Zimbabwe is food secure this season, but more questions raised

The annual ZimVac assessment based on a national sample survey of over 10,000 households and carried out in May came out a month or two back. Unlike last year, when alarm bells were rung over a potential food security catastrophe, this year the prognosis was good. Excellent rains, including in some of the drier and usually more food insecure parts of the country, resulted in a bumper harvest.

Last year I critiqued the use of the headline figure from the assessment as potentially misleading. The same limitations of the survey apply, but the media reporting is more balanced this year (with some extreme exceptions – see comment string in an earlier blog). The survey is based on the 2012 Zimstat sampling frame and covers a large number of enumeration areas across the country, sampled proportional to population densities. Annoyingly the report still doesn’t separate out communal areas and resettlement areas, and my guess is that there remains some sampling bias. More on this below. Last year fortunately the dire predictions were not borne out. In part this was because the rains came, and a green crop filled the hunger period, but also I hypothesised in an earlier blog that the production from new resettlement areas was being undercounted. I suspect this remains the case.

Anyway, I thought blog readers would like a quick summary of the report, as without an impending disaster the media has largely ignored it. You can read the powerpoint report in full, which covers all sorts ranging from nutrition to sanitation. I will concentrate on agricultural production and food security, and draw text directly from the report.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development estimates that the country will have a cereal harvest surplus of 253,174 MT in the 2014/15 consumption year from a total cereal harvest of 1,680,293MT.

Maize remained the major crop grown by most households (88%) compared to 80% for 2012/13, while groundnuts were the second most grown crop. Generally, the proportion of households growing crops increased except for cotton which showed a decline (due to the collapse in prices) and soya beans which remained unchanged.

Nationally, average household cereal (maize and small grains) production was 529.5kg. This was higher than last season (346kg). In Masvingo maize production averaged 339.7 kg and small grains 126 kg, given a total of 525.7 kg per household. Overall, average household cereal production was highest in Mashonaland West and lowest in Manicaland, and the contribution of small grains to total household cereal production was significant in Masvingo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South.

While improvements, these average figures are still low. And compared to the production levels from new resettlement households minute. Our studies in Masvingo, even in the poor rainfall years of between 2010 and 2012, show much higher averages (although with variations). Gareth James’ studies from Mashonaland shower higher outputs still. Again in the poorer rainfall years, he recorded average outputs of maize some 12 times these average national figures for all cereals for the good rainfall year of the past season. Of course the new resettlements have proportionately fewer people and so appropriately in a national representative sample this should be reflected. But, without data broken down and without indications of variation, the ZimVac study still fails to capture this story. As I have argued before (many times!), this is important for policy, and for thinking about national food security.

The ZimVac survey showed that for the 2013/2014 agricultural season approximately 45.2% of the households benefited from the Government Input Support Scheme, which was the main source of inputs. The proportion of households accessing maize inputs through purchase remained unchanged (39%) from 2013. About 2.3% of the households accessed their maize inputs from NGOs which was a decrease from 4.0% in the 2012/13 season.

Given the higher levels of production, the national average maize price was $0.37/kg down from $0.53/ kg during the same period last year. This pattern was also reflecting at the provincial level. Matabeleland South recorded the highest maize price ($0.65/kg). This was the same pattern during the same period last year.

Livestock (cattle, sheep and goats) were in a fair to good condition when the survey took place. Grazing and water for livestock were generally adequate in most parts of the country save for the communal areas, where it was, as is normal, generally inadequate. However, the report notes, there are marginal parts of Matabeleland North and South, Midlands, Manicaland and Masvingo provinces which had inadequate grazing which may not last into the next season.

According to the report, around 60% of the households reported not owning any cattle. Mashonaland East had the highest proportion of households not owning any cattle and Matabeleland South had the least. Nationally, only 14% of the households owned more than 5 cattle with Matabeleland South and Matabeleland Matabeleland North having a higher proportion of households owning more than 5 cattle.

Like the cereal production data, these national and provincial figures are very different to what we have found (and Gareth and others) in the new resettlements. Here cattle ownership is far higher, reflecting the richer, more capitalised form of farming found. Of course the ZimVac study may suffer from under-reporting, as in many large-scale surveys with huge samples, but the contrasts are interesting – and again potentially important.

