AfricaFocus (Washington, DC)

Zimbabwe - New Narrative On Land Reform, (2)


Photo: Mitchell Ajida/
Small scale farmer working on his backyard farm.

"Under the fast track land reform, 169,000 farmers have received land since 2000. Most are small farmers under model A1, but the fast track also includes model A2 with land for wealthy people prepared to invest in largerscale commercial farming--maintaining the dual agriculture policy that had continued since the colonial era. The 146,000 A1 farmers moved quickly onto their land and are using more of the land than their white predecessors. A2 farm allocation was more competitive and politicized ... [nevertheless] The bulk of settlers are 'ordinary' people ... Undoubtedly some are political elites or what are sometimes called 'cronies,' which we guess to be 5% of farmers and 10% of land." - Hanlon, Mantengwa, and Smart, in Zimbabwe Takes Back the Land

There is undoubtedly much room for debate on the detailed research, conclusions, and emphases of this new book. But it would be a serious mistake to regard it as another chapter in the pro- or anti-Mugabe debate. With the permission of authors and publishers, the two issues of AfricaFocus Bulletin released today contain excerpts from Chapters 1, 6, and 13, for readers to see for themselves at least the basic shape of the argument.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from Chapters 6, on the Second Land Reform, and 13, the conclusion, of the book. Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today by e-mail and available on the web at, contains excerpts from Chapter 1. These versions lack footnotes and tables, which are are available in the full pdf versions at,, and

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Zimbabwe, see

The book, published by Kumarian Press, an imprint of Stylus Publishing (, is available for purchase at

---end editor's note

Chapter 6: The Second Land Reform

Continuing land occupations; a series of laws, amendments, and regulations; and a constitutional amendment in 2000 created the "fast track" land reform, but it happened so quickly that politicians and government officials struggled to keep up. Many occupiers farmed in the 2000/1 season even if land was not allocated until the next year. When teams were sent to mark out plots, some occupiers had to move to new plots. Nevertheless, by 2003, nearly 135,000 families had been given land, and by 2010 the number was up to nearly 169,000. In just three years, the bulk of Zimbabwean farmland that had been in the hands of white farmers passed to black smallholders, finally redressing a century of colonial domination. Taking into account the 1980s land reform, 245,000 families (more than 1.5 million Zimbabweans) were living on their own farms.

Fast track continued the division between big commercial farms and smallholdings, which has characterized Zimbabwean agriculture since the colonial era, with two models, A1 and A2. As a World Bank report commented, "One of the objectives of the Fast Track was to enable local indigenous people to exercise control of the large-scale commercial farming sector. It targeted not only poor people, but wealthy people willing to venture into commercial farming."

A1 is the smallholder model for previously landless people, with a typical white farm being divided into 40-45 A1 farms (see Table 6.1). This allows 6 ha of good farmland (more in poorer areas) and usually some communal grazing land, which is important since most farmers use cattle for plowing. This is similar to the 1980s resettlement model Provincial and District Land Identification Committees. Plots tended to be pegged out by extension officers. Roughly half of settlers were jambanja occupiers, and the rest came through formal and informal application processes. The Utete Committee reported that in 2003, 97% of A1 farmers given land had taken up their plots2 Government did try to help the new A1 farmers, but Utete found that A1 farmers "required inputs such as seed, fertilizer and tillage services and that during the last cropping season [2002/3], inputs had been given in a haphazard manner and in inadequate quantities." Also, "budgetary allocations for the Programme remained woefully inadequate."

The A2 model sought to create larger black commercial farms and was based on splitting a white farm into three to seven A2 farms. Applications had to be submitted to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement and required recommendations by the Provincial and District Land Identification Committees. The Ministry placed advertisements in the main national newspapers inviting people to apply, and application forms required a business plan setting out cash flow and budgets as well as specifying the applicant's income, property, experience, qualifications, and training. Applicants were required to have their own resources for farming without government support. Special consideration was given to war veterans, war collaborators, ex-detainees, and women.

