Morgan Tsvangirai: a leader and a fighter

Morgan Tsvangirai has died. Zimbabwe has lost a great leader, a true fighter. As founder of the Movement for Democratic Change he was the first opposition leader in Zimbabwe to emerge from outside the ruling party. Starting out in the trade union movement, he knew how to mobilise. A great orator, and a man of the people he was widely popular, even amongst his foes. Today he is buried at his home village in Buhera next to his first wife at a state-supported funeral.

He might have become president had the violence of the 2008 elections not got out of hand. Instead he withdrew fearing worse, and later took on the poisoned chalice of the prime minister role in the Government of National Unity. And then in 2013 the MDC lost the election, as he later admitted, and began to fall apart, especially after he became ill with cancer, which finally killed him.

Like his great opponent Mugabe he failed to deal with the succession issue, and the current unseemly wrangling among the power-hungry MDC trio is witness to this failure in leadership at the end. Whatever political position you take, having a vibrant opposition is essential in any country. The MDC-T, as it became after the 2005 split, has been a vital part of political debate in Zimbabwe since 1999.

Where the MDC failed particularly was to generate an effective narrative that would appeal widely to people in the rural areas – of course the substantial majority of the electorate. ZANU-PF held sway, with its often simplistic populist, nationalist rhetoric, and with state resources for food aid and development projects could show its concern for rural issues.

Tsvangirai surrounded himself with top constitutional lawyers and white businessmen and farmers. All exceptionally smart, and deeply committed to change, but probably not the right people to lead new policy thinking on agrarian reform, nor develop strategies for rural mobilisation. Eddie Cross was for example the main spokesperson on agriculture and land, while the late Roy Bennett was also influential.

Tsvangirai, himself from a rural background in Masvingo province, deferred to these advisors. This was a mistake, and meant that, with equivocation around land reform and lack of vision around post-land reform rural development, the political terrain was left to ZANU-PF, who defended it vigorously, especially around elections.

As I have discussed on this blog before, the emerging class differentiation in rural areas was a potential open electoral opportunity for the MDC. Educated, aspirant, entrepreneurial, increasingly rich farmers, linked to urban areas, were an ideal constituency, but were ignored in favour of the urban masses, which of course was Tsvangirai’s territory from ZCTU days.

There were mistakes and misfortunes, intimidation and violence, as well as turns of events that meant that Tsvangirai’s ambitions were never realised. But over the last 20 years he has been central to political life in Zimbabwe, and made a massive contribution, as a strong, brave, courageous and principled politician. You can’t say that about many people.

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Below are a number of links to obituaries and personal tributes, with much more detail on Tsvangirai’s life and important achievements. Twitter is of course full of many comments and tributes. On youtube, Oliver Mtukudzi has offered his own musical version.

  • Alex Magaisa offers a very personal and heartfelt BSR written hours after his death. He was a close adviser to the prime minister during the build-up to the fateful 2013 elections.
  • Stephen Chan provided the obituary for the Guardian newspaper. He again knew him well, and they wrote a book together. While recognising his great achievements, he makes some important comments about Tsvangirai’s failings and limitations.
  • Evan Mawarire, the #ThisFlag leader, highlights Tsvangirai’s courage in a piece in the Mail and Guardian, written just before he died.
  • David Moore offers a piece in The Conversation, reflecting on what might have been.

Other obituaries from some the major international newspapers tell a less interesting story – more the heroic narrative of peasant boy to union leader to valiant but brutalised opponent to the evil Mugabe (all true, but told without the nuance of those above). The NYT, Washington Post and The Telegraph offer some examples.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland. Photo from @263chat

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NEW BOOK: Land reform in Zimbabwe: challenges for policy

Zimbabwe’s land reform continues to be controversial, but in the post-Mugabe era there is at least the prospect of sensible policies to get agriculture and rural economies moving.

In the coming months there will be hordes of consultants and advisers arriving in Harare with lots of plans, projects and funds of different sorts. Unless their local counterparts in government, academia and civil society resist the temptation of jumping on whatever bandwagon is on offer, Zimbabwe’s recovery will be hampered and confused.

