Zimbabwe Moves Forward Despite Western Sanctions

Conditions for African farmers improve under land reform, indigenization

Abayomi Azikiwe
Libya 360°

Over the last 14 years the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe in Southern Africa has been under vicious attack by the imperialist states. In 1998 it became clear that some action would be taken on the long-delayed promises of land redistribution to African farmers dispossessed during the colonial era beginning in the late 19th century.

The country gained its national independence in 1980 after more than a decade of armed struggle led by the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU-PF) and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU-PF). Both liberation movements joined together during the late 1970s and formed the Patriotic Front to coordinate armed actions and to receive adequate assistance from the Organization of African Unity Liberation Committee and other internationalist forces.

Zimbabwe, formerly known under colonialism as Rhodesia, was one of the most prosperous of British colonies. The rich agricultural soil and the vast deposits of diamonds made the country a source of tremendous wealth for mine owners and commercial European-settler farmers.

In 2000 a movement of revolutionary war veterans backed-up by legislation seized the land controlled by several thousand descendants of the British colonialists. Land holdings were broken up into smaller farms and millions of Africans were given access to agricultural production as stakeholders and not subservient low-wage workers.

The advent of the land redistribution program of 2000 brought tremendous pressure upon the ZANU-PF government which had subsumed ZAPU in late 1987. Economic sanctions were leveled against the country by Britain, the United States, the European Union and Australia.

For many years the land redistribution program was attacked in the western corporate media as the source of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe. An opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was formed and bankrolled by the displaced white settlers and their allies in the imperialist countries.

Numerous efforts were undertaken to plot regime-change strategies against Zimbabwe. The corporate media played an instrumental role in these destabilization programs to the extent of printing outright falsehoods and provocative appeals for the removal of the sovereign government.

However, over the last two years the economic conditions in Zimbabwe have improved. New discoveries of diamonds and the defeat of an effort by the West to prevent these resources from being marketed internationally brought additional revenues to the state.

Economic and political assistance from the Republic of South African and the People’s Republic of China helped in preventing a total economic collapse. The ZANU-PF ruling party created the “Look East” policy that emphasized trade and other economic agreements with African and Asian states.

In 2008 after the national elections had resulted in a political crisis that was being exploited by the West, the ZANU-PF government with mediation from the-then President Thabo Mbeki of the Republic of South Africa, agreed to a Global Political Agreement (GPA) which led to the formation of a coalition government with the MDC which by then had broken up into two factions. MDC faction leader Morgan Tsvangirai was appointed as Prime Minister while President Robert Mugabe of ZANU-PF maintained his post.

Since 2008 the country and government has moved toward stabilization. At present the process of drafting a new constitution is being finalized which will led to another round of national elections.

Corporate Media Takes Different Look at Land Program

Two articles were released in July that shed a positive light on the land redistribution program in Zimbabwe. On July 20 the New York Times through correspondent Lydia Polgreen said that “The success of these small-scale farmers has led some experts to reassess the legacy of Zimbabwe’s forced land redistribution, even as they condemn its violence and destruction.” (NYT)

Although the Times article regurgitates the false claims of widespread corruption within the agrarian program that favored the membership of the ZANU-PF ruling party, the article was forced to admit upon direct observation that “tens of thousands of people got small farm plots under the land reform, and in recent years many of these new farmers overcame early struggles to fare pretty well…. The result has been a broad, if painful, shift of wealth in agriculture from white commercial growers on huge farms to black farmers on much smaller plots of land.” (NYT)

Another article published in the Standard newspaper reports on the rising incomes within the Tobacco industry from the previous slump. The article notes that “Tobacco production had dipped following the chaotic land reform program to 48 million kg in 2008 from the peak of 236 million kg in 2000.” (Standard, July 29)

This same article goes on to point out that “The rebound in Tobacco production started in 2009. Although some tobacco farmers complained about the relatively low prices, most of them were happy with the price and the organized manner in which the crop was sold, unlike in previous years.”

Prior to the land redistribution program the tobacco industry was dominated by less than 2,000 white farmers. Today 60,000 farmers, most of whom are African, have raised production levels over 300 percent in a four year period.

The New York Times quotes Stuart Mhavei, a farmer who supports the ZANU-PF party of President Mugabe, saying that his small plot of land has earned him $US 10,000 this season.
He emphasizes his support for the party asking the question “Why should one white man have all this?” pointing at the vast land surrounding him. “This is Zimbabwe. Black people must come first.”

