Tag Archives: Eddie Cross

Zimbabwe’s challenges for 2019

This time last year there was an excitement in the air. Things were going to change. Investment was on its way. Zimbabwe just might get back on track after the Mugabe years. I was getting numerous enquiries from potential investors in agriculture who had come across this blog, for instance. Not that I had much to offer, but I encouraged them to explore options. Today they are silent. The uncertainties in the economy have meant that people are seeking other alternatives. Zimbabwe may be losing its moment. A year is a long time in Zimbabwe.

What then needs to be done in 2019 to turn things around? Many options can be implemented if the government is brave and confident. Others require outsiders to be convinced that change is afoot. In 2018, there have been important moves. The mood music is right, and the post-election cabinet is slimmer and more competent. But actions must follow words.

Many Zimbabwean commentators are offering their advice for the new year. Hopewell Chin’ono for example identifies the need to get agriculture moving again as a key priority. I agree. The 10 priorities I spelled out a year ago still apply. Chin’ono also highlights the importance of paying compensation to former farmers, and seeing through the land audit. Again, I agree, as also discussed many times over the last years. While he suggests there is masses of underutlised land, I suspect much of this is the result of failures to invest because of lack of financing, rather than an unwillingness or disinterest. The rhetoric around underutilised land in Zimbabwe has a long history, as I have pointed out before. But the issue remains: particularly in the A2 areas, there needs to be a step-change in investment and production, and command agriculture is only part of the solution.

As argued on this blog before, the land audit needs to address these issues, and head on; no matter what the political sensitivities. The Land Commission has indeed initiated the audit, but only 500 A2 farms are expected to be issued with 99-year leases this year. This is too slow. And because funds have become available only for elements of what is required, the audit is not necessarily being connected to galvanising other areas of land administration and investment. My suggestions of last year – the need for a comprehensive, district based approach – still stands. But this needs to be done quickly and comprehensively to show that it is possible and successful, based on pilot areas. This will generate the confidence that investors need to engage in the post-land reform setting.

Eddie Cross has some good recommendations for the president on wider policy change, all of which I agree with. The emphasis was on implementing the agreed Constitution and ensuring key institutions are functioning. Growth and investment follow from effective institutions, as trust increases. His ideas echo those of prolific commentator, Alex Magaisa, in his most recent BSR, and in an earlier one on the problems – for both capital (such as Delta) and labour (such as the junior doctors) of having a parallel currency arrangement. Along with many others, I would add in security sector reform to the list, but the key elements are there. Much will flow from such actions aimed at legitimising and reinforcing key political and economic institutions, including positive consequences for the agriculture sector.

Cross’ six suggestions are worth repeating:

“Firstly, please bring the market chaos under control – not by dictate because that would just make matters worse, but by allowing market forces to sort out supply and demand and set values. Take the Reserve Bank out of the market for currency, stop stealing hard currency, allow our banks to trade and float the local dollar. And do not delay, do it like we did on the 17th February 2009. You will be very surprised by the market response.

Secondly, set a clear timetable and list of targets for the reform of our legal system so that we implement the 2013 Constitution in full in three years. Do not do it by subterfuge, like indigenisation, but do it openly and properly so that the world can see we are at last putting our legal and political house in order.

Thirdly, start the process of cleaning up our politicized and compromised Judicial system. Begin with the Chief Justice and the Judge President and then allow them to review the entire bench down to Magistrate level. Give us a powerful and totally independent Prosecutor General who will take no prisoners when it comes to fighting corruption and enforcing the law.

Fourthly, respect our property rights. Start by fulfilling your commitment to pay compensation that is fair and affordable to all those who have lost property to the State – and it’s not just the former farmers – it includes Mawere. Stop all those who are using their political connections to abuse the rights of others. Insist on the Courts enforcing contracts and the Police in following Court instructions – to the letter.

Fifthly, if taking your comrades to the cleaners over past violations of the law or corruption is too much to ask, draw a line in the sand and say that all who did those sorts of things before the recent elections are given a blanket Presidential Pardon and protection from prosecution. But then, demand that all such activities stop immediately or else those who are continuing to abuse their posts will face severe penalties and the full weight of the law for both present and past violations of the law.

