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Zimbabwe: 'The Second Republic'; Land history; Ownership and Productivity in the Post Mugabe Era

13 Jan 2021 at 12:32hrs | Views
The Author is a Master of Science in International Trade and Diplomacy student at the University of Zimbabwe. He holds a MSc degree in Development Studies (National University of Science and Technology); BA (Hons) History and Development Studies (Midlands State University). He is a Post Graduate (Doctoral) researcher at the University of Fort Hare's Institute of Social and Economic Research (UFH-FHISER)(2017-2021)

A rational and logical analysis of the merits and challenges of the Fast Track Land Reform  Programme (FTLRP) embarked on by the Government of Zimbabwe in the year 2000, starts with the definition of the term Land reform.  Posterman and Hanstad (2005) as quoted in Madebwe and Madebwe (2011) defined Land Reform as agrarian reforms whose purpose is to reduce socio-economic marginalisation of the rural poor and other socially excluded groups by granting them access to land and formalising their control over land. Berstein (2002) defined land reform as the statutory division of agricultural land and its reallocation to the land-less people. The 2000 Fast track land reform programme in Zimbabwe is indeed a socio-economic and political ‘dynamite' that cannot be handled without explosion.  Debates have mushroomed in an attempt to assess and ascertain the necessity and setbacks of the Fast track land redistribution programme, with many scholars agreeing to disagree on the topic. A comprehensive analysis therefore encompasses the historical background that led to the aforementioned reform.

The Fast Track Land Reform Programme which was launched on 15 July 2000 to speed up the pace of land acquisition and resettlement. The land issue remains one of the most controversial programmes that took place in the post colonial Zimbabwe. Proponents of the Nationalist, ZANU-PF party have described it as a historical milestone that was done to write-off the wrongs of the ninety years of colonial rule. On the other hand, agitators for change especially the Movement for Democratic Change (M.D.C.) in [all their formations], Western countries as well as some ‘Civil Society Organisations' viewed the FTLRP as an "election gimmick" conducted in a harp-hazard manner, "kumera kunge howa" (growing as mushroom) as the MDC-T late leader, Morgan Tsvangirai opined.  

The land distribution patterns on the eve of the fast track land reform were largely a result of the colonial strategy to empower white settlers at the expense of the "native" people (Tabex Encyclopedia, 1987). The settlers grabbed land at will during the period before the first Chimurenga. Mashonaland and Masvingo provinces were used to reward the pioneer corps and mercenaries for completing the occupation of Northern Zimbabwe. In October 1888, King Lobengula was tricked to consent to the terms of the Rudd Concession. The major term of the Rudd Concession was that the British represented by Rhodes and the British South African Company were to do what they ‘Deem necessary' over "Lobemgula's territory", this in short meant exploitation and or expropriation of the land between North of the Limpopo and South of the Zambezi, modern day Zimbabwe. It is vital at this juncture to elucidate that King Lobengula attempted to repudiate terms of the Rudd Concession when he realised that he had been tricked by the British who were represented by Charles Rudd; Francis Thompson and Rockford Maguire. The trio had been sent by Cecil John Rhodes, the British's high imperialist agent.

The defeat of the Ndebele in the 1893 Anglo-Ndebele war, saw the creation of reserves for the natives in Gwaai and Shangani areas in 1894, while the settlers took the rest of Matebeleland through the Matabeleland Orders in Council. The defeat of the Shona and the Ndebele in 1897 (First Chimurenga/Umvukela) saw the settlers having absolute control of the present day Zimbabwe and its resources. The 1930 Land Apportionment Act (L. A. A.), divided the land into three categories along racial lines. It legitimized European control of large tracks of fertile land and marginalizing the Africans into the reserves (Rasmussen, 1979).  

Land Apportionment in Southern Rhodesia in 1930

(Source: R. Palmer in Heinemann 1977)

In 1930, Africans had 29,8% of the land for a population estimated at 1 081 000, while European settler population of about 5000 was allocated 51% of the best land (Palmer, 1977). The LAA was later buttressed by the Land Husbandry Act (L. H. A.) of 1951 and the Land Tenure Act (L. T. A.) of 1969. The L. H. A. destroyed the African cattle rearing livelihood, as the de-stocking laws only allowed Africans to keep not more than five beasts. The L. T. A. was the final law to emasculate the Africans as it demarcated the land equally between the races even though the Europeans constituted less than 5% of the population (Auret,  1990).