In relation to land and agriculture, there has been a huge amount of research done in the 18 years since the land reform. This blog has attempted to share some of it. Now there’s a new low-cost book – Land Reform in Zimbabwe: Challenges for Policy –  that contains a selection of blogs, collected together in different sections, with newly written introductions to each.

The book includes one section summarising data on post-land reform production and livelihoods, another on medium-scale farms and their prospects, another on youth challenges, ones on markets, local economies and the importance of small towns, and still other sections on land administration and wider policy. There are 44 chapters in total over 238 pages, and you can buy the book on Amazon for only £5.50 (or 99p for a Kindle version). It’s a follow-up to Debating Zimbabwe’s Land Reform, available for the same bargain price!

For those jetting into Harare ‘on mission’ perhaps have a look at both books on the plane. It could save you a lot of time! There is so much misunderstanding about Zimbabwe’s recent history and current land and agriculture situation that access to some research based evidence is important. Such misunderstandings are not only among the jet-setting consultants, but among too many donors, NGOs, journalists and others in Zimbabwe, as well as wider publics in the region and more broadly.

So this book is for all of you! And while you are at it have a look at the recent pieces on post-Mugabe land and agriculture policy published in The Conversation in the past weeks (and reposted on this blog). Here are the links:

These short articles have had massive readership and generated much interest.

Some objected to the very idea of compensation, perhaps forgetting that compensation for improvements (not land) was an important part of the cross-party Constitutional settlement. That colonialism removed land from Africans in the past is of course not excused by paying compensation for investments made by white farmers now (again, not the land), but the Constitutional requirement for compensation for improvements is seen by most in Zimbabwe as a necessary step for moving forward.

Many found the piece on land administration a helpful overview. Nothing new in this, but the need to get this right, and not make the system complex and expensive is essential (consultants and donors, please take note!).

The final piece on ten priorities for agriculture got broad approval – again the need to see these as part of an integrated strategy was emphasised, linking efforts to regularise tenure with investment, finance and technical support. The theme of thinking about all this at a local level as part of regional or local economic development generated further positive comment.

The debate on land and agriculture in Zimbabwe continues, and the Zimbabweland blog – if a little more intermittently than in the past – will carry on. So do sign up now to receive email alerts (to the right of this post) or follow me on Twitter @ianscoones to get the link. I have a pile of excellent articles and books to review in coming blogs, highlighting the fantastic, high quality research that is being done in Zimbabwe now.

Maybe the external consultants are not so needed given this huge capacity? Perhaps in this phase Zimbabwe can do development differently? Let’s hope so. Hopefully the research covered in this blog and these books will contribute in a small way. The first book was widely distributed in Zimbabwe: in our study areas, across government departments and university libraries. We will be doing the same with the new one, so look out for it in the coming weeks, or buy it if you can!

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

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Ten priorities for getting agriculture moving in Zimbabwe

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REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Agriculture is taking centre stage in plans for the revival of Zimbabwe’s ailing economy under the new leadership of Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Getting agriculture moving in Zimbabwe is a big task. The radical land reform of 2000 has left many outstanding challenges; not least the importance of compensating former farm owners. But the biggest challenge is that, with new ownership patterns, the agricultural sector has a much more diffuse base. Today there are many small to medium sized farms, rather than a few major players.

This has implications for what Mnangagwa does next. What are the top priorities for agriculture, and what can be learnt from the challenges faced since the land reform?

The research

Research we’ve done over the past 18 years provides some useful pointers. We have been tracking what has happened to land reform farms across Zimbabwe, with sites in Masvingo (in the dry south-east), in Mvurwi (north of Harare) and in Matobo (in Matabeleland). We have been looking at both smallholder production (in so-called A1 areas) and medium-scale commercial farms (so-called A2 allocations), as well as outgrower arrangements in lowveld sugar estates.

The results have been surprising. Despite the woeful lack of support, the smallholders have done reasonably well. Most are producing surpluses and reinvesting in their farms. Around two thirds have produced more food than just for subsistence in nearly all years that we’ve conducted the research. In Mvurwi, tobacco dominates, and the smallholder-led tobacco boom has brought significant investment, both on and off-farm.

