Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: myths and realities

by Ian Scoones

(Weaver Press, R175 )

This book by Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavengedze, Jacob Mahenehene, Felix Murimbarimba and Chrispen Sekune gives a fairly objective insight into Zimbabwe’s controversial land-reform programme and tries to dispel some of the bias against it.

Events in Zimbabwe since 2000 have been so coloured by superficial media reporting and strident political posturing, that little attention has been directed to what has become of thousands of families who received land following the occupation of farms seized from white farmers.

Controversy surrounding the Mugabe regime and the consequences of its fast-track land reform since 2000 often generates more heat than light, making all the important, well-grounded empirical research – as reported in this study of agrarian change in the first decade of land reform – elusive.

This fascinating study critically engages with a question being posed across Africa: is small-scale agri-culture doomed, or does it have a role in a globalised world?

The book is a comprehensive assessment of the nature of agrarian change during the past decade, and captures the diverse range of real-life responses of newly resettled family farms and the new small- to medium-scale commercial farmers to changing commodity and financial markets within the new agrarian landscape.

It represents compre-hensive empirical evidence challenging the notion that Zimbabwe’s land reform has been a complete failure because of political cronyism and the glaring lack of investment.

The book also asserts that much of Zimbabwe’s land-reform policy since 2000 was unwise, cruel or corrupt. Yet beneficiaries responded by using the land they were offered and labour to produce significant output.

The author’s fieldwork on 400 farms over nine years provides a powerful and reasoned alternative narrative, and is essential reading for those who wish to go deeper into the complexities of Zimbabwe’s post-2000 land reform programme.

However, the book does not give enough coverage to the plight of those who were dispossessed of their farms and the workers who lost their jobs during the land-grabs motivated by Zanu-PF’s bid to remain in power.