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A tribute to Sam Moyo – a giant of agrarian studies

Professor Sam Moyo, director of the African Institute of Agrarian Studies, and a giant of agrarian studies has died tragically as a result of a car accident in New Delhi. This is a terrible loss for Zimbabwe, Africa and the world. Sam had a massive intellect and a deep knowledge of agrarian issues, especially in Zimbabwe. He argued strongly for land reform throughout his career and was always an advocate for radical alternatives that challenged oppression and exploitation in whatever form.

Sam-Moyo

I first got to know Sam in the 1980s, when he was working at the Zimbabwe Institute for Development Studies, then a think tank linked to the President’s office. As a PhD student interested in similar themes, he was always welcoming and encouraging, as he has been to so many others since (see this from Alex Magaisa posted over the weekend). Over the years we have had many, many conversations: always challenging, always inspiring. We did not always agree, but I have always massively respected his commitment, integrity and intellectual depth.

Certainly in the last 15 years, as the debate around Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform has continued, Sam’s contributions – and those of his colleagues at AIAS – have been essential. Their district level study published in 2009 preceded our book, and set the stage for a more mature, empirically-informed debate that (sometimes) has followed. Sam has often been inaccurately pigeon-holed as being on one ‘side’ or another. But his scholarship is far more sophisticated than this. In Zimbabwe’s land debate nearly everyone at different times disagreed with him, but they all listened. Whether inside the state and party, among opposition groups or with the World Bank and other donors, no one could ignore what Sam had to say. And his influence in seeking a more sensible line has been enormous.

But Sam’s scholar activism was not just focused on Zimbabwe. He was frequently invited by governments, social movements and others around the world, and particularly in southern Africa. His experiences in Nigeria, teaching at Calabar and Port Harcourt universities, were influential too, giving him a wider perspective than many. His on-going contributions to South Africa’s land debates have been important also, as he shared Zimbabwe’s lessons. More broadly still, he was central to a wider engagement with agrarian studies from the global South, offering a challenge to those who argued that the classical agrarian question is dead. From the perspective of peasants, social movements and struggles across the global South, it certainly is not. Together with Paris Yeros in Brazil and Praveen Jha in India, and as part of a wider collective of Southern scholars linked to the journal Agrarian South, he has made the case for a revived agrarian studies, in the context of land grabs and intensifying capitalist exploitation across rural areas.

Sam’s intellectual leadership has inspired many. He was recently president of Codesria, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, and was a director of the Southern African Regional Institute for Policy Studies (SARIPS) for a period. Since being established in 2002, AIAS in Harare has become a centre for training and research, with the annual summer schools attracting researchers, activists and others from across Africa. Earlier he was involved with ZERO, the Harare-based regional environment organisation, together with Yemi Katerere; another organisation that attracted young researchers who established their careers under Sam’s guidance. Like all the organisations he has been involved with, ZERO was ahead of the game, set up when few were thinking about the connections between environment and development. And, as with AIAS, Codesria, SARIPS and ZIDS, it mixed solid research, with a deep political commitment to social justice and equality.

With the passing of Sam we have lost a giant. I will miss our intense conversations on his veranda in Borrowdale, as we tested out our ideas and findings on each other, and he smoked furiously. I was always a few steps behind Sam, and it took me days to digest the content of our lengthy exchanges. But they have always been important and formative, even when we disagreed. This is a terribly sad moment and this tribute has been difficult to write. Professor Issa Shivji summed up many people’s feelings well in a post on Sunday: “We have lost one of our great comrades: utterly committed, a most unassuming scholar and an absolutely decent human being”. So thanks Sam for your friendship, inspiration and commitment. You will be very sorely missed.

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

 

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Class, politics and land reform in Zimbabwe

Many readers of this blog will have already read Professor Sam Moyo’s important pair of articles in the Journal of Peasant Studies (here and here) analysing Zimbabwe’s three decades of land reform. These usefully contextualise the post 2000 period, and help us understand the social and political character of the recent land reform.