The land imbalance was one of the grievances of the Second Chimurenga war (Kriger, 1992). 1979 Lancaster House Agreement stipulated that the land was to be bought 10 years after 1979 on a "willing seller, willing buyer" basis. In this regard the whites were supposed willingly sell land to the post colonial government.  The Patriotic Front (ZANU-ZAPU) accepted it on the understanding that the UK, US and other donor nations would pay for the land needed for resettlement.
The land offered to Government of Zimbabwe under the ‘willing selling, willing buyer' bases, in most cases was expensive, marginal and occurred in pockets around the country, making it difficult to effect a systematic and managed land reform. Moreover, land supply failed to match the demand for land resettlement. Added to these complicating factors was the absence of international support to fund land acquisition (Palmer, 1994).  According to the Zimbabwe's Ministry of Lands, Resettlement and Rural Development Re-settlement (1999), between 1980 and 1990, the Government of Zimbabwe managed to acquire only 3.5 million hectares and resettled 71,000 households.

Between 1980-1999, there were four resettlement models that were adopted by the government of Zimbabwe. According to Chitsike (2003) Land was distributed using the following four Models;  Model A- Village residential stand and 5 hectares of farm land. Model B – Cooperatives to manage purchased farms on a collective bases. Model C- Members had individual plots but shared grazing land. Model D- It was meant for low rainfall regions 4 and 5 specifically for grazing. It was later modified and renamed Three-Tier Scheme (Chitsike, 2003).

The fall of the Labour Party in Britain saw the abandonment of the 1979 Lancaster funding promises amid unconfirmed allegations of embezzlement of resettlement funds leveled against the Africans by the former colonial master. Coupled with that, the Government of Zimbabwe hosted the 9 to 11 September 1998 Land Donor Conference in Harare. Zimbabwe announced a US$1,9 billion (about ZW$42 billion then) budget for its phase II of the land reform programme and appealed for funding, however, in practice it received ZW$7, 339 million which fell far below what the donor community had pledged (Hove and Gwiza, 2012). This showed lack of commitment by the donor community towards land redistribution in Zimbabwe.

Legislation relating to land acquisition (1980-2005) 

Source: Mabhena 2007 (Sam Moyo 2001 and modified by  Clifford Mabhena 2007)

In 1999, a referendum was held that sought to abandon the ‘willing seller, willing buyer' chiefly because the former colonial power (Britain) decided to abandon its funding promises.  During the a referendum, the white Commercial farmers ‘sponsored' the "NO" vote to the draft referendum because government would no longer be obliged to pay compensation to acquire land except for infrastructural improvement. The results of the referendum triggered the "invasion" of the white owned farms by black landless Zimbabweans.

The land "invasions" as they were described by some Western media houses, were however, first done by the ordinary people (Chief Svosve and subjects) and later accelerated by the war veterans of the Second Chimurenga (Second War of Liberation). The first land occupations by the ordinary peasants can be traced back to 1980 when people in the Eastern borders of the country occupied the farms which had been abandoned by the white commercial farmers who left the country fearing the coming of a ‘Marxist' government (Frederikse, 1985). It therefore, goes without saying that the black people needed land way before the FTLRP. Consequently, the government sanctioned the "invasions" in response to lack of commitment to fund the willing buyer, willing seller land acquisation programme. The Government also reportedly feared mass rebellion by war veterans and the Government also sanctioned the acquisition in fulfillment of the ethos of the liberation struggle .

According to Raftopolous and Jensen (eds) (2004),  the elements of the fast track programme were to; Speed up the identification for compulsory acquisition of not less that 5 million hectares of land for resettlement; Accelerate the planning and demarcation of acquired land and settler emplacement of this land; The provision of limited basic infrastructure (such as boreholes, dip tanks and access roads) and farmer support services (such as tillage and agricultural inputs);  to ensure simultaneous resettlement in all provinces to ensure that the reform programme was comprehensive and evenly implemented; The provision of secondary infrastructure such as schools, clinics and rural service centres as soon as resources became available. The FTLRP had two resettlement models; A1- was intended to decongest communal lands and the A2- was aimed at creating a ‘cadre' of black commercial farmers (Derman, 2006).

