FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT H E Roman Catholic bishops of Rhodesia, after a five-day meeting, have expressed "grave concern at a new attitude" of the Rhodesian Government towards the churches.
In their statement they declared that the new Land Tenure Act might erode Christian rights and principles. For example, it threatens the freedom of church schools to continue their policy of entry regardless of racial origins. They said the whole missionary work and activity of the Church could be affected.
The fact is that the missionaries' work stands in the way of the Government's policy of "retribalisation", The Land Tenure Act, passed by Parliament at the end of last year but not yet promulgated, is one of the main planks of this policy.
DIVIDED LANDS What it does is to divide most of Rhodesia into equal amounts of "European" and "African" land, the rest being National land. The proportion works out at ten acres per African and 200 acres per European, with one acre of
National land per Rhodesian (including Lake Kariba).
This division, with a two per cent difference either way, is fixed for all time. The European area includes all the major towns and the main lines of communication.
A racial area is one in which the interests of its race are "paramount". Thus, an African "may not own, lease or occupy land in the European area; the owner or persons occupying or in control of land in the European area, or his agent, shall not dispose of, or attempt to dispose of any such land to an African; or permit, suffer or allow an African to occupy any such land."
The same is true of a European in an African area.
Concessions are to be made by a complicated system of permits, given "as the Minister thinks fit." "Occupation includes attending school or hospital, and the Minister will even have power to prescribe should the need arise that attendance in Church "shall constitute occupation for the purposes of the Act."
Thus the missions, who have owned much of their land since the Pioneer days, and for whom their work among the Africans has always been paramount, suddenly find it is legally subject to the interests of racialism.
Where their land is in a European area, the hundreds of African tenants who work on it will have to either leave immediately, or re-register themselves and stay till they die, when their family will have to leave. When their children become of age, they will have to leave.
GRANT REDUCED On the educational level, the Government will be able to, and very likely will, debar African pupils from attending multi-racial schools. It has already announced that it wanted to turn the responsibility for the primary education of African children from the missions, who educate 500,000 of the country's 675,000 primary-age children, to native councils.
They would be poorer, less competent, and more malleable. To encourage the process it has reduced the 100 per cent Government grant for teachers' salaries by five per cent, which will mean an average increase in annual school fees of 12s. 6d. per child -a lot of money for people whose cash income may be as little as f10 per year.