Has Zimbabwe's land reform actually been a success? A new book says yes.

Zimbabwe cover state driving white farmers off the land and handing it out to cronies and bogus war veterans, who fail to produce anything much in the way of crops. Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land, a new book co-authored by Joe Hanlon, Jeanette Mangengwa and Teresa Smart, sheds a very different light. Based on field visits, numerous conversations with farmers, and mining the available data, it paints a much more nuanced picture that is broadly positive about the impact of Zimbabwe’s land reform. It makes some telling points, including: The media story about efficient white commercial farms is a half truth at best: at independence in 1980, 700,000 black farmers were squeezed onto 53% of the farmland, while 6,000 white farmers had 46% (and often the best land at that). Yet when Zimbabwe achieved majority rule, one third of white farmers were insolvent and a third were just about breaking even. Only 5% (300 people!) could be described as ‘very profitable’. It often takes a generation for a land reform to produce results – the larger of Zimbabwe’s two post apartheid land reforms is only a decade old, but new farmers have already caught up with the previous white-dominated system in production (although of course, there are always better and worse farmers in any category). That is initially being achieved by bringing some of the idle land into production, but yields are also rising. Zimbabwe is special in several ways: one of the best educated populations in Africa actually sees farming as a good way to earn a living. Those making a success of farming include ex army generals, teachers and businesspeople. Zimbabwe black power farmThe book is not an apologia for Robert Mugabe’s government – it acknowledges corruption and cronyism, but argues that the more recent land reform was driven from below, initially in the face of Zanu opposition, before the government finally decided to accept a fait accomplit – ‘perhaps the only thing Robert Mugabe and the British Government agree on is a myth, namely that Mugabe was responsible for the land occupations’. The book also points out that not all cronies are the same – some are just interested in speculating on land values, but others have actually become successful commercial farmers. The more recent land reform comes in two types: ‘A1’ farms handed out about 150,000 plots of 6 hectares to smallholders by dividing up large white farms, while the ‘A2’ model sought to create large black commercial farms by handing over much larger areas of land to about 23,000 farmers. One side effect of Zimbabwe’s educational record is plentiful research and survey data, which the authors make the most of in exploring the impact of the land reform. Has most land gone to government cronies? No.  Large-scale black commercial farmers have received just 7% of the land handed out since independence. The first half of the book covers this history, the second surveys today’s agriculture, with evocative reportage from the field supplementing the number crunching. The book draws lessons about which farmers succeed and which fail, and why. Overall, a lot of the smaller A1 farmers (including a significant number of women beneficiaries of the land reform) have become successful small commercial producers, breaking into markets for tobacco, maize and barley, often as contract farmers. This despite the lack of support for new farmers (a contrast to the lavish support for white newbies in earlier times). The big A2 farmers have faced more of a struggle, both because hyperinflation and economic crisis had more of an impact , and because political infighting and favouritism tends to target the big farms. The largely unreported story here, though, is that the dollarization of 2009 and subsequent economic stabilisation has led to a resurgence of agriculture. Not all is great of course, land reform has led to deforestation, and gold panning is causing environmental damage. Paid agricultural Zimbabwe land hungerworkers now number more than a million, and often face low wages and poor working conditions. Water and irrigation remain a big challenge. The book concludes: ‘In the biggest land reform in Africa, 6,000 white farmers have been replaced by 245,000 Zimbabwean farmers. Zimbabwe’s land reform has not been neat, and huge problems remain. But 245,000 new farmers have received land, and most of them are farming it. They have raised their own standard of living; have already reached production levels of the former white farmers; and with a bit of support, are ready to substantially increase that production.’ So who’s right, the book or the Daily Mail? I’m off to Zimbabwe for a few days in March, so hopefully will get a clearer idea then, but would love to hear your views before I head off. And if you’re in London, there are two opportunites to hear from the authors this week – at Chatham House on Thursday, 31st January, 5pm (need to book) and LSE today (28th January), 6.30pm (no booking required).]]>

