Op­po­si­tion must re­solve its land dilemma

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion - Spec­trum Jo­ram Ny­athi

LET us open the Spec­trum with some­thing pretty ba­nal: the chal­lenges of Africa’s eco­nomic back­ward­ness can­not and will not be re­solved on the white man’s terms. Closer to home, we have de­ter­mined that land is the econ­omy and the econ­omy is land. It is for this fun­da­men­tal rea­son that the land re­form pro­gramme should be viewed as an eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment as­set more than re­claim­ing it from for­mer colonis­ers merely for his­tor­i­cal rea­sons. It is the ba­sis upon which Zim­babwe has de­cided it is go­ing to deal with its eco­nomic “back­ward­ness”. It is for the same rea­son that ev­ery Zim­bab­wean must play their part. Un­for­tu­nately, so far that has not been the case: there has been an el­e­ment of “ex­clu­sion” from the econ­omy.

Since In­de­pen­dence in 1980, 11 mil­lion hectares of land have been ac­quired by Gov­ern­ment to re­set­tle land hun­gry Zim­bab­weans. No doubt much of this land was ac­quired un­der the fast-track land re­form pro­gramme launched from 2000. That hap­pens to be the pe­riod when the peo­ple of Zim­babwe were most bit­terly po­larised, over method­ol­ogy for land re­form. It is telling that although the MDC was then a new party, it still went on to win 57 seats in 2000 for op­pos­ing land re­form, thanks to the mas­sive re­sources poured into its cof­fers by white com­mer­cial farm­ers who wanted to use the op­po­si­tion to block ef­forts by Gov­ern­ment to le­galise tak­ing of land with­out pay­ing com­pen­sa­tion. Zanu-PF won nar­rowly at 62.

That white largesse to the MDC meant mil­lions of Zim­bab­weans found them­selves in an am­biva­lent po­si­tion be­cause of party po­si­tions re­gard­ing land re­form. One could not be for Zanu-PF and against land re­form.

On the other hand, one could not be for land re­form and re­main MDC, which, to put it crudely, wanted land re­form on the white man’s terms.

It is for that rea­son that 17 years on we are con­stantly re­minded of its “chaotic” ex­e­cu­tion. In other words Gov­ern­ment should have stuck to the “le­gal” route of will­ing seller, will­ing buyer, even when it was ev­i­dent that the terms and con­di­tions be­ing set by those hold­ing ti­tle to land were meant to frus­trate the most lib­eral tenets of eq­uity.

That is why we opened this piece with the state­ment that Africa’s eco­nomic back­ward­ness can­not be re­solved on the white man’s terms. That is why much of Africa re­mains back­ward in terms of re­source own­er­ship and con­trol, in­clud­ing neigh­bour­ing South Africa. Those who con­trol the re­sources of Africa also want to de­ter­mine and set terms for their own dis­pos­ses­sion.

Many African na­tions have waited for that mir­a­cle to hap­pen for more than half a cen­tury since Ghana’s in­de­pen­dence in 1957. Logic tells that this will never hap­pen, be­cause racism and cap­i­tal­ism don’t op­er­ate on the ba­sis of con­science or moral­ity. They are guided by in­di­vid­u­al­ism, racial su­pe­ri­or­ity, greed and ut­most self-in­ter­est. For­get about democ­racy and hu­man rights, oth­er­wise there would have been no need for forcible take over of land with the ad­vent of ma­jor­ity rule. But that’s by the way.

At the heart of the Spec­trum to­day is that the op­po­si­tion has not re­solved its dilemma over land re­form be­cause of the debt it owes white for­mer com­mer­cial farm­ers for their sup­port from the time of its for­ma­tion in 1999 to date.

And in­stead of ac­cept­ing blame for its in­ep­ti­tude in the whole land re­form process, it has sought to char­ac­terise the pro­gramme it­self as de­lib­er­ately par­ti­san, as de­signed and ini­ti­ated with the in­ten­tion to ex­clude its sup­port­ers.