Former academic Dr. Charles Utete was chief secretary to the President and cabinet, and when he retired in April 2003, he was appointed to head the Presidential Land Review Committee on the Implementation of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme, the first detailed report on fast track land reform. Often billed as a close advisor to Robert Mugabe, he is subject to international sanctions6 and is on the Dongo list for having been leased a 3,350- ha farm in Lomagundi, Mashonaland West, by the government on October 1, 1991. Despite, or perhaps because of, his political status, his report was detailed and set out unflinchingly some of the problems of the fast track. In particular, he was outspoken about disorganization and bureaucratic and political infighting, which seemed to have played a big role for A2 farms. The Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) commented that the report "lauded the goal of the government's fast-track programme, but said agrarian reform was tarnished by bureaucratic bungling and irregularities."

Half of A1 and A2 farms were formally assigned in 2000 and 2001, a quarter in 2002, and then smaller numbers through 2006. Most A1 and A2 farmers started farming in the year the land was allocated, and nearly all had started by the year after allocation.

Five surveys give us a good picture of land-reform farms and farmers and paint a relatively similar picture. Three were national:

* The Utete Committee in 2003.

* A set of A2 Land Audit Reports for each province done for the Ministry of Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement in 2006,10 which surveyed 10,513 farms, representing 79% of the allocated A2 farms.

*The Baseline Survey by Sam Moyo and his team at the African Institute for Agrarian Studies, who interviewed 2,089 resettlement households (1,651 A1 and 438 A2) in early 2006 in six districts, one in each of six provinces. This is still the most widely cited survey. (The Moyo team also interviewed 760 farmworkers; see chapter 12.)

In addition, two surveys cover specific geographic areas:

* The Masvingo survey was done by a team involving Ian Scoones of the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex; Nelson Marongwe in Harare; Crispen Sukume, formerly of the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Zimbabwe; and Blasio Mavedzenge of Agritex, Masvingo, and is published as Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths & Realities. The team has been studying 400 fast track farmers in Masvingo province since 2000; although this is only one province, it still gives an excellent picture of resettlement farmers.

* A 2004 survey conducted by a team headed by Prosper Matondi, which looked closely at Mazowe district, Mashonaland Central, and compiled data from 19 former white farms divided into A1 plots and 13 divided into A2 farms.

Take-Up and Use Rates

These surveys allow us to draw a picture of how rapidly the new farmers took up their land, and how much is being used.

The Utete Committee found that 2,652 farms with 4.2 mn ha had been allocated to 127,192 households under the A1 resettlement model as of July 31, 2003. The take-up rate by beneficiaries was a very high 97%. By 2010, the total was 145,800 beneficiaries with 5.8 mn ha (see Table 1.1).

Although the A1 resettlement went relatively smoothly, the A2 model was more complex and moved more slowly. ... For A2, Utete found that 1,672 former white farms with 2.2 mn ha had been allocated to 7,260 applicant beneficiaries, with an average take-up rate of 66% nationally. "This failure by some 34% of applicants to take up their allocations implied a considerable amount of land lying fallow or unused while, ironically, thousands of would-be A2 beneficiaries were pressurising the authorities to be allocated land," the Utete Committee said. ...

Both the Baseline Survey and the A2 Land Audit looked at land use in 2006. The Baseline Survey (Table 6.2) shows that a quarter of new farmers were already using nearly all of their arable land. More than half of A1 farmers and 43% of A2 farmers were using more than 40% of their arable land. As white farmers had been using only between 15% and 34% of their land, this suggests that the new farmers had very quickly begun to use more of their land than their predecessors. ...

Who Received Land?

The way the questions were asked, and the extent to which people had to choose a single attribute for themselves, varied between surveys. Tables 6.3-6.6 give a variety of descriptions of land-reform beneficiaries. What is striking is that the various surveys give quite similar results.

For smallholders, Tables 6.3 and 6.5, giving the origins of resettlement farmers from the Baseline Survey and the Masvingo study, both show most A1 farmers came from the communal areas; both surveys also find that 1% came from 1980s resettlement or purchase farms. Both also show a significant group of urban poor. Tables 6.4 and 6.5 also show a significant group of new smallholders from the military and civil service. The Masvingo sample of A1 farms, where the recipients were identified from lists, found that 66% were "ordinary"20 (Table 6.5).