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33 Responses to “Has Zimbabwe's land reform actually been a success? A new book says yes.”
  1. Pete

    Duncan, this success story is so different from the standard UK media image of agriculture in Zimbabwe that I had quick look for a few statistics on the web. I couldn’t find any that said agricultural output has not fallen significantly over this period. For example corn/maize production is said to have roughly halved since the 1990’s. There was a good year for maize in 2011 that was the same as a typical poor year in the 90’s, but on it’s own it can’t be seen as a return to previous levels of productivity.
    It is good news if only 7% of land has gone to cronies. I hope the book is also correct on the claims that agricultural productivity in Zimbabwe is recovering, but I will remain sceptical until you return after your trip (either that, or official estimates improve, whichever comes first).

  2. As someone who has found the entire narrative about land reform and elections in Zimbabwe deeply worrying, I’m glad to see this post challenging the highly contrived orthodox view.
    Coverage of Zimbabwean issues by the British press has presented a picture of corrupt, incompetent black africans destroying the so-called “brea basket” of African while ignoring that the land was extensively used for the cash crop of tobacco.
    Thankfully, magazines like the New African have always painted a more balanced picture, and academics such as those who published Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities (James Currey) who have studied the land reform exist, even if it appears like they were trying to shout across a howling gale of colonial propaganda.
    As for the BBC, it degenerates with every day into a mouthpiece for Foreign Office duplicity.
    I look forward to reading this book about another marginalised country struggling to overcome decades of colonial abuse.

    • Alice Tromm

      Well Murdo, there is no agriculture going on in Zimbabwe. I was there a couple of months ago (August 2018) and most food comes from South Africa. It was the Breadbasket of Southern Africa and over 40 million Africans were fed by Mieles from Zimbabwe. Colonial propaganda? Rhodesia was not a colony if you know the history. The whites in Zimbabwe are Zimbabweans. Just like blacks in the Uk are British. If you believe Oxfam then you are a nitwit. So you love poverty and hunger in Zimbabwe?

  3. I’ve recently had the opportunity to work on the financing and investment environment in Zimbabwe, as part of a team looking at the post-hyperinflation economy. Another economist within the team also examined the issue of agricultural reform in significant detail (the report numbered 117 pages), so I’ll refrain from trying to be as comprehensive as the authors were in my brief comments here.
    The thrust of their arguments accord with much of what you summarized in your post: that the post-land reform environment is far from homogeneous, and experiences of farmers differ among different crops and farms; some commodity production has in fact recovered to pre-1990s levels, while others have not. So I’ll definitely agree that the picture is far from a uniformly dismal one, and it is easy to find anecdotal evidence that land reform may even have been beneficial to some segments of the population (not least in terms of addressing inequality, if that is a policy objective).
    But the problem of land reform (and the post-2000 economic reforms in Zimbabwe more generally) go beyond the issue of land tenure and indigenization. I’ll focus on two examples, both of which are related to investment activity (the area I worked on).
    First, infrastructure, especially in terms of electricity generation (in particular from hydropower), has been an impediment to reviving agricultural productivity. Many electricity generating facilities underwent severe depreciation after 2000, and a stable source of electricity remains a major reported constraint to business today. Although farming, per se, may not be very energy-intensive, downstream agro-manufacturing is, and with vertical linkages broken, demand for agricultural product has weakened. While it is difficult to pin down the extent to which lower yields in some sectors is due to either demand deficiencies or supply shortfalls, the bottom line is that looking at agricultural output alone does not provide a full picture of where the constraints to economic vitality lie.
    Second, land tenure reform led to a significant withdrawal of bank financing from agricultural sector. One of the major constraints to greater agricultural output is the lack of access to capital. Now, while such access is certainly more multifacted than just claiming that loans are difficult to come by (loans may be justifiably difficult to come by if risks are high and creditworthiness low), the insecurity of land tenure has made it difficult for land to be used as collateral against loans. My understanding is that there have been some moves by the government to try to promote the recognition of long-term leased land as credible collateral, but the decision ultimately rests on banks’ perception of the security of property rights. Indeed, secure property rights and the rule of law are one of the important structural/institutional determinants of cross-country investment activity, and while by some measures rule of law has been more stable since 2000, there are concerns that unmeasured uncertainty over the security of property may be serving as a drag to investment (which remains below levels that would be predicted by Zimbabwe’s level of development).
    Most generally, the corrosive effect of uncertainty—from both continued political tensions, as well as the broader policy environment and rules of the game—on investment activity has been a nontrivial reason why the effects of land reform may actually be more pervasive and persistent than just looking at the agricultural sector. And when we are looking at the bigger picture of revitalizing Zimbabwe’s economy, the issue of institutional quality will inevitable need to be examined in much greater (and finer) detail, without the baggage of preconceived notions of whether land seizures are uniformly good or bad.
    Your post makes an important step in this direction, so thanks for that. Enjoy the gorgeous summer weather in Harare.