Implications of Zimbabwe Reforms

The land redistribution program in Zimbabwe is being followed-up by other efforts aimed at creating greater incomes and wealth among the indigenous population. The indigenization programs are aiming to create independent diamond miners and owners of the lucrative industry.

It has been estimated that the repository of diamonds in Zimbabwe are some of the largest in the world. The harnessing of these resources and their equitable distribution could raise living standards tremendously in Zimbabwe.

On a regional level there is enormous interest in developments related to agrarian reform. In South Africa and Namibia, whose African populations have not been given back the land stolen by the European settlers under colonialism, long for the days when they can undergo a similar transformation taking place in Zimbabwe.

The imperialist states are very concerned about the success of the land redistribution program in Zimbabwe. If the same initiative is taken within mining and finance it would threaten even further the grip of international capital on the resources and wealth of the people of southern Africa and the continent as a whole.

Progressive forces in the U.S. and other capitalist states should follow developments in Zimbabwe and defend the right of the people to self-determination and sovereignty. Progressive and revolutionary initiatives aimed at the re-allocation of wealth should be supported and sanctions against such efforts, as in Zimbabwe, should be opposed and condemned.


Abayomi Azikiwe
is the editor of Pan-African News Wire , an international electronic press service designed to foster intelligent discussion on the affairs of African people throughout the continent and the world. The press agency was founded in January of 1998 and has published thousands of articles and dispatches in newspapers, magazines, journals, research reports, blogs and websites throughout the world. The PANW represents the only daily international news source on pan-african and global affairs. To contact him, click on this link >>
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5 Comments

  1. I have to disagree here with Abayomi. The so-called “land reform” has mostly benefited a tiny black elite. Here are some excerpts from an important article on this issue:

    Zimbabwe: “Land Reform” and Imperialist Hypocrisy

    “In order to roll over Zimbabwe’s foreign loans, the IMF/World Bank demanded the standard combination of fiscal austerity and “free market” liberalization: slashing expenditure for social programs; eliminating or cutting back the wide array of government subsidies; dismantling tariff protection for the country’s manufacturing industries like textiles, clothing and footwear.

    The effects were predictably devastating for almost all sectors of the urban-based labor force. Employment in the textile industry fell by half, from 25,300 in 1990 to 12,400 in 1995. Also hit hard were the more privileged (“middle class”) sections of the black populace which had hitherto been the core support for the Mugabe regime—government functionaries, university students expecting upon graduation to get government or government-subsidized jobs. Some 25,000 civil service jobs were eliminated by 1995.

    The stage was thus set for mass labor struggles for the first time since the black bourgeois-nationalist regime replaced white colonial rule a decade and a half before. […]

    Mugabe responded by seeking to refurbish the regime’s nationalist credentials by declaring economic warfare on the white farmers. The ZANU-PF tops demagogically revived the rhetoric of the 1970s independence struggle, denouncing “white racism,” “Western imperialism” and “the heritage of colonialism.” The ZCTU bureaucracy under Morgan Tsvangirai played into the regime’s hands, especially among the peasant masses, by forming a political bloc with the white farmers and other capitalists through the MDC.

    […]

    To begin with, the redivision of the land has been far from equitable. Of the first 600 white farms taken over three years ago, 200 of the largest were given gratis to officials of the ZANU-PF and to Mugabe’s cronies and relatives, including his wife. Inspecting her new 2,500-acre estate, Grace Mugabe announced to the assembled agricultural laborers: “I am taking over this farm” (Guardian Weekly [London], 21-27 November 2002). Only such members of the post-colonial black ruling elite have the money to operate the commercial farms at a profit. The mass of black peasants who now occupy much of this land in most cases don’t even have seeds to plant next year’s crop to feed their families.

    Let us consider the arguments of Mugabe apologists like Gregory Elich at face value and assume the Zimbabwean government is genuinely committed to bettering the conditions of the black peasantry through an equitable division of land. Where would it get the financial resources to supply seeds, fertilizer and farm machinery to hundreds of impoverished black smallholders? The country is already massively in debt to British and American banks. And one can hardly expect the British ruling class to subsidize the expropriation of Zimbabwe’s white farmers with whom, in some cases, they have family as well as financial ties.

