Are they serious about land?

We all knew the liberation war was about land, didn't we? Then why didn't ZANU have a land policy before 1980? before 2000? Why hasn't it got one now?

They easily accepted entrenched clauses in the independence constitution. But other former colonies had restrictive entrenched clauses in their independence constitutions; I can't think of one that kept those clauses as long as the independence agreement demanded. Why was our “revolutionary” government so cautious?

Some readers may be surprised to hear that Britain did pay to buy farms for the resettlement schemes of the 1980s. They stopped paying when it became clear that some chefs had acquired prime farms which they did not use. Government had empty tracts of “State land” which they used for resettlement, so possibly the agreed area of land had been resettled, but it was not exactly the same land which had been bought with British money. That should have given us some warning signals.

If Zanu (PF) had used the waiting period of the 1980s to make plans for what kind of land reform they would implement when the entrenched clauses lapsed in 1990, we could perhaps forgive the delay, if not the misappropriation of those good farms. But no, they just stirred in their sleep and started thinking about it, or so they said.

It took until 1994 for the Rukuni Commission to come up with proposals, some of them good, none of them implemented, as far as I know. Then came a series of meetings of “all stakeholders”: government, the CFU, GAPWUZ (the farm workers' union), donor organisations and every NGO with a pet project they wanted incorporated in new resettlement schemes.

Those were held over a few years and only came up with one practical suggestion on how to move forward. Noting that about half of all commercial farm land, except in the specially favourable conditions of the eastern Highlands, was unused, it was proposed that this unused land be taken over and the commercial farmers who were affected should share their marketing facilities, their equipment and their expertise with the new settlers.

That sounded a practical way of helping new farmers without adversely affecting existing agricultural production, but the CFU were not willing to give up a single acre of land under these conditions, while government refused to subdivide existing farm units as if they'd been given a rule on tablets of stone by a modern Moses. The chefs had seen how some of their number got nice farms and wanted the same. Half a big farm was not enough.

Meanwhile the people got impatient. More began to resettle themselves on underused commercial farms. In 1999 police were still removing Hwedza villagers from unused land they had occupied. Six months later came the referendum, ZANU saw they could lose the 2000 election, and new invasions were organised, but not by peasants who knew the land. Instead “war veterans” with no experience, no equipment and no capital were allowed to carve themselves plots, though soon standard sizes of plots were decreed. We saw no other evidence of government planning. I shed no tears for the white farmers; most of them deserved what they got, but why drive away the unfortunate oppressed farm workers? With their knowledge of the land they had been working, they could have been valuable members of any new resettled communities. Instead, the settlers were left to their own resources and those who did succeed soon faced the threat that someone higher in the party hierarchy might take a fancy to their plots. Even some of those higher-ups who got whole farms and used them have lost those farms to people even higher up.

Has anything changed? Who are the principal movers against the few surviving white farmers and the big farmers among the “Mujuru cabal”?

Is there any evidence that Zanu (PF), whether they call themselves Patriotic Front or People First, have learned anything?

Post published in: Analysis

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