In terms of food consumption, Masvingo had the highest proportion of households consuming an acceptable diet (75%) and Matabeleland North had the lowest (54%). This showed increased local availability of foodstuffs, and improved off-farm opportunities. However, nutritional indicators remained low, including a high prevalence of stunting. As commented on before, this mismatch between food intake and nutritional indicators remains puzzling.

So, following the food balance methodology the assessment adopts (see discussion of the methodology and its limitations in an earlier blog), the report estimates that for the 2014/15 consumption year at peak (January to March next year) is projected to have 6% of rural households food insecure. This is a 76% decrease compared to the (disputed) estimate the previous consumption year.

This proportion represents about 564,599 people at peak (which may of course be people suffering deficits for only a few days), not being able to meet their annual food requirements. Their total energy deficit is estimated at an equivalent of 20,890MT of maize; actually a very small amount, and not suggesting any urgent need for food aid, given the margins of error in the estimates. Matabeleland North (9.0%), Matabeleland South (8.3%) and Mashonaland West (7.7%) were projected to have the highest proportions of food insecure households. By contrast, Manicaland (2.7%) and unusually Masvingo (3.4%) provinces were projected to have the least proportions of food insecure households.

So in sum, a good harvest results in a good food security situation. This is of course good news, and no surprise. But the report and the analysis still raise many questions. I hope that those working on food and farming in Zimbabwe can join forces and think harder about questions of sampling, the contributions of the new land reform areas to production, and the complex dynamics at the heart of the food economy that underpins food insecurity prevalence and distribution. The ZimVac annual survey is a major contribution, but with some thought and adaptation it could be contributing much more to our understanding of changing livelihoods and food economies in the post-land reform era.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

 

 

 

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Beyond the ‘politics of disorder’: how bureaucratic professionalism persists in Zimbabwe’s public services

One paper on Zimbabwe at the recent ASA-UK conference that I found really interesting was the examination of the micro-politics of the Attorney General’s Office by Susanne Verheul. The paper is available from the Journal of Southern African Studies. And because it won a prize, it’s free to access.

The paper argues that the ‘politics of disorder’ frame so often used to describe Zimbabwe is inappropriate, even in that most political of offices, that of the AG. Simplistic, generalised assessments of politics, painting things in broad-brush terms as corrupt, neo-patrimonial, patronage driven or disorderly and chaotic, are too simplistic. A more fine-grained account instead shows that politics and practice operate on multiple registers. For sure many of the practices described in terms of corruption and patronage occur, but there is also a register embedded in commitments to rigour, professionalism and justice. These work in parallel, often in tension, in the day-to-day practices of the office, she argues.

In particular these tensions between registers occur within individuals. The paper offers two cases of lawyers working in the AG’s office, based on interviews carried out in 2010 and 2012. Both had started work at the peak of the economic crisis in 2008. Salaries were not feasible to live on, and everyone had to seek other sources of livelihoods. Some sought these outside the office, abandoning their work; others made money from the job: through bribes and corrupt practices. These were legitimised in terms of survival, and then routinized as part of normalised behaviours. The new recruits, fresh out of law school, were horrified. This did not match their ideals of delivering professional legal support and justice for all. Yet they were torn, and accepted that for some compromises had to be made.

Of course such behaviours are not the large-scale corrupt practices that have been widely commented upon. But as small acts accrete, they create a new way of working, undermining old norms of professionalism, and in the end challenging the effectiveness of the system as a whole. Across public services, perhaps most notably with the police, this has been a consequence of those years when professional conduct was superseded by the need to survive: to feed one’s family, pay school fees, treat the sick, bury the dead. Over years this has become a new normal, one that is very difficult to shift, as too many people benefit, even if the immediate need has gone.