Yet the painful truth, as in­di­cated ear­lier, lay in the dilemma the MDC cre­ated for it­self and its sup­port­ers at the cru­cial mo­ment: there were peo­ple in the MDC who wanted land, as they still do now, but who could not “in­vade white com­mer­cial farms” on an MDC ticket when their party was against it and the white com­mer­cial farm­ers were spon­sor­ing the MDC to pro­tect “their prop­erty rights”.

It is a known fact that no one was al­lo­cated or given a farm at the in­cep­tion of the fast-track land re­form pro­gramme in 2000. Peo­ple sim­ply mo­bilised them­selves and oc­cu­pied the near­est com­mer­cial farm. Of­fer let­ters and per­mits fol­lowed af­ter the act. It is there­fore disin­gen­u­ous for any­one to claim that Zanu-PF or the Gov­ern­ment al­lo­cated land along party lines. But what the MDC’s am­biva­lence and mis­in­for­ma­tion about the land re­form pro­gramme have done is to cre­ate an em­bit­tered youth in its midst who feel they have been de­nied land for the sins of their “fa­thers”. Their party will never tell them the truth, and it does look like for now, Zanu-PF is not telling such dis­il­lu­sioned youth that they are free to ap­ply for land al­lo­ca­tion like ev­ery­body else.

The Gov­ern­ment has es­tab­lished a land com­mis­sion whose terms of ref­er­ence in­clude au­dits of land own­er­ship, ac­count­abil­ity, fair­ness and trans­parency. There are also chal­lenges of ten­ure and bound­aries. What has also emerged is that there are peo­ple who have more land than they can utilise pro­duc­tively. It is for this rea­son that Gov­ern­ment has di­rected that some farms be re­duced in size.

That land can be ac­cessed through in­di­vid­ual ap­pli­ca­tions. We are not aware that there are party strings at­tached be­cause this is a Gov­ern­ment pro­gramme.

Not much can be done to help those who re­sent the fact that the pro­gramme was ini­ti­ated by Zanu-PF. That is what is called a na­tional legacy.

The good rains this year and de­lib­er­ate Gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tions in the form of Com­mand Agri­cul­ture, the Pres­i­den­tial In­puts Scheme and pro­vi­sion of agri­cul­tural equip­ment un­der Brazil’s More Food for Africa pro­gramme have demon­strated why, for now at least, land is the econ­omy and the econ­omy is land. In just one sea­son of over­abun­dant rain­fall Zim­babwe has moved from a food deficit to ex­cess.

Dur­ing the on­go­ing Pres­i­den­tial Youth In­ter­face ral­lies, Zanu-PF youths have made a point of re­mind­ing Pres­i­dent Mugabe of short­com­ings in ac­cess­ing land. Most of them were per­haps too young in 2000. So much of the land is owned by el­ders. But they are stak­ing their claims, ask­ing for spe­cific con­sid­er­a­tion as a de­mo­graphic fac­tor.

And we haven’t seen the op­po­si­tion tak­ing an ac­tive in­ter­est in this na­tional her­itage. In­stead, as it has mis­cal­cu­lated on the raft of other indi­geni­sa­tion pro­grammes, it seems to prom­ise en­gage­ment with the na­tional agenda only should it come to power, hence its cur­rent ob­ses­sion with fault-find­ing about the next elec­tions, just to dis­credit them. It has no eco­nomic plan for the youth, who should be en­gaged in pro­duc­tive labour as part of a broader pro­gramme to end Africa’s eco­nomic back­ward­ness, Agenda 2063.

We be­lieve it is in this light that Zanu-PF and Gov­ern­ment should be ac­com­mo­dat­ing in their ap­peal to young vot­ers. The fu­ture be­longs to them. We can’t have them threat­en­ing an­other land re­form against fel­low Zim­bab­weans in fu­ture, a patently par­ti­san one for that, to meet the needs of ag­grieved MDC youths who were mis­led about the le­gal­i­ties or il­le­gal­i­ties of the pro­gramme.

Go­ing for­ward, the youth should in fact fight to­gether in de­fence of their her­itage from the lib­er­a­tion war. The op­po­si­tion’s dilemma over land has done more than enough dam­age to dis­in­herit and dis­em­power Zim­babwe’s youth on empty prom­ises of for­eign in­vest­ment.

Pres­i­dent Mugabe

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