By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha
Harare, Zimbabwe – The land reform process in Zimbabwe which ensued in year 2000 characterized by violence against white farmers continues to hang over the nation like a famished viper. A radical introspection into that botched process is urgently required to allow the country to define a new future.
The model adopted by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF government largely premised on violence had a lot of loopholes that have not been addressed. In the absence of a rethink, colonial history will come back to haunt the nation.
A situation in which a small number of white farmers owned a large part of a country’s most productive agricultural land was clearly unacceptable and was itself a powder.
In spite of the fact that white farmers were chased off the land, there has not yet been closure on this chapter of our history. In retrospect, it is clear that a racialised approach to land reform – while politically justifiable – was not sufficient enough to resolve the unfair land ownership that existed in the country.
Judging from what happened in 2000, it is apparent that the government lacked a long-term strategic approach to redress the inequality in land ownership as well as make it profitable.
Analysts have already pointed out that many of the beneficiaries of the land redistribution process were the powerful and politically connected. The elites awarded themselves with prime agricultural land. Many new black owners have become landlords rather than farmers.
The absence of a transparent land audit has also served to strengthen the idea that the process was largely unfair..
Furthermore, some of the beneficiaries had little to no farming knowledge, skills or experience, and regard the large tracts of land that they own as some ceremonial object.
To make matter worse, the Robert Mugabe-led government has not adequately availed capital to support the so-called new farmers. Consequently, the new farmers are not able to meet the financial obligations of farming, and their land merely lies fallow, overgrown with grass. Put simply, they are unable to utilize the land profitably.
In the pursuit of an end goal to address a valid case of stilted land ownership, the government overlooked how to ensure that new land owners would make their land profitable.
What Zimbabwe needs going forward is to re-conceptualize the issue of land ownership taking into account that the whole context. A land audit that determined who owns land in the country is fundamental to putting closure to the land issue. Fixing the land problem may lay the foundation for fixing so many others, from poverty to famine to ethnic conflict to the country’s economic recovery.