  4. sophie

    I think it does a great disservice to black Zimbabweans to characterise those against the land reforms as either neo-colonialist/foreign office stooges, or daily mailers.
    Ian Scoones fills in an important part of the story, but it cannot be understood in isolation. Smallholders are producing more, and doing better. However, overall productivity of workers in the sector has fallen by around half (WB figures). Exports have fallen significantly, contributing to the worrying current account deficit. Once the driver of the economy, agriculture has fallen as a proportion of national output. Most tellingly, since struggling to feed itself since 2000, Zimbabwe will still be reliant on food aid in 2013. This is all despite the rebound since 2009.
    The huge inequality in economic power and land ownership was a barrier to development. However, this does not justify the violent and illegal appropriation of land. The book does not interview any of the 150,000 black workers and their families who lost their livelihoods as a result. And yes, events may have overtaken ZANU, but this wasn’t some bottom-up liberation struggle. Those who violent ally grabbed land were taking advantage of weakness at the top. It signifies a political system which has become increasingly extractive/rent-seeking.

  5. Tsitsi Choruma

    This was an interesting book to read. Going back to the history of land in Zimbabwe was very important and necessary as most discourse on land in Zimbabwe is very disconnected to the past. The book demonstrates how the background of grabbing has been repeated in the THIRD CHIMURENGA – how striking that the whites who continue to fight the land re-distribution in Zimbabwe do not give this back ground or even acknowledge the past injustices perpetrated by their ancestors with regards to land. The statistics on what is happening today around farming are encouraging. While the people of Zimbabwe continue to want to see more happening in relation to food security – the revelation that it takes a decade to develop a farm into a functional farming system is worth noting. We do have a lot to celebrate as Zimbabweans but we also need not lose sight of the ball as land is clearly the basis of our prosperity.
    While this book challenges our narratives on land, it also challenges us to create a new song on land in Zimbabwe because there will be no going back. Rather we need to continue to invest on the small farmers, using models that can be sustained both by the farmers, government and other sectors.
    Clearly as Zimbabweans we still need to put our house in order and focus on what is important. The infighting related to farming land will have to stop soon to allow productivity and wealth creation. At the same time the book makes it clear that our nation needs to be given some breathing space to put together what seems to have been broken. We clearly have made measurable successes and we will need leadership that will sufficiently commit to taking agriculture to new heights.