For their part larger landholdings have struggled. Lack of finance capital for many has meant they have not got off the ground and some have significant areas of under-utilised land, with infrastructure in disrepair.

The exceptions are those operating under contract arrangements with estates. These farmers have done relatively well because they’ve been supported and finance has been guaranteed. New contracting and joint venture arrangements are emerging in some areas, but much more needs to be done.

Ten priorities for agricultural development

Drawing on this experience, below I suggest ten priorities for getting agriculture moving once the first tasks of paying compensation, undertaking a land audit and establishing an efficient land administration system are complete.

Land tenure

Land tenure security should be assured through issuing 99-year leases for larger land reform farms and permits for smaller farms. This should be complemented by clear regulations to avoid land concentration and to facilitate women’s access to land. This can be achieved through a multiform tenure system based on trusted, secure property relations.

Finance

Getting private bank finance flowing is essential. Bankable leases will help, as will the acceptance of a range of forms of collateral by finance institutions. State assurances and the building of trust will be key.

Partnerships

Partnerships and joint ventures will be significant for some larger farms and certain crops, where external finance and expertise are essential. Already Chinese involvement in tobacco production is proving to be important. Opening opportunities for the return of highly skilled former white farmers will be significant too. Regulations to ensure such partnerships are truly joint and involve the transfer of skills are vital.

Government loans

Government loans for agriculture are currently offered through the “command agriculture” programme. Focusing on larger farms with irrigation infrastructure, it has shown some success in the past season. But such programmes should not be abused for political ends. And it’s essential that loans are fully repaid.

Access to markets

Linking diverse producers to markets is essential. Too often smallholders get poor value for their products, but ensuring local content purchasing by supermarkets, reduced red tape and support for investment in transport infrastructure will help. Already the reduction in market transaction costs through the removal of many police roadblocks has had a massive, positive impact, as fewer bribes have to be paid.

Value addition

The country must work on developing value-added activity around the agricultural sector. Local processing and packaging would ensure employment along the value chain. And preservation, processing and selling to niche markets could offset risks, such as a glut in horticultural products.

Smart support systems

Extension advice and market support through IT applications is increasingly feasible, given growing connectivity and the wide ownership of smartphones. This means farmers can be offered more attuned and useful advice. A wholesale rethink of agricultural extension and support services is therefore required.

Irrigation

Irrigation is essential to boost production in dryland areas, especially given the increased variability in rainfall patterns due to climate change. But this should not involve expensive, large-scale schemes. Instead they should be focused on supporting farmer-led irrigation, using small pumps and pipes bought locally. External intervention should be focused on improving water use efficiency and management.

Mechanisation

Appropriate mechanisation is another priority. Again this shouldn’t be focused on the large-scale options of the past. Small-scale mechanisation, such as two-wheeled tractors and motorbike-drawn trailers may be more appropriate and affordable, and less subject to patronage, than large tractors and combines. For larger equipment, cooperative arrangements or private hire schemes could work, supported by online infrastructure and training.

Local economic development

Agricultural development needs to be seen as part of local economic development. It must be integrated into wider planning and investment frameworks at a district level, with new farms of varying sizes linked to small towns near land reform areas, where new employment and service provision opportunities open up.

The ConversationThese ten suggestions together could make a big difference, both to the economy and to farmers’ livelihoods across the country. Let’s hope that President Mnangagwa’s commitment to agricultural development is translated into action – and soon.

This is the third in a short series of articles for The Conversation. The previous two on compensation and on land administration are available here and here.

Ian Scoones, Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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At Davos, can Zimbabwe re-engage with the global economy on its own terms?

As Emmerson Mnangagwa heads for the snowy slopes of Davos, Switzerland to rub shoulders with the global capitalist and political elite at the World Economic Forum, he must not forget the more radical ambitions of his background.

His recent discussion over lunch with Financial Times journalist, Alec Russell, was revealing. Zimbabwe desperately needs finance, and support from western nations, as well as China, Brazil, India and others who stuck with the country in the last years. The Investment Policy Statement and Action Plan released last week makes all the right noises. The charm offensive with the British is in full flow, and the FT interview was part of creating the right mood music.

