I will take you to the land where I was born, a land of milk and honey. It is the land of my roots. It is this land that I want to talk about using my own words and my knowledge and the way I saw things with my own eyes. If you think there are things that are relevant you may need to verify the facts by researching otherwise everything that I shall note down shall be according to my insight.
Long Live Mugabe; Long live Mugabe, a powerful slogan that emanated from the masses of people throughout the country. Masses of people would chant this slogan everywhere they would gather for political sessions. The nation was proud. Who could not be happy? Zimbabwe had just gained its independence in 1980 from the hands of the Ian Smith regime. A new leader was born, a well-respected intellectual figure that exuded power and excellence.
Zimbabwe independence did not come easily but there were people who sacrificed their lives. These were the sons of the soil. There was bloodshed across the country and in our neighbouring countries like Mozambique. There was a dreadful massacre at Nyadzano and Chimoyo. These two places were army-training bases. Unfortunately one of the sons of the soil became a sell-out. He spied for the Smith regime. Thousands of young innocent souls perished without a fight. Unaware, they were ambushed. The enemy came and slaughtered them shamelessly. They sprayed bombs and bullets as they killed the Freedom fighters to be. Those few who survived the massacre they played “dead.” The Smith soldiers made sure that there was no one alive, so they used the black boots and spanned around the corpses and searched for those who were still breathing so that they could finish them off with their guns. In Zambia political diplomats were targeted as well, received deceptive letter bombs. One of the diplomats, Herbert Chitepo met his fate in this manner and that was the end of his era. This war was known as second Chimurenga. Which means previously we had experienced the first Chimurenga war.
The first Chimurenga war was spear-headed by our well-known spiritual Mediums: Sekuru Kaguvi and Mbuya Nehanda who prophesied the coming of Vasina Mabvi (literally meaning people without knees meaning the White people) Why did they called the white people Vasina Mabvi or people without knees? The answer that I came up with was that during the ancient times, our ancestors only wore animal skins. The animal skin purposely to cover private parts and the rest of the body was left exposed. So when the first white settlers invaded our country in the year 1896. Their attire was completely different from our ancestors. The white people had sun hats, shirt, shoes and trousers that fully covered their body and because of this good coverage our ancestors could not detect their knees and hence they came up with the precise name for white people.
The first Chimurenga war was short lived and easily defeated because of the inferior weapons that were used to fight against Ceil Rhodes soldiers. The white settlers had powerful guns against the spears and the axes. Contrary the same inferior weapons were used with our own southern neighbours, the South Africans, defeated the powerful guns that the white people used during the Zulu war. Naturally the Zulu people were warriors, and this is the origin of Chaka, Mlizkazi family who migrated to Zimbabwe and bore King Lobengula. King Lobengula who signed a misrepresented treaty and sold the whole of Zimbabwe to Cecil Rhodes unknowingly.. Lobengula was illiterate and he just put a big X as his signature.
The same causes that led our ancestors to fight during the first Chimurenga were still the same as the second war Chimurenga. There was inequality of wealth, land distribution, segregation, forced labour, sub-human treatment, exploitation of labour. Our ancestors were forced out from their fertile soils to the arable lands. Above all they had no voice, no right to votes in their motherland. Our culture was slowly cultivated away. It became a territorial issue.
Why white settlers colonised Zimbabwe?
There are number of factors that led the first white settlers to be in Zimbabwe. I shall cite a few of major reasons that led the first white people to settle in our country. To begin with the fact that Zimbabwe had a favourable climate conditions for farming. The first white settlers thoroughly surveyed Zimbabwe. The discovery of natural wealth such as the rich soils for agricultural purposes and the great dyke led the first white settlers to like Zimbabwe. They were absolutely overwhelmed with the wealth that was within Zimbabwe. Great dyke is a linear geographical feature that trend nearly north south through the centre of Zimbabwe passing just to the west of the capital city, Harare. It consists of band of short, narrow and hills spanning approximately 550 kilometres. The hills became taller as the range goes north and reach up to 460 metres (1.510ft ) above Mvurwi range. The range is the host to vast ore deposit including gold, silver, chromium, platinum, nickel and asbestos. The land became very favourable and inviting. Farming and mining became their major goal. It succeeded well through use of forced labour or cheap labour.