Finally, insist on everyone making decisions on all outstanding matters, even if in the process some mistakes are made. No decisions are much more damaging than poor decisions. The present situation where nothing is moving ahead, no Parastatals are being privatised, new investments are being held up by Officials and Ministers who have no stakes in the outcome….. This has cost Zimbabwe billions of dollars in new investment and GDP, even exports.”

I have just one quibble with Cross’ list. I agree that respecting past rights is essential – and that includes compensation for expropriated property – but this is not of course the same as advocating private title for the future; an issue on which I diverge significantly from Cross’ prescriptions. This however does not undermine the argument for addressing the compensation issue, even if future land tenure arrangements should be different to the past.

More generally, as Hopewell Chin’ono argues, a new attitude in government is required, one that grabs the opportunities and does not blame outside forces for all ills. This was the narrative of the Mugabe era. It is true that on-going sanctions, even if directed only at certain individuals, are hampering investment indirectly. ZIDERA in particular is a big blockage. But the government needs to address the conditions squarely, while not conceding everything.

A more confident, pro-active stance on land, agriculture and investment, combined with an acknowledgement of the need for compensation for former land owners, will go a long way towards convincing outsiders – maybe even the United States government – that Zimbabwe is serious, and the second republic has a chance of flourishing with external support.

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

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The MDC-T’s Agenda for Real Transformation (ART): why the land and agriculture sections need more thought

A few weeks back, the MDC-T organised a policy conference to discuss their new 247 page policy document, ART – the Agenda for Real Transformation. There is much to commend in this document, and the commitment of the MDC actually to discuss policy is heartening. There has been a serious dearth of policy discussion across the past decade, and this is a valuable attempt to get to grips with some of the really pressing issues any government will face. In a pair of Hot Seat radio interviews with Violet Gonda, Tendai Biti, the MDC-T’s Secretary General and current finance minister in the GNU discussed the contents (listen or review transcripts here and here).

The overall vision is “a modern, healthy, functional, integrated democratic developmental state with a vibrant, socially just green economy that takes pride at leaving no one behind”. No complaints with that. Equally, the sections on security sector reform, mining revenues, industrial cluster development, strategic infrastructure investment, social services and more are all good contributions. But sadly the sections on agriculture and land are rather poor, suffering from a combination of inconsistencies, confusions, inaccurate data and poor analysis. Why is it that after so long (the policy has taken apparently two years to produce, based on consultations across the country, page 2), the MDC has not been able to get to grips with the agriculture and land, and come up with a more coherent policy position?

I guess it reflects the lack of capacity and the background of the leading players. Tendai Biti himself is a lawyer, and not versed in issues of agronomy or land administration, while other leading lights, Morgan Tsvangirai included, come from an urban, labour union background. Those with a rural brief include Eddie Cross, whose view on private property is informed by right-wing think tanks such as the Cato Institute with which he has been associated, and Roy Bennett, who comes from a commercial farming background, and does not seem to recognise the potentials of the land reform. There are of course other lobbyists and funders in the local and international community who continue to be committed to a reversal of the land reform, arguing that it has had few if any benefits. So anyone trying to draft rural policy for the MDC is severely handicapped by these limits and competing pressures.

What then does the policy say? I am not totally clear of the document’s status, as it does not appear on the MDC website, so I presume it remains a draft. If the number of typos that are present is anything to go by, I assume this to be the case. So accounting for this provisional basis, what can we glean?

First, and significantly, the document incontrovertibly states (again) that the land reform is not reversible. It also sets out some laudable principles for a land policy, including: equity in access and distribution; efficiency in its utilization; accountability in its management; transparency in the conduct of its governance; legitimacy in the eyes of the Zimbabwean public; participation by Zimbabweans of all classes, gender and ethnic backgrounds and security for all who make their living from the land. Overall, the policy aims to create “a new order of economically viable, market-directed commercial farmers, with the family farm as the basic model”. All good, sensible stuff.