    In an interview in December with the state-controlled newspaper The Herald, Mugabe admitted: “We took it for granted that the supplies would be adequate.” But, he continued, “it then proved that we were mistaken. Seed is short, fertilizer is short and tillage is inadequate.” According to UN sources, more than half the government’s tractor fleet—which was supposed to plow fields for poor farmers—is out of service because of shortages of spare parts and fuel.

    During the 1990s, Zimbabwe produced an average annual grain (corn and wheat) crop of almost two million metric tons. Last year, the grain crop was less than half a million tons. (A contributing factor was lack of rainfall, which resulted in crop failures throughout southern Africa.) One doesn’t have to be an apologist for the white farmers or Western imperialists to recognize that millions of people in Zimbabwe now face conditions of famine. Indeed, it is a measure of the bankruptcy of Mugabe’s neocolonial regime that the transparently direct benefactors of British imperialism, the MDC, could have any level of popular support.”

  2. “It is impossible to understand the nature of land reform in Zimbabwe without first examining the history of land allocation in Rhodesia. In 1893, invading British troops and volunteers conquered Matabeleland. Under terms of the Victoria Agreement, every British soldier and volunteer was allowed 6,000 acres of land, and within a year 10,000 square miles of the most fertile land was seized. White settlers confiscated cattle and dragooned the Ndebele people into serving as forced laborers on the land they once owned. Colonial Administrator Starr Jameson felt that by depriving the Ndebele of their cattle, he could secure their “submission and future tranquility.” The Shona people also saw their cattle taken by settlers and in 1896, resentments had accumulated to the point where an uprising resulted. It took more than a year, but the British crushed the rebellion at the cost of 8,000 African lives.” George Elich, 2005. This was the beginning of how land was taken from the Zimbabweans. More land is yet to be taken back. But this definitely a pattern for other African states. Namibia seems to be considering to do the same: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2012/10/201210121434280992.html

  3. This has been a well written and easy to follow article by Abayomi Azikiwe. It echoes works on Zimbabwe by other academics like Ian Scoones. In the research Ian did with his team they found that 2/3 of those who received land where ordinary people in the rural areas who have done well amidst some teething problems. Land redistribution has revived the economy in Zimbabwe’s rural areas, with some farmers even exporting their crops like peanuts to South Africa. Bearing in mind that Zimbabwe’s liberation war was fought in rural areas, this is significant in the progression of the restoration of prosperity in Zimbabwe’s rural life. Ian’s work also shows how determined Zimbabweans are in industriousness. They seek success in every business opportunity even in rural areas. There are 8 short videos here to watch, produced by Ian Scoones and his team: http://zimbabweland.net/Videos.html. There more writings based on reasearch including books by the same team: http://www.ianscoones.net/Publications.html. I would like to echo the words of George Shire that the violent and radical colonisation left no stone unturned, therefore, de-colonisation or struggle for liberation can leave no stone unturned.

    De-colonisation must be just as total as colonialisation was, for it to be complete. What we see in Africa today, even in South Africa are the effects of incomplete de-colonisation. Colonial relations much be replaced with de-colonial ones, that is what will effect complete de-colonisaiton. If former colonisers still have a reign on their former colonies then, de-colonisation is yet to be accomplished. Zimbabwe’s land reform had been a longstanding pivotal issue for Zimbabweans in the decolonisation process. George Shire also emphasises how the people of Zimbabwe have been instrumental in pushing for land reform, as opposed to the generally reported narrative, adding that the first people to get back their former land, where the people in Svovse, Marondera in 1982, this was before the government’s land reform programme in 2000. In other words, George Shire testifies that it was the people of Zimbabwe who pushed for land reform and not the other way round. They fought to get their land back during the liberation struggle. Land is very symbolic to Zimbabwean families generally.

    Also echoing the words of George Elich, ” Africa must fight for its second liberation, the right to be master of its own fate, and in this struggle Zimbabwe is leading the way, a beacon of hope throughout the continent. “Through our land reform program,” President Mugabe observed, “we have raised the banner of Africa’s second struggle, the struggle for her economic emancipation. That is the core of the second African revolution, indeed, of the rebirth of Africa.” Western leaders recognize the importance of this struggle, aware of its potential for sending the winds of change sweeping through Africa and perhaps beyond. It is fear of that prospect that is the source of the West’s intractable hatred and scorn for President Mugabe and his nation’s struggle for economic justice. For all of their talk of democracy, Western leaders recognize that this is in fact a struggle between the needs of African people and the avarice of capital. It is a struggle for the soul and future of Africa itself.” Zimbabwe is a beacon for Africa in regard to land reform.