Yet despite this, there are many who resist. And those who indulge are often torn, expressing feelings of shame and embarrassment. The two registers operate in tandem. Simply writing off public services – the courts, the police, local government, the technical line ministries – as corrupt and incompetent does not do justice to the internal, often quite personal, struggles that exist. What struck me through the period of crisis in the 2000s was how committed many of those we were working with in the Ministries of Agriculture, Lands, Environment and so on remained. They were not being paid anything near a living wage, yet came to the office. They remained committed, yet necessarily had to have outside jobs. The vets sold drugs, extension officers took payments, the lands people offered a range of services for payment. And all had other jobs, many gaining farms as a result of land reform that kept them engaged in the sector, although took them away from their formal posts.

After the stabilisation of the economy, viable salaries returned, but many of the practices persisted. But for some, like Susanne’s informants in the AG’s office, professional conduct, and shunning other practices was possible. This was certainly the case in the land and agriculture related technical services. Despite everything – the decimation of staff by HIV/AIDS, the flood of people out of government jobs to the private sector (including farming) or abroad, poor and often confused political leadership from the centre, and continued lack of funding, due to the fiscal challenges of government and the lack of donor support – it remains remarkable to me that Zimbabwe has such a committed group of public servants still in post. Highly trained, deeply committed, these are top professionals who continue against the odds. Compared to many others you meet in similar jobs elsewhere in the region, many (for sure not all) Zimbabwean public servants stand out, despite the poor conditions. Susanne’s paper offers a nuanced and sympathetic profile of two such individuals in the AG’s office, where the political spotlights shines especially brightly. But there are thousands of others elsewhere. Perhaps more in the technical ministries and in the districts further away from the political meddling who continue to uphold standards, and provide a professional service with commitment and passion. It’s far from ideal, but it’s not without hope.

Rebuilding the bureaucratic state, and its capacity to deliver, as part of the ongoing negotiation of a stable political settlement, must rely on such individuals. It must appeal to their commitment and professionalism, and reward this. Meeting these people in offices in far-flung parts of the country, without resources, but with ideas, understandings and a real zeal to make a difference, definitely gives me hope.

Writing off the state, and its government services, as simply a tool of a corrupt party elite is too simple, and the result of sloppy analysis. The state and its bureaucratic machinery is too complex and varied, made up of too many individuals with diverse motivations to be wholly captured in this way. A more nuanced and sophisticated analysis of politics in Zimbabwe is needed, and the sort of micro-study of a particular office offered by Susanne’s paper is one way of opening up this complexity, and finding ways forward.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

 

 

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New research on land reform in Zimbabwe

As mentioned last week, the University of Sussex hosted the major biennial UK African Studies Association conference. Around 600 delegates were registered, and there was a real buzz, with panels on every conceivable topic from every corner of the continent. Quite a few papers reported on new work from Zimbabwe, and land and politics was a recurrent theme. In the end we had a single panel of three papers (as several panellists had to drop out at the last minute). It was a fascinating session to a standing-room-only audience.

The three panellists all reported on new research in the now not-so-new resettlements, representing different geographic areas, and diverse methodologies. All looked at how new livelihoods are being carved out following land reform in A1 sites. This included in-depth reflections on the relationships between farmers and farmworkers, a quantitative assessment of production outcomes across sites compared to communal and old resettlement areas, and an analysis of how farm and off-farm livelihood opportunities are combined in a mining area.

The session kicked off with an excellent paper by Leila Sinclair-Bright who discussed the changing social relations between ‘new farmers’ on an A1 resettlement area in Mazowe and farmworkers. Through a deep, focused ethnographic approach she looked at changing notions of ‘belonging’, and the way livelihoods are negotiated. A case of a chief’s court dispute over land highlighted many of the dynamics. For, while the farmworkers were accepted as part of the farm community, and even incorporated into the cultural fabric of life through their as ‘sahwira’ at burials, when a group tried to claim formally the land that they had been cultivating this was rejected by the A1 farmers. ‘Belonging’ had its limits, and the new farmers tried to circumscribe this, arguing that as ‘foreigners’ (many had Malawian origins several generations back), their role was not as land owners but labourers. That the farmworkers had been bargaining hard on wages and opting for alternate livelihoods had played into this tension. Certainly the emerging forms of ‘belonging’ differ dramatically from that described by Blair Rutherford in the pre-land reform era, but the cultural politics of farmworker-farmer relations are as live as ever, often flaring up into disputes of this sort. Leila’s paper highlighted the value of really in-depth analysis of cases to uncover the textured dynamics of change on the farms. We have been subjected to far too much simplistic analysis, often based on spurious statistics, on farmworkers, but this sort of work really provides a much-needed qualitative insight that is immensely revealing. As the new social, political and economic relations are negotiated on the new farms, new bargains and accommodations will be struck, and this will require innovations in institutional and cultural practices; sometimes drawing on traditional norms, but in other cases requiring new deals to be struck.

