Land reform: Zanu (PF)’s missed opportunity

Zanu (PF) has become the tragedy of a party with seemingly good policies for the Zimbabwean populace failing to win free and fair elections. If one were to compare the policies of the different political parties in Zimbabwe the result would show Zanu (PF) winning overwhelmingly on the relative scorecard with respect to empowering the people.

But, why does this party seem to be struggling? Why does a party with evidently populist policies have to resort to violence to get votes? The bottom line is that the party failed to take advantage of the land reform programme, and its other empowerment policies.

The overall assessment of land reform gives conflicting results – depending on which lenses one uses. Pro-Zanu (PF) lenses tend to magnify the success of it while others seek to discredit it. This is only to be expected in our highly polarized society. The only consensus is that land is a major, complex emotional issue that should have been addressed many decades ago.

Objective analyses show that land reform had empowered some Zimbabweans. Government sources claim that about 300 000 families were allocated land under the A1 and A2 models. This is disputed because there has never been a full land audit.

Government records in 2009 show that the A2 model had resettled about 16 000 farmers and the A1 model about 146 000. Even if the 300 000 is accepted as given, it is far less than people envisaged when the process was initiated. If we assume that each family has five people, we can infer that about 1.5million benefited (this number is too liberal) – about 11% of the population of 13 million. The reader can judge whether this is success or failure.

Land: core of

the struggle

The majority of those resettled were Zanu (PF) supporters and senior government officials, including the army and war veterans. Many politicians and senior government officials received multiple farms. Land audits have been instituted but the results have not been made public for fear of exposing the personalities involved in this wanton greed.

The leadership lacks the will to deal with this. The reasons for this apparent inertia are surprising as the confiscation of multiple farms could easily have projected Zanu (PF) as a party intolerant of corruption and greed. Land reform is clearly unfinished business. It is a process which posterity will have revisited and inequalities addressed. This will not be a process of restoring land to former white owners but to address the black against black inequalities, which made it a dismal failure.

Zanu (PF) missed an opportunity to reverse their fortunes in the urban areas. Following the triumph of the “No Vote” in the 1999 referendum, which was widely regarded as a total rejection of Zanu (PF) by the people, the party panicked. They then turned to land to win back votes. But, how do you expect to improve your waning support by empowering only those who are already in the Zanu (PF) fold?

This is what we saw happening in the selection of the beneficiaries. Had Zanu (PF) followed an objective process it would have been their Lazarus moment. The Zanu (PF) government had scored very highly in the 80s and early 90s through their policies of free education and healthcare. These policies succeeded (in the eyes of the public) because they were implemented in the true spirit of the liberation struggle before greed set in and corrupted the minds and hearts of those in power.

Without any doubt Robert Mugabe is a shrewd politician. He knew what needed to be done. We know that although the land reform was on the agenda from the 80s going to the 90s it had started to lose momentum as powerful black politicians started joining the CFU, having bought farms under the willing buyer willing seller system. The cost of land had started soaring as the fears of political instability began to decrease in the mid-eighties.

The return of Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole from his self-imposed exile and his speech on land reform, following by his resettling about 4000 families on his personal Churu farm served as a wake-up call for Mugabe. Although Zanu (PF), through the official newspapers was quick to dismiss Sithole’s opinions, Mugabe was quick to see a threat in his former boss’s utterances. He remembered the promises made during the liberation struggle. Land was the core of the struggle.

Land: unfinished business

Populist policies usually win crucial votes when push comes to shove at election time. The problem is that Mugabe allowed his lieutenants to turn the good intention of the land reform to serve only a few, leaving millions to suffer the consequences. The majority of the people, about 89% of the population, who did not benefit only saw severe food shortages, de-industrialization, cash shortages, price increases and many other ills that befell them.

Zanu (PF) will argue that that these were a direct result of sanctions. But debate continues to rage concerning this complex issue, which has been confused by deliberate misinformation and blatant untruths.

If one reads ZIDERA legislation, the reasons advanced were more to do with the method employed in the farms take over and the violence of the 2000 elections. Has anyone stopped to imagine what could have happened if the land redistribution had been carried out in a non-violent way? There are significant chances that there would not be any ZIDERA today. It would have been extremely difficult to justify. – To be continued next week.

Post published in: Analysis

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