Thursday, May 26, 2005

"Is Zimbabwe's land redistribution equitable?"

A new acquaintance, Blackambition, asked me this question and because I haven’t addressed it on this blog my (long then short) answer follows;

“I'm not sure if you addressed this question in another post, but would you mind giving your opinion about whether land redistribution is equitable?

I'm an outsider looking in so my answer is "yes" but I spoke to a person online who is half-Zimbabwean (sp?) who disagrees.

What is your take on the issue?”

Let me begin with this caveat about the question: From my experience, the concern about the “equitability/justifiability” of the land reform in Zimbabwe needs to be addressed on two levels. Most of the controversy you read about the land reform stems from fundamental differences in the perceived sense of the definition of the term “equitable/justifiable.”

First, is the necessity or imperative spectrum which has to do with deciphering whether or not redistribution was warranted given the context of Zimbabwe’s historical legacy and post-independence prosperity of Zimbabwe’s agri-based economy. This, I believe, is the question most relevant to many in the developing world and those in opposition to American and European unilateral dominance of global affairs. That is the reason why many African leaders continue to stand by Mugabe & Co.

On this wavelength, it goes without saying that redistribution of land was long overdue. See this for an exhaustive explanation. So, interestingly proponents of the reform program will always cite reasons tied to this understanding of justifiable/equitable.

The alternative understanding of equitable/justifiable is on the functional or process level. Here, the concern is more about the how of the land (re)acquisition process. This understanding of the term is important to Zimbabweans as we are the first to experience the effects of how the process is going. For this reason, and that they have been able to find faults (and lots of them), opponents of the land redistribution embrace this understanding of how the process has evolved thus far pointing to the many injustices of and resulting from land reform.

From this perspective, there is no question that land redistribution in Zimbabwe has been largely unfair. My objections stem not from the Eurocentric and anti-black advancement rampant in the Western media’s coverage of Zimbabwe land situation. I object from the perspective a young black landless Zimbabwean whose family has not benefited from land redistribution, but has watched others relentlessly exploit the situation and from the perspective of justice for all.

According to this newspaper article,
“Of the 11 million hectares compulsorily acquired by the state, only 6 429 844 hectares have been allocated, leaving government possessed of approximately 4 570 000 hectares of land not redistributed, over and above almost 6 000 000 hectares acquired by government, and not resettled, during the first 15 years of Independence. Between the land previously held by it, and that acquired under the programme (up to the time of compilation of the Land Audit Committee Report and therefore not including the very substantial further lands since designated), government has effectively only allocated about 26% of such land. Clearly, therefore, the predominant motivation of forced land acquisition has been racial victimisation and political machinations, and not genuine empowerment of the population.

This is further evidenced by the fact that whilst government has, for some time, contended that more than 300 000 have been resettled on the land, the Land Audit Committee established that land had been allocated to only 134 452. Of that number, only 93 800 had taken up their allocation, with almost 41 000 still to do so. Thus, less than 70% have taken up the land allocated to them, and it is well known that many of them have not as yet been able to farm their allocated lands, for they have not had the resources to acquire essential inputs, and promises of provision of those resources have yet to be fulfilled. In addition, most of the inputs do not exist, so even an availability of financial resources will not address the problem.”

Land redistribution was supposed to be about landless, poverty-stricken peasants in Zimbabwe—it hasn’t been. While several thousands of these landless Zimbabweans did receive land, the real beneficiaries of the land acquisition campaign are government officials and the well connected business elite who used this land grab as an opportunity to selfishly enlarge their largesse and influence in the country. The endless list of ZANU-PF (ruling party) officials who grabbed multiple farms for themselves includes Perence Shiri (airforce chief), Jonathan Moyo (former information minister), Sabina Mugabe (president’s sister), former provincial Governors Eliot Manyika, Obert Mpofu, Peter Chanetsa, Josia Hungwe; newspaper publishers Ibbo Mandaza and Mtumwa Mawere; and Barclays Bank Chief Executive Alex Jongwe among many others. Meanwhile thousands more of Zimbabweans that were employed on numerous farms lost both their jobs.

Any answer either pro or anti land reform that is not cognizant of these two perceptions of justice is defective and myopic. Unfortunately, the democratic ideologues in the Western media and their opponents who pitch romantic arguments from nationalist/pan-Africanist camp, hide behind this chasm to the detriment of authentic discussion about this crucial step in rectifying one mankind’s most heinous injustice.

So, my final answer Blackambition is yes and no;)

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