The Baseline Survey, the A2 Land Audit, and the Masvingo study asked questions about A2 farms in different ways, making it hard to summarize the results together, although it is clear that many A2 farmers are "ordinary" people. A large share of A2 farmers came from urban areas, reflecting the need to mobilize finances. The Baseline Survey found that while 77% of A1 farmers lived on the farm and only 17% still lived in urban areas, only 60% of A2 farmers lived on their farms and 34% lived in urban areas. The Baseline Survey also found that 45% of A2 farmers retained other jobs (17% working for the government)--underlining the need to continue to raise money to develop A2 farms.

The surveys also provided a range of other information. The A2 Land Audit showed that education levels were quite high: 17% of A2 farmers had formal agricultural training and another 13% had university degrees.


Elites and Cronies?

One of the frequent complaints about the land-reform program is that large amounts of land (often cited as 40%) have gone to "Mugabe's cronies." Table 1.1 shows that 13.5 mn ha of former white land have been transferred to black farmers since independence. Of that, 9.5 mn ha (71%) went to smallholders--1980s resettlement and A1 farmers. Another 3 mn ha (22%) went to small A2 farmers, and 1 mn ha (7%) to large A2 farmers and black, large-scale commercial farmers.

Since independence, Zimbabwe has followed the colonial dual agricultural strategy of big, commercial farms and smallholders. Although A2 farms are smaller than the old white farms, they are still large and capital-intensive, and applicants had to prove they had money to invest. Many of the holders on the black, large-scale commercial farms bought their farms. By definition, this is an elite; these are relatively well-off or even wealthy people. One cannot support continuation of large-scale commercial farming, as most of the international community does, and then object that the farms are in the hands of an elite.

Just as in the colonial era the white regime gave land as rewards to its supporters, the independence government has done the same thing. Indeed, politics in most countries (including Europe and the United States) has a certain amount of patronage, rewarding key supporters of winning political parties.

With both A2 and whole farms, being in Zanu-PF or having friends among the right people must have helped. But does this make all 23,000 A2 and large-scale farmers "Mugabe cronies"? We are not willing to dismiss such a large group of people so easily, even though some people at the top have multiple farms that are among the largest and best. If we are to object to big farms being held by an elite, it means objecting to the whole system of having A2 and large-scale farms, because only an elite can afford the investment. Similarly, applicants for A2 farms had to show they had money to invest, so it is not surprising that most A2 farmers have urban links (see Tables 6.3 and 6.5). Blasio Mavedzenge, a member of Ian Scoones's research team and an agricultural extension officer, is also an A1 farmer and says, "I am a government worker, but I am not a crony, and I think that applies to many people."

In this context, "cronies" could be described as people who received large or multiple farms mainly because of their close links to Zanu-PF or the government, and who would not have qualified otherwise. Unquestionably, some "cronies" have received land--and some of the best land, and they often received tractors and other support not available to ordinary land-reform farmers. Table 6.6 shows that 130 A2 farms, about 1.2% of all A2 farms surveyed, went to people in the office of the President and cabinet, and another 38 farms went to ministers. And according to the Dongo list, among large farms that have been leased to individual farmers by the state, there is quite a sprinkling of generals, ministers, judges, and others with obvious political or military links. And several hundred people have multiple farms, or farms that are larger than the maximum sizes set in 200127 (see Tables 9.1 and 9.2). There are no precise figures, in part because the "comprehensive, transparent and nonpartisan land audit . . . for the purpose of establishing accountability and eliminating multiple farm ownerships" called for in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) (5.9) has not been carried out.

It is important to remember that self-funded, large-scale farming ensures that all big farmers are in the elite. But not all are "cronies." For example, on the Dongo list, there are also significant numbers of agronomists and professional farmers as well as engineers, doctors, and other professionals. We estimate that less than 5% of new farmers with under 10% of the land are "cronies."


Hyperinflation and Divisive Politics

Land reform did not start at the most auspicious time. Two years of drought hit the new farmers. The Zimbabwe dollar, which had been Z$19 to the US$1 in 1997, had fallen to Z$55 to the US$1 by 2000. It reached Z$1,000 to US$1 in mid-2002. Gideon Gono was named governor of the Reserve Bank in November 2003, and his policy was to expand the economy by printing money and subsidizing local production and key goods, while using administrative means to try to control inflation and speculation. This heterodox policy failed and led instead to corruption and hyperinflation. By January 2006, the exchange rate was Z$100,000 to US$1, and by mid-2007, the parallel (unofficial) rate was Z$100,000,000 to US$1. By mid-2008, the parallel rate for the US dollar was equivalent to the Z$ with 13 zeros and prices were doubling daily; by the end of 2008, it was 22 zeros (see Table 6.7).