However, it then goes on to characterise the process of land reform after 2000 (again) as chaotic, with poor outcomes, using the standard international media narrative, with little acknowledgement of the research that has shown a more complex story. This in turn frames the document. For example, on page 44:

“After 10 years of chaotic land invasions and the illegal dispossession of the majority of commercial farmers, only a tiny proportion of the target of 8 million hectares has been lawfully taken over and the rest lies largely deserted and unproductive. The farms have been taken over by a political elite that has been unable to maintain production and has presided over the decimation of the capital infrastructure that had existed on the farms prior to the FTLRP….As a consequence agricultural production has declined by nearly 80 per cent, exports have plummeted and nearly 70 per cent of all foodstuffs are being imported. Some 400 000 farm workers have been displaced with their families plunging nearly 2 million people into destitution and homelessness”.

Here in a few sentences are all the myths we highlighted in our book presented in condensed form: that the reform was ‘chaotic’ and solely instrumentally led by ZANU-PF, the land lies largely idle and unproductive, that only the elite cronies have taken over, infrastructure has been decimated and that production (in general) has collapsed, with two million people being projected into destitution and homelessness due to farmworker displacement. All of these statements are not based on the accumulating evidence. The pattern is variable, but there are some clear trends, now from numerous studies, and this sort of statement, that frames the overall response, just does not add up.

Having set this (inaccurate) picture up, the policy proceeds to outline what the responsibility of an MDC government should be: essentially to reverse this (bad) situation. There is the usual list of things to do, including infrastructure development (notably irrigation), fertiliser and input supply and new technologies (including genetically modified crops). There is a modernising zeal to the narrative – new technologies and investment will come to the rescue. In a Tony Blair style incantation, Biti in his Hot Seat interview identified a key solution as “research, research, research”, and claimed that maize would soon be produced at 12-15 tonnes a hectare (even under a MDC government, somewhat unlikely!) Many of the suggestions (especially small scale irrigation) are sound, but of course this perspective fails to address the past critiques of top-down, technology-driven modernisation of agriculture, from the Native Land Husbandry Act onwards – see for example the work of Jos Alexander or Mike Drinkwater, among many examples.

More importantly, the document fails to develop a vision for land and agriculture that takes the new agrarian structure into account. Framed in terms of righting the wrongs of the Fast Track process and providing a technical solution, rooted in a market oriented approach, it does not examine how small, medium and large scale estate agriculture might operate together and how a territorial, regional approach might contribute to integration, adding value and generating multiplier effects. The AFD/DBSA report of last year offers some sensible pointers that could have been taken on, as does the most recent World Bank report on agriculture, and of course we offered our own suggestions based on a decade of work in Masvingo in the final chapter of our book (for a summary, see the blog next week).

Where the document is accurate in its assessment is in its commentary on wider industry connections and economic linkages. It notes:

The [fast-track land reform] programme failed to support the newly settled farmers with skills, equipment, finance and marketing opportunities….this had serious ramifications for the entire economy as backward and forward linkages ..Consequently, this had multiplier effects on agro-based industries..

The document proceeds to identify the importance of off-farm linkages:

“the MDC government will protect the people on the land, while it develops complementary strategies for non-farm economic activities that tap into agriculture.” (p.50)

These are important commentaries, although without much detail of how it will be done in the context of the new agrarian setting. The agriculture section of the document, does not really engage with this at all, simply listing types of intervention, without an overall strategy.

Overall, the policy’s framing is very much one centred on macro-economic restructuring, and economic growth. While positioned in terms of a ‘developmental state’ argument (one of Biti’s familiar refrains), the details seem more old-fashioned Washington Consensus – get the market fundamentals right and all will follow (there is much talk of ‘market flexibility’, ‘opening up for business’ and so on). That this approach has been so massively discredited seems to have passed the drafters by. It may be appealing to the international community, including potential donors and investors, but will it work, and perhaps even more significantly will it be acceptable to a population already starkly divided by haves and have nots, and having suffered years of financial mismanagement – from ESAP to Gono’s casino economy? This contradiction was not lost on the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Japhet Moyo, who launched an attack on the document at the conference, something that clearly did not please the party hierarchy.

