The Marred history of Land Reform

Welcome back everyone! I would like to thank you for coming back to read even though my content has been very inconsistent. I really only like to write when I have the time to dedicate to writing a whole piece in one go – and yes, I have not had that much free time in the last 2 months! Regardless, you are here reading so, thank you. ❤️

Today I would like to do a historical piece on something that I said I did not want to talk about in the past but alas, here we are. When I had asked, on Instagram, what topics people would like to read about next, this one came up and my response was “I would not touch that topic with a ten-foot pole.” Nonetheless, I wrote it down and now I have decided that I will try and write about it as best I can. I did not want to talk about land reform for a number of reason. The first being that it is an extremely complicated historical event which cannot really be explained in one blog post. Secondly, I am not sure how I feel about land re-acquisition. On the one hand, I personally know white people who were violently ripped away from their homes as a result of the Land Reform Act. On the other hand, I understand why such an act may have been seen as necessary. Execution and corruption aside, giving the black majority an opportunity to own their own land again makes a lot of sense to me. Lastly, this is still a sensitive topic for many Zimbabweans so it needs to be spoken about with a certain amount out sensitivity.

Quick history lesson:

I am well aware that a large number of my readers are not from Zimbabwe so, I will give a quick history lesson on the Land Reform Programme. Under colonial rule, a 1930s land apportionment act was passed which made it illegal for all black Africans to own land, except for 22% of the least arable land in Zimbabwe. The rest of the arable land went to white settlers. In order for white people to settle on some of these lands, many black families were displaced and moved to less desirable locations. – This is the first injustice of the ping-pong game between the black and white communities in Zimbabwe. Being primarily agricultural people, giving black Africans only the least arable land was a huge injustice which began the cycle of poverty for generations of black Zimbabweans to come. Fortunately, there was an attempt for redress upon signing the Lancaster House Agreement and achieving independence. It was decided that there needed to be efforts to distribute land to native Zimbabweans from white settlers who were given land simply because they were white. However, Britain did not follow through to aid Zimbabwe in re-distributing the land (both economically and technically). The British promised to fund the program and compensate white farmers who would loose their land but along came Tony Blair and the rest was history. So, not much was done in the years following independence. Which angered a lot of Zimbabweans because what was the point of independence if they did not get their land and livelihoods back? So, the British left Zimbabwe in an incredibly tough position because after 90 years (from 1890) of colonialism the black majority deserved to have control over their own land. However, without the resources and knowhow of the new Zimbabwean government, what happens to white farmers?

Zimbabwe Independent (Dunn, 2020)

That brings us to the early 2000s when everything went wrong and an injustice was fixed with another. After many failed land reform programs during the 1990s, there was the decision to “fast-track” land reform which resulted in a chaotic and violent mess. Then president, Robert Mugabe, organised troops to march onto white owned farms and “reclaim” them. Many families had to leave immediately to avoid the violence and leave their belongings behind. Alone, this is problematic to say the last, but to make the situation even worse, the land that got re-claimed was used as an aid to political corruption rather than redress colonial wrongs. Therefore, white farmers were not forced off their land for the good of Zimbabwe but to line the pockets of Zimbabwe’s political elite. Land was “gifted” to various party members and their families who had no agricultural abilities. This entire program exacerbated the economic problems in Zimbabwe and left many people homeless and jobless. The economy was hit incredibly hard because not only was agriculture the largest part of the Zimbabwean economy but, it was also Zimbabwe’s main export. Thus, when the people gifted land took over the farms, they did not know how to run them and productivity dropped drastically.

“You can’t imagine how many people come up to me and said, ‘We didn’t agree with you back then. We thought you were too rigid and inflexible. But now we see you were right. You were so right: they were not fit to govern.'”

– Ian Smith

The land grab of the 2000s plummeted Zimbabwe and made many white (ex-)colonisers turn around and make statements like the one above. It became proof that ‘the black majority is unfit to govern.’ Which of course is not true, but I have to admit that the way the land situation was handled does not bode well for anyone in Zimbabwe.