This was one of the worst cases of hyperinflation ever and caused chaos for everyone, including farmers. Corruption became more serious as members of the elite could exchange money at meaningless official rates, and thus build mansions for a few thousand dollars; by mid-2007, the parallel exchange rate was 1,000 times the official rate. Sporadic government interventions in agricultural input and output, transport, interest rates, and the foreign exchange markets only exacerbated the crisis. Controlled prices of inputs (seeds, fertilizer, fuel) and services such as tillage provision at levels far too low to cover costs of production or repairs (in the case of machinery) led to shortages and low production because suppliers could not cover their costs. At the same time, a parallel high-priced market emerged. National fertilizer production fell from 505,000 tonnes in 1999 to 166,000 tonnes in 2007. Government intervention in the transport sector, both road and rail, also did not work. Hyperinflation brought sudden benefits for some people--for example, when diesel or fertilizer had to be sold at an official price and cost pennies in real terms, those who could gain access (which sometimes included ordinary farmers) could use the input or swap it for something else. Farmers moved to informal marketing and barter for both sales and inputs and increasingly depended on relatives sending money from abroad. Shingirai Mandizadza, who was staying on Athlone Farm in Mashonaland East doing interviews in 2008, reports traders passing through selling clothing and household goods such as soap; a skirt cost three buckets of maize. Cattle were also being traded for inputs and equipment.

Government attempts to use force to halt inflation hit land-reform farmers. Breakup of white farms and changed settlement patterns caused a radical change in trading patterns, with many new small traders marketing beef and other goods, and with the opening of informal markets closer to where people were living on resettlement farms. In 2005, government launched Operation Murambatsvina to try to eliminate the huge informal trading sector that had grown up under liberalization. The new unregistered markets serving resettlement farmers were destroyed. "In many urban areas, this campaign was directed against opposition supporters, and became highly politicised, displacing many people. But in the new resettlements, this was not the case, with Zanu-PF supporters and war veterans suffering as much as others," notes Ian Scoones and his team, reporting that even an appeal by a war veteran leader of an occupation was unsuccessful in protecting a local market. It was only in 2009, with dollarization, that the local markets were restored.


It is estimated that by 2007, 2 million people had left Zimbabwe, half of them for South Africa--continuing a migration that had started under structural adjustment. They were sending back an estimated $500 million per year. But UNDP noted that "the impact of the brain drain on public service delivery has been devastating. For example, in the case of health care, it is estimated that more than 80% of the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, radiologists and therapists who trained since 1980 have left."42

Our interviews in 2011 showed two surprising responses. First, the recovery with dollarization was so rapid that people did not much mention the hyperinflationary period and were looking forward. Second, when asked, farmers were not so negative about hyperinflation. They did receive some supplies from the government, for example, in 2005/6, one-third of A1 farmers obtained some seed from the government. Negative real interest rates meant that loans were repaid at a fraction of their real cost, and inputs, when available, were almost free. Under dollarization, they complained, loans had to be repaid, and inputs were always available but too expensive. Nevertheless, farmers are voting with their hands and producing and selling more under dollarization.

Political Crisis


The mood changed after the [2008 first-round] inconclusive elections. Key Zanu-PF officials started accusing the opposition of being "traitors," "sellouts," "witches," and "prostitutes." Just before the first election, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander Constantine Chiwenga had said, "The army will not support or salute sellouts and agents of the West before, during and after the presidential elections. We will not support anyone other than President Mugabe." Mugabe himself said he would never allow "the land that we fought for to be taken by the MDC and given to the whites." Later he noted, "Soon after the March elections war veterans approached me and said that they would take up arms if Tsvangirai won the elections in order to protect their farms and nation's sovereignty. . . . A ballpoint pen [used to mark a ballot paper] cannot argue with a bazooka. The veterans will not allow it."