The free market ideology that Moyo objected to also pervades the discussion of land, particularly around tenure. The policy announces a programme of what Biti terms ‘giving title’ in his Hot Seat interview transcript: “Number three, give title, give title to everyone who owns land right now. Give title, Zanu PF is refusing to give title even long leases because it is using land as a political field”. But it’s not at all clear what this really means, as while the document refers to the intention “to design and universalize a system of tenure” (p. 48) across all land categories in order to deliver, it argues, security of tenure, opportunities for collateral and so on, in other sections there are commitments to some form of village tenure in communal areas, leases in resettlement lands and freehold tenure elsewhere.

Underlying this all is the familiar argument about the importance of private property rights (title, title, title). This has of course been long challenged, both in Zimbabwe and beyond. There is no strong evidence that there is an automatic causal relation between private property rights and economic growth and investment, despite the influential arguments of de Soto and others. Instead the relationship between property rights, investment and economic growth is much more complex, and is conditioned by wider factors, such as political stability, the investment environment, local institutional arrangements for land access, and so on. Embarking on expensive cadastral surveys and land administration exercises is very often a big mistake, as study after study has shown. There are plenty of other routes to the same end that are more effective and cheaper. As Professor Rukuni (and many, many others) have long argued, a differentiated response is required that accepts multiform tenure, but does not go down the risky route of mass land titling.

In other areas, there is confusion too. The policy position on compensation seems to contradict the newly agreed Constitution, by arguing that compensation must account for not only ‘improvements’ but the land itself, across all areas, and not just investment areas (BIPPAs). It’s not totally clear in the document, but Biti in his Hot Seat interview, seemed to confirm this impression. Equally the policy suggests leases will be issued in A1, A2 and old resettlement areas and “leaseholders will be required to contribute to the payment of compensation to the original owners in order to legalise such arrangements” (p. 54). Despite the very sensible formula propounded by Professor Rukuni again, and largely agreed by key stakeholders, the MDC seem to have backtracked on this, opening themselves up to a long and protracted process that will be difficult to resolve sensibly. This strikes me as a big mistake, as most players want a quick resolution to this crucial issue, with compensation paid swiftly on the basis of a clear formula.

Other areas of land policy repeat existing policy, and the Constitutional provisions, including allowing for land ownership by all Zimbabweans, whatever their racial origins, the requirement for a land audit, the establishment of a Land Commission, a restriction on maximum farm sizes and a limit of one farm owned per person. All of this is at least notionally accepted by all actors. The challenge for an incoming government will be to implement these provisions, and it is good that the MDC-T is committed to doing so.

If the document is a draft and discussions are ongoing, then there is a chance presumably to debate, adapt and change the document. It is good that it is out in the open and can be subject to scrutiny. Indeed it is the only policy prospectus from across the political parties that is available. However, it does need some serious further thought.

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

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Zimbabwe has a new Constitution, but disputes over the land provisions continue

On March 16th, Zimbabweans voted on a new Constitution in a national referendum. The voting was largely peaceful, and the turnout higher than expected, with over 3 million people voting. With all major parties supporting it, the result was a resounding 93% ‘yes’. This endorsement paves the way for elections in the coming months. It is also an important signal that a new commitment to moving forward has been reached, one that international donors have agreed to respect with the removal of further ‘sanctions’.

The Constitution is naturally a compromise document, one hammered out in parliament by all the parties. It involved wide consultation, with inputs from the public. Given Zimbabwe’s immediate political past, it is in many respects a remarkable achievement. It is of course rough at the edges, and not everyone agrees with every section, but it now does exist, and should, in my view, by celebrated.

Of course one of the controversial areas has been the issue of land (see earlier blog). Some are very unhappy about the provisions, blaming the MDC in particular for conceding too much. Ben Freeth, the former farmer activist, is particularly outspoken. In a slightly more considered contribution, Dale Dore asks, can the new Constitution bring about a just, legal and transparent land policy? He answers, “The prospects, unfortunately, look decidedly bleak. Chapter 16 entrenches the outcome of land invasions and the seizures of farms and property. The draft Constitution also retains provisions under section 72 that are inimical to international law, human rights and the rule of law”.