  6. Well done for highlighting this excellent book. It’s an important contribution to an often confused debate – one where properly grounded, field-based research evidence often doesn’t get a look in. And certainly not in most of the news coverage which you and so many others rely on for information.
    Along with others, such as the African Institute for Agrarian Studies and the Ruzivo Trust, our work over the last 13 years in Masvingo province has documented the successes and failures of new resettlement farmers across 16 sites and 400 households. For more info see our 2010 book, Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities (www.zimbabweland.net) and the regular blog at http://www.zimbabweland.wordpress.com.
    The story is indeed mixed, but as you say not as dismal as media portrayals suggest. There is a significant group making a success from the new land, which is important to build on. But it’s also true, as others have noted, that there are many other challenges: infrastructure development and rural finance are definitely central, as is wider economic and political stability.
    When you are in Zimbabwe soon, do go and visit the farmers in the new resettlements and find out what is going on. Perhaps pay a visit to the Rwafa family from Wondedzo who are featured in the photo in your blog. Check out this short video featuring them to get a taste of what you might find (www.zimbabweland.net/Part_2.html)

  7. Emma

    As a Zimbabwean working with former farm workers in Zimbabwe, I would have to say that, from my experience, the land reform programme has been as destructive as the media makes out.
    Whilst there are some A2 farmers who have made a success out of their allocation of land, it is on a much smaller scale than what was previously being done. In addition, as mentioned in this blog, many of those who have been allocated land are ex-army generals, teachers and doctors. They tend to practice a form of ‘weekend farming’ which is highly ineffectual.
    In addition, the cost of land reform is much wider than the displaced white commercial farmers. Millions of former farm workers have been evicted or are forced to work the land of new farmers for free in exchange for being allowed to remain in their homes on the farms. Many are foreigners who have been in Zimbabwe for decades and have nowhere else to go, and the remaining few are expected to return to rural areas where they carry out subsistence farming as they cannot find jobs and have not been allocated land themselves.
    Even some farmers who have been allocated land and have made attempts to make it successful and productive, with whatever limited resources and training they have received, have since had their offer letters withdrawn for political reasons.
    Without transparency and security of tenure and with a continued culture of impunity, the land reform programme cannot be considered a success.
    So when you visit Zimbabwe, visit Masvingo where Prof. Scoones did his research, but also venture out into Nyazura, Chegutu and Chinhoyi and see the incredibly destuctive impact land reform has had on agriculture but more importantly on the people of Zimbabwe – the very people it was meant to benefit.

  8. Bill Kinsey

    How refreshing to read a set of comments that are not a mere slanging match!
    This book, along with two other sizable works that focus on fast-track land reform (Scoones et al. & AIAS)does provide s small piece of a very complex jigsaw puzzle but all three works are partial, methodologically flawed in different ways, not representative and static in perspective. These deficiencies will never be remedied by the emergence of ‘official’ source materials because (1) there are too many vested interests that do not want the full story told and (2) the agencies that normally collect and process data are still in a state of near total collapse. Just as one example, rainfall data in 2013 are still largely being made up.
    So to contrast this ‘academic’ work with purely journalistic perspectives is, in my view, an error. Indeed, much of this work more closely resembles journalism than conventional academic research…and is only somewhat more than impressionistic.
    The comments by Jamus suggest a useful framing for future work on land reform. All sorts of linkages need to be strengthened. The important energy example needs to be extended to upstream linkages as well, i.e the inability to supply power to run irrigation pumps or the closure of local fertilizer manufacturers because of power shortages. Similarly, with the collapse of support from state institutions and the withdrawal of the banks from agricultural lending, the rapid growth of contract farming is transforming farming in Zimbabwe. Ironically, a capitalistic model seems to be proving successful where state-led development has failed dismally.
    And the importance of political and economic stability, as well as of institutional quality, cannot be overstated.
    Thanks for a refreshing and balanced treatment of an issue that deserves far more of the same.