Zimbabwe is a country divided into five religions: The eastern highlands is a series of mountain ranges extending some 250 km along the border with Mozambique. Altitude ranges between 2 000 m and 2 400 m. Receives precipitation throughout the year resulting to good afforestation, fruit, tea, coffee and intensive live stock production. The high veld receives an average of 750–1000 mm per annum and it’s seasonally confined with well-defined dry season, large-scale intensive crop and livestock production. Crops such as maize, which is a staple food of Zimbabwe, do well in these altitudes. Middle veld receives a moderate of rainfall of about 650–800 mm per annum, with regular mid-season dry spells. There is a good coverage of livestock production and fodder crops. Maize, tobacco and cotton are commonly grown crops in these areas. The low veld hardly receives rainfalls, an estimated of about 450- 650mm per annum. Naturally this region because of its geographical position it constantly faces periodic seasonal droughts and severe rainy season and dry spells. Livestock production is in existence. Drought resistant crops are grown in this area such as sorghum, millet and rapoko. The fifth region is too low and erratic for even drought resistant fodder and grain crops. Commonly known for extensive livestock and game ranching.
When the Zimbabweans went to war what were their objectives?
Their main objective was to reclaim their land back, equality, inclusion and culture ethos to be restored. Harsh and cruelty treatments were to be eradicated. Above all they wanted a fair distribution of land and wealth. Who fought the war? All people of different calibre fought for free Zimbabwe. Mothers fought by using their cooking sticks. Cooking for freedom fighters and made sure they were well fed. Girls were to entertain and boost Freedom Fighters’ morale. Boys were informers to alert any movement of the enemy. Fathers to protect their villages and supplying the essentials of the freedom fighters such as clothes and shoes. It was known as guerrilla warfare. The enemy could not easily differentiate a civilian and the real enemy. The freedom fighters wore casual clothes like any other civilians. Jean trousers were commonly worn. That kind of war had its own pros and cons. The advantages were that the freedom fighters would suit in easily with the majority and hence made it difficult for the enemy to identify the real enemy. The worst scenarios were that the enemy would regard the civilians as their “real enemy” and then attacked them simultaneously. So many innocent souls lost their lives that way.
During the Liberation Struggle of Zimbabwe. (war experiences).
It was the most difficult phase for our nation considering all the struggles that people went thorough. Some people were forced to leave their villages and put in camps. It was a political sabotage to the Freedom Fighters whose sources solely relied or depended on the community at large. Once they were incapacitated it would bring down their morale. Young people from schools were forced to join the war especially to be party of Smith soldiers and they were enticed with loads of money and wore good uniforms unlike the Freedom Fighters they received none of the payments. Most of the villages were bombed if the enemy believed or suspected that they were supporters of Freedom Fighters especially if they had been informed that a certain village had welcome the Freedom Fighters and cooked for them. The “sell-outs” or (Vatengesi)in Shona were the sons of the soil. Some were secretly employed to do that by Smith soldiers and others were to undergo different cruel forms of torture to release the information the enemy wanted to hear. To Smith regime soldiers, the Freedoms Fighters or Comrades were known as Gandanga (Terrorist). I remembered an incident that took place in our village when my mother and other women left us and went out to search for some firewood in the nearby mountains. I was left with other children and we gathered around the fireplace in my mum’s ancient kitchen. We held each other’s hand nervously, for our parents had some how predicted the Smith soldiers were going to pass through our village and ask us some questions relating to the whereabouts of our parents. We had already had the answers, for our mothers had put words in our mouths, what to say and what not to say.