What then are Dore’s complaints? He argues that the separation of provisions on property rights from rights over agricultural land is a big mistake, as the section on agricultural lands restricts rights, running against natural justice. He is particularly concerned about the long-talked about Land Commission, as he thinks it will not have teeth, and will be easily captured. He notes:

The most important retreat, however, has been to make the Land Commission an advisory body to Government rather than an independent parastatal organisation with executive authority. The Commission may make recommendations on a host of issues – including land tenure and compensation – but it lacks any real powers of implementation or teeth for enforcement. Decisions governing land remain firmly in the hands of the President and his appointed minister”

While Section 297(6)” tries to give the impression of independence and impartiality”, he argues that this is not sufficient. This he worries will mean that a Land Audit, also a requirement in the Constitution, will not be fair, as it will be overseen by the Commission.

Overall he argues, that the section on land – Chapter 16 – “maintains all the discriminatory provisions governing farmland found in the current Constitution”. He argues that there will be inadequate notice of compulsory acquisition and that compensation will be paid for improvements only, and not the full value of the land. He objects to the proposed dispute settlement mechanism, arguing runs against basic principles of ‘rule of law’, being an administrative not judiciary process. He argues that, as a result, the Constitution is not in line with earlier rulings by the now disbanded SADC Tribunal ruling. Yet, as I and others have commented before, this obsession with this particular ruling forgets that the proposed constitutional provisions are actually in line with much international practice, and perfectly compatible with ‘the rule of law’, as long as the rules and regulations are abided by. This of course is the critical point. The test will be in the practice, and the demonstrated impartiality and effectiveness of systems of land acquisition, compensation and dispute settlement. Given recent experience, Dore and others are right to be concerned, but have no real argument for rejecting the provisions as a whole.

Before jumping to excessively negative conclusions, we have to understand the political context for the new Constitution, in order to judge it properly. In a heated debate at the end of February on the new Constitution, chaired by Violet Gonda in the Hot Seat slot on SW Africa Radio, Professor Brian Raftopoulos commented:

“Well I think the first thing to point out is that this constitution was a central part of the mediation process. It was always therefore going to be a compromise document and part of a broader process of trying to establish the conditions for a free and fair election – which was the original objective of the SADC mediation. There’s clearly things in the constitution which are problematic; there’s also things which I think establish a very good basis for moving forward and I think that as part of a long term process of discussion between the parties which was established through the mediation, it’s a step forward and one should look at it as that”.

On land, he notes:

“This land process has produced many contradictory results. As recent research shows, it hasn’t been the complete failure people thought it was but at the same time it hasn’t ended the land question. It’s raised a whole series of new issues, which are going to confront Zimbabweans throughout – for the coming decades. So this issue hasn’t been resolved and there are harder questions ahead”.

Of course the land question is not going to be fully resolved by the Constitution. But hopefully the Constitution sets the basic parameters: the land reform is not reversible; rights to land are circumscribed by the state to avoid abuse; compensation for improvements are offered if land is acquired by the state; land administration and distribution is overseen by a competent authority in the Land Commission; and abuses are corrected through a transparent Land Audit. All of these provisions are actually good ones, and compatible with international practices, but will only work if the appropriate political and administrative conditions apply. Given recent experience, this is of course a concern, and why a wider political resolution of the on-going political impasse in Zimbabwe is so urgently needed.

However, given that it has now been approved by the referendum, and given that the Constitution represents an important moment in the mediation process to create such political conditions, surely its basic principles need now to be respected. Sure, there will be need for working out the details of the Commission, the Audit and the associated regulations to govern any land administration processes, but the overarching basis for these, surely, is now set.

Or is it? Dale Dore refers to a discussion with a ‘senior MDC politician’ who noted that: “The MDC had to make compromises. If it conceded to ZANU(PF) on the land issue, he said, “so what?” Anyway, he added, land is not a major issue for the great majority. The issue of land and land policy was something the MDC could fix once in power”. This seems more like a threat to unravel things that have been agreed, even as reluctant compromises. In an email exchange on Dore’s piece as part of probably the most bizarre email list I am copied in to, Eddie Cross MP, the MDC’s Policy Coordinator General (who supported a yes vote with 10 reasons), commented on 10 March, “Excellent as usual – but so long as everyone understands that this was the main focus of concession to the views of Zanu PF in the negotiation and was a compromise – it is not the final word on the issue of agricultural land”.