  9. Nyarai

    I haven’t read the book but I have personally visited an A1 farm given to my family in Mvurwi soon after land redistribution. I can agree that it is not easy because input costs are high, some of these farms are in the middle of nowhere with poor roads and far from water. But what I can tell you is that the spirit of community has never been stronger. The new farmers, as they are known, are innovative and resourceful. They share information, they help one another plough each others land and they are very good about sharing resources. For example, there are 10 farmers growing tabacco in the area on about 6 heactares each, and they share the tabacco barns assigned to only one farmer. Painful as it is for those who lost a great deal – both black workers and white farmers – Zimbabwe is going through revolution and there is no turning back.
    I read a recent article by Rudo Boka, owner of the largest tabacco auction floors in Zimbabwe. She stated in an interview that over 10 years ago she serviced less than 5,000 tabacco farmers, and now there has been a surge of almost 58,000 new small scale tabacco farmers. To me that is staggering (and exciting) as the potential for success is immense. As these people build weath for themselves, they will create jobs and new supply or service opportunities for others. They will build schools and hopefully rebuild a nation.
    It will take years to change a country as traumatized as Zimbabwe and it won’t happen overnight. Don’t expect it to do so. You must also remember that Zimbabwe is only 30 odd years old compared to countries like US/UK where once upon a time in their early years their behaviour today would be considered barbaric. Many of these developed countries were just as undeveloped as we are today. It took them centuries to get to where they are today. I’m not making excuses, there are no excuses. It’s just that will take time to change cultures, mindsets and the way we operate.

  10. Nyarai

    Sorry, one more thing regarding the A1 farm and how my father acquired it. He simple joined a queue like the majority of others, presented his Zimbabwean identification, and was allocated 6 hectares. He was free to apply for more land but instead chose to accept what he felt he could reasonably manage. Anyone who wanted land was free to apply including single women, widows and unemployed farm hands. It’s because of this that inspite of all the variables mentioned by others above, I believe the book.

  11. William

    Having witnessed land reform in Zimbabwe first hand, it was incredibly brutal. I witnessed first hand a farm worker beaten to an inch of his life. I rushed him to hospital and he died later. He is just one of thousands of stories of black farm workers who brutally murdered. The country has not even come close to recovering agricultural production. THe deforestation has been horrific, with forests been chopped and burned to make room for arable farming which does not suit the soil type. Millions of animals were poached using snares (wire traps that strangle and starve animals). 1.2 millions Zimbabweans were dependent on farm worker incomes which were lost during this period. Rivers have silted up and since been polluted and hunger and disease are now common place. Zimbabwe used to export maize, now it imports it from Zambia (produced ironically by ex-white Zimbabwean farmers). Land reform was included in the 2000 referendum, and the country overwhelmingly voted no to chaotic land reform. Despite this, and perhaps out of anger Mugabe unleashed this brutal reform. It hasn’t destroyed the white Zimbabwean farmers. They have moved on and started new lives, producing food in Mozambique and Zambia and elsewhere in the world. THe real people who have suffered are farm workers, the environment, and all the sectors that relied on revenue from agricultural exports. Duncan Green, I’m glad you’re going to Zim to visit, but I wish you saw it in 2000. THe most beautiful place in the world. Now the trees are gone, the people are hungry, the rivers silted from gold panning. And don’t be fleeced by some Zanu PF tour guide!

