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versão On-line ISSN 2309-8392
versão impressa ISSN 0018-229X

Historia vol.53 no.2 Durban  2008


The land question (un)resolved: An essay review



Rory Pilossof

Rory Pilossof is of the University of Sheffield


 Full text available only in PDF format.


1. Mail and Guardian Online, 10 March 2008 ("Mugabe in massive vote-buying handout"), [accessed 12 March 2008]; Mail and Guardian Online, 10 March 2008 ("Mugabe admits hunger exists in Zim"), [accessed 12 March 2008].
2. J. Alexander, "The Historiography of Land in Zimbabwe: Strengths, Silences, and Questions", Safundi, 8, 2007, pp 183-198.
3. For Zimbabwean newspapers, see: The Independent, The Standard, and The Daily News. For international coverage across a wide range of political backgrounds, see: The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Financial Times.
4. By means of simple quantification, a quick internet search looking for "white farmers" and "Zimbabwe" brought up over 827 000 hits from UK-based pages alone, whereas a search for 'farm workers" and "Zimbabwe" only brought up 5 700 hits. Even "land reform" and "Zimbabwe" only finds just over 21 000 hits (all searches carried out on 25 March 2008).
5. D. Blair, Degrees in Violence Robert Mugabe and the Struggle for Power in Zimbabwe (Continuum, London, 2002); G. Hill, The Battle for Zimbabwe The Final Countdown (Zebra, Johannesburg, 2003); A. Norman, Robert Mugabe and the Betrayal of Zimbabwe (McFarland, Jefferson, 2004). For other journalistic accounts, see: C. Lamb, House of Stone The True Story of a Family Divided in War-torn Zimbabwe (Harper Press, London, 2006).
6. A. Meldrum, Where We Have Hope A Memoir of Zimbabwe (Grove Press, New York, 2006); M. Meredith, Our Votes, Our Guns Robert Mugabe and the Tragedy of Zimbabwe (Public Affairs, New York, 2002); M. Meredith, Robert Mugabe Power, Plunder and Tyranny in Zimbabwe (Jonathan Ball, Johannesburg, 2002).
7. There have been a number of books published by white farmers themselves. For more insight into the content and nature of these books, see a forthcoming review by Pilossof in South African Historical Journal.
8. See: C. Richardson, "The Loss of Property Rights and the Collapse of Zimbabwe", CATO, 25, 3, 2004, pp 541-565; C. Richardson, The Collapse of Zimbabwe in the Wake of the 2000-2003 Land Reforms (Edward Mellen, Lampeter, 2004); C. Richardson, "Learning from Failure: Property Rights, Land Reforms, and the Hidden Architecture of Capitalism", American Institute for Public Policy Research, 2, 2006; C. Richardson, "How much did droughts matter? Linking rainfall and GDP growth in Zimbabwe", African Affairs, 106, 424, 2007, pp 463-478.
9. Richardson, The Collapse of Zimbabwe, p 41.
10. Jens Anderson levels this claim on Richardson in direct reference to his paper, "How much do droughts matter?", but it is failing of all his work. See: J.A. Anderson, "How much did property rights matter? Understanding food security in Zimbabwe: A critique of Richardson", African Affairs, 106, 425, 2007, pp 681-690. For a reply from Richardson, see: C. Richardson, "How much did the expropriation of commercial farms matter to food security in Zimbabwe? Rebuttal to Anderson", African Affairs, 106, 425, 2007, pp 691-696.
11. A recent report by the Centre for Development and Enterprise raises these same concerns for the slow pace of the land reform process in South Africa. See: Centre for Development and Enterprise, "Land Reform in South Africa: Getting Back on Track", CDE Research, 16, May 2008.
12. A. Selby, "Commercial Farmers and the State: Interest Group Politics and Land Reform in Zimbabwe". PhD Thesis, University of Oxford, 2006.
13. The terminologies used to describe those who have taken up positions on land are all loaded terms. "Invaders" or "squatters" and similar terms are used mainly by those who a critical of the reforms, while those with more lenient views often employ the term "occupiers" or "settlers".