Yes the Constitution is a compromise. Yes it emerged through negotiation between parties that did not agree. And, yes, it is not the final word. As Brian Raftopolous pointed out in the SW Africa Radio discussion, “there are still a lot of issues around the land [issue] which wouldn’t necessarily be dealt with simply through the constitution – issues which will have to be dealt with through legislation coming afterwards and through political and technical processes that need to take place in the aftermath of what has happened”.

But does this mean that the basic tenets of the Constitution should be dismissed? Technical and administrative details will be required of course, but should a party go into an election essentially saying that key sections are up for grabs? What if ZANU-PF said the same? There would, quite appropriately, be uproar. Equally, for the resumption of international development assistance to be conditional on changes to the now approved Constitution, as Dale Dore seems to suggest, would be madness.

The new Constitution, with its inevitable flaws, now at last provides the basis for moving forward: hopefully towards the removal of sanctions and free and fair elections in a few months time. This is by no means assured, and the unlawful arrests of MDC officials and their lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, does not bode well, with a return to ‘brute power’ suggested by some. But equally we cannot succumb to fatalism, a trait so common among the commentariat. Let us also hope that after the elections, the parties respect the Constitution and the painful, slow, but ultimately successful, process of creating it, with all its difficult compromises, was not in vain. A process of healing, compromise and looking to the future is what all Zimbabweans need above all. If any party comes into power and rips up sections of the Constitution they don’t like, is this a good result? For this reason, I, for one, would favour another coalition government; one that, this time, is genuinely committed to national unity and development, so the spirit of compromise with all its awkwardness and faults, embedded in the Constitution provides the basis for a brighter future.

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

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Five questions for Morgan Tsvangirai

Zimbabwe’s elections must be held within a year. Already election manoevering is occurring. Everyone hopes that the violence and mayhem of 2008 will not be repeated. Free and fair elections on a new constitutional basis are essential. Most of the attention has been focused on the political machinations of the major parties, and the alliances, divides and clashes between factions, especially within ZANU-PF. But what about policy? Sadly in the fraught context of Zimbabwean political debate, the substantive, policy issues that should underpin political positions often get lost.

Here are five questions for Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister and leader of the MDC-T grouping in the government. MDC-T won the parliamentary elections in 2008, and Tsvangirai would almost certainly have won the presidential election too had electoral violence and intimidation not been the victor. In the next year, Morgan Tsvangirai hopes to be the next president of Zimbabwe. I wonder what his policy positions are? The MDC-T website is not that revealing, and commentaries from party members are not always consistent. So, if anyone happens to meet Morgan Tsvangirai, here are some questions it would be really interesting to know the answers to.

