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Remaking history: Citizenship, power, and the recasting of heroes and villains
Dale Doré, Sokwanele
October 02, 2013

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This paper is part of the Zimbabwe Land Series


Joseph Hanlon, Jeanette Manjengwa and Teresa Stewart’s book, Zimbabwe Takes Back the Land, gives fresh impetus to Scoones’ narrative on land. Their blurb on the back cover recognises the deprecations of the Mugabe government, but assures readers that “ordinary” Zimbabwean settlers took charge of their destinies, are improving their lives, and are becoming increasingly productive. Like Scoones, it is fundamentally a plea to the international community to support new farmers on contested land. The main thrust of their argument is that Zimbabweans justifiably and successfully took back their land from white Rhodesian colonialist farmers. In this paper I challenge their remaking of history that casts war veterans as heroes and white farmers as villains. I focus primarily on identity, citizenship, and belonging: what it means to be Zimbabwean. Contrary to this reworking of the nationalist narrative, I argue that the land invasions were primarily used as a means to crush the opposition and as a tool of patronage ahead of crucial elections. But more than this, land seizures follow a well-practiced pattern of widespread and systematic violence against civilians – from Gukurahundi and Murambatsvina, to premeditated political violence. Robert Mugabe’s single-minded purpose has been to maintain his imperious powers against the sovereign will of the people at any cost. The wounds of history run too deep to be sanitised by apologias for his authoritarian and bloody rule.

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