Conditions for African farmers improve under land reform, indigenization
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 >> Email