But there are red lines it seems; and one is land reform, despite the long period of sanctions imposed from 2000 and the antagonism of many western powers to this redistributive move. Mnangagwa’s enthusiasm for getting agriculture, as the core sector in an agrarian economy, moving is clear too – although all seen through the lens of his ‘command agriculture’ experiences. The full transcript of the FT interview is available too – and it offers a glimpse of an unusually relaxed, engaging Mnangagwa.

A reminder that a commitment to a radical transformation of agrarian relations is crucial for Zimbabwe, and that the land reform was only one step, was offered in the first annual Sam Moyo memorial lecture last week. Hosted by the Sam Moyo African Institute of Agrarian Studies, the lecture was delivered by Prabhat Patnaik from JNU, India and introduced by Issa Shivji from Tanzania. The video is available here. It offers a powerful call not to forget ‘peasants’ and poor smallholder farmers in agrarian transitions in the context of globalisation.

Sam Moyo tragically died in a car accident in India in late 2015, but his work and committed yet practical radicalism lives on amongst many young scholars, and in the vibrant agrarian studies summer school held each January in Harare. Mnangagwa and his people should go along next year to learn more about experiences of agrarian transformation globally.

At Davos, the allure of much-needed capital will be strong for Mnangagwa and his ministers. The WEF represents a gathering of the high priests of neoliberal capitalism, all eager for investments and returns. Zimbabwe may soon be seen as a promising investment destination, and needs to prepare for this. Such investments need to be for Zimbabwe’s development, not just servicing global capital. A strong state leadership will be essential, as deals are negotiated.

Some 70 heads of state are expected to attend the Swiss meeting. Mnangagwa may get a chance to meet the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, and many others. As revealed by his FT interview, with his predecessor, he definitely approves of female British leaders, including the Queen, so prospects of rejoining the Commonwealth are raised, for whatever benefits that might bring.

Mnangagwa may also bump into some other leaders too. There will also be a scattering of the leading authoritarian populists there, including Trump and Modi, who will be offering perspectives on new nationalist and populist versions of global capitalist relations from the US and India.

But a return to a neoliberal framework for the Zimbabwean economy would be a disaster, as would an attempt to veer towards an isolationist, nationalist populism. We all know how the supplication to the conditionalities of the international finance institutions, through structural adjustment, destroyed state capacity and undermined a diversified economy from the early 1990s. Many of the problems of today derive from this period. This was exacerbated of course by Mugabe’s populism: an economically naïve ‘Zimbabwe first’ position just does not work in a connected world.

Can Mnangagwa steer a different course? Committed to redistribution, economic justice and inclusive development, while encouraging investment from different sources – both east and west – but regulated on Zimbabwe’s terms? It may mean doing less well on the World Bank’s now discredited, ideologically-motivated ‘doing business’ rankings exposed this week, but it may be better for Zimbabwe. He has little room for manoeuvre, and having announced ‘free and fair’, internationally-observed elections for May or June, also not much time to turn things round – but this must be on Zimbabwe’s terms.

Next week the blog will offer the last of the short series for The Conversation on challenges for land and agriculture in Zimbabwe. The first two on compensation and on land administration are already out. The final one on priorities for agricultural development will be out soon on The Conversation’s platform.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland. 

The lead photo is from the Human Rights Council 25th session, 2014, under CC license.

 

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Zimbabwe urgently needs a new land administration system

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REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

This is the second in a short series of articles produced for The Conversation on the land and agricultural development challenges for the post-Mugabe era. See the first one on compensation in last week’s post.

Zimbabwe urgently needs a new system of land administration to harness development in the agricultural sector. The country’s land use and ownership have been significantly reconfigured by the fast-track land reform programme undertaken during Robert Mugabe’s rule.

Today, following the land reform of the 2000s, Zimbabwe has an agrarian structure that’s made up of small, medium and large farms, all under different forms of land ownership. A landscape that used to be dominated by 4,500 large-scale commercial farmers is now populated by about 145,000 smallholder households, occupying 4.1 million hectares, and around 23,000 medium-scale farmers on 3.5 million hectares.