14. E. Worby, "A Redivided Land? New Agrarian Conflicts and Questions in Zimbabwe", Journal of Agrarian Change, 1, 4, 2001, pp 475-509; J. Alexander and J. McGregor, "Elections, Land and the Politics of Opposition in Matabeleland", Journal of Agrarian Change, 1, 4, 2001, pp 510-533; B. Rutherford, "Commercial Farm Workers and the Politics of (Dis)placement in Zimbabwe: Colonialism, Liberation and Democracy", Journal of Agrarian Change, 1, 4, 2001, pp 626-651.
15. L M. Sachikonye, The Situation of Commercial Farm Workers after the Land reform in Zimbabwe (Farm Community Development Trust, Harare, 2002).
16. International Crisis Group, Blood and Soil Land, Politics and Conflict Prevention in Zimbabwe and South Africa (ICG, Brussels, 2004).
17. J. McGregor, "The Politics of Disruption: War Veterans and the Local State in Zimbabwe", African Affairs, 101, 402, 2002, pp 9-37.
18. L.M. Sachikonye, "From 'Growth with Equity' to 'Fast-Track' Reform: Zimbabwe's Land Question", Review of African Political Economy, 30, 96, 2003, pp 227-240.
19. J. Chaumba, I. Scoones and W. Wolmer, "New Politics, New Livelihoods: Agrarian Change in Zimbabwe", Review of African Political Economy, 30, 98, December 2003, pp 585-608.
20. S. Darnolf and L. Laakso (eds), Twenty Years of Independence in Zimbabwe From Liberation to Authoritarianism (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2003);
21. L. Laakso, "Research Debates in Zimbabwe: From Analysis to Practice", in Darnolf & Laakso (eds), Twenty Years of Independence; N.J. Kriger, "Zimbabwe's War Veteran's and the Ruling Party: Continuities in Political Dynamics," in Darnolf & Laakso (eds), Twenty Years of Independence.
22. A. Hammar and B. Raftopoulos, "Zimbabwe's Unfinished Business: Rethinking Land, State and Nation," in Hammar, Raftopoulos & Jensen (eds), Zimbabwe's Unfinished Business, p 3.
23. E. Worby, "The End of Modernitiy in Zimbabwe? Passages from Development to Sovereignty", in Hammar, Raftopoulos & Jensen (eds), Zimbabwe's Unfinished Business, pp 49-82. In the same volume, see: J. Alexander, "'Squatters', Veterans and the State in Zimbabwe", pp 83-118; N. Marongwe, "Farm Occupation and Occupiers in the New Politics of Land in Zimbabwe", pp 155-190; B. Rutherford, "Belonging to the Farm(er): Farm Workers, Farmers, and the Shifting Politics of Citizenship", pp 191-216; M. Rukuni and S. Jensen, "Land. Growth and Governance: Tenure Reform and Visions of Progress in Zimbabwe", pp 243-262.
24. I. Phimister, "' Rambai makashinga (Continue to endure)': Zimbabwe's Unending Crisis", South African Historical Journal, 54, 2005, pp 120.
25. S. Booysen, "The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics: Constitutionalism Versus the Law of Power and the Land, 1999-2002", African Studies Quarterly, 7, 2-3, 2003, [accessed 18 March 2008]. In the same volume, see: S. Chiremba and W. Masters, "The Experience of Resettled Farmers in Zimbabwe"; D. Moore, "Zimbabwe's triple crisis: Primitive accumulation, nation-state formation and democratisation in the age of neo-liberal globalisation";
26. See A. Barr, "Forging Effective New Communities: The Evolution of Civil Society in Zimbabwean Resettlement Villages", World Development, 32, 10, October 2004, pp 1153-1166. In the same volume, see: M. Dekker, "Sustainability and Resourcefulness: Support Networks During Periods of Stress", pp 1135-1151; A. Hellum and B. Derman, "Land Reform and Human Rights in Contemporary Zimbabwe: Balancing Individual and Social Justice Through an Integrated Human Rights Framework", pp 1185-1805; B.H. Kinsey, "Zimbabwe's Land Reform Program: Underinvestment in Post-Conflict Transformation", pp 1669-1696; T. Owens, "External Support During the Transition Phase: Roles for Humanitarian Aid and Development Assistance from a Village Perspective", pp 1111-1133; W. Willems, "Peasant Demonstrators, Violent Invaders: Representations of Land in the Zimbabwean Press", pp 1161-1183.
27. B. Raftopoulos and T. Savage (eds), Zimbabwe Injustice and Political Reconciliation (Weaver Press, Harare, 2004); D. Harold-Barry (ed), Zimbabwe The Past Is The Future (Weaver Press, Harare, 2004).
