Sunday, January 27, 2013

(TALKZIMBABWE) Land reform: moral and spiritual issue of our existence

COMMENT - Also listen to the radio show by George Shire and Itayi Garande, on Zimbabwe Takes It's Land Back.

Land reform: moral and spiritual issue of our existence
This article was written by Itayi Garande on 27 January, at 12 : 37 PM

Land has been the moral and spiritual issue of our existence. It is the most pressing moral and spiritual issue today, thus it demands serious public discourse.

A recent review by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Former UK Defence Secretary and Foreign Secretary of a book by Joseph Hanlon, Jeannette Manjengwa and Teresa Smart entitled “Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land” read:

“Land and farming rights have been the most powerful issue in Zimbabwe for over 100 years, as I discovered when I wrote my MSc thesis on this subject in the 1960s. … agricultural production is now returning to the level of the 1990s. If tens of thousands of poor Zimbabwean farmers are now able to make a livelihood from the land, some significant good will have emerged from a terrible period of Zimbabwe’s history.”

The book makes some bold observations, devoid of the usual politicisation of the subject of land by the media.

Based on a range of studies, complemented by data obtained on the ground, it offers an antidote to many myths on the land question and a balanced, positive and nuanced assessment seldom found in many political or media writings on the subject.

One of the boldest and courageous criticisms in the book was against Amnesty International. The authors accused the human rights organisation of exaggerating the plight of farm workers who were forced off formerly “white” land. They say that by 2011 the number of people working on resettlement land had increased more than fivefold, from 167,000 to over a million.

As a human rights organisation, AI should have celebrated the resettlement of the over one million people.

The book also breaks the myth that white farmers were very successful in Rhodesia and later in Zimbabwe after independence. White farmers underutilised the land that was taken after various notorious pieces of legislation were passed by the white minority regime, including the Land Tenure Act, Land Husbandry Act and the Land Apportionment Act.

White farmers were given huge subsidies by the Smith regime, but nevertheless before 1980, 30 percent of them were insolvent and another 30 percent broke. Almost 66 percent of rich arable land lay fallow.

Contrary to popular belief, it was the post-independent government and communal farmers who delivered to the Grain Marketing Board that earned Zimbabwe the status, “Breadbasket of Southern Africa” allowing the country to take responsibility for sub regional food security.

Meanwhile many white commercial farmers were producing cash crops for the export market.

Public discourse on land is important for Zimbabwe. It has to be put high on the agenda, because of its capacity to drive people out of poverty, but also to enrich them spiritually and morally.

The moral outrage we face today comes from the alienation we face, alienation from the land. That alienation has made us complacent, self-deprecated and in some sense left us feeling relatively impotent.

We are not as passionate about our land anymore. Yet, through land we will dissipate reactivate the energy we had before, that made us demand our independence and create a multiracial, multiethnic society where one person enjoys one vote.

Politicians from all sides have a role to play and desist from the usual political overtones that do nothing for the people, and undermine their ability to think critically and challenge deeply rooted assumptions.

We need a public discourse that addresses the national question – the land question. More importantly, we need politicians who can understand this need, not fight it because by doing so they are demonizing their own people.

We should shatter the stereotypical perception that land reform is evil.

The media has a role to play in this process. It has been complicit in extending the usual line against the land reform programme in Zimbabwe without the accompanying research, and thus has been a vast wasteland on this issue.

Media platforms are at their best when used to challenge people’s perceptions on the views they hold, not reinforce bad ones. The media should help Zimbabweans expand their inventory of ideas, and help them look at their collective future through a different prism. It should also help them understand the Socratic principle of what it means to be human.

So far Zimbabwe has been held in place by the fight back of the people, and no so-called progressive politicians can claim to have transformed their thinking. Zimbabweans have an inbuilt resilience learned through years of struggle. This has made them creative, social entrepreneurs, and made their families always able to pull together.

The fight back of normal people should lift our spirits. The least politicians can do is reconnect people with the land. It is where their ancestral bones are interred, and where their sustenance comes from.

Most of all, land is not just about material prosperity, it is where the dignity of all those who suffered for centuries as second class citizens comes from.

*Itayi Garande is the editor of the Zimbabwe Guardian. He can be contacted via If you would like to take part on the programme Bottom Line, please email

One Comment


Brett Mashingaidze, 1 hour ago Reply

A great show. I liked the way in which you tied in the land reform exercise with Davos and the neoliberal agenda. Many of our people do not understand the link between these issues. We need more programmes like these not the usual half-baked reportage we get from other Zimbabwean sites. Well done George Shire, very articulate and incisive.

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