Zimbabwe’s land reform safe

Richard Runyararo Mahomva
Beyond the nefarious race focus in land redistribution, the new Government has no option besides channelling energy towards enhancing agriculture, the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy.

Zimbabwe’s colonial history and triumphant redress of land ownership imbalances remain a hallmark revolutionary milestone which deserves maximum consolidation by the current establishment.

Over the years, neo-liberal proponents have falsely misrepresented the Land Reform Programme as an exclusive Zanu-PF affair senselessly dedicated to producing a Black-dominated land economy.

Through this misinformed position, the land reform legacy has been notoriously misrepresented as outright confiscation of land gained by the White minority at colonisation’s peak.

This alternative version of Zimbabwe’s post-Independence land liberation story has only peddled a false reality of White exclusion in the land reform process.

In the same vein, there has been false depiction of absolute White antagonism to the resolution of the land question. Many have even ignored the fact that some former commercial farmers came to terms with the demands of the masses then and gave up unused land for resettlement.

On the other hand, it must be noted that the noble principles of land reform were also conflated, leading to the rise of partisan land barons.

In some instances, some corrupt elements abused their proximity to power to demand “protection bribes” from White landholders. Therefore, as we move ahead, there is need to establish clarity on the inclusive character of the Land Reform Programme.

It is imperative to move away from regarding land reform through narrow racial lenses. It should be situated in the broader context of economic beneficiation of an entire populace.

No two ways about it: the Land Reform Programme is an indelible political-economy trademark of Zimbabwe’s decolonial excellence.

Beyond agrarian terms, Zimbabwe’s land reform forms the basis of the critical sociological tenets of post-colonial politics.

The land question speaks to the need to address unbalanced resource allocation within the rural-urban divide.

Land also sustains productivity concerns of both agricultural and industrial sectors.

Likewise, the land question underpins the stubbornly conflictive relations of class, gender, race and ethnicity.

This is why anti-establishment rhetoric has its major focus on mass deconstruction of the prevailing political order in Zimbabwe. That is why we now see a smear campaign aimed at dismantling Zanu-PF’s legitimacy ahead of this year’s elections.

Sadly, opportunist cynics of Zimbabwe’s political transition have turned to the land issue by engineering devious concerns about President Mnangagwa’s “ploy to reverse the achievements of land reform”.

One such allegation is in the mould of a rant by Jethro Mpofu under his secessionist pen-name Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana.

In his conspiracy-charged allegation, Macaphulana claims President Mnangagwa is in a dilemma: whether to return farms to Rhodies or risk angering the Rhodies — again.

The above view lacks factual grounding, but that is not the issue.

Jethro is an established anti-Zanu-PF critic.

Over the years, he has earned himself a reputation as the chief spokesperson of the Gukurahundi narrative. Now that this subject which gained him prominence, particularly among tribal essentialist scholars, is slowly losing relevance in mainstream political discourse, he has jumped ship.

He is now a pro-land reform lobbyist problematising President Mnangagwa for “compromising” the success of land reform “by giving in to White demands”.

On the other hand, a similar neo-liberal proposition has risen to pretentiously sympathise and mischievously tamper with nationalist emotions on the land issue in the vain hope of discrediting the Mnangagwa administration.

This followed Mr Rob Smart’s return to the farm he previously held.

Smart’s reinstatement was courtesy of President Mnangagwa’s reaction to the injustice served to him in late 2017.

Prior to his illegal eviction, Mr Smart was one of the few farmers who conceded to the patriotic call for land redistribution.

A fraction of the land he occupied was allocated to land-hungry masses as part of the historic land question resolution process.

However, in less than a decade, he had been illegally displaced.

The video of Mr Smart’s return to the farm went viral on social media some weeks back.

There was swift misrepresentation of facts, with some alleging President Mnangagwa was reversing the land reform programme.

Criticism was levelled, even as the background to the case remained unknown to critics.

Smart’s case is not unique.

In 2014, Mr Gerald Douglas was acquitted by the High Court following a farm ownership contestation between him and one Mr Aaron Madziva.

This substantiates that Mr Smart’s case is just being overemphasised to misrepresent President Mnangagwa as one with neo-colonial leanings.

Yet, from the outset, Zimbabwe maintained a defined position on equality-based land redistribution and not race essentialist entitlement to land ownership.

Resolution of the land question never targeted individuals on the basis of colour. No. It was about negotiating equal land distribution and breaking down a system of inequality.

Mr Smart was compliant with land-sharing dictates of agrarian reform, but became a victim of illegal displacement.

The possible motivation for misrepresenting Mr Smart’s case seems to be to portray the establishment as less concerned about developing livelihoods and much eager to attract Western market support.

This smear campaign has been triggered by President Mnangagwa’s commitment to the unifying principles of agrarian reform contrary to the misleading narrative of a race-inclined land war stalemate.

Beyond the nefarious race focus in land redistribution, the new Government has no option besides channelling energy towards enhancing agriculture, the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board records indicate that in 2017 alone, Zimbabwe saw the emergence of 25 852 new tobacco farmers.

About 13 842 other new farmers had been received into the sector in 2016.

This suggests 2017-18 tobacco production might have more than 100 000 farmers; most of them beneficiaries of the Land Reform Programme.

In any case, Command Agriculture has successfully given prominence to land reform, with maize production hitting 2,2 million tonnes last season.

President Mnangagwa has been overseeing Command Agriculture from the time he was Vice-President. One therefore wonders why he would suddenly turn traitor.


Richard Runyararo Mahomva is an independent researcher and a literature aficionado interested in the architecture of governance in Africa and political theory. He wrote this article for The Sunday Mail.


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