28. L M. Sachikonye, "The Promised Land: From Expropriation to reconciliation and Jambunja", in Raftopoulos & Savage (eds), Zimbabwe Injustice and Political Reconciliation, pp 1-18.
29. The Past is the Future also contains a piece on the environmental impacts of the fasttrack land reform process. See: E. Manzungu, "The environmental impacts of the fast-track land reform programme: a livelihoods perspective". Environment and wildlife protection have been key areas of focus for those opposed to the reforms. Images of environmental destruction and slaughtered wildlife have often been bandied about in press releases. Many academics have also talked about the threats posed to nature reserves, the commons and the environment as a whole, due to the lack of control and organisation over the current reforms. This area of research though, has also suffered from an unfavourable research environment and is in need of a great deal of attention. See: R.L. Hegan, G. Hauer and MK. Luckert, "Is the Tragedy of the Commons Likely? Factors Preventing the Dissipation of Fuelwood Rents in Zimbabwe", Land Economics, 79, 2, May 2003, pp 181-197; W. Wolmer, "Transboundary Conservation: The Politics of Ecological Integrity in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park", Journal of Southern African Studies, 29, 1, March 2003, pp 261-278; W. Wolmer, "Wilderness gained, wilderness lost: wildlife management and land occupations in Zimbabwe's southeast lowveld", Journal of Historical Geography, 31, 2, April 2005, pp 260-280; R.C. Fox, E. Chigumira and K.M. Rowntree, "On the Fast Track to Land Degradation? A case study of the impact of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme in Kadoma District, Zimbabwe", Geography, 92, 2007, pp 208-220.
30. S. Moyo, The Land Question in Zimbabwe (SAPES, Harare, 1995).
31. See: S. Moyo, "Land and Natural Resource Redistribution in Zimbabwe: Access, Equity and Conflict", African and Asian Studies, 4, 1, 2005, pp 187-224; S. Moyo, "Land Policy, Poverty Reduction and Public Action in Zimbabwe", ISS/UNDP conference on Land Reform and Poverty Reduction, The Hague, The Netherlands (2005); S. Moyo, "The Radicalised State: Zimbabwe's Interrupted Revolution", Review of African Political Economy, 34, 111, 2007, pp 103-121; S. Moyo and P. Yeros, "Land Occupations and Land Reform in Zimbabwe: Towards the National Democratic Revolution", in S. Moyo and P. Yeros (eds) Reclaiming the Land The Resurgence of Rural Movements in Africa, Asia and Latin America (David Philip, Cape Town, 2005), pp 165-208; S. Moyo and P. Yeros, "Intervention the Zimbabwe question and the Two Lefts", Historical Materialism, 15, 3, 2007, pp 171-204.
32. Moyo & Yeros, "Land Occupations and Land Reform in Zimbabwe", pp 165-166.
33. Phimister, "'Rambai makashinga'".
34. For a number of critical responses to Moyo and Yeros, see: D. Moore, "Marxism and Marxist Intellectuals in Schizophrenic Zimbabwe: How Many Rights for Zimbabwe's Left? A Comment", Historical Materialism, 12, 4, 2004, pp 405-425; B. Raftopoulos and I. Phimister, "Zimbabwe Now: The Political Economy of Crisis and Coercion", Historical Materialism, 12, 4, 2004, pp 355-382.
35. This list is available online, plus a brief introduction by Margaret Dongo at [accessed 20 March 2008].
36. Justice for Agriculture, Confirmed VIP Land Beneficiaries (Justice for Agriculture, Harare, 2002), available online at [accessed 24 March 2008]; Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Justice for Agriculture Trust, Adding insult to injury. A Preliminary Report on Human Rights Violations on Commercial Farms, 2000 to 2005 (Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Harare, 2007), available online at [accessed 24 March 2008].
37. Alexander, "'Squatters', Veterans and the State in Zimbabwe"; Marongwe, "Farm Occupations and Occupiers".
38. Raftopoulos & Phimister, "Zimbabwe Now".
39. Phimister, "'Rambai makashinga'".

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