Taking a very different approach, Gareth James offered an overview of some of his impressive survey work across three districts in Mashonaland/Manicaland, involving a sample of over 600 (here’s the powerpoint). This involved a large sample extending the classic work by Bill Kinsey and colleagues that tracked the fortunes of ‘old resettlement’ area farmers, comparing these to their neighbours in the communal areas (see our Masvingo work on this, in a recent blog series). Gareth has developed a sample in A1 farming areas, and looked at a range of factors. This presentation focused on ‘outcomes’ and in a series of graphs he showed how the A1 farmers on average outperformed both the old resettlement area and communal area farmers across a range of criteria. As younger, more educated, more capitalised farmers, they had higher outputs and yields of major crops (maize, cotton, tobacco), applied more inputs and achieved higher incomes. He offered a listing of the constraints faced too, which included a familiar array focused on the challenges of accessing farming inputs and labour. For those of us who primarily work in the drier south of the country, the production statistics were impressive. Across the two seasons studied (both of which were not good seasons), the A1 farmers achieved an average output of around 6 tonnes of maize. Taking the standard figure of annual consumption requirements of 1 tonne per family, this means around 5 tonnes could be sold, and contribute to a dynamic of investment and accumulation that Gareth described. This was of course added to by the often impressive outputs of tobacco. Averages of course only tell one part of the story, and as he pointed out there is much variation. As we have seen in Masvingo, these dynamics create new patterns of differentiation and associated class formation in the new resettlements, with major consequences for agrarian social relations and longer term change. There was insufficient time in the presentation to explore these issues, but the results are tantalising, and the overall output statistics impressive. Of course there are qualifications, and some of these were discussed. Is this a temporary boom, based on the ‘mining’ of the soil? Will the success attract more and more people to area, and so undermine per capita success as land and outputs are shared among more and more? Did the new settlers manage to outcompete their neighbours through preferential access to inputs, offered through political patronage? All of these factors are important, but do not undermine the overall story of a production boom, with major opportunities for accumulation in the new resettlements.

The final paper by Grasian Mkodzongi reflected on his work in Mhondoro Ngezi in Mashonaland West Province. Here A1 and A2 resettlement areas are in close proximity to the major Zimplats mining complex. Grasian’s paper concentrated on the relationships between farming and mining, as mediated through labour contracts, business opportunities and political connections. In addition to the large-scale mine there are many other smaller mining operations, for gold and other minerals that provide opportunities for others. The paper focused on the social and political negotiation of the farming-mining relationship, based on a number of cases. New farmers are able to insert themselves into the economic activity associated with Zimplats, supplying inputs (such as silica found on their farms) as well as profiting from upstream aspects of the value chain. Farmers have used the politically-charged debate around ‘indigenisation’ to their advantage, manipulating the rhetoric and demanding economic benefits. This sets up new political and economic relationships between the farms and the mine that are played out through local political dramas. The story is immensely complex and fast evolving, but it offers an insight into how, at the local level, new economic relations with capital are being negotiated, and how a very particular political dynamics and discourses influence this. Contrary to analyses that offer only a simplistic and generalised view of politics concluding that all is guided by top-down patronage, looking at local relations through in-depth research reveals a room for manoeuvre for those who have the resources and ingenuity to play the system.

These brief and rather partial summaries cannot do justice to the richness of the papers. If you want to hear more, there is a recording of the presentations and the discussions here. As noted, each in different ways contribute to our evolving understandings of livelihoods after land reform, and demonstrate the importance of diverse methodological approaches in capturing the nuance and diversity. These three papers, all emerging from PhD studies at the University of Edinburgh, are examples of a growing array of research on different themes in different places. They add together to an impressive dataset that has yet to be fully grasped by policymakers, donors and other commentators, including many academic ‘authorities’ on Zimbabwe.