I spoke a lot about how I did not want to talk about this topic so you might be asking why I ended up doing so in the end? Well, I was doing some research unrelated to this topic and an article popped up from September 2020. Apparently in September 2020, the Zimbabwean government promised to give white farmers their land back. It has been a year since then and I am not sure if any of this has actually solidified – I tried to find some information but there is none up to date. Nevertheless, the thought sparked a lot of interest for me because is giving the land back to ex white farmers really the answer to right all of the wrongs that have been committed on both sides? Honestly, what happened (in the 2000s) was extremely cruel but I do not think returning land will make anything better, if anything I think it will lead to thicker resentment. So, for once, I actually have no idea what the best way to deal with this situation is. Educating farmers? But who educates them, who pays for it and eventually we still have to decide who the land goes to… I firmly believe that this long and complicated story was the anchor in Zimbabwe’s decline and because we have never tried to deal with any of the injustices committed, we are perpetually suffering for them. But, I would definitely love to hear from other people what they think about this topic. Seeing as I have no solution in mind, I would love to hear what everyone else thinks: where we went wrong and how we can (if we can), fix it?

P.S. I hate that I quoted Ian Smith – it was simply for illustrative purposes, I despise the man.

The reality of standing up

Happy Monday everyone! I hope that you and your families are all doing well. Thank you once again for joining me for some Monday reading. As you have noticed, a lot of the pieces I write are about things that perplex me and things I still have no answers to. I guess, I want people to be as perplexed as me and ask themselves the same hard questions I have been asking myself. 

http://www.ucf.edu

I have always been a loud-mouthed person…I always speak up to injustice and wrongfulness without second guessing and I have never found it hard to stand up for other people even if I am not particularly interested in what has upset them. I guess you can say I have an unprovoked fighting spirit. In this respect, I do not think I work well in bureaucratic environments because I believe in rebelling against ‘the system,’ (yes, I see the irony of this sentence considering I am an aspiring politician). However, because of this nature of my character, there have been many situations where people have asked me to voice their opinions on their behalf – which I have, and I have gotten myself in some trouble while doing so. Not that I really cared about the trouble, as I said, I like to speak epically in situations where I feel there has been some sort of injustice committed. What I always questioned was why don’t people just stand up for themselves? If they think something is so wrong, why don’t they just say it… I would. How ignorant was I? I stubbornly thought this for a while and even asked people why they don’t just protest themselves. It took me a lot of these questions to realize that the reason I could protest so easily was because of privilege. Privilege in the simple fact that I had always been the person to cause this sort of trouble, so I was handled in a different way to someone who was quiet and did not necessarily know how to fight people who had more power than them (institutional power in the examples I am thinking of). Privilege in that I have always been supported so I have always been taught to stand up for what I believe in, even if I am alone in that belief. Privilege in that I come from a good home, so I have never been scared to speak up even if it means losing that position or job. I began to understand that people do not have these privileges to back them up in certain situations and so, if it is between accepting something unjust or ending up in a compromising position, the former is the logical choice.

While I am using a personal example to explain the privilege that is associated with standing up to injustice and/or inequality, this privilege can be exemplified on a much larger scale. Looking at Zimbabwe, the question has been asked by young people time and time again… why is no one standing up to any of the horrific things happening in the country? I have asked my older family members the same thing, why have you done nothing all these years? Things are getting worse and worse and yet none of us are standing up. One of the answers came to me during the Black Lives Matter Movement. I couldn’t help but marvel at what was going on in the US and I thought wow, why don’t we just do that too! The honest answer is that we are afraid, we do not have the same privilege of protection that Americans do. If an American dies in protest, there will be international outcry but if a Zimbabwean dies in protest (which thousands have over the years), it will not even make an international news story, if even a Zimbabwean news story at that. Our government would kill us without questions of morality or humanity if we dared to protest for a better Zimbabwe.

Another reason Zimbabweans do not protest even though we are suffering is also something I did not consider because of my place of privilege. I have lived in peacetime my entire life, I have never witnessed a war or even layed eyes on a gun. Due to the political complexity of Zimbabwe, even if we were to get through the protest stage alive, a war would most likely erupt. It is easy for someone of my generation, who hasn’t witnessed much violence to say “let’s fight!” because we do not know what the reality of that means. I look towards other African and Middle Eastern countries who have stood up to their governments and I see the somber reality of what would happen to my home if we dared to stand up. So that really leaves us between a rock and a hard place. Either we continue to live through tyranny, or we die.

Through understanding these realities of privilege in areas of life that most of us don’t even recognize, I understood how hard it actually is to stand up (in any context) when you are against a side that has all the power. While I can do it on a small scale and not be as worried about the consequences, the situation of Zimbabwe breeds deep, generational consequences. So, I speak to Zimbabwean youth who have asked their parents time and time again why they have let all this unfold, to understand what standing up in this situation may mean. In such complicated situations as these what would then be the best solution? Do you stand up or do you hang on to the semblance of security you have?

“If you build the guts to do something, anything, then you better save enough to face the consequences.” 

 – Criss Jami, Killosophy