Knowing exactly who has land and where is difficult. Illegal multiple allocations combine with unclear boundary demarcations and an incomplete recording system. Many new land owners don’t have formal documentation and lack leases or permits confirming ownership. There is a great deal of uncertainty given the often haphazard, sometimes corrupt, approach to land reallocation that took place under the land reform programme.

Given that the landscape is very different to what went before, a new system of land administration is urgently needed.

Promise of change

In his inaugural speech, Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, declared that land reform was both necessary and irreversible, and acknowledged some big, outstanding challenges.

A new land administration system for the post-land reform era is long overdue. Paying compensation to former owners is a vital first step. This has to be combined with a comprehensive land audit to weed out those failing to produce, or those illegally holding more than one plot, alongside allocating leases and permits to those in land reform areas, and attracting investment into agriculture as the mainstay of an ailing economy.

Both compensation and audit processes will inevitably throw up disputes. A fair and transparent system for rapid resolution is required, including the establishment of an independent Land Tribunal. Alternative dispute resolution processes at a local level will hopefully avoid the dangers of the courts getting clogged with numerous cases.

An audit also has to be linked to land registration, and an effective, but low-cost, land information management system. Following registration, legal recognition and formal documentation of land ownership is essential, as land tenure security is vital for future investment.

Many forms of tenure

Some believe that the only solution is individual freehold titling, as land is otherwise seen as “dead capital”. But this is mistaken, as other forms of land tenure can offer security, spurring investment, if the institutional, legal and political context is right.

As argued in 1994 by the Rukuni Commission, a major review of tenure policy in Zimbabwe, a multi-form tenure arrangement makes most sense. In some settings, communal tenure regimes are best, allowing flexibility and broad access. In others, a simple permit system can allow registration. In others, a leasehold arrangement can offer security and collateral, while regulations can offset land concentration and assure access for certain people.

Occasionally freehold title may be appropriate if a completely free market in land is required. However, titling schemes are notoriously expensive to deliver, open up multiple disputes and are difficult to regulate to ensure more equitable ownership structures, including land ownership by women.

Financing is essential

To pay land taxes, mortgages or compensation payments, the land must be productive, and this requires finance. Finance for agriculture has been missing in recent years.

Great efforts have been made to ensure that the 99-year lease for medium-scale commercial farm land (known as A2) is bankable, and cannot be withdrawn arbitrarily. It seems that, at last, the Zimbabwe Banking Association is in agreement. This will allow the release of private bank finance, as land can be used as collateral.

For those without land leases, other types of collateral can also be used, including assets such as livestock, vehicles or buildings. Alternative sources of farm finance include commercial crop contracting, partnerships and joint ventures or government backed loans.

All these financing models have shown some promise in Zimbabwe in recent years, with crop contracting at the core of the smallholder tobacco production success story. Contracting arrangements are also extending to other crops. Joint ventures, including partnerships with Chinese investors and former commercial farmers, have also been emerging in a number of under-capitalised medium-scale farms.

“Command agriculture” – a public-private input supply scheme – has been a flagship project led by the new president and the military. It has helped to revitalise maize and wheat production, especially on larger farms with irrigation infrastructure. Questions are however raised about longer-term sustainability of such subsidised financing.​

Sustainability is key

Getting a new land administration system working is a huge task. All the elements have to work together – from audit to valuation to compensation to dispute resolution to issuing land tenure documentation to financing – and back again.

And this is not just a one-off task to resolve the current mess. Land disputes will continue, audits will need to be repeated, and new leases and permits and sources of finance secured. For this reason any new system must be sustainable, both administratively and financially, and not reliant on external donor finance. Taxes, rents and compensation repayments need to be paid back into a land fund, which in turn supports the system for the long-term.

Testing this all out at a district level before rapidly rolling it out across the country is an urgent task for Zimbabwe’s new Land Commission. Elaborating a new land administration system is long overdue. Such a system will help the country get over the post-land reform impasse, resolving outstanding land issues and getting much-needed investment flowing into the agriculture sector.

The ConversationOnly with this working well – as countries in East Asia recognised when they undertook land reforms decades ago – will the full benefits of Zimbabwe’s land reform be realised.