A couple of years ago, I compiled a list of research projects on ‘fast-track’ land reform of different sorts, many deriving from PhD and MA degrees, and mapped them. The coverage then was impressive, and I am sure has extended much further since. Yet, despite this growing body of work, we hear again and again misleading commentary and inappropriate conclusions being drawn on land reform in Zimbabwe. But building on the earlier work, including ours in Masvingo, we now have an impressive set of insights, offering nuance and perspective on our overall assessment of Zimbabwe’s land reform. I hope this blog will continue to be a space for sharing these results with a wider audience. So if you are doing a study, and have some results to share, even if preliminary, do let me know!

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

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New narratives on Zimbabwe’s land reform: a panel at the African Studies Association Conference this week at the University of Sussex

New research from Zimbabwe will be shared at a double panel session at the UK African Studies Association on Wednesday this week. This is being held at the University of Sussex on 10 September between 9 and 12.30 (with a break!). The session has been organised by Gareth James of Edinburgh University, and I will chair.

Zimbabwe’s land reform that unfolded from 2000 has been intensely controversial, and remain so. But 14 years on there is a wider array of research to draw from in order to make more balanced and informed conclusions on outcomes and implications.

The work published in Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities, showed how some farmers who gained land through the land reform in Masvingo did remarkably well – accumulating, investing and improving production. Others have pointed to the ‘tobacco boom’ that has brought significant riches to those in the Highveld tobacco areas. Such successes have not universally been the case however. Land in some areas remains poorly utilised, some larger scale farmers have failed to invest, and political elites have captured land but not put it into production.

The panel, “New narratives and emerging issues in the Zimbabwe land debate”, will provide an opportunity to reflect on new research conducted by Zimbabwean and European researchers in the last few years in different parts of the country. The six papers that will be presented and discussed are listed below.

  1. Patience Mutopo – Ethnographic Reflections on the Land Reform and Rural Development in Mwenezi District, Zimbabwe
  2. Gareth James – Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform: Smallholder Land Use and Production Patterns in Shamva, Hwedza and Makoni.
  3. Grasian Mkodzongi – The Political Economy of Mineral Resource Extraction after Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP): The case of Mhondoro Ngezi District.
  4. Marleen Dekker – Navigating through Times of Scarcity: The Intensification of a Gift-giving Economy after Dollarization in old Resettlement Areas in Zimbabwe.
  5. Leila Sinclair-Bright – Land, labour and kin: continuity and change in a new resettlement area in Zimbabwe
  6. Sheila Chikulo – Emerging market discourses in a changing ‘agrarian economy’? The case of the fresh vegetable markets in Zimbabwe.

I hope to see some Zimbabweland readers there! Those who cannot make it, expect a report afterwards on the blog.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

 

 

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Catch up on Zimbabweland

If you missed out on Zimbabweland blog posts since the beginning of the year, you can catch up now (sorry, I am on holiday!). Here are the dozen most popular ones of those posted this year:

  1. Spurious statistics: why figures on Zimbabwe’s ‘lost growth’ mislead
  2. Going up in smoke: the environmental costs of Zimbabwe’s tobacco boom
  3. Dams, flooding and displacement: the Tokwe Mukorsi dam
  4. A fictitious budget or a sensible plan in constrained circumstances? Zimbabwe’s 2014 budget
  5. Land tenure dilemmas in Zimbabwe
  6. Zimbabwe’s country clubs: the changing social life of Zimbabwe’s farming areas
  7. Zimbabwe’s gold rush: livelihoods for the poor or a patronage economy, or both?
  8. Farm workers: reconstructing lives and livelihoods
  9. GM crops: continuing controversy
  10. Access to $1000 credit: would this help unleash agricultural commercialisation in Zimbabwe?
  11. What should be on a new Zim dollar note? Two nominations
  12. Rethinking agricultural extension

If you want to ensure you don’t miss any, just sign up on the blog and each Monday a new post will be sent automatically to your inbox.