  1. After your recent visit to China, what do you think China’s role will be in Zimbabwe’s transition before and after the next elections? (The visit was it seems more than the normal trade delegation. High level contacts were made. Is China really preparing for a transition, and will China move beyond its rhetorial position of not interfering in political processes? Does China have too many commerical interests in Zimbabwe now to accept continued chaos? Will China really contemplate dumping its long-term partner since the liberation movement? Of course no-one will be able to answer these questions, but the changing position of China may be more important than the positions of the EU, UK, or US in the coming years).
  2. Is coalition government in Zimbabwe a permanent and necessary feature in order to encourage inclusive, national development? (The GNU cobbled together in the aftermath of the disputed elections of 2008 was a compromise. There is much debate as to whether it was right for the MDC to get involved. They probably had no option. But with Zimbabwe’s politics so divided and divisive, is coaltion government not the most likely outcome of any political contest in the near future? In Europe it’s the norm, and we even have a coalition government in the UK (replete with warring factions). Will the MDC accept a new government of national unity under a new constitutional arrangement after the next elections in order to maintain national unity, or is going it alone and reconfiguring politics forever the only route?)
  3. Given that the MDC has confirmed that the land reform is irreversible, what alternative narrative on land can the MDC offer to counter that of ZANU-PF which will appeal to rural constituencies and is not dominated by white commercial farmer interests? (I have commented before on the policy vacuum in the opposition around land and rural development issues. The MDC’s contribution appears to be led by a very narrow perspective – Roy Bennett and Eddie Cross. Both come from a very particular position and history, and seem unable to grasp the implications of the changes brought about by land reform, frequently harking back to the past and not looking forward to the future (see the latest from Eddie Cross). Yet in important respects, the land reform provides an opportunity for the opposition movements. An emerging ‘middle farmer’ constituency now exisits on some of the thriving A1 and (some) A2 farms. These are not ‘cronies’, beneficiaries of patronage, but people with land wanting to make something of their businesses. They are sceptical of the land grabbing elites, and are potential if not current MDC supporters. But what does the opposition offer to counter the violent, nationalist narrative of ZANU-PF? A return to the assumed hey-day of commercial agriculture, or something different? Where are the opposition intellectuals who can offer an alternative narrative that will appeal to a wider rural consituency? In the longer term the MDC will have to win elections by being more than ‘not ZANU-PF’. It needs a progressive alternative narrative on land that it can articulate as policy).
  4. When should donors like the UK remove ‘restrictive measures’ and other ‘sanctions’, including the block on funding going to resettlement areas? Do these measures do more harm than good in political terms? (This is a long-running discussion on which I have commented before. There appears to be some movement, but as with all complex diplomacy it is slow and painful. Meanwhile people have to live, schools have to be run, and a generation is missing out. Weaning Zimbabwe from aid dependence is a good thing of course, but clearly there are major challenges of investment right now, and even if it is only the diplomatic signalling rather than aid flows per se, this will have a big impact. Meanwhile of course, on a very different basis, the Chinese and others are engaging altering the playing field perhaps for ever).
  5. How will Zimbabwe deal with its debt? Does a HIPC deal make sense, or can Zimbabwe channel mineral revenues effectively to reduce it independently without resuming a reliance on the IMF, and its associated conditionalities? (Again I have commented on this issue before. But dealing with debt is going to be key for any new government. Add in the debts associated with settling the compensation for improvements on the former white commercial farms taken over under fast track land reform (an additional USD1.5-2 billion), the total is not far off $9bn – a massive amount given the capacity of the economy. The trade off between going it alone versus signing up with the IMF is a real one, and will affect the economy and politics for decades, as did the ESAP era of the 1990s).

So if you happen to bump into Morgan Tsvangirai, Tendai Biti or others, do pose these questions, and let us know via a comment on the blog what you found out! Or if you have answers to or perspectives on any of the questions above, do feel free to share them.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Zimbabwe’s beef industry

The beef industry was once the pride and joy of the commercial farming sector. As we show in a paper on the history of the Zimbabwe livestock industry and veterinary control, white ranchers enjoyed extraordinary levels of support from colonial and post-colonial governments. The industry also profited from generous import agreements to the EU supported by the aid budget. The result was that beef exports became an important foreign exchange earner for the country through the 1980s and 1990s.

But this export trade was reliant on compliance with stringent EU disease control regulations, particularly around foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease. Huge amounts of money were invested by the EU, creating a series of disease control zones to facilitate export. The beef export industry migrated northwards, away from the traditional cattle ranching country of the lowveld towards the Highveld, and so far from the FMD infected zones. FMD is a natural disease in Africa and is found in wildlife, and particularly buffalo. A beef export strategy and wildlife do not mix, and even with FMD-free buffalo herds maintaining disease freedom. Compliance with EU regulations became an expensive challenge.

And then everything changed. With the land invasions of 2000, there was a massive movement of livestock and a breakdown in veterinary controls. FMD outbreaks occurred and the export trade was lost. The beef industry as it had been known collapsed. The massive infrastructure built up around the CSC (under the direction of one Eddie Cross, see earlier post) became a white elephant, and the investment in disease control by the EU became largely an irrelevance.

Today, the livestock industry is based on multiple small herds owned mostly by small scale farmers. FMD is under control again, and movement controls are in place. But the prospects of regaining the export market look remote. This is seen by some as another example of the tragedy of Zimbabwe’s land reform. But has this transition in the structure and focus of the livestock industry been all bad?

