Al Jazeera on Zimbabwe’s land reform

Al Jazeera recently aired a discussion on Zimbabwe’s land reform in their South2North slot. The video is below.

The panel included Professor Sam Moyo, the leading land scholar in Zimbabwe who has worked on these issues extensively over 30 years, and recently edited an important new book; Teresa Smart, one of the co-authors of the now well known book Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land, a popular review of research on the post 2000 land reform period; and Charlene Matonsi, a female ‘commercial farmer’ whose parents had acquired a farm in the 1980s.

Compared to most media coverage of the issue, it was a good discussion, where a range of issues were aired. The questioning was sensible, but probing, and the responses all clear and illuminating. Professor Moyo in particular pointed to some of the political processes and contradictions of the land reform, highlighting the importance of the alliance between what he termed the middle classes and land poor peasants, while equally highlighting that the land reform’s impacts have to be viewed in a larger context, as the end of monopoly settler capitalism, but clearly not a transition to socialism. It was not completely clear why Ms Mathonsi was on the programme, as her farm was not part of the new ‘middle class’ accommodation in A2 farms post 2000, but part of an earlier era of incorporation of black players into capitalist farming. She did however offer an enthusiastic endorsement of farming as a business, and certainly challenged the stereotypes of Zimbabwean ‘commerical farming’.

As I commented before, maybe there is a change in styles and foci of reporting on Zimbabwe at last. Al Jazeera are usually ahead of the curve, with their finger more firmly on the pulse than most.

Do watch the programme here:

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



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14 responses to “Al Jazeera on Zimbabwe’s land reform

  1. T Hodson

    As usual these 2 pro-Mugabe people use misinformation to promote their agenda: 1. Where does this 10% of land went to cronies come from? Mugabe has consistently blocked a land audit so no one knows who has what but it is general knowledge that there is multiple farm ownership by “bigwigs”

      • Afana

        Teresa Smart alludes to all the data available on land reform since 1980 (i.e. the managed process of reform in contrast to the state-sponosored anarchy that characterized the later “reforms”). However, she is disingenuous in not disclosing the fact that the majority of these post-1980 reforms, during which millions of hectares were handed as a gift to small scale farmers, were mostly a complete failure. The hardships experienced in these “resettlement areas” (which, effectively, were used as human dumping zones by Zanu PF) were a significant driver in the subsequent anarchy that followed. Mugabe had ample time, funding and goodwill from others to implement the support needed to these new farmers but failed hopelessly not least for his policy of driving experienced skills out of the agricultural ministry and extension services. Smart also refers to the support provided to farmers in the 1950s but this again is only a matter of comparing the competence of the Mugabe regime with those that preceded it. Finally, Smart’s assertion that sanctions affect “170,000 small farmers” is arrant nonsense. The sanctions are targeted against Mugabe and a cabal of cronies and affect their ability to travel and shop in certain countries. Nothing to do with the farmers.

      • Some key assertions in your comment are incorrrect.

        1. The 1980s and 90s land reform has been studied intensively by Bill Kinsey and colleagues. This longitudinal research has shown that these resettlements have been successful in relation to a number of important livelihood indicators (see various papers). What this period did not do was transform the overall agrarian economy, and so small-scale farming remained on the margins.
        2. Subsidies to white commerical agricuture over many decades was important. State support was also important in the early Independence period for supporting small-scale agriculture. The point being made is that without start up support, getting agriculture moving is difficult. This sort of investment is urgently needed today.
        3. While the formal sanctions are directed at individuals, sanctions have had much wider effects. Donor aid for example is channelled via NGOs and is only for certain areas (not the new resettlements).

        There are other blogs on all these points. Our book too covers all these points very thoroughly. Please do have a read!

  2. T Hodson

    2.It is just not true that it was a “spontaneous uprising”. It was orchestrated by Mugabe has a political move. He had had years and years to sort out the land question, allowing 75% of white farms to be bought after independence with a certificate of no interest. England stopped the donor funding because of corruption.

  3. T Hodson

    3. The sanctions imposed are targeted sanctions against individuals and companies and farms known to be connected to Zanu PF. After the US imposed these targeted sanctions in 2003 the bilateral trade btw the two countries doubled over the next 5 years. Moreover the US has provided 1.4 billion dollars worth of aid since 2001.

  4. T Hodson

    4. They bring up the good old drought theory. Before the land invasions Zimbabwe did not have to import maize even in drought years and in fact exported maize. Yes, maybe in years to come Zimbabwe might feed its people again but at the moment it is having to get food aid provided by countries like America

    • Drought is one factor, but as I have noted on this blog before, it’s also changing crop mixes, and the reduction in the area planted to maize. This of course happened especially in the 1990s with large scale ‘white’ farming, as they diversified into more valuable commodities – horticulture, wildlife and so on, under the liberalised economy post ESAP. It is of course a fallacy to say that Zimbabwe never imported maize before 2000. It did regularly through the 1980s, and this increased in the 1990s. The breadbasket to basketcase mantra has to be somewhat qualified if you look at the import/relief aid data.

  5. T Hodson

    The new farmers will always find it hard to get finance to farm, one of the reasons being they don’t have title deeds as collateral. To me Charlene Mantonsi was the most genuine. She told it like it was – farming is hard.

  6. William Doctor

    I not that you have no comment to make regards BabJukwa, who has recently been critical of land reform – and he/they are insiders? The Guardian is the only newspaper not to give BJ coverage. A trend here?

    • Baba Jukwa’s running commentary is definitely interesting to follow. Whether they are insiders or outsiders, or some faction inbetween they are certainly making a stir. However I don’t condone the calls to violent action against anyone, and I note that they have apologised. Certainly the social media is a new phenomenon in all processes of social change globally these days, and attempts to control debate is impossible. It is not suprising that the Baba Jukwa facebook site has over 200,000 followers.

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