Also, in case you missed them, two blog series were posted in this period, focusing on updates of the Masvingo ‘livelihoods after land reform’ work, looking at changes in the last five years, and comparing new resettlements with nearby communal areas. You can find the first posts in the links below (they ran for the subsequent 4-5 weeks, so just click ‘next’).

https://zimbabweland.wordpress.com/2014/03/31/how-have-the-new-farmers-fared-an-update-on-the-masvingo-study-i/

https://zimbabweland.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/comparing-communal-areas-and-new-resettlements-in-zimbabwe-i-an-introduction-to-a-short-blog-series/

Finally, the low cost book ‘Debating Zimbabwe’s Land Reform’, a compilation of various blogs from 2011-2013, is now available in Kindle format for 77p! You can still buy the book via Amazon if you prefer a paper version for just over a fiver (UK pounds that is).

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

 

 

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A1 permits: unleashing contradictions in the party state

On 2 July, President Mugabe launched the new permit system aimed at all A1 farms. Previously, Minister for Lands, Douglas Mombeshora, had announced that all previous ‘offer letters’ were null and void, and that everyone with land officially allocated in A1 resettlement schemes should apply for a new permit. These permits were aimed at regularising land tenure arrangements, and provide security of land holdings in perpetuity.

The permits, Mombeshora claimed, could be used as collateral to raise money from commercial banks. Both husband and wife would be named on the permit, and this would avoid any disputes around inheritance, offering women in particular security. The permits would come with conditions, however. They would not be issued to those who were not utilising the land, nor those who had been allocated land illegally outside the ‘fast-track’ allocations. A total of over 220,000 permits would be issued (although this seems high), and the first were handed over as part of a presidential ceremonial occasion at Chipfuri farm in Mhangura.

Some argued that the permits were illegal, however. Since compensation had not been paid for the land, the title deed is still notionally valid, and so no new land ownership arrangement can be applied. The ministry disputes this interpretation, but the issue of compensation certainly still remains very live, and must be a high priority.

On the face of it, the issuing of permits seemed to me like an excellent move. Indeed very much in line with arguments made on this blog before. Uncertainty about land tenure has plagued development in the new resettlements, and many had pointed to the limitations of the ‘offer letters’. A clearer, more transparent approach, with conditions and backed by an audit, would provide a firmer basis for planning and development efforts. Clear ownership arrangements would also offset attempts at ‘grabbing’ land by elites, or the growing practices of informal land allocation by a range of different authorities. The Ministry of Lands, backed hopefully by an improved land information system and greater clarity in land administration, would be doing its job.

However, rather than providing stability, normalisation and security, the announcement appears to have had the opposite effect in some places. A spate of land invasions has occurred again. These seem to have been in part prompted by the speech made by President Mugabe at the launch. Whether this was misreporting by the press or the president, as ever, was playing to the crowd, he was reported as saying that whites had no right to the land, and that ‘supping with whites’ through ‘fronting’ farms would not be countenanced. This has been interpreted variously as an affront to the Constitution, a racist attack and a spur for more land invasions, including of black farmers suspected of colluding with whites.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, had to defend the president’s speech in parliament, arguing that it had been misinterpreted, and of course the President is fully committed to upholding the Constitution. Equally, Minister Mombeshora has reiterated that the land reform is over, invasions should not be allowed, and those moving illegally, for example into forest areas, would be removed in a crack-down on illegal land deals. However, some others may have not been listening to the parliamentary record and ministers’ statements, and in the last few weeks a series of, sometimes violent, invasions have occurred.

One of the most disturbing occurred in Masvingo East near our study sites. Black farmers on a series of farms, many purchased long before the land reform, were accused by war veterans of providing cover for whites and underutilising their land. Repeating an invasion that resulted in evictions last year, the farms were invaded again by a group of youths recruited from nearby areas, and there was a stand-off. This escalated into a conflict in which Mr Mufaro Mukaro was seriously injured in an axe attack, and remains in hospital. The local lands department say that the invasions are illegal and the occupiers should go. The local MP and deputy agriculture minister, Davis Maripira, condemned the attack. But the situation remains tense, although the lead war veteran was arrested.