It did not take long, we received the scariest visitors and soon we knew they would pound on our doorstep. First we heard our dog barking to alert us the unfamiliar visitors and suddenly it went into howling sounds after it was kicked hard on its stomach. About five soldiers marched in our kitchen and all our little faces gazed on them as our bodies shivered with terror. We were very much vulnerable and we didn’t know what to expect from these armed soldiers. They were four white soldiers and the fifth was a black. They fired us with the first question; Where is your mothers? “Vaenda kuhuni,” we all chorused.(to search some firewood). “Where is the terrorist, the ga-nda—nga?” Asked one of the white soldiers. On that question we all became numb and looked on each other’s eyes. “You don’t want to speak?” he barked, “you have to speak or else you don’t get these sweets,” he said as his other hand produced a packet of sweets and shoved them in front of us. I saw some wild smiles from my little friends. “We don’t know where Gandanga is but we want some sweets,” said a little boy who had some deep brown dazzling eyes. “No, we can’t have the sweets,” said a little girl of about five, she stood up and frantically waved her hands across her chest. “My mummy told me these sweets could be poisoned,” she continued, “if we eat them we might as well die.” Her speech was defiant and it astonished the soldiers. As children we opened our little mouth with awe. “My mummy said in another village children were given some sweets by soldiers and they all died because the sweets were poisoned. My mummy cried as she told me the story and I cried with her. She said she knew some the children. I love my mummy and I don’t want to die yet.” She sat down and started to cry silently. The whole house was silent and one of the soldiers came close and knelt next to the little girl. “You know, you don’t have to cry because no-one here is going to kill you nor your little friends,” he said as he pointed his finger to us. “I am sorry to hear what happened to these children but it does not necessary mean all soldiers are cruel.” He patted on her back and wiped her tears using the back of his hand. “To your relief we are not going to give you theses sweets. We are carrying them.” The little girl nodded in agreement. The soldier kissed her on her forehead that left us all children laughing for it was a rare sight to see someone being kissed. Later the soldiers bade farewell.
We were happy when they left and our parents came back later. We all chorused as we told our parents about the presence of the soldiers. “Did you eat their sweets?” my friend’s mother asked with a concerned voice. “No mummy we refused and I told them I don’t want to die yet”. “Oh, Good Lord”, she said with a big sigh of relief. She hugged her daughter tightly and we all envied the love she gave to her daughter. I saw tears streaming down her cheeks but I knew they were tears of joy for she laughed afterwards. My mum was always living in constant fear. She always told me that her stomach churns whenever she heard the sound of fire gun. She feared for my brother’s lives who were now teenagers and some who were in their early twenties. She prayed day and night that they won’t make any decision to go to war or forced to make the decisions. It was every parent’s nightmare.
Nobody wanted war nor wanted their children to be killed in the battlefields. Another incident happened and this time my brothers were around. A message came that the Smith soldiers were on their way to our village. My brothers and their friends they immediately fled away. I remembered seeing them unbuttoning their shirts. As they ran for dear life, their shirts stretched out like wings as they headed to another village, which was two miles away. There was a river between our villages, which my brothers went and sought refuge. My mum cried out and I sat next to her as she poured out her miseries. Nothing I could have done to comfort her. I was physiologically affected that I also became worried about my brothers’ welfare. They say blood is thicker than water. I loved them to the core. I did not want any harm to touch them. At the end war two things happened, one of our closet relative ‘s child never came back home and the family received a message that he died in the war. Another second incident my brothers’ closet friend died. His name was Tendai. His mum was a very good friend of my mum. My mum confided in her and vice versa. Tendai was shot whilst he was walking across the hills with a friend. The facts behind his death were mysterious. All these two young men were the same age as my brothers. My brothers were left haunted by their sudden death. They grieved for them for a long period.
I979 (Septemper-December) Southern Rhodesia Lancaster House Constitutional Conference.
A number of delegates from Zimbabwe went to London, Lancaster house where the constitution of Zimbabwe was thoroughly discussed and implemented laws and legislative that benefit the majority and the ethnic minority. Some meetings were short lived but the longest conference was held from September to December 1979, President Mugabe, Bishop Muzorewa, Joshua Nkomo and many more candidates from Zimbabwe were involved in this vital discussion. Lord Carrington of England was the chairman. I quoted one of his longest open speech in which Lord Carrington said, “Since 1965, and indeed long before, many meetings have been held to try to resolve this problem. I am under no illusions, nor are any of my colleagues with me under any illusion, about the magnitude of the task before us. The problem is one which has defeated the efforts of successive British Governments, all of whom sought to achieve the objective of a peaceful settlement in conditions which would guarantee to the people of Rhodesia the full enjoyment of their rights. But I have no intention of going back over the history of those attempts; and I hope that you also will be prepared to look to the future rather than to the past.
I would like to hope that there is a difference between this meeting and those which have preceded it. This is a constitutional conference, the purpose of which is to decide the proper basis for the granting of legal independence to the people of Rhodesia. Many conferences like this have been held in this very building. A great many former dependent territories of the United Kingdom have successfully made the transition to independent statehood on the basis of constitutions agreed here. It is our intention to approach this Conference on the basis of the same principles and with no less strong a determination to succeed than in the case of those other conferences, which resulted in the granting of independence by this country to our former dependent territories. I believe that we can take some pride in the part we have played at conferences held at Lancaster House in the process of decolonisation. As Commonwealth leaders agreed at Lusaka, Britain has had no lack of experience as a decolonising power’’ I also went on and quoted Mr Nkomo’s speech who was also a chairman of Zimbabwe delegates. Mr Nkomo: Mr Chairman, first I would like to apologise to the Conference, through you, that we in the first place requested that we had some time, as given in our letter, and secondly that we still were late. We apologise for that to the Conference.
Mr Chairman, the Patriotic Front is going to give a statement that represents the Front. Mr Mugabe and myself are presenting this statement on behalf of our group. The Patriotic Front, deeply conscious of the need to bring an end to racism and colonialism which continue to plague the people of Zimbabwe, welcomes the British Government’s stated aim to assist in this task of decolonisation. We have come to London to attend this Conference in response to the invitation recently extended to us by you, Mr Chairman, on behalf of the British Government. For us our presence here is by itself an act of immense sacrifice. The scarce material resources we have had to divert and the manpower we must of necessity tie down in London for the duration of this Conference should be enough evidence of our seriousness and good faith. We have always said that we will leave no stone unturned in our struggle for the total liquidation of colonialism in Zimbabwe.
In particular we welcome the fact that the British Government now states that it is prepared to help bring genuine majority rule to our country, Zimbabwe. We are anxious to discover whether that is in fact the intention. Equally we wish to make our position absolutely clear and understood in order to facilitate frank and meaningful discussions.
The unique reality of the situation is that for many years now a major war of national liberation has been raging in our country. This arose from the single tragic fact that Britain failed to meet her decolonisation responsibilities even in the face of the continuing of flagrant illegal acts of the secular minority which challenges the people of Zimbabwe to take up arms and decolonise themselves. Thus we are faced with the task of a peace Conference.
British secular colonisation in Zimbabwe presented special problems which did not disappear by being ignored for decades. The war is an additional special problem and cannot be ignored if it is to end. To achieve decolonisation comparable to that in other Commonwealth states we must first achieve the basic conditions for the movement to independence which existed in those countries. That was peace, safety and security for all, in the context of which an independent state would be governed according to the agreed constitution by a government elected by a people who were essentially free and secure when they chose their government. That essential preliminary situation does not yet prevail in Zimbabwe and even an accepted and agreed constitution will not create it. It is our basic task here to create those conditions.” Both speeches I have curtailed them but to give you only an insight of what was discussed with both parties in preparation for Zimbabwe independence
