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Land reform and property rights in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
August 05, 2010

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The forceful eviction of commercial white farmers during the fast track land reform process was arguably one of the primary drivers of Zimbabwe's sudden economic downfall. Prior to the land seizures and only a decade ago agriculture was the cornerstone of the economy. According to Eric Bloch, (an independent economist in Zimbabwe), agriculture used to provide employment for over 300,000 farm workers and a livelihood for nearly two million people but since the 2000 land reform programme, agriculture has plummeted, foreign exchange inflows have petered out and there has been a breakdown of the rule of law. Eddie Cross (another Zimbabwean independent economist), asserts that in 2000, the total output of the agriculture industry in Zimbabwe was 4.3 million tonnes of agricultural products worth at today's prices US$3.347billion. In 2009 it declined to 1.348 million tonnes of products worth US$1 billion, a decline of 69% in volume and a decline of 70% in value.

For many years dependant upon food aid programmes to feed its population. No one knows when the farm invasions will come to an end. The Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) has condoned these invasions by its failure to protect and uphold the rights of the affected farmers to end the violence and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Thus these acts and omissions constitute violations of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and internationally recognized legal instruments that protect human rights.

Zimbabwe was known as the "bread basket" of Africa endowed with productive farmland, rich in raw materials and it grew enough food to feed its people and export the rest. However following the agrarian reform it is now Craig Richardson asserts that, Zimbabwe provides a compelling case study of the perils of ignoring the rule of law and property rights when implementing land reforms. Protected property rights are crucial for economic growth and once those rights are taken away an economy is prone to collapse. There have been arguments suggesting that the land reform process has been beneficial. The most contentious support came from respected African scholar, Mahmoud Mamdani, who argued that the land reform process was a final closure in the de-colonization project. Another scholar, Scoones proposed that there were signs that land reform was having beneficial effects especially on smallholder farmers, which submission was disputed by other scholars.

The Land Reform and Property Rights in Zimbabwe of 2010 is a sequel report to the 2007, Adding Insult to Injury, a preliminary report on human rights violations on commercial farms 2000-2005. Whereas the previous report was a quantitative enquiry, this report is qualitative research oriented based on a review of secondary data. Secondary research, also known as desk research, involves the collation and synthesis of existing research. The aim of secondary research is to determine what is known already and what new data is required. Several documented reports have concentrated on violent land invasions from 2000-2005 and very little has been reported on violent land invasions after 2007. Therefore this report tries to fill that gap by focusing on violations on farmers and farm workers' right to property, which have continued unabated.

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