The observer mission of the Pan-African Parliament (part of the African Union [AU]) found that "political tolerance in Zimbabwe has deteriorated to the lowest ebb in recent history. . . . The prevailing political environment throughout the country was tense, hostile and volatile as it has been characterised by an electoral campaign marred by high levels of intimidation, violence, displacement of people, abductions, and loss of life. . . . Houses burnt down, people assaulted and sustained serious injuries. Violence disrupted normal life of ordinary Zimbabweans and led to internal displacement of people. . . . A number of cases of abduction, some of which resulted in deaths, were reported." The observers' report continued: "The Mission was able to attend star rallies organised by the Presidential candidate of ZanuPF. However, it noted with grave concern that the MDC Presidential candidate was not accorded the opportunity to hold rallies. The Mission was disturbed by the numerous arrests that the MDC Presidential candidate was subjected to."

Tsvangirai withdrew from the second round on June 22, citing violence against his party's supporters. On June 22, then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement saying he "deeply regrets that, despite the repeated appeals of the international community, the Government of Zimbabwe has failed to put in place the conditions necessary for free and fair run-off elections. . . . The campaign of violence and intimidation that has marred this election has done a great disservice to the people of the country and must end immediately." The election went ahead and Mugabe was elected.


The election result was tainted and the economy was in crisis due to hyperinflation, so negotiations resumed, with AU and SADC support. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on July 21, 2008, by Robert Mugabe (as president of Zanu-PF), Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara (as presidents of "the two Movement for Democratic Change [MDC] formations"), and South African president Thabo Mbeki (as SADC facilitator). This led to the September 15, 2008, GPA. On February 11, 2009, Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister of Zimbabwe in a new Government of National Unity (GNU).

In December 2008 and January 2009, foreign currencies were legalized and the South African rand (in the south) and the US dollar (in most of the country) became the normal currencies; soon civil servants were paid in US dollars, the Z$ was abolished in April 2009, and the government switched to accounting in US dollars.

A 2011 analysis by the South African-based African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) said that "since the conclusion of the GPA, there have been visible changes [but] the coalition government is at a critical juncture and it faces multiple challenges in Zimbabwe's political and economic terrain." It continued: "Although the GNU has been welcomed by many as the antidote to Zimbabwe's crisis and much has been celebrated about its achievements, the Zimbabwe conflict is still very fluid as conditions shift everyday due to the belligerent nature of the relationship between ZanuPF and the MDC."


Summing Up: Progress Despite Tensions

Under the fast track land reform, 169,000 farmers have received land since 2000. Most are small farmers under model A1, but the fast track also includes model A2 with land for wealthy people prepared to invest in largerscale commercial farming--maintaining the dual agriculture policy that had continued since the colonial era. The 146,000 A1 farmers moved quickly onto their land and are using more of the land than their white predecessors. A2 farm allocation was more competitive and politicized, while the need for capital slowed the A2 farmers' occupation of their land. The bulk of settlers are "ordinary" people, with 17% of A1 farmers and 18%-27% of A2 farmers coming from the civil service (which includes teachers and agricultural extension officers as well as an elite). Undoubtedly some are political elites or what are sometimes called "cronies," which we guess to be 5% of farmers and 10% of land.

Sanctions have been imposed on Zimbabwean leaders and banks. Most aid agencies will not work with land-reform farmers.

Hyperinflation in 2005-8 was the result of printing money and had a devastating effect on the economy. Elections in 2008 were violent, which led to AU- and SADC-sponsored talks, which eventually led to a GPA in 2009 with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai becoming prime minister.

In January 2009, the US dollar became the currency, which ended hyperinflation and brought a rapid economic recovery.

Chapter 13: Conclusion

Occupied and Productive


In the biggest land reform in Africa, 6,000 white farmers have been replaced by 245,000 Zimbabwean farmers. Some settled in the 1980s, but most since 2000. These are primarily ordinary poor people who have become more productive farmers. The change was inevitably disruptive at first, but production is increasing rapidly. Agricultural production is now returning to the 1990s level, and resettlement farmers already grow 40% of the country's tobacco and 49% of its maize. As Barry Floyd noted in his PhD thesis more than 50 years ago, "Tobacco in its growth pays scant attention to the pigment of the plowman's skin."