  4. Here is a comment, on Abayomi’s article, from one of our contributors based in Zimbabwe.

    “Yes, this is true. I understand that Anglo-American Mining just recently acceded to letting go of 51% equity to the Zimbabwean indigenes. And the newly black controlled mines of Chiadzwa, Marange, etc., have done exceptionally well. They have also contributed by far more to the national fiscus (economy) than the white & foreign owned mines. Two days ago a Kimberly Process overseer announced that these indegenisedly controlled mines have not only complied with the Kimberly Process international standards but they now are models for others. The challenge for Zimbabawe is to create its own markets that are not sanctionable by the US & its cohorts. Negative politics seems to be vanishing.”

    “… the so-called Mugabe cronies are formerly marginalised black Zimbabweans who wanted their natural resources back. The non-cronies, so to speak, are the same Zimbabweans, who believe the resources belong to whites only.”
    Reverend Samuel Nekati

    Last week, It was reported that British American Tobacco, unanimously bowed down to the indigenisation programme: http://www.fin24.com/Companies/Industrial/BAT-bows-to-Zim-indigenisation-20121005.

    Canadian mine completed its indigenisation process: http://www.herald.co.zw/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=54711:blanket-mine-now-fully-indigenised&catid=41:business&Itemid=133

    However some companies like Tongaat Hulett, the agricultural and agri-processing business is struggling to comply: http://www.fin24.com/Companies/Agribusiness/Hulett-firm-under-indigenisation-threat-20121026.

    Zimbabwe’s minister for Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, Saviour Kasukuwere, recently reported that the indigenisation process had been a success with only 3 mines in Zimbabwe yet to submit their indigenisation plans: http://www.fin24.com/Economy/Zims-indigenisation-progress-hailed-20121021

  5. Al Zahra says:

    Documents on Zimbabwe Land Reform
    Land- Fast Track Approach
    Lancaster House Agreement
    New Land Acquisition Act
    Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative (ZJRI)

    In the spirit of fairness and given the following claims,

    “the redivision of the land has been far from equitable. Of the first 600 white farms taken over three years ago, 200 of the largest were given gratis to officials of the ZANU-PF and to Mugabe’s cronies and relatives, including his wife. Only such members of the post-colonial black ruling elite have the money to operate the commercial farms at a profit. The mass of black peasants who now occupy much of this land in most cases don’t even have seeds to plant next year’s crop to feed their families.”

    …is this factually accurate?

    “The country is already massively in debt to British and American banks. And one can hardly expect the British ruling class to subsidize the expropriation of Zimbabwe’s white farmers with whom, in some cases, they have family as well as financial ties.”

    Are the problems with the land reform program or imperialist interference setting it up for failure?

    “In an interview in December Mugabe admitted: “We took it for granted that the supplies would be adequate.” But, he continued, “it then proved that we were mistaken. Seed is short, fertilizer is short and tillage is inadequate.” According to UN sources, more than half the government’s tractor fleet—which was supposed to plow fields for poor farmers—is out of service because of shortages of spare parts and fuel.

    During the 1990s, Zimbabwe produced an average annual grain (corn and wheat) crop of almost two million metric tons. Last year, the grain crop was less than half a million tons. (A contributing factor was lack of rainfall, which resulted in crop failures throughout southern Africa.) One doesn’t have to be an apologist for the white farmers or Western imperialists to recognize that millions of people in Zimbabwe now face conditions of famine. Indeed, it is a measure of the bankruptcy of Mugabe’s neocolonial regime that the transparently direct benefactors of British imperialism, the MDC, could have any level of popular support.”

    http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/archives/oldsite/2003/Zimbabwe.html

    If the above is true then unless Zimbabwe can blend land reform with the nationalization of resources, especially precious minerals and diamonds, so there’s equitable distribution of wealth and enough basic income for poor families to run farms successfully, this isn’t going to work.

    If according to this research study it’s not accurate then much more support needs to be given to the project.

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