  12. MrK

    I have one criticim of “Zimbabwe Takes It’s Land Back”, and that is that the writers have not appreciated the role the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 played in the destruction of the Zimbabwe Dollar in the year 2002.
    The Government didn’t miraculously decide to start printing money ‘because of failed policies’, but because it was faced with a sudden foreign currency crisis in the year 2002. It was with the fall of the Zimbabwe Dollar that tobacco exports crashed. It was with the introduction of dollarisation that tobacco exports rebounded.
    So to dismiss the effect of economic sanctions is not taking into account all the evidence. 🙂 Notice the significance of the year 2002.
    Tobacco Exports millions of US$:
    2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
    548.8 594.1 434.6 321.3 226.7 203.8
    Trade Deficit in millions of US$
    2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
    -295.6 -322.5 18.2 108.3 305.2 387.9 231.3
    Source: Special Report FAO/WFP Crop And Food Supply Assessment Mission To Zimbabwe, 5 June 2007; Table 1: Zimbabwe – Key economic indicators, 2000-2007
    On the relevant text, the credit freeze the Zimbabwean government was put on from 2002 onwards, from the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (S.494 of the 107th US Congress, sponsored by Bill Frist, co-sponsored by Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Russ Feingold and Jesse Helms):
    ” (c) MULTILATERAL FINANCING RESTRICTION- … the Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the United States executive director to each international financial institution to oppose and vote against–
    ” (1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the Government of Zimbabwe; or
    ” (2) any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the Government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution. ”
    Source: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/107/s494/text
    Notice that this law effects “The Government Of Zimbabwe”, a phrase mentioned twice, not ‘friends and cronies of Mugabe’, not ‘targeted individuals’, although they too are mentioned in ZDERA.
    Notice now, the effect the introduction of this law had on the currency of Zimbabwe, referred to in the Wikileaks Cables as “slashing an already deflated tire” – a tire deflated by 5 years of the World Bank’s ESAP, may I add.
    Notice the rapid accelleration of the decline of the Zimbabwe Dollar on this chart, in the year 2002, the year ZDERA of 2001 came into effect.
    Land reform in Zimbabwe has been hobbled, attacked, demonised and villified – and it still continues on. This in itself shows the robustness of the process, and how right it has been.

  13. Alice

    William is the only one who tells the truth here. Shame on Oxfam to praise this book, as (dr) Joe Hanlon speaks the language of Mugabe. So Oxfam denies the right of white Zimbabweans to farm? Any country who steals the farms that produce food and give it to warvets or ministers or judges, is criminal. And Oxfam is promoting this. Zimbabwe never had hunger till 2000. They are now importing food grown by their ex-farmers in Zambia.

  14. sarah

    One can never say that the land reform has been a success due to the production figures or anything else for that matter. How can you say that it has been a succes when thousands of families have been displaced, tortured, women raped, people abused, abducted and killed. I am speaking about all Zimbabweans, both white farmer and farm worker. Lives have been devastated! So, success – no ways! I am a Zimbabwean and I have personnally experienced the land invasions. What is man coming to? God help us all!

  15. sarah

    Watch the DVD “Mugabe and the White African,” and you will get a glimpse into the lives of a farming family who stood up for what they believed in. It was filmed as events took place and was not acted out so you will get an accurate account about what farmers had to face and endure during the land invasions.Noone should be treated like this!! It seems that we do not learn from History, the haulocast, the apartheid in SA, the land reforms in Zim……..etc when will we stop being intolerant of other cultures/people. Why does everything always have to be about black/white! We have to change our attitude! The person from NO16 here on the comments page needs to be careful of such rash comments. It does no good whatsoever!

  16. Chiedza

    What hasn’t really been touched on here is the hugely destructive effect the land grabs had on the culture. Black farmers who were allocated land legally continue to face invasion, threats, theft and intimidation from a slice of the population (often related to Zanu) who have learned that you can take anything you want with a bit of brute force in an environment where this is tolerated by those in power, and no-one in authority will defend you. The destabilising effect on all aspects of the country has been widespread. Of course land reform of a totally unjust system was essential, and long overdue, but just to reiterate the above mention of the detrimental effect the last 10 years has had on the 1 million plus individuals who benefited from the income from their labour and, on the whole, good conditions on the previously white-owned farms.

  17. duzvi

    Land reform in Zimbabwe is the greatest flop in the world but a success in the eyes of ZANU (Pfutseki).It has been very random and ethnic. It was used by the aging Mugabe to gain political mileage and grip which he was losing to MDC led Tsvanngirai. The distribution was unequal and gender insensitive. It was Zezurised and biased towards cousins and relatives of the top leadership.
    The likes of Rueben Barwe, Supa Mandiwanzira, Gideon Gono got the best farms along the A5 (Harare- Bulawayo road)reflects how rotten the distribution is.
    Zimbabwe was once a bread basket reduced to a bread-begger by war veteran like Chenjerai Duzvi who could not even take care of his rural home where a chopper could not land.

