land issues in Zimbabwe

Mark.S.Brown msbrown at
Wed Mar 7 00:29:35 GMT 2001

On Monday 5th March at 9:46pm, Christopher Gates said:
Dear Land is ours,
I write to you to advise you that your leaflet about legacy of [colonialism]
although is accurate and I agree with the content. Could easily be exploited
by ZANU PF. This party run by Mugabe who fought justifiably for independence
on this issue and is mobilising racial murders of white farmers on the
simplicity of this issue, without full consideration of the significance to
the contribution the commercial (white) farms makes on feeding Africa.

>>> (response):
I wish to reassure you that those within the The Land Is Ours network are
very aware of Mugabe's shortcomings, and how he indeed used the
land-ownership issue for his own benefit, as well as being guilty of not
having allowed the process to proceed in the 20 years he has been in power.
In terms of the leaflet we have prepared (much of the text from which is
replicated on our Legacy page on the website: ),  I accept that this
rebuttal of Mugabe is not made clear here, but this is because the ideas we
are attempting to explore in this Legacy of Colonialism Forum are of much
wider and deeper subject matter than just what is happening in Zimbabwe.
However, even in Zimbabwe, as I am going on to discuss, the
'neo-colonialism' of liberalisation through structural adjustment policies
and the imperialism of the IMF and WTO are far deeper problems for the
region than even issues of local land ownership.  Infact, food producing
capability is being seriously compromised by subsidies in the EU and US (the
hypocrisy that WTO rules must be strict on countries in the South, but are
bypassed by
those of us in the North), plus the encroachment of multinationals such as

Returning to the matter of Zanu PF, if they were ever in the unlikely event
to refer to our literature, it would be foolish for them to be doing so, so
as to identify us as being in support of their handling of the land question
in Zimbabwe, since we have on record made a statement which in part condemns
their handling of land reform. TLIO's statement on Zimbabwe can be found at: (I've also put it at the
bottom of this e-mail).

TLIO published an article on Zimbabwe in the Summer 2000 newsletter, which
reflected the very concerns you raise, including the issue of the
food-producing capacity of the country, and whether this could be sustained
with land redistribution. The answer to this in regard to Mugabe's preferred
way of handling the situation is patently - no, they will be producing
drastically less in future. What we suggested was that land redistribution
needs to be smooth, with regard to issues such as this (i.e. retaining an
element of export orientated agriculture, though we have to say that
self-sufficiency in smaller farming units is not an ideal that should be
discounted. To quote Thomas Munjoma from the Dept. of Land Economy at
Aberdeen University in his paper 'This Land Of Africa':  " is clear that
land redistribution in Zimbabwe presents an immediate and realistic means
for absorbing a significant proportion of the existing pool of labour [where
there exists high unemployment] as well as new entrants, possibly at incomes
above the poverty level").

Gettting rid of larger-scale agriculture systems is not a problem in itself,
as you suggest. There is a overwhelming wealth of evidence to support the
contention that small farms are actually more productive than large farms,
as well as being a greater contributor to food security. Ref: see the
interview with Peter Rosset from the California-based Institute for Food and
Development Policy - better known as Food First - a piece entitled, "The
Case for Small Farms".

The major change needed in agricultural practice, large scale or small
scale, is that it should be geared towards non-destruction of soil fertility
through over-use of chemicals. One possible way towards this situation which
would not compromise food producing capacity could be transition to
co-operative enterprises where those farmers whose tenure is being
"re-allocated" become shareholding consultants within such a transition.
TLIO made the point that the level of agricultural expertise which many of
the white farmers possess is an invaluable asset to Zimbabwe which shouldn't
be disgarded overnight.

We make other points in the leaflet which, we assert, should be alloted
serious weight - deeper issues pertinent to all countries around the world,
and not just Zimbabwe. Specifically these issues are how the IMF are using
conditionality on loans and debt cancellation (& the WTO in trade
negotiations) on further liberalisation for the benefit of corporations (for
e.g. GATS). However, further to this, the debt crisis means there is an
unnecessarily overwhelming pressure to export (Zimbabwe has foreign debt in
excess of US$5 billion); this is leading to unbalanced agricultural
production (cash crops, not real food).

You say that : >> "people across the region will starve as the cheap grain
from Zimbabwe will no longer be produced" <<

- The fact is that much of the country's grain is now supplied to
multinational grain company Cargill, who have dominant control of the grain
markets in the whole region (& most of the world). The fact is that Zimbabwe
provides a convenient local source of grain for this Global Giant's grain
distribution in the region. Zimbabwe's grain price liberalisation as
enforced by the IMF (conditionality) a few years ago meant that the
country's provision of having a strategic reserve of grain equal to half the
nation's annual feedgrain demand would have to be removed. This transferred
the power to accumulate food stocks away from that of government, farmers'
organisations or farmers for the purpose of regional food security, towards
the market superiority of Cargill. Cargill, through its commodity trading
operations owing to a sophisticated worldwide distribution network, can
easily manipulate the price of grain in countries around the world by
flooding markets at any one time, which can have devastating knock-on
effects on the livelihoods of scores of small farmers. To quote Peter Rosset
of 'Food First': " any particular third world country, you'll find that
the local landed oligarchy tends to have captured the political system and
distorted rural land policies in their favour (e.g. credit, prices, input

So, what we've got is the neo-colonialism of liberalisation gearing trade
and investment in favour of corporations (the new colonisers), and the
imperialism of the IMF, WTO and World Bank to enforce this trend.

I am not certain that the TLIO article, which I referred to earlier, is
available on our website now.
However, for Thomas Mujoma's article 'This Land Of Africa', please visit the
archive of this Legacy of Colonialism Forum, at: .  The article in
question was posted as an attachment on 26/10/00.

Below is TLIO's statement on Zimbabwe:
again, reference:

(27 April 2000) :
"The Land Is Ours calls for the genuine voice of the landless people of
Zimbabwe to be heard. We support peaceful and genuine land redistribution.

We encourage the UK government to resume financial assistance for a land
reform programme. The Land Is Ours asserts that as a direct consequence of
the cancellation of these payments, Mugabe has perverted the land reform
process in Zimbabwe. To rectify the situation, we believe that Zimbabwe
should immediately set up an Independent Arbitration board, fully
representative of the landless people. We call on the UK government to
encourage this and resume financial aid as soon as Zimbabwe agrees to fulfil

Further to this, we believe that the British government should review this
aid package to reflect a new understanding with Zimbabwe, recognising the
moral debt owed for the crimes of slavery and colonialism. The Land Is Ours
maintains that the black population of Zimbabwe is still suffering under the
legacy of colonialism.

We believe that Zimbabwe should not have been deprived of financial aid
previously agreed for land distribution. It made the people suffer. If
Britain had any objection to Mugabe, the matter should have been sorted out
quickly by setting up an 'Independent Arbitration Board' comprised of
representatives from all sections of society.

The Land Is Ours asserts that financial aid for land re-distribution should
be :

1.Consistent with the aims of local democratic accountability and should
take into account the needs of indigenous, tribal and nomadic peoples.
2.Ensuring that priority for the best agricultural land be given to the
landless of Zimbabwe to be managed sustainably, taking into account
environmental considerations.

The Land Is Ours believes that the land is a treasury for the welfare of
humanity, and should never have been looted by colonial enslavers.  TLIO
campaigns peacefully for access to the land, its resources and the decision
making processes affecting them, for everyone - irrespective of race, age,
or gender. We will shortly be launching a new campaign entitled "The Legacy
of Colonialism".

"The earth is a common treasury for all" - Gerrard Winstanley - The Digger -

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