Land Reform is the Zimbabwean crisis

When we adopted the stance that all land belongs to the state and gave the 99 year leases in principle we removed all value from the land. Subsequently the once viable commercial sector died a natural death and farms were rendered unproductive.

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By Linda T. Masarira

The common definition of the term history is that, “It is the study of the past, in order to understand the present and be able to plan for the future.” This age old concept and wisdom appear have eluded Zimbabweans across the political and planning divide. We have changed governments and ministers of finance for years on end yet none of them has ever asked the country to stop and look back into history to find answers to our otherwise perpetual socio-economic problems. All our fiscal and monetary policies and reforms are just addressing symptoms but not the root cause of our current situation. The Bearer Cheque, the Multicurrency regime, the Bond Note and of late the RTGS dollar will never save our situation. We have even crafted some of the best developmental policies such as the ZIMASSET programme yet there was no implementation.

Some might want to argue that GNU with its dollarization was on course to solve our problem and I disagree. What happened then was just papering over the cracks. Our economy remained in the intensive care unit surviving with machines and drip. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube thinks that financial reforms is what Zimbabwe solely needs.

I am afraid, that was tried by Governor Gono and he retired in frustration. Zimbabwe does not need monetary reforms, it needs an economy that has the capacity to produce and create money. My humble advice to Honourable Mthuli Ncube is that he should leave the currency issue to Mangudya and as the Executive Finance Officer of the land, his job is to unlock revenue. He should spend time with all government departments, parastatals and the public sector finding out from them how each sector can breathe life into the economy.

Prudence requires that we go back in time to find out when our currency problem began and why. In 1997, after the famous awarding of $50 000.00 to our gallant sons and daughters, there was “black Friday” when the Zim-dollar ‘fell’… so to speak. In the year 2000 we embarked on a noble and long overdue land reform program which saw thousands of erstwhile white commercial farmers being wrestled off the land of our heritage. The revolutionary manner in which it was done left a deep laceration on our economy which through the years has refused to heal and has become cancerous and a state security issue.

This otherwise noble gesture had a number of unforeseen and unintended yet far reaching consequences tearing at the core of the social, economic and political fabric of our nation. The Zimbabwean land suddenly became valueless and unbankable in its entirety.

When we adopted the stance that all land belongs to the state and gave the 99 year leases in principle we removed all value from the land. Subsequently the once viable commercial sector died a natural death and farms were rendered unproductive. The flow of raw farm produce feeding agro based industries dried up. Large scale commercial farming gave way to peasant and absentee farming. The former white farmers and other white investors and sympathizers panicked and withdraw their monies from the Zimbabwean banking sector and took it abroad rendering the Reserve Bank bankrupt. Industries, beginning with agro based industries, have been closing ever since. With the death of the farming sector and local industries our international trade sector was not spared. The once vibrant export marked where we sold farm and industrial products was maimed significantly. In SADC circles Zimbabwe can no longer boast of being the bread basket of Africa.

Instead ours has become a welfare case which has seen us going around the world begging for any form of

assistance including even the very goods we used to export. When the white farmers tried to resist and government took a radical stance in dealing with whites and the western world in general.

Through the years we have been coming up with legislation, including the new constitution, to buttress our position. We even looked East and adopted a wide range of indigenization policy positions chief of which was the 51% position. This caused local and international would be investors to lose confidence in Zimbabwe. The shrinking economy then naturally gave birth to corruption, unemployment, brain drain, worker dissatisfaction and wanton externalization of funds among others. The focus on money instead of the creation of money our economy attracted rouge investors with a mercenary approach who siphoned whatever dollar was injected into the economy. In reaction, and at the behest of some our zealous political players, the west imposed sanctions adding salt to injury.

Now if we, as a country, seriously hope to solve our problem, LAND, is the starting point. Zimbabwe has arguably the best environmental conditions which promotes a wide range of farming activities which can be done all year round. I propose that for us to go forward we need to introspect, swallow our pride and repackage our land reform model. I am not saying that we reverse the reform. That will be counter revolutionary and a betrayal to future generation for whom we hold Zimbabwe in trust. Our driving force should be the knowledge that any future development of this country is hinged on the land. However we should move away from the delusion that we resettled people when we actually did not. Any well-meaning land reform should provide with it a component of empowerment. Our model however falls short of the later. It’s like giving a person an oversize shoe to take for dancing. We gave people land but impaired their capacity to use it.

Instead of producing productive black new farmers we produced resource poachers and cellphone farmers. The best they can do is to walk around and admire the farms. No wonder they have remained NEW farmers for nearly two decades now.

The land reform which was meant to empower blacks has sadly become a failed experiment much to the delight of our detractors. This, if address has the capacity to turn our fortunes overnight but if not is fast deteriorating into a state security issue. Enemies of the people and political upstarts are now using it to permeate between government and the citizens. They ridicule the land reform causing our people to lose confidence not only in themselves but in government.

What is needed is a through reorientation and remodelling of the reform concept without taking it away from those who benefited. The starting point is to remove the 99 year lease and give beneficiaries of the land reform title deeds so that it can be bankable. If we don’t trust them to hold on the land we put laws that safeguard that, like President Mnangagwa says, promotes ease of doing business and make Zimbabwe open for business. We need to commercialize our farming sector as it was before the land reform. In former cattle ranching areas we have to make the farmers collectivize their farms so as to resuscitate commercial cattle ranching. Once this happens the beef and dairy industries will come to life and we begin to tape into the export market. We will also get those farmers who benefited in former irrigation estates to collectivize and revive the estates. All farmers who benefited outside the village model to leave employment and became fulltime farmers which will make them intimate with the land and they will learn and stop being NEW farmers forever. It is sad to say that most of these resettled farmers queue together with vulnerable communities in our country for government and donor offered food aid.

OUR LAND IS OUR HERITAGE!