  18. Summersell

    If we judge Zimbabwe’s land distribution as successful, based on the improved livelihoods of the new recipients of the land,then we must also judge as successful the transfer of Jewish businesses to the German nationals, who are now enjoying unprecedented economic well-being. However, I believe that the end does not justify the means. The question we must ask is HOW the process of improving the well-being of the new farmers came about. Was it non violent, was it ethical, was it fair? This question is important because irresponsibly up holding the Zimbabwe example as a case of good practice can spur other countries to follow suit, thus encouraging further human suffering on a large scale across Africa.

  19. Summersell

    I would like to add that a key point made by “Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land” is that it was the marginalised black people themselves who occupied the farms, against the will of the government. This is not true. Mugabe was very much behind the reform process. He said at the WSSD in 2002: “Economically, we are an occupied country, 22 years after our Independence. Accordingly, my Government has decided to do the only right and just thing by taking back land and giving it to its rightful indigenous, black owners who lost it in circumstances of colonial pillage. This process is being done in accordance with the rule of law as enshrined in our national Constitution and laws.” He also said in a speech in Namibia: “It is a simple solution…if they (the white commercial farmers) are ready to discuss with you and give land then there is no need for a fight. But in Zimbabwe the British are not ready and we are making them ready now.”
    (Mugabe, BBC News, 26 May 2000). The authors of this book are naive to believe the state politicking that implied that ZANU PF had no involvement in the violent acquisition of the farms. They must also be wary of confusing instances of opposition to the government’s wishes, based on the unfairness of their procedure, with the process being fully initiated by the people.
    The solidarity peace trust (2003) have described how ZANU PF use the tactic of getting the people to do their will, whilst pretending their lack of involvement.
    “It was about vandalism… We were used to do the things the State does not want to do themselves. Then they can just say ‘ it was just the youth, not us’…We are Zanu-PF’s ‘B’ team. The army is the ‘A’ team and we do the things the government does not want the ‘A’ team to do…We got a lot of power. Our source of power was this encouragement we were getting, particularly from the police and others… it was instilled in us that whenever we go out, we are free to do whatever we want and nobody was going to question that.”
    (Solidarity Peace Trust, 2003)

  20. Summersell

    Any research carried out by a person with a vested interest in that research is generally to be treated with suspicion, such as when pharmaceutical companies carry out research which reflects well on their medicines. “Zimbabwe takes back its land” unfortunately suffers from such a conflict of interest because of the presence of **** **** on the team. Although ***** is white, she is married to an ex military man who has been given land. They fall into the category of weekend farmers. Furthermore, *****’s status in Zimbabwe is precarious because, being white, she has always to prove that she is not like the other whites. Her position in a prominent Zimbabwean institution and her husbands ex military status both mean that she would be highly unlikely to present any critique of the government’s land reform policy. Readers need to take her position into account when deciding on the credibility of the book.

  21. Kuda Chikwanda

    It boggles me if one thinks and alludes that the land reform was racial.It was an affirmitive action to address the racial imbalances entrenched in segregative legislations.We are not fools and Zimbabwe is ours and will not compromise.Empty promises from the UK and U.S,an insulting letter from the then Secretary Claire Short in 1997.Zimbabwe is ours and we are ready to die for what we believe.Nehanda was butchered and where were the self-professed human rights,where was the ICJ when the Rhodies,Smith and other guys killed blacks?We can forgive but we will never forget.No compensation or Marshal plan after a century of de-humanising us.Why?is it because we are black?Our hospitality is not a weakness.Don’t anger us we are our own liberators and no-one can preach democracy to us.Iraq.Libya,Egypt,Syria and now you think of Zimbabwe.Leave Mugabe to us he is ours.