In his recent edited book for Codesria, Beyond White Settler Capitalism: Zimbabwe’s Agrarian Reform, Moyo pulls much of this work together, and extends it, in a scene setting chapter on land.

He offers a periodisation of the land reform experience in Zimbabwe since Independence, thus:

Between 1980 and 1989, land reform was based on state-led purchases of land on the market and its allocation to selected beneficiaries, in the context of heterodox economic policies, which enabled increased public spending on social services and peasant agriculture. From 1990, neoliberal policies restricted state interventions in markets, in general and restricted social welfare subsidies. Furthermore, land redistribution slowed down, despite the adoption of land expropriation laws. In the third phase, an escalating social crisis, which culminated in extreme political polarisation by 1997, saw the land redistribution programme shift towards land expropriation, leading to extensive land redistribution and increased state interventions in the economy, alongside bitterly contested elections. (page 30).

In each of these periods, different political and economic imperatives were at play, and with these different narratives – about the role of land in economy, about farming and farmers, and about who should be the appropriate beneficiaries. This historical contextualisation is important as it situates the more recent period as a radical break with the past, shattering past relations of settler monopoly capitalism, as he describes it. The chapter offers a detailed overview of the main outcomes of land reform, and its impacts on gender relations, labour, elites and others. He shows that the post 2000 land reform unfolded through a number of phases – he identifies four – each with different political and economic characteristics. It is this more detailed, textured analysis that periodises, unpacks and contextualises that really helps push forward our understandings of the politics and economics of Zimbabwe’s land reform, and the chapter usefully complements the special issue and book edited by Lionel Cliffe and colleagues that pulls together much recent research on Zimbabwe’s land reform, showing the broader, but geographically and temporally varied, outcomes.

In the concluding sections, Moyo turns to the political consequences of land reform. Drawing on multiple research sources, he once again has to refute the popular assumptions about who got the land, in order to draw out the implications (see earlier blog, here). He notes:

Contrary to the media- driven assumption that only cronies of the ruling party benefited from land redistribution, empirical data demonstrate that more ‘ordinary’ people (poor peasants, workers and the unemployed) benefited from land redistribution . Over 75 per cent of the beneficiaries in A1 farms and/or the small-scale family A2 farm units were peasants with rather limited formal connections to political parties (page 57).

As also discussed in our work on land and social differentiation, this pattern of land ownership and the associated class positions that result, has important implications for wider politics, and the process of political mobilisation, including around the elections this week. Moyo observes:

Party political mobilisation and fragmentation over land has largely been a petty-bourgeois accumulation contest over A2 land allocations, more so since the leadership of the ruling party had reigned in its radical elements, particularly among the lower-echelons of the war veterans association from 2004. Power struggles within the ruling party shifted from the radical nationalist political unity associated with the Fast Track period towards factionalism associated with the succession contest. Currently, ideological differences across political parties are focused on the privatisation of redistributed land, with ZANU-PF being focused on maintaining the peasantry’s support, through providing access to farming inputs.

But political mobilisation and fragmentation over access to land between ZANU-PF and the MDC and within the former have been less visible than other divisions. Factionalism has not fully degenerated along the Shona-Ndebele ethnic line, although this partly obtains around electoral tactics, while the rural-urban divide continues to shape ZANU-PF vs. MDC political mobilisation. Despite this divide, party politics and ethno-chauvinism are more centred on differences over the regional distribution of state support to farming and class differences over the role of the state, although the fact of having promoted land redistribution still benefits ZANU-PF electorally.