The subsidised investments in the old white ranching sector which continued for 20 years after Independence through the beneficence of government and the donors meant that beef ranching was rarely economic. The subsidised parastatals like the CSC were a massive drain on public resources. The meat supplied was not geared for domestic demand (‘nyama’) but to export (fillet steaks for Europeans). The ranches that were required for this industry were vast, amounting to thousands of hectares, and increasingly in the higher potential areas of the country. Was this really the optimal use of this land? And the fences, market bans, slaughter and quarantine controls that were imposed on everyone for the benefit of a few exporters, resulted in cost and inconvenience for many.

Today, Masvingo’s ‘real markets’ for meat are based on a diverse group of producers, and linked to a distributed network of traders, sellers, brokers and suppliers, spreading the economic gains further (see our report on livestock in Masvingo). The unit value is lower, but the overall benefits for economy and development may be greater. In another paper on options for disease control in the southern African beef industry, plus a set of commentaries, we made the case that the ‘disease freedom’ approach adopted before 2000 and required by the EU and OIE, does not make sense in areas where FMD is endemic. Other more appropriate ways to control and manage make more sense, although enclaves of high-value production could still exist through ‘compartmentalisation’ but would have to be factored into private business plans. For others, a commodity-based trade system would make more sense, with a focus on different domestic and regional markets.

As Zimbabwe’s herds are rebuilt, but under very different ownership patterns, important policy decisions will be required. Will there be a vain attempt to recreate the past glories of the commercial beef export system, or will a more sensible focus be on different markets, productions systems and disease control measures?

E. Cross, ‘An Economic Appraisal of the Production and Marketing of Rhodesian Beef’, Rhodesian Journal of Economics, 5 (1971), 19.

E. Cross, ‘A Comprehensive Review of the Beef Industry Situation Necessary’, Financial Gazette, 1 June 1990

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Dead capital: De Soto’s fallacies in Zimbabwe

A recent opinion piece in the Zimbabwe Independent by Eddie Cross, was titled “Land: Africa’s greatest but still dead asset”. It very clearly picked up on Hernando De Soto’s ideas on ‘dead capital’ and the need for clear property rights on land and other assets in order to release their value.

Cross’s article is extraordinary for its failure to engage with the substantial critique of this argument, presenting a simplistic and patronising perspective on ‘tribal’ (sic) tenure systems. It is doubly extraordinary as the author is the MDC-T’s Policy Coordinator General and is a member of the National Executive of the party, as well as being MP for Bulawayo South.

It demonstrates perfectly the poverty of understanding and debate on this subject in many quarters. The MDC’s website carries only a very general statement on land and agriculture, but if future policy is being informed by the sort of arguments presented in this article it is a tragedy. Even the World Bank rejects the simplistic argument that individual property rights are the solution to economic growth, and particularly around land where registration and titling approaches have long been shown to be costly and ineffective.

The article betrays a remarkable lack of understanding of African tenure and land governance systems, and offers a simplistic narrative peddled by right-wing think tanks, such as the Cato Institute (whose strap-line is ‘Individual Liberty, Free Markets and Peace’). Indeed, Cross himself wrote a Cato Institute paper on land reform with this line of argument in 2009.

However, this perspective has been widely challenged. For example, Ben Cousins and colleagues at PLAAS produced an excellent briefing paper a few years back which challenged the claims of De Soto and his followers. The central criticisms they focus on are “his oversimplification of the informal economy and associated property relations”. The paper is short and well worth reading. Virtually all the criticisms they outline are repeated in almost pure form in Cross’s piece.

They conclude: “De Soto’s ideas have mesmerised many policy makers and politicians, but a significant body of scholars and land reform practitioners are concerned that his policy prescriptions are highly misleading”. Policy makers, they argue, “must resist the temptation to seek simplistic solutions to poverty of the kind offered by De Soto”.  It seems Eddie Cross, like others, has been mesmerised. Let’s hope the MDC does not come out with highly misleading and simplistic policy prescriptions too.

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized