast as or faster than the native settlement. It is rather a hostile gesture towards the native settlement to say that we will set aside in perpetuity so large a proportion for white settlers. I cannot carry the argument any further now, but it is an argument that will impress many persons in this country. In view of the situation explained by the noble Earl I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.