Instead, local politics are being re-shaped by the changing local administrative and political power relations that resulted from replacing white farmers’ control over land, territory and labour…. Local power struggles mainly involve lineage-clan leaders, chieftaincies, farmer and social associations and local bureaucracies. The powers wielded by war veteran leaders of the land occupations have been displaced. Sparse local government authorities are ill-equipped to regulate the expanded land administration regime and ubiquitous natural resources and mineral extraction. The hereditary chiefs demand more powers to fill these regulation gaps (pages 57-8)

Power struggles between different players are therefore shaping a hotly contested rural politics, with both intra-elite struggles, and disputes between peasants, workers and new landed elites. The configurations of political actors in rural areas has dramatically shifted since 2000, and continues to change, affected by national as well local and regional processes. Ethno-regionalism continues to have an influence in some areas, as local claims over land are asserted, and this in turn feeds into wider political dimensions. The current electoral contest will reflect some of these machinations, and the wider implications for a longer term political settlement have yet to be realised. The main political parties really do not know their rural constituencies yet, as they have been reshaped, reshuffled and recast in recent years.

Overall, Moyo concludes, “The FTLRP land redistribution partly addressed outstanding national questions, which the decolonisation process evaded” (page 58). The Zimbabwe case is important, he argues, because land reform has been possible “despite the hegemony of neoliberalism” (page 70). Speaking to a wider audience, he argues that the Zimbabwe case shows that:

“… land reform can be mobilised nationally and involve various classes, while transcending other divides such as rural-urban, worker peasant and ethno-regional differences. Implementing radical land reform required decentralised structures and coherent leadership, which the liberation war veterans stimulated. Both direct popular action through land occupations and state expropriations, led by the petty-bourgeoisie within and outside the state, shaped the actual redistribution process by balancing the demands of popular and other classes (pages 70-1).

He is clear however that the contradications thrown up by land reform have not been resolved, and that the different groupings in the tri-modal pattern of land use that has evolved are far from agreed, and that struggles continue. He does conclude, however, that despite the failings and limitations that he is not shy to present, “agrarian structural change has opened up diverse, ‘productive’and ‘non-racial’ paths to rural social transformation” (page 63).

Let us hope that the difficult conversation around choices for development paths that will unfold following the elections this week, will take account of the complexities on the ground, but also capitalise on the successes and potentials of such radical agrarian change.

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

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Beyond White Settler Capitalism: Zimbabwe’s Agrarian Reform

An important new book – Land and Agrarian Reform in Zimbabwe: Beyond White Settler Capitalism – has just been published by CODESRIA. It is the product of the CODESRIA National Working Group on Zimbabwe, and is edited by Sam Moyo and Walter Chambati of the African Institute of Agrarian Studies. All 372 pages are free to download on the CODESRIA site.

The book is important in a number of respects. First, it sets the story of Zimbabwe’s recent land reform in a wider context, examining capitalist relations in historical and regional perspective. Second, it offers an alternative political narrative to the standard analysis focused on neopatrimonial capture by political elites. Third, it offers empirical material and analysis from researchers who have undertaken detailed fieldwork on a range of themes including labour (Chambati), community organisation (Murisa), the media (Chari) and mobilisation (Sadomba, Masuko). Finally, as perhaps the leading scholar on Zimbabwean land issues, having worked on the issue over several decades, Sam Moyo is certainly well-placed to provide an informed, and typically provocative, overarching commentary.

The book argues that most critics of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme “continue to underplay the significance of the settler-colonial roots of Zimbabwe’s land question and its exacerbation under neoliberal rule after independence, in fomenting the social and political crisis which provoked the popular reclamation of land”.

The final chapter by Sam Moyo and Paris Yeros identifies six aspects that they argue make the Zimbabwean experience distinct:

(i) the character of the land movement, which has been multi-class, decentralised and anti-bureaucratic, but also united by radical nationalism;

(ii) its capacity to articulate grievances across the rural-urban divide;

(iii) the radicalisation of its petty bourgeois components;

(iv) the resulting creation of a tri-modal agrarian structure as a matter of state policy;

(v) experimentation with state dirigisme, developmentalism and an emerging popular cooperativism; and

(vi) a new nonalignment policy termed ‘Look East’.

Not everyone will agree with this summary. Indeed in our own work we have critiqued the singular notion of a ‘land movement’, as well as the role and form of state ‘dirigisme’ in the 2000s and the forms of violent nationalism that became associated with state intervention. However, by offering a frame for debate, some of the lazy assumptions and analyses in other commentaries can be engaged with, with new empirical and theoretical vigour.