1980 Zimbabwe gains its independence.
An electrical, vibrant, jovial atmosphere touched every soul in all four corners of Zimbabwe. It was a long journey of struggle but every step was worth it. The day that everybody in Zimbabwe dreamed had come. Masses of ceremony were held all over across the country with special army displays to entertain people and also reminding people that our journey for free Zimbabwe that it came with huge scarifies. Celebration music blasted from the townships, villages, farms and it echoed across the hills and the valleys as people celebrated the new Zimbabwe. I would mention the legend Thomas Mapfumo whose political music at that time encouraged and motivated people’s spirits into positive thinking. One of the lyrics that I quoted from Thomas Mapfumo music, “Marutenga na Zvanyadza tiiteivo makoroto. Zimbabwe yose yomberera inga nhasi ndofara.” Printed Mugabe shirts and dresses were sent and people wore them.
In that spirit of freedom, the new government started to restructure school programmes that benefited every child and adults. There was free education for all. Teachers were in high demand. Students who completed their “O” levels without passing English or less than 5 “O” levels were aloud to go and teach. Expatriates teachers were also recruited and flocked in thousands. In few years of independence, Zimbabwe’s economy was boosting rapidly. More investors flocked in Zimbabwe as the economic climate condition was highly conducive and inevitably to ignore. Our Prime minister who is now known as President Mugabe had made solid friends with western countries. His speeches were long, grounded and meticulously polished. His ethos to built new Zimbabwe.
A visit from the Prime Minister and His Late First Lady Sally Mugabe.
In I983, the Prime Minister Mugabe and the late first lady Sally Mugabe visited our school. I was doing my first year at primary school. Our school known as St Anne’s (Goto) High School but he had visited for both the primary and secondary school. Thousands people from all different walks of life came to our school to see this special man for the first time. Their mission was to open a new dining hall that was named after his late wife Sally Mugabe Hall. The Sally dining Hall was specifically built to cater the needs of high school boarding students. It is also a dinning hall that I used in the later years after completed my seven years at primary school and went for high school and I was a boarding student. The coming of Prime Minister and his first lady was met with a thorough preparation and exuberant mood all over the school to welcome them. I recall our early years teachers; they gathered us and taught us a few songs to welcome the minister. I remember the very words in the songs it goes like this; we are the soldiers of God. God will give us power to march on the Prime Minister. Then after this song we would clap, clap our hands in a… and said; welcome Mugabe, welcome Jongwe, clap, clap, thank you Mugabe, thank you Jongwe. Jongwe means the rooster. His coming at a school was a blessing. The weekend after the big ceremonial when we went back to school, we were given loads of packets of sweets and biscuits, which were rare commodities in our households. In those days if our parents were to buy us some sweets they would not buy a whole packet of sweets but probably five or ten sweets out of the packet and we were contend with the that.
As the Zimbabwe blossomed it became the pinnacle of Africa. Everywhere across the globe, people wanted to visit Zimbabwe. It became as a prestige to be in Zimbabwe. The tourism, agriculture and mining industries boosted more than any other industries. The education in Zimbabwe became the crème de la crème. Every penny of parents was worth to invest in their child. The benefits were numerous than the later.