The FTLRP, corrected the ownership imbalances between the whites and blacks as eluded before.  According to Moyo (2006:5) an estimated "80% of large agricultural land holdings" were seized by blacks in 2004 with different patterns of access, heterogeneous capacities to use land and of their support requirements. Resultantly, "approximately 140 866 families were given (A1) land holdings, whereas commercial (A2) beneficiaries totaled 14 500 new farmers, on 4, 2 and 2-3 million hectares correspondingly (Moyo, 2006). 114,830 households had already been resettled on 4.37 million hectares by 2002 (UNDP, 2002).

FTLRP is reported to have led to a decline of land degradation, the FTLRP largely contributed to the decline of cancerous poverty, environmental degradation and   overpopulation by resettling about 213,000 households on 14, 9 million hectares of land that was previously controlled by whites (The Herald, 22 September 2011). Practically very little was done to fulfill the drive towards environmental preservation.

People were moved from infertile, low rainfall areas with wild animals such as baboons, monkey and elephants that feed on and destroy crops. Before the FTLRP, majority Africans lived in hard to reach areas without any feeder roads, as such marketing agricultural produce was difficult and often expensive due to the nature of road networks.  

The FTLRP increased women's access to land ownership. According to Utete (2003) larger proportion of women, between 12 and 18 percent, now own land in their own right (Utete, 2003), compared to the four percent of white women who owned LSCF lands and the five percent of black women who controlled the land in previous resettlement areas and communal lands (Rugube (et al.) (2003). Rugube et al. (2003) noted that many claim that the land redistribution restored their identity (e.g. in relation to ancestral graves, etc.) and re-establishes their ‘belonging' within the given territories. Some women claim that land reform liberated them from the customary tenure rules typical of Communal Areas and that they are optimistic about their land rights struggles vis-a`-vis the state (WFLA, 2009). The Command Agriculture programme implemented by the Government of Zimbabwe in 2016 boosted productivity.  

Land redistribution also brought along increased access to and better distribution of the benefits from natural resources such as water, indigenous forests and wildlife, as well as other social benefits realised from such resources. The proliferation of small-scale mining (especially gold panning and mining) reflects, according to some interviewees in Kwekwe, a ‘liberation of mineral resources, which had been hidden under the monopolistic LSCF farms (Moyo and Chambati (et al), 2009). The state has however, vigorously clamped down on "illegal" gold mining in Zimbabwe.

Given these merits one should not be too prejudiced so as to ignore demerits of associated with the process and procedure of the implementation of the FTLRP.  Sachikonye (2003) noted that the FTLRP led to increased unemployment rate. Sachikonye (2003) elucidated that before FLRP, an estimated 320 000 to 350 000 commercial farm workers, supported an estimated 2 million dependents. Sachikonye (2003) further noted that job losses varied from 50 000 upwards as the former farm workers were excluded from the programme, only 2097 (1,9%) of the farm workers were absorbed.  Around 45,000 former farm workers are known to have been physically displaced and living as ‘squatters' (Moyo and Chambati (et al), 2009). It is worthnoting that the former farm workers mostly did not participate in the programme as their allegedly sided with their employers they by eliminating themselves from the programme. Hantarck (2005), noted that displacement leds to increased impoverishment risks, such as homelessness, unemployment, marginalization, food insecurity, loss of property, erosion of health status, and social disarticulation (Hantarck, 2005).

It can also be argued that the models (A1 and A2) of the Fast track land reforms in the case of Matabeleland provinces were largely a top-down approach. Mabhena (2010) noted that Matebeleland is best suitable for cattle ranching, as such, people needed larger tracks of land for animal husbandry instead of the small pieces of land given to the majority. Mabhena (2010) has it that the local people had;

.......very little input in deciding what type of land distribution suites them. The problem of the top-down land distribution paradigm is that it relegates local people to bystanders in their own development and this has a negative impact on their livelihoods particularly agrarian livelihoods since the majority of the rural population depend on these livelihoods for survival.

The FLRP had a knock on effect on the economy which is heavily dependent on agriculture. The economy suffered heavily from loss of investor confidence and unwillingness to support a programme that reduced "White monopoly capital". Donor communities suspended almost all aid programmes. This was due to actions by most Western governments who demonised the redistribution of land from the whites to the blacks and branded it as gross abuse of human rights. The FTLRP attracted sanctions from EU and the US as a condemnation of the alleged gross abuse of human rights. This arguably increased the West's quest to effect regime change against ZANU PF leaders..  