The book’s conclusion argues that much of such current commentary is “essentially the reincarnation of a liberal form of settler-colonial political compromise”. In the opening chapter, Moyo criticises the “dubious intellectual positions” reinforced by a “revisionist historiography” peddled by “structurally-adjusted” intellectuals that have misinformed the debate. His wrath is focused on :

“….a peculiar mix of liberalism and Weberianism peddled by American political science, especially via the notion of ‘neopatrimonialism’; a rudderless culturalist theory of ‘identity politics’, whose post-structuralism has managed to replicate with great success the settler-colonial obsession with fragmented cultures; and, not least, an escapist ‘left’ critique, which has often sought refuge in pseudo-Gramscian theories of ‘hegemony’, whereby patrimonialism and culturalism substitute for class analysis. Indeed, some ‘Marxists’ succumbed to similar imperialistic and antinationalist impulses, to the effect of silencing class analyses which demonstrate the progressive nature of the land reform”.

Nor is he happy about what he dubs our liberal perspective on ‘livelihoods’. This approach, he argues:

“ …eschews the interrogation of class formation processes and exploitative relations of production (especially in the emerging labour relations) and the continued extraction of surplus value (particularly from peasants) through exchange relations driven by monopoly-finance capital. The critical role of state intervention in the overall outcome is also visibly downplayed by its liberal-populist orientation”.

While elements of this critique may be appropriate, I would argue that we have offered, on the basis of our Masvingo work, a detailed analysis of social differentiation and class positions, informed by a livelihoods analysis. We argue that the current rural struggle is between ‘middle farmers’ in alliance with the rural poor and a new rural elite, supported by the party and state. Indeed in Moyo’s chapter on the changing structures of rural production he concurs with our analysis from Masvingo, showing how the growth of small-scale capitalist producers through a process of ‘repeasantisation’ has widened the prospects for accumulation from below, despite the new class struggles observed.

Thus I wholeheartedly agree with the book’s central argument that a perspective informed by historically-informed class analysis can be especially revealing. This class analysis, although unevenly applied, is certainly the strong feature of the book, making it an important contribution to the debate.

In particular, Moyo argues that the petty bourgeoisie broke ranks with monopoly capital and became radicalised, and so part of a decentralised, organised land movement, led by the peasantry and mobilised by war veterans. The ‘tri-modal’ land pattern that emerged from land reform, including large capitalist enterprises, small-medium scale farms and smallholder farms, reflects the accommodations of different class interests, the book argues.

Moyo however is not without his critique of the current regime, noting that: “the nationalist leadership in recent years has come to represent mainly un-accommodated bourgeois interests… which are under the illusion that they can reform monopoly capitalism so as to sustain a ‘patriotic bourgeoisie’ into the future”.

The alignment of the state with capital is examined at various points in the book, including reflections on the ‘indigenisation’ programme (bolstering the ‘patriotic bourgeoisie’), the Look East policy (non-alignment to realign, strategically seeking capital and investment) and focused ‘developmental’ state intervention post 2000, discussed by Moyo and Nyoni, in the context of a highly polarised political landscape, and the flight of international capital. Thus, Moyo argues “the reconfiguration of domestic agrarian markets and struggles over these, in relation to changing forms of state intervention, in the context of a gradual reorientation of critical commodity and financial markets to the East, have been overlooked”.

Overall, Moyo argues that in recent scholarship on Zimbabwe, there has been “a systematic neglect of the continent’s subordinate relations to monopoly-finance capital, as well as empirical analyses of class formation, political alliances, emergent social movements under the current crisis and the implications for state intervention and development”.

This book attempts to redress this neglect, and fills an important gap in the literature. Not everyone will agree with some of the detail, and some of the political arguments will no doubt be countered. However, the analysis of the class-based nature of Zimbabwe’s transformation is most definitely welcome, and the book further enriches our understanding of Zimbabwe’s complex agrarian transformation.

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

 

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