Ian Scoones, Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Settling the land compensation issue is vital for Zimbabwe’s economy

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REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Zimbabweland kicks off 2018 with three articles republished from a series coming out in The Conversation, each on commenting on different land and agriculture policy issues under the post-Mugabe dispensation. This is the first.

In his inaugural address the new President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, confirmed that land reform was both historically necessary and irreversible. He also made a commitment to compensate farmers who were forced off their land during the fast track land reform programme of the 2000s.

Many international commentators read this as a sign of a more inclusive stance that could benefit economic recovery. Indeed, the recent reinstatement of an evicted white farmer is perhaps an indication that things are changing.

Mnangagwa has no option but to tackle land reform if he’s serious about getting Zimbabwe’s economy back on track. This is because agriculture continues to play a significant role.

Zimbabwe’s major land reform, starting in the year 2000, resulted in around 6,000 farms owned by about 4,500 farmers and companies being taken over. Former owners, most of them white commercial farmers, were evicted, sometimes violently.

Today around 145,000 households occupy 4.1 million hectares under smallholder resettlement schemes. Another 3.5 million hectares are used by about 23,000 medium-scale farmers.

One of the new government’s major policy priorities has to be to get agriculture moving as a motor of growth. The long-running issue of outstanding compensation payments has meant that international donors and financiers have not engaged with land reform areas, missing out on supporting major development opportunities.

Agriculture remains a mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy. People on the resettlement farms are producing significant quantities of food and other agricultural products. For example, in the last season over half of the 2.2 million tonnes of maize produced in the country, as well as 60% of total tobacco output worth nearly USD$350 million, came from land reform areas. These numbers make it clear how vital they are to Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.

Fixing the system

Former commercial farmers held land under freehold title. In some cases bilateral investment agreements, mostly with European countries, also governed ownership. Yet, as part of the reform, land was expropriated by the state and allocated to new users. Initially this was done without regard to these rights.

The lack of redress, and the ongoing contestation over ownership of land, has caused uncertainty. This in turn has affected growth and investment. Many western countries have refused to undertake work in these areas, linked to a wider sanctions regime.

Resolving the compensation question is vital for seeking a way forward for Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector.

Of course offering compensation is not a new policy. Compensation for “improvements” on the land has been on offer for years. It was reconfirmed by the 2013 Constitution, negotiated by all political parties.

To date around half of all farms acquired during land reform have been valued by the government. In parallel, others have been valued by private surveyors and ValCon, an organisation backed by former large-scale farmers.

So far around 250 compensation settlements have been reached, amounting to a payment of around USD$100 million.

For farms where land was acquired under bilateral investment treaties, compensation for both land and improvements must be paid, adding to the costs.

What’s been missing has been the capacity to undertake valuations of the remaining farms; the funds to pay compensation; as well as the political will to see it through.

This may now have changed under Mnangagwa. A commitment has been made to a process of auditing, valuing and paying compensation, linked in turn to the issuing of 99-year leases and permits to use the land.

Who will pay and how?

The total compensation bill is likely to run into several billion dollars. Who will pay – and how – are the big questions.

A mix of payments across different liabilities will be required.

There will be private components, such as equipment that a new farmer is using, that will have to be paid off by larger-scale farmers. This payment can be done over many years through mortgaging arrangements, with upfront payments by the state to former owners.

For smallholder farmers, the “improvements” designed for large-scale farming have been less useful. And their ability to pay is much less. Here state or aid funding of compensation will be required.

Other public assets – such as a dam, a road, a building now being used as school or as an extension workers’ house – are more appropriately paid off by the state, or as part of a donor-financed or debt-rescheduling scheme.

Quick resolution is essential

Nearly 18 years after the land reform most evicted farmers want a quick, pragmatic solution. This has dragged on for too long. Former white farmers are ageing and are in urgent need of pension support. Others have moved on to different businesses or left the country. This is about acknowledgement, reconciliation and justice.

In a period when there have been currency changes, hyperinflation and dramatic shifts in the economy, valuation will always be an approximate science. While some will continue to contest the land reform in whatever court or tribunal that will hear them, most want resolution – and soon.

