Revisiting agrarian reform modalities the way to go

HARARE - The announcement by government that Zimbabwe will now — going forward — consider white farmers for 99-year leases instead of the current five, signals a complete departure from former agrarian policies of former president Robert Mugabe.

The new dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa — for long Mugabe’s lieutenant who came to power following a military intervention, has pledged to compensate farmers who lost their properties.

So far he seems to be striking the right chords in his efforts towards re-engagement with the international community, particularly the West.

In the year 2000, thousands of villagers — led by militant war veterans like the late Chenjerai Hunzvi and Joseph Chinotimba — invaded white-owned commercial farms across the country some of the takeovers turning bloody and fatal.

Mugabe’s government tended to bless the invasions, at that time for mere reasons of political expediency, arguing that they were meant to correct historical imbalances in land tenure in the country – dispossessing the minority whites of land which was parcelled out to the landless black majority, at least in principle.

Thus began the tension between Zimbabwe and its former coloniser, Britain. The invasions also dented Zimbabwe’s ability to respect the rule of law as well as property rights, especially when one looks at some of the brutalities and murders that took place during the invasions.

Mugabe sanitised the whole operation by christening it land reform, a process that began at independence in 1980 through the willing buyer, willing seller method.

By considering white farmers for 99-year leases, Mnangagwa is effectively reversing one of Mugabe’s worst policies, a move that is likely to soften western stance towards Zimbabwe.

The scepticism that had characterised most potential investors into the country has been a product of some of these issues. It is hoped this latest indication by Mnangagwa will not end as talk alone, but will proceed into practical implementation on the ground.

If the trajectory continues and is lent the support it deserves, it will also help resuscitate the country’s ailing agricultural sector. Land reform had resulted in multiple ownership of farms by the elite and the highly connected with very little, if any, productivity.

Addressing the shortcomings of the agrarian reforms is the way to go so that Zimbabwe reaffirms its position as the bread basket of the region and also one which is keen on property rights and the rule of law.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.