Other invasions have occurred in Mazwi nature reserve near Bulawayo; in Goromonzi associated with an ownership wrangle with local big wigs, and disputes over periurban housing offered as part of election sweeteners last year; as well as in forest estates in the Eastern Highlands. A violent attack in Guruve earlier in the year also occurred, leaving Malcom Francis and his daughter Catherine both dead, signalling increasing insecurity for remaining white farmers. William Stander of Benjani ranch in Mwenezi also recently lost a Constitutional court contest to retain his farm. The most recent invasion, garnerning substantial publicity through activist Ben Freeth, was the attempt by deputy presidential secretary, Dr Ray Ndhlukula to take over Figtree farm in Matabeleland South, despite a High Court ruling against this.

Just as we thought that a sensible, ordered reform of land tenure and ownership was to happen, backed by a long-called for audit, then confusion and uncertainty emerges again. The recent period is a telling sign that Zimbabwe has a long way to go before a formal, effective and accountable bureaucratic state is allowed to operate. The Ministry of Lands under Mombeshora has been trying to move in this direction, recognising the urgent need to move on from the land reform to rebuild agriculture and spur rural development. Yet political factions within the party state, including perhaps inadvertently the president, but also senior members of his own office, are resisting this move to a normalised situation. Political and personal benefit can be gained from instability just as it has been over 14 or more years.

Others resisting are those disappointed with the way the state is moving to regularise things, and so exclude some from potential future spoils. And there are those too who are disillusioned with the party, including core supporters inside the war veteran movement, seeing it as selling out in its attempts to become ‘acceptable’ to the international community in the post July 31 2013 era. Jabulani Sibanda, the notorious war veteran leader, commented recently: “This is a struggle; this is war against multiple black farm owners. Some of them have farms registered under the names of their children who are not even in the country. We will take such farms and redistribute them. We are against land hoarders and people who have too much land; excess land to be precise,”

As discussed last week, the complex manoeuvres, the competing factions, and the layers of commercial and political interests at the heart of the ZANU-PF state can result in all sorts of contradictory and conflicting results. So within one month, we had a move to regularise and formalise land tenure, along the lines that many had long been calling for, and yet a reaction that resulted in more violent land invasions.

Those stuck in the middle, including many ministers, civil servants, but particularly people on the ground, including frontline government officials, find it difficult to navigate a way forward. They urgently want a clear, transparent system to prevail in line with the Constitution; and with whites involved in the new agrarian system, contributing in multiple ways. It is no wonder, as discussed last week, that things are stuck, and reforms and the economy are not moving forward as fast as many, including many within ZANU-PF, hoped.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

 

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A year on from ZANU-PF’s election victory: limits and constraints

On July 31 last year, ZANU-PF were victorious in the elections. The opposition was annihilated. The elections were disputed by many, and many questions were raised about the process, but most commentators agreed that this was a shift of support back to ZANU-PF, with the opposition having run out of steam.

A number of good commentaries were published in the Journal of Southern African Studies that offered views from different perspectives, including from Miles Tendi, Phillan Zamchiya and Brian Raftopolous. Perhaps the most powerful though comes from McDonald Lewanika and Delta Milayo Ndou (formerly of the Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition) in ‘We the People’, a beautifully illustrated edited book of personal testimonies and reflections from Zimbabweans after the elections. Most are urban, educated and opposition supporters, but the sense of melancholy and loss, reflecting on a moment that had so much hope, is tangible and powerful.

Nearly a year ago on September 10 2013, a confident ZANU-PF announced a new cabinet and ambitious plans for the future under the ZimAsset programme. Attempts to rebuild relationships with the west started, while overtures to the Chinese continued. A new minister of lands, Douglas Mombeshora, has stated boldly that no new land invasions would be allowed, and that land administration would be regularised, with those illegally occupying land or underutilising it evicted.

It sounded as if a corner had been turned. But sadly such a transition has not occurred. In the last year, the economy has floundered, as the new investment has failed to arrive; relationships with Europe and the US remain tetchy; the Chinese are playing hardball; and land invasions have continued, despite attempts at audits and new permit systems (see next week’s blog).