As we've said earlier, it takes a generation for farmers to master their new land. White farmers, especially war veterans, had extensive support in the 1950s--and, as we saw, only a third became successful. Zimbabwe's first land reform, in the 1980s under willing seller, willing buyer, where the former colonizers kept the best land but there was some initial support, the new farmers, on average, did well, increasing production and reducing poverty. "Resettled farmers were found to be more productive, on average, than communal farmers," according to long-term research by Bill Kinsey, and there is "enormous scope for many farmers to catchup to the best farmers in the sample."

The fast track land reform in 2000 was largely selffunded with little support, but fast track farmers had the enthusiasm of occupiers and they had finally taken the best land. On average, the fast track farmers are doing well, raising their living standards and increasing production, and over the next decade can be expected to continue growing--the best are doing very well, and a middle group is still catching up.

Not All the Same

The British colonizers developed a dual agriculture system, with most people on smallholdings and a privileged group having larger farms. And they racialized the land, defining some land as "European" and some land as "African." On the surface, the dual system and racial land definitions have continued since independence. But beneath the language of "white farmers" and "large-scale farms," there have been changes. In terms of farm size, Zimbabweans improved on their teachers--the small farms are bigger, and the large farms are smaller--leading to better land use and increased commercial production.

Similarly, the colonial shorthand of white and black farmers is still used, but in reality neither group is homogeneous. White farmers became famous because some were highly profitable and productive. Yet, as a group, at independence, white farmers were using less than onethird of their land, and most were not doing very well-one -third were insolvent and one-third were only breaking even. The white minority fought a brutal war to maintain its privilege and power, yet after independence, many in the white community took places in the new Zimbabwe. There are still white farmers like Keith Campbell who have built good relationships with land-reform farmers and other white Zimbabweans are involved in agribusiness.

On the side of the land-reform farmers, there are the hugely successful farmers like Fanuel Mutandiro and Esther Makwara, who use every corner of their land. There are vacant plots and farmers who are doing very poorly. And there are many in between, struggling to invest and grow, sometimes supported by contract farming. The decision to maintain a large-scale farming sector accessible only to the better-off remains controversial, and some of those farms have been given to influential people. Yet even the so-called "cronies" are not homogeneous--some are sitting on the land hoping to sell or lease it, while others are highly productive and hope to get rich from farming.

Pumpkins and Getting On With Farming

Land reform can never be neat or simple anywhere in the world. Land is a finite resource that is taken away from one group and given to another. And land reform usually takes place at times of economic and social stress or transition. Intense political and social conflicts are inevitable--from the level of setting goals and priorities down to the distribution of bags of fertilizer. These debates will continue in Zimbabwe, and many issues remain unresolved. But it is essential to step back from the loud, angry, and continuing media and political confrontations to talk to the people who have land--the actual farmers.

The most striking memory of the research for this book is how proud the fast track farmers are of their new farms. They were anxious to take us around, insisting that we see every field and hear in detail about the new tobacco barn. They were pleased with their production. A1 farmers insisted on giving us something, and each day we returned home with a carload of pumpkins.

Land reform has taken place under often inauspicious conditions, and with waxing and waning political support. ... Fast track started with occupations by war veterans in opposition to Zanu-PF and took place under the cloud of political conflict and sanctions. The 2005-8 hyperinflation, one of the worst in history, affected the new farmers as much as everyone else. What is most remarkable is that, despite the problems, farmers have made both land reforms work--creating successes on the ground despite the continuing confusion over their heads. And despite confused and changing instructions from the top, the government extension agency Agritex has provided important support to the new farmers.

The Global Political Agreement (GPA) in late 2008 and unity government in 2009 have proved vital in creating the stability needed to move forward. Dollarization in January 2009 prompted a remarkably rapid economic turnaround and has been central in allowing small farmers to obtain inputs and sell their produce.

Political tensions remain and international hostility, represented by sanctions, continues. Problems remain, particularly around environment and former farmworkers. And a huge amount of reconstruction is still required--to finish redressing the heritage of minority rule, recreate the 60,000 or more jobs lost under structural adjustment, and repair the damage hyperinflation did to the economy.