There has been a significant contraction of the volume of agricultural produce from large scale commercial farming areas due to disruption of normal production. The recorded output reduction in Large Scale Commercial farm areas indicates a drop in maize production from 800 000t in 2000 to about 80 000 in 2003, wheat from 225 000t in 2002 to 100 000t in 2003 (Commercial Farmers Union, 2003). However, a dramatic fall in agricultural production in Zimbabwe cannot be wholly burdened on the Fast Track Land Reform policies and implementation alone. The farmers hand no lines of credit and this was also compounded by natural disasters.
Food insecurity was further aggravated by prolonged droughts that regularly rocked Zimbabwe. According to Zakaria (2012), the marketing of the main food crops, notably maize and wheat, was monopolized by the Grain Marketing Board which priced food crops at "unsustainable and un-realistic prices" which were not commensurate with the rapidly increasing costs of inputs and servicing of farm equipment. In response, to the challenges which confronted them, most farmers turned to selling their grain on black market, profiteering beyond the reach of many Zimbabweans, hence exacerbating food insecurity in the country. There were incidences of poor timing in the distribution of agricultural inputs by GMB, were farmers received their farming inputs late into the rain season resulting in serious negative effects on production capacity (Zakaria, 2012). In addressing these challenges, the Second Republic led by His Excellency, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has committed itself to increase provision of agricultural inputs to farmers through inputs programmes such as Command Agriculture; Pfumvudza; and the Presidential Agriculture input scheme. The United Nations Human Rights Council (2020) observed that agricultural support [in Zimbabwe] has greatly expanded in recent years to an estimated direct fiscal cost of 4.2% of GDP in 2018, up from less than 1%  in 2013.

"Corruption and nepotism" in the allocation of land, led to "multiple farm ownership" whilst some landless potential Zimbabweans had no land despite willingness to have land for agricultural purposes. The hurried implementation nature of the FTLRP created a fertile ground for nepotism, corruption and wrong choice of beneficiaries with no farming knowledge and skills. Utete (2003) argues that, FTLRP resulted in manifold-farm possession by some leaders who had limited knowledge of farming. It was because of these among other weaknesses that the FTLRP was possibly branded and denounced by opposing voices, "Western proxies" as "mere political gimmick" by the ZANU PF led government. The "Second Republic" has committed itself to ensure farm rationalisation and rejuvenation of production through various programmes such as dam construction and creation of conditions suitable for farmers to access lines of credits. The farm rationalisation programme is currently underway and is envisoned to address under-utilisation of land and issues to do with multiple ownership.

More-so, the FTLRP was hurriedly kick-started ahead of a well organised plan (Phase 2 of the land reform programme). The Land Audit Report by Utete (2003) reveals that the major shortcomings were a result of inadequate institutional capacity to implement the FTLRP. These manifested themselves in lack of; land use planning, land use demarcation, development of basic infrastructure, the lowveld Resettlement areas were the hardest hit by the Cholera epidemic in 2008-2010.

There was wide spread violence during the FTLRP, the period is largely remembered by the general public in Zimbabwe as the "jambanja era" (period of violence) with the nationalist ZANU PF regarding it as the 3rd Chimurenga/ War of Liberation. Those who were perceived as against the land redistribution exercise were reportedly being targets for violence as they were perceived as enemies of the revolution.

To "pull the long curtain down", the FTLRP remains a debatable topic with some scholars arguing that it is too early to conclude on the success and failures of the programme given that the programme is still ongoing and procedures are being under taken to address and redress loopholes. The agricultural input schemes are indeed vital in promoting productivity however, the distribution, usage and repayment of these inputs ought to be closely monitored to ensure effectiveness of these programmes. Commenting on semi-arid Matebeleland provinces, Mabhena (2010) concluded that, the FTLRP created more ‘Visible hectares for black people with vanishing livelihoods'. There is need, as is currently being done by the Government of Zimbabwe, to rationalise the farms to enhance productivity. To sum it up, native black Zimbabwean regained their ancestral land, if properly managed, the land is indeed Zimbabwe's prosperity.


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Source - Livingstone Kazizi
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