Resolving the compensation issue is essential not only to provide redress for those who lost their farms, but also to reduce uncertainty, encourage investment and unlock potential for growth and development.

The ConversationMnangagwa’s commitment is a good sign. But it now needs to be seen through, and urgently.

Ian Scoones, Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Zimbabweland’s festive top 20, 2017

This has been quite a year for Zimbabwe. No-one would have guessed in January that by the end of the year there would have been a (not) coup, and a new president. The ongoing succession drama appeared to be endless, and unresolved, combined with the seemingly terminal decline of the economy. Let’s see if a corner is turned with the new government, and what 2018 brings in terms of economic recovery and election outcomes.

Land and agriculture are core issues for the Zimbabwe debate. Yet still the old myths about land reform continue to be repeated. With the revived global interest in Zimbabwe in recent weeks, it has been interesting (and depressing) how often the same old narratives are trotted out in the mainstream international media. That said, there has been also some excellent, thoughtful commentary elsewhere. I have added a postscript to my 21 November blog on the (not) coup with some of my favourite pieces.

As everyone navigates an uncertain political context with new policy possibilities in a (maybe) post-sanctions era with full re-engagement with the international community, others are looking for evidence to inform commentary and policy, and it’s good that the Zimbabweland blogs have become a useful source for journalists, donors, diplomats, government officials, civil society groups and others.

This year there have been more visitors than ever to Zimbabweland, from many, many countries, although concentrated in Zimbabwe, South Africa, the UK and the US. You have looked extensively at the now 300-odd past blogs, as well as new ones posted most Mondays. Once again the popular ones are overviews on land and agriculture policy issues, as well as the now quite old series on ‘new agricultural entrepreneurs’.

The top 20 (in terms of number of views) of those published this year are listed below. There were a number of blog series during the year, including one on youth, another on medium-scale farms and one on various dimensions of land administration, linked to the agenda for the Zimbabwe Land Commission. Blogs from all these series appear in the top 20.

Political events of the year have also attracted views, from the inauguration of Donald Trump at the beginning of the year to President Mnangagwa’s ascent to power at the end.

A particularly sad event for me, and many others too, was the passing of B.Z. Mavedzenge, who was so central to the research reported on this blog over so many years. An obituary, also carried in a number of national newspapers, appears in the list below.

Beyond this top 20 – of course rather arbitrary given that some are very recent and some were published months ago – there are plenty more to view on the site. So for 2018, do sign up for your email update, and look out on Twitter for alerts. Or just browse across the now extensive material since 2011. 

Also, look out too for a new low-cost book early in 2018, which will compile blogs across a range of themes, carrying on from the 2013 compilation, Debating Zimbabwe’s Land Reform.

There is little doubt that 2018 will be another eventful year for land and agriculture issues in Zimbabwe. And many of the themes in the blogs in this year’s festive top 20 will recur. 

Happy reading!

  1. View Tobacco and contract farming in Zimbabwe
  2. View Women and land: challenges of empowerment
  3. View “No condition is permanent”: small-scale commercial farming in Zimbabwe
  4. View BZ Mavedzenge: the loss of a true public servant
  5. View What is the future for medium-sized commercial farms in Zimbabwe?
  6. View Land and agriculture in Zimbabwe following land reform
  7. View “The path to prosperity starts with land reform”, says the Economist
  8. View The future of medium-scale commercial farms in Africa: lessons from Zimbabwe
  9. View What will the inauguration of President Trump bring to Africa?
  10. View Zimbabwe’s diamond theft: power and patronage in Marange
  11. View A very Zimbabwean (not) coup
  12. View Why governance constraints are holding back young people in rural Zimbabwe
  13. View Young people and agriculture: implications for post-land reform Zimbabwe
  14. View Medium-scale farming for Africans: The ‘Native Purchase Areas’ in Zimbabwe
  15. View Roads, belts and corridors: what is happening along Africa’s eastern seaboard?
  16. View Command agriculture and the politics of subsidies
  17. View How persistent myths distort policy debate on land in Zimbabwe
  18. View A new land administration system for Zimbabwe
  19. View Getting agriculture moving: finance and credit
  20. View Underutilised land in Zimbabwe: not a new problem

 

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