... researcher Tendai Murisa, who studied farmer groups, warns that fast track resettlement areas not "receiving support from development and relief NGOs is convenient for both civil society and the state." International civil society "can continue to dismiss the land reform process as largely benefiting politically connected elites. In the meantime the Zanu-PF dominated state remains the only active external agent in providing support."

The GPA and public opinion now recognize there is no going back on land reform. It may have been chaotic and ad hoc, but it will not be reversed. So it is now possible to look forward to how agriculture can be supported and all farmers promoted to produce more. Getting out of the hole caused by political tensions and hyperinflation has required so much attention that few people have been able to look at the longer-term implications of land reform. And as the liberation generation retires, the process will be steered by new people thinking about economic and social development.



It is the images that stick in the mind--walking into living rooms of both A1 farmers and elite A2 farmers to find the furniture has been moved out and the room filled with sacks of maize and groundnuts, or noting that money has been used to buy machinery rather than new furniture or a fancy car.

These are educated, high-tech farmers. A1 farmers have mobile phones even if they have no electricity, they know the varieties of hybrid maize and which fertilizers and pesticides go with them, and they plow with oxen and tractors--these are not hoe farmers as one would see across the border in Mozambique. A2 farmers are using the Internet to check on animal feed and crops and to arrange export contracts. And we heard two things repeatedly at both A1 and A2 levels--"farming is a business" and "you must have a plan." Farming is difficult anywhere, facing the vagaries of markets and weather, but the good farmers--small and large--are doing their sums and thinking long term. They know they have had these farms for a decade or less, and there is still a lot to do.

For Zimbabweans, it is not the land itself that is important, but farming. Agriculture is seen as a means of betterment and accumulation, and people are prepared to work at it and get their hands dirty. For ordinary A1 farmers, increased production provides a better house and better life for themselves and their children. For the best A1 farmers, maize or tobacco or soya gives them higher profits than the salary of a teacher or civil servant. And for A2 farmers, there is the potential for serious money that will come, not from land speculation, but from growing crops and cattle. And farmers were angry when they pointed out the unused and underused plots--A1 plotholders who still lived in Harare and A2 cell phone farmers or cronies speculating in land--because the empty land stood out like sore thumbs amid the other productive farms.

The farmers' attitudes were matched by the approach of researchers. Zimbabwe is the most literate country in Africa, and the University of Zimbabwe has a high standard of research. But more than that, we were struck by the willingness of researchers to go out to rural areas and spend long days there, sometimes interviewing hundreds of farmers. Research is not something they do just sitting at a desk; researchers, too, are willing to get their hands dirty. This book would have been impossible without the high-quality research already done by Zimbabweans--and their willingness to share. We came away not just with pumpkins, but with many papers and research reports as well.

The final impression is just how quickly Zimbabweans are recovering from the hyperinflation era, and how outsiders (even Zimbabweans abroad) have missed that change. The introduction of the US dollar as currency in January 2009 brought an end to one of the world's worst hyperinflations and brought a return of economic life much more quickly than many expected. In May 2011, when we did much of our fieldwork, the Harare supermarkets were packed with goods and shoppers, and farmers were selling their maize and tobacco to pay school fees and buy seed. Of course, there are not enough dollars-- physically, in the sense that the dollar bills handed over at the toll booths on the roads out of Harare are tattered and dirty, and economically, in that most people remain poor and farmers are under-capitalized. Nevertheless, in a remarkable way Zimbabweans have moved on--the economy seems "normal" and people talk about the hyperinflation time only if you ask.

Thus, outside commentators tend to underestimate two aspects of Zimbabwe. The first is the tie to the land and farming, even for academics and elites. The other is the speed of the recovery under dollarization, itself a testament to the resilience and creativity of Zimbabweans, but also showing that the economic crisis of 2005-8 was caused by hyperinflation and not land reform.

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. In 1952, Godfrey Huggins, prime minister of Southern Rhodesia, said, "The ultimate possessors of the land will be the people who can make the best use of it." Sixty years later, this has come to pass.

Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land

Joseph Hanlon, Jeanette Manjengwa, and Teresa Smart

Kumarian Press, Stylus Publishing Sterling, Virginia


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Unravelling Zimbabwe's Land Reform

Small scale farmer working on his backyard farm.

Africa Focus digs deep into the substance of and circumstances surrounding Zimbabwe's controversial land reform programme. Read more »