27 DECEMBER 1919, Page 10


" SPECTATOR.") want to ask for the Spectator's help as well as that of other journals. I am a missionary from Southern Rhodesia, and I landed back on December 2nd. I began work for the Mashona- land Mission as long ago as 1901. It would seem to be expected that an Order in Council may issue before very long confirming, generally speaking, the findings of the Southern Rhodesia Native Affairs Commission, 1915. Under one of this Commis- sion's recommendations it has been proposed to reduce the large

Sabi Reserve in my own district by some 291,800 acres. It has been recommended that the reduction should take the shape of a twelve-mile belt having for its centre the line of a proposed railway, which would connect the junction station of Umvama (near the Falcon Mine) with the Salisbury-Umtali Railway. It would appear that in this case, as in at least one or two others, the Reserves Commission's decision did not approve itself to the local Native Commissioner. In this case it would appear that the opposition of this official ought to be very seriously considered, as he was given charge of the district as long ago as 1902, and may be presumed to know at first hand local questions of tribes and tribal settlement. On the other side, it would appear that the Commission members themselves made but a very partial official survey of this great Reserve. Moreover, it has been represented since the Commission's Papers (published by H.M. Stationery Office at la. 3d.) have been made public, that the Charter District contains a con- siderable number of natives who have received notice of eviction from their present tenures on private lands. Also, it has been shown that native agriculture in this particular District of Mashonaland has made a rather surprising movement with the times. The estimated number of ploughs owned by natives in the Charter District has been recently given as 1,600. The estimated increase in that number during about two years (1917-1919) of inflated prices may be taken to be approximately 200. An encouraging sign of the dear times. has been some revival or encouragement of the old Mashona smithy-craft, which has provided not only the hoe-head, but the ploughshare. The most probable line that the proposed railway would take threatens some of the better country in a Reserve about one- third of which has been credibly computed to be not good, nor medium, but bad land. The only mitigatory concession as to the diminution award received up to the present seems to be this, that should native villages be found to be on the railway belt proposed, an ordinary fifty-yard railway strip would be taken in that region rather than a twelve-mile strip, and equivalent land would be subtracted elsewhere. But where is such equivalent land likely to be taken? I am one who has had considerable opportunity of studying the natives and land question in the Charter District of Mashonaland. I have already represented, in connexion with His Excellency our High Commissioner's visit to Mashonaland last August, that " in the Charter District we cannot rightly afford to lose a single acre unless it be taken from the bad lands, which may be estimated to form about one-third of the Sabi Reserve in acreage." As to the character of those bad lands, and also as to that better land so extensively menaced by the proposed railway belt of twelve miles width, I hope to offer information. Should any lover of fair play for British natives desire it,

would he kindly write to me am, Sir, &c.,

The Knoll, Barton Road, Torquay. ARTHUR, S. Canes.