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The politics of land dressed up as research
June 02, 2010
their study on 400 new settlers in Masvingo, the researchers
play down the wider political, economic and legal problems of the
land reform programme. There is little mention of the violent and
chaotic land invasions that displaced 200,000 farm workers; no mention
of the SADC Tribunal which ruled that the land reform programme
was racist and unlawful under international law; no mention of the
massive quasi-fiscal deficits that were created by printing money
to support settlers and which destroyed our currency and our economy.
There is no mention of the complete lack of tenure security, the
bedrock for farm investment, that undermines the efforts of commercial,
resettled and communal farmers.
The recovery of agriculture
and the economy needs far more than small-scale farmers producing
a surplus of maize in a good agricultural season. Even after a good
rainy season (2008/09), when maize production stood at 1.14 million
tonnes, 2.8 million people required food assistance during the 2009/10
marketing year. By using a selective sample, the researchers have
ignored the fact that wheat production has indeed collapsed, from
about 350,000 tonnes before 2000, to a mere 15,000 today. We need
no further proof of the collapse of agriculture and the economy
by seeing the array of goods in supermarkets. When once they were
full of our own produce with the occasional imports, we now see
them full of imports and occasionally with our own produce. Zimbabweans
remember with pride but deep regret that we were once indeed the
breadbasket of Africa and that our shelves overflowed with what
we grew and made.
recovery means putting in a place a series of measures that not
only sees a surplus production in maize, but the recovery of a wide
range of commercial crops to earn foreign exchange and create employment.
The foundation stone for this recovery is the rule of law, but which
is still disregarded with equanimity. There is the need for a land
audit to determine who owns what land, bearing in mind that an international
court found that Constitutional
Amendment No. 17, which nationalised farms without compensation,
was unlawful. The land audit should also uncover those multiple
'farm owners' who have done little, if anything, to use the land
productively. We also need to provide secure transferable rights
to land, enabling farmers to negotiate loans for farm investments.
These are the issues on which genuine agricultural recovery is built.
However, none of these
issues seem to concern those intent on dressing up political discourse
as research. It is disingenuous to claim, for example, that 'research'
has revealed that land redistribution has reduced gross racial and
class inequalities, when land reform has in fact denied citizens
their basic human rights based on race; when 200,000 workers lost
their jobs, livelihoods and access to social services; and when
an obscenely enriched ruling elite grabbed multiple farms. How much
of their 'research' revealed that this process of land redistribution
was driven by ZANU(PF) on an entirely partisan basis with the help
of the same state security apparatus that has been responsible for
the political violence that has denied Zimbabweans their human and
democratic rights for the last decade?
It is not research but
rhetoric that attempts to construct fears of a return to an 'old
dualistic farming sector' or that land reform is 'irreversible'.
Their research may show that those who benefited from the land reform
programme oppose a return to large-scale commercial agriculture,
but this view is unlikely to be shared by millions of other 'ordinary
Zimbabweans' who have neither jobs nor land, who have fled the country,
or those who are now dependent on food hand-outs. Nor is it likely
that this view is shared by the donors who have paid millions in
humanitarian assistance and on whom we are dependent for agricultural
The researchers may like
to dismiss the lawlessness, corruption and the humanitarian crisis
that followed land reform as an unhelpful stereotype, but Zimbabweans
are acutely aware of when, why and by whom their descent into violence,
poverty and misery started. Until the fundamentals of human rights,
the rule of law and democracy are fully addressed, any talk about
'successful' new farmers or a 'dynamic and efficient agrarian economy'
will be seen as empty rhetoric by apologists of a tyrannical regime
posing as researchers.
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