Meanwhile, the opposition has imploded. The expected departure of Morgan Tsvangirai has not happened, and he clings on to one faction, with surprisingly wide public support. The MDC-T though has fractured, with Tendai Biti and colleagues declaring a ‘renewal team’, and presumably in time a new party, for a revived opposition. They are actively courting investors and foreign governments, while belatedly accepting that a focus on economic and social rights and redistribution issues – ZANU-PF’s political territory for the 2013 elections – must be central to any revamped approach. The situation is very messy indeed.

The warring factions continue to slug it out within ZANU-PF too, with different groupings being speculated on in the press almost daily. What is clear is that there is no easy resolution of the ‘succession’ issue, and Mugabe is playing the longer game (to the 2018 elections) to see how this will resolve itself.

The consequence is that there is massive uncertainty on the political scene, and this translates itself into challenges for economic regeneration. In May at a SAPES Trust event, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa declared:

Zimbabwe is open to Foreign Direct Investment from all Nations of the World, whether these be in the North, South, East or West… Zimbabwe is ready to re-integrate into the global economy. Zimbabwe is looking for new friendships, new opportunities while consolidating old ones. We are looking for mutually beneficial economic relationships not confrontation. We are too small a country to pursue a policy of confrontation.

This signaled a softening of stance, and a willingness to engage. Equally the purge of corrupt parastatals and their officials led by Jonathan Moyo was clearly aimed at an international audience, with a very visible attempt to deal with corruption – although of course only in one area. Statements on the flagship ‘indigenisation’ policy have been much more tempered since the elections, with senior party officials stating that expropriation and nationalization are not on the agenda, and that there has to be flexibility in the application of the policy.

In a typically perceptive piece for the Solidarity Peace Trust, Brian Raftopolous argues:

The mixed policy messaging of the Mugabe regime can be attributed both to the challenges of seeking fuller international re-engagement while holding on to its empowerment programme, and the tensions within ZANU PF about how to proceed with such a re-engagement. The tropes of sovereignty, liberation history, regional solidarity and empowerment have been integral to ZANU PF’s political imaginary and ‘language of stateness’, in both the party’s ‘practical languages of governance’ and the ‘symbolic languages of authority’. However the exposure of the limits of the state’s capacity to effect its indigenisation programme has led to the dual strategy of seeking a rapprochement with the West, while promising to export the Zimbabwean model to the SADC region.

Such contradictions are the legacy of the past 14 or so years. The radical redistributive policies, most notably the land reform, have presented major challenges in economic terms. The withdrawal of external support and international investment has hampered the rebounding of the economy, and the business-political patronage networks that were established to prop up the regime in this period are certainly not the basis for a prosperous, competitive economy.

There are bright spots though. The informal sector is booming, and providing jobs and livelihoods. While many argue this is not the real economy, it is certainly the main economy. In the restructured agricultural sector, the tobacco boom continues, with a massive 210 million tonnes of tobacco being traded this year. While livelihoods are unquestionably improving especially for those on the land, galvanising new, coherent and sustained economic growth is a big challenge, and the long (often rather sensible) wish-lists in the ZimAsset blueprint will not be realized without sustained investment.

Much of course relies on a rapprochement with the west, and with international capital and finance. Given the bad feeling, abuse and threats that have occurred over time, this will not be easy, especially with Britain. Miles Tendi offers a fascinating analysis of this challenge, based on interviews with some of the key players, on both the UK and the Zimbabwe sides, and how a sustained ‘demonisation’ invective from both has not helped matters.

A fundamental question remains, however: how to balance a commitment to redistribution and economic empowerment with engagement in a globalized economy, and in a context where national debt amounts to a staggering US$6 billion? Is there any way to resist the inevitable reincorporation into a neoliberal world order, and sustain the progressive gains of reform? Despite the socialist solidarity rhetoric, the Chinese are interested in commercial business just as any other western nation or multinational company. And countries in the region are wary of heading down an alternative route, despite the electioneering rhetoric of Julius Malema further south. So ZANU PF is in a bind. As Brian Raftopolous argues, there are clear ‘limits to victory’.

 This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

 

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