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Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa wants to repair the damage of Mugabe’s land reform

06.07.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Expelled from their lands at the time of President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean white farmers will be compensated by the government which has decided to repair the damage of the agrarian reform initiated by the former president in a desire to correct a social injustice inherited from the colonization. This compensation, which does not take into account the value of the lands they owned, concerns only their investments. Last week, about twenty of them each received about $ 8,700.

Nearly 737 white farmers on government lists are affected by this move by the state, which has set aside a budget of $ 53 million to compensate white farmers evicted. But this number is still lower when we know that nearly 4000 white producers in total were dispossessed of their land in the 2000s for the benefit of blacks. For the government, which speaks of a symbolically strong measure, the aim is mainly to attract foreign investors to this country, which has experienced a serious economic crisis, but also to take over the once prosperous agricultural sector, which collapsed overnight of the controversial reform of Robert Mugabe.

Repairing an injustice of the colonial era

Prior to the establishment of the former president’s agrarian reform, Zimbabwe, whose agricultural sector was once prosperous, was considered the breadbasket of Southern Africa. Under the pressure of veterans and some influential members of the ruling party, Zanu PF and some unions, the government in the early 2000s decided to seize large holdings that had been owned by white producers for decades redistribute to the blacks.

The goal was to correct the grabbing by the colonial regime in the late nineteenth century, land to the detriment of indigenous people. In 1969, a land law allocated 15 million hectares of arable land to nearly 6,000 white farmers. At the end of this sharing, some 700,000 poor black families end up with only 16 million hectares. Despite Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, 42 percent of the land remained owned by white farmers.

The land reform of President Mugabe, applauded by some leaders of the African continent, was, however, frowned upon by the major Western powers, including the United States and Great Britain, who ruled that by doing so, President Mugabe had just ordered destruction of agriculture, one of the pillars of the Zimbabwean economy.

An economic disaster

The fall in agricultural production in Zimbabwe is the result of the lack of knowledge of the small black farmers who inherited the properties taken away without compensation from the country’s white farmers. The vast majority lack the means to buy the necessary fertilizer and have no knowledge or training to grow their crops. Preferring to refer to archaic methods they make use of oxen to plow their fields. According to the Association of Agricultural Vehicle Vendors (ADMA), the land reform of President Mugabe has resulted in a reduction in the number of tractors used in plantations. Previously 25,000, they rose to 5,000.

 

This lack of investment and experience for a better exploitation of the land parcels inherited from the reform have led to a disruption of agriculture and in turn the collapse of this sector of activity. For many economists this reform is at the origin of the economic crisis in which is plunged to date the country. They lament the recklessness of the former president who ceded to veterans’ claims failed to take into account the multiple caveats about the consequences of this ill-prepared land redistribution.

An election promise

During the election campaign that brought him to power, President Emmerson Mnangagwa made a promise to revive the economy of the collapsed country under the Mugabe era. This revival, which inevitably involves the revitalization of the agricultural sector, which is of great interest to foreign investors, could not be done without compensation for the damage done to the white farmers. At this fringe of the influential population, the new strongman of the country has made many promises. To mechanize and modernize agriculture, he relies on the expertise of white farmers, only a few hundred of whom are spared from land grabbing in Zimbabwe.

In addition to compensating the white farmers on its lists, the government, in the name of boosting productivity, has also committed to extending the lease term for white farmers from 5 to 99 years old, spared by the controversial land reform ‘former president. Added to this is the symbolic restitution of land seized to a small number of them. Although these measures initially created confusion in the country, President Emmerson Mnangagwa assures that they were caught in the sole concern of boosting productivity and raising commercial agriculture in free fall in a country formerly a major exporter but now experiencing periods of famine exacerbated by climate change that is having a severe impact on all of southern Africa.

South Africa, which has also embarked on an agrarian reform based on land grabbing without compensation, should draw on the example of neighboring Zimbabwe. Thanks to a draft amendment to the Constitution, whites (8% of the population) who own 72% of farms at the expense of blacks (80% of the population) who own only 4% are on a slope slippery. The agribusiness of which the country is a master in the matter could take a blow if measures are not taken to better structure in the form this reform.

Article from AFRIC editorial

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