Zimbabwe the basket food of Africa
Zimbabwe became one of the SADCC countries Since April 1980 and SADCC stand for: The Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference. Its objectives were for socio-economic, cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation among the nine southern states. Her role was to supply these countries within SADCC region with food and hence our nation became known as the basket food of Africa. We had the abundance rain, huge proportion of fertile land across the country that well suited for cultivation. In relation to this one of our precious nation farm produce, the tobacco became known as the golden leaf of Zimbabwe. The demand of our tobacco across the globe was extremely high hence we earned more foreign currency than any other produce. The SADCC transformed its name to SADC since 1992. The new SADC stand for Southern African Development Community. They are fifteen African states and the headquarters is in Gaborone, Botswana. It resumed with the same goals as the previous SADCC
Whilst we were progressing well in so many areas of our soci-economic, the new Zimbabwe was burdened with the Gukurahundi war at home. Gukurahundi literally means, “the early rain which washes away the chaff before the spring rains. It was a civil war and it dominated in Matabeleland and Midland regions. Gukurahundi refers to suppression by the Zimbabwean North-Korea military trained soldiers, the Fifth Brigade, who were predominantly in these region. The uprisings of this war in these regions were caused with some turbulent disagreements after Zimbabwe got independence. In Zimbabwe we had four army groups ZANU, Zimbabwe African National Union led by Mugabe and during the Smith regime war. It recruited its soldiers from most speaking Shona people whilst ZAPU; Zimbabwe African People Union led by Joshua Nkomo and the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA) recruited its army members from the Ndebele speaking regions. It was the distrust that failed the army groups to be one army soon after Zimbabwe the post independence. A few disgruntled ZIPRA forces waged war against the government, first attacking the civilians in Matebeland and destroying government installions. It is believed the situation worsened in 1982 when the arms of cache were found hence leading to a deeper hostility between the government and these army rivals. The fifth Brigade was deployed to fight with the dissidents and there was a lot of blood shed and casualties. This war took its toll on both sides for over a period of five years. It came to an end in 1987 after President Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo came to a mutual agreement and signed the Unity Accord on 22 December 1987. Effectively ZAPU and ZANU dissolved renamed ZANU-PF stand for Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front. Our President Robert Mugabe called for amnesty while Joshua Nkomo called for lay down of weapons. Time scale was endorsed that who all surrender before 31 May would get a full pardon. It was extended to all dissidents and criminals serving long-term jails. In 1990 there was a wider a relief when the war came to an end and peace
In 1990 I was starting my high school. As a student I enjoyed a life of junior students. It was the same year when I heard the term ESAP. It sounded to me like a name of wild animal that I have never heard of and I was fully confused to understand the concept behind ESAP. But today I can fully explain to you that ESAP stand for Economic Structural Adjustment Programme. The Zimbabwe Economic Structural Adjustment Programme was launched in 1990, purposely to introduce a new era of modernised competitive, export-led industrialisation. But despite a high-performing economy in its first decade of independence, the country now appears firmly lodged in a sticky situation of mounting debt and asymmetrical growth in the wake of five years of ESAP-mandated reforms.
When ESAP was introduced, the government claimed that it was only the option or substitute to sustained production bottlenecks, inactive local demand and a worsening unemployment problem that threatened to become politically troublesome. In a short period the effects of ESAP’s World Bank-inspired reforms were felt and there was a meltdown into the existing economic and social infrastructure, shifting the focus of many mass-oriented development social programs away from redistribution towards management of defined and limited, even declining, public resources. In 1992 so many companies closed down and also drought worsened the situation. Many of the companies could not afford to pay the retrenchment packages. Majority of were family men and my eldest brother was also a victim of ESAP. The situation forced many to go back to the rural areas and till the land. In towns food prizes escalated and also the transport costs. In December I997, majority grumbled and to send their message of discontent to the government they decided to put their tools down and strike. Unfortunately these strikes did not go well because some hooligans decided to loot food from the shops and many other staff that were not food. It was on these demonstrations that the government for the first send the army to control the situation
These were my first early days when I first heard the name of Morgan Tsvangirai who was the Secretary General of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. In order to avoid lootings mass stay away were introduced and Morgan Tsvangirai spearheaded these demonstrations. The government was not happy with the results. It had negative impact on the economy. It was that time I believed that Morgan Tsvangirai thought he could lead the country if people were listening to him. I am sure a number of people persuaded or encouraged him to pursue in the political game, which was not as easy as cutting margarine with a hot knife. They say success is not a destination but success is a journey.
The war veterans farm invasion.
