Women harvesting soya beans using traditional methods

Women harvesting soya beans using traditional methods Credit: Martin Addison.


By Charles Mutasa, an international development policy consultant who focuses on issues related to socio-economic development, governance, land, health and human rights.

Since its independence from Britain in 1980, Zimbabwe has attempted four different land reform phases aimed at addressing land injustices and inequality inherited from the colonial era. 

Apart from facing a number of difficult economic problems including infrastructure and regulatory deficiencies, ongoing indigenization pressure, a large external debt burden and insufficient formal employment, controversy over land reform remains the major obstacle to sustainable development. The population of Zimbabwe is estimated to be 13.06 million - 52% being female - and is largely dependent on agriculture. The country is landlocked and situated in southern Africa over a total land area of 390,757 square kilometers. 

That the land issue has been the epicenter of Zimbabwe’s socio-political and economic struggles since colonial times is hardly disputable. Land reform has moved up and down the ladder of development priorities over the past 120+ years.  Indeed now, as in the past, it remains the root of the political tension within the country and with the former colonial power Britain and other Western countries.

As with other African countries, land ranked high among the grievances that motivated the indigenous black majority to form a nationalist movement and launch liberation wars to free their country from colonial oppression. Given its emotive nature, the land issue threatened to derail the 1979 Lancaster House negotiations for Zimbabwe‘s independence between liberation movements and the white minority Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith. The derailment was centered on land owned by the white colonialists that was to be shared equally with the black majority in the country after independence.

Twenty years into Zimbabwe’s independence, the government’s Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP), initiated in July 2000, radically transformed the agrarian sector in a manner that has far-reaching socio-political ramifications.

Zimbabwe

Author

Charles Mutasa

Charles Mutasa is an international development policy consultant who focuses on issues related to socio-economic development, governance, land, health and human rights.

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