    • Alice

      @Kuda, in 1890 there were about 400.000 people living in Zimbabwe. A country the size of France or Texas. There were no farms and the different tribes were at war with each other. Farms have to be created with hard work and knowledge of the soil and which crops grow on which soil. What fertilizer is needed where and how much. The African people had a different way of farming, which means that the land belonged to the Chief and he will move the tribe when the soil is exhausted. After years it will recover from the damage done.
      The pioneers were not colonialists as they were immigrants and they build up the country. No written language, no central government, no administration as for this you have to have a written language. There were no roads, no bridges, no towns, no schools, no hospitals and no big scale farms to feed the growing population. Even feeding surrounded countries.6000 farmers fed 40 million people.
      Further the Rhodesian army was for 80% black. They fought shoulder to shoulder with the white soldiers against the tugs who wiped out whole back villages, killed teachers, nurses, laid landmines so the transport of food from the farms to the cities were under threat.
      There is no good or bad land, there is good or bad ways of farming. To be a farmer there should be education how to farm. Also the success full black commercial farmers lost their land. This was about politics and power and Mugabe lost the referendum so he took power.
      Mugabe is the biggest racist in the region and he filled his pockets over the backs of the black and white Zimbabweans. His private army killed 20.000 Ndebeles,the other tribe. If that is not racism then what is?
      To be success full with any business, special farming,one should own it and the commercial farmers bought their land with bank-loans. They have the title deeds. the people farming on stolen land don’t have these deeds so it is easy to kick them off the land as well,if they don’t vote for Mugabe. And there was enough land, underdeveloped but anyone could apply to buy it and develop it and farm it. To steal developed land that produces food is a crime.
      Who will know that if the Chinese want to take over the land that this will not happen? It will because Mugabe has to pay back the Chinese for their support. And the land legally don’t belong to the so called new farmers.
      Please learn history before you make these ridiculous statements.

  22. Florence Bhengu

    Dear Kuda
    You must be one of those fortunate black Zimbabweans that has not suffered as the rest have through the brutality and insanity of your Mugabe and his Zano PF. The land reform is racist since it is based upon black and white and nothing else. It is the reason given to you by the elite rulers to hide away their true motives. You support the destruction of your own country when there are other ways of affirmative action that are even more effective and more importantly, positive. The lie is perpetrated to instigate us to harm each other. While we are busy destroying each other, the elite/rulers know that they remain entrenced in their power and wealth.
    You seem proud of the way things are in your country. What you do not seem to understand that it is still white people who are helping you. The aid that you have received comes from the western whites. As is pointed out above, your country imports food from the very same farmers that you ousted. Furthermore, your people and your country, have placed great burdens on my country and others by sending us your traumatised refugees to look after for you. What right does Zimbabwe have in doing this?
    I know a number of Zimbabweans. They are all well educated and hard working, industrious in that they are able to start businesses and succeed despite the odds against them in a foreign land. Why is it, I wonder, that it was not possible for these people to do this in their own country? Surely if you chose a more humane manner in effecting change, not one that makes Mugabe/blacks even more brutally racist, and just plain cruel, than Smith/whites, you would now still have a prosperous country where the children no longer suffered.

  23. i totally agree with kuda.we can forgive but we can’t forget.our fathers suffered a lot.Florence land reform wasn’t racist in nature we just took what belonged to us .they are the ones who started it.Their land is in Britain not here in Zim.

    • Alice

      Moyoza, your fathers didn’t suffer a lot. If a black Zimbabwean moves to Britain and he buys a house and starts a business,what would you call British people who say “that is our house and business,yours is in Zimbabwe”?

  24. Ron Grant


  25. What African nations almost became developed but failed?
    I nominate this dump of a country: Zimbabwe. If you look at this nice chart, in 1960 Zimbabwe wasn’t too bad a place relative to the rest of the world and it’s neighbors. It’s GDP/capita–a crude, but reasonable measure of development–was over 60%…