The farm invasions started like a whirlwind. I heard it as street talk but in reality things were escalating at a faster rate. I remembered whilst watching Telly on Heroes day and President Mugabe was giving a speech at Warren Hills Heroes acre. The war veteran were singing and drumming to distort the day. Their message to the government was that we want our land back. We went to war but we never got the land. When violence erupted in the farms as the war veterans invaded the farms I could foresee the dangers and the worst scenarios were that if the land was randomly taken away from the commercial farmers, who could till the land to sustain the country and our neighbouring countries? My fears were that although majority of us were subsistence farmers we had little knowledge on commercial farming. Commercial farming was not a mere game but needed skilled people with deep-rooted knowledge into farming. To be a commercial farmer you need capital, capital inputs, labour force, and when it’s drought time what are the options. I could foresee many productive farms who were currently running well lying idle in the future. The law was in the hands of war veterans and slowly the basket food of Africa was shrinking down to the size it could not fend it’s family. Some claimed it took long for our President who was well known for his slogan every five years; Vote for me and I will give you the land. Sadly the farm invasion did not invade farms only but other people’s lives were invaded permanently and lost it forever. I had a friend who was a young police officer and I was in the same class with him when I was studying ZAAT at Kushinga Phikelela College, he met his fate whilst he was on duty on a farm that the war veterans had invaded. He was mistakenly identified for the wrong things and one of the war veterans shot him dead.
The land imbalances in Zimbabwe
To understand the farm invasion you would need to gain the insight of imbalances of the land. In a way I am going to highlight in a way I have understood it. According to my sources: The concept of “Willing Seller, Willing Buyer” (WSWB) dominated the discourse on land reform in Zimbabwe since I980.The simple sounding concept has not just been central to the government thinking land reform, but had also become key ideological battleground assuming the status of non- negotiable among landowners and an object contempt for landless people. The concept (WSWB) is widely attributed to the influence of the World bank but this is inaccurate for a number of aspects Since early 1990s the World bank has indeed advocated calls for market assisted or market led or more market negotiated land reforms in countries and around the world. The IMF and World Bank suspended aid for land reform in 1989 for reasons of corruption. The land reform in Zimbabwe, where it had a particular meaning rooted in the Lancaster house Agreement 1980. While the state was entitled to expropriate (unused and under-used) land, productive land in the hands of white owners could only be acquired if state was willing to pay a “market price.” The state was refused on all land sales but was obliged to purchase any property that it was offered. The intended beneficiaries ( that is the landless) were not directly involved in this transaction, and could not therefore constitute a “willing buyer”- this role was reserved for the state alone. The concept of WSWB in the Zimbabwean context, therefore represented a state led approach whereby the land will be acquired through a mix of expropriation
(effectively nationalisation) and negotiated purchase, with compensation paid equivalent at market prices. It is when we examine the concept of “willing buyer” that we see the greatest divergence from past models, as the entire concept is transferred from the state to the intended beneficiaries. Simple “willingness” concept on the part of landless people however had no guarantee that they will be able to enter the land market or that will be able to secure the land they need.
I quoted one the speeches that the former Vice President Msika defended the land redistribution and said, “Land reforms in Africa can never be successfully if concluded on “willing seller, willing buyer”. The process had proved to be a failure where it had been tried.” Namibia and South Africa who also conducted land reforms under the WSWB realised lately it was a non-starter and they considered other means because of the slow process.
The British and American governments had made commitment to pledge in assisting the Zimbabwean government financially with the land reform. Britain, in a bid to protect its subjects, included a clause in the Constitution, the “willing seller, willing buyer agreement”. This policy which was in effect for ten years beginning in 1980, only allowed the government to acquire land for redistribution only from sellers who were willing to sell. This policy was a major reason that led to unchanged land situation in post-independence Zimbabwe. Given the fertile and productive land the white farmers had along with the booming agricultural production in terms of tobacco, cotton and maize, all cash crops, very few farmers were willing to sell to the government for land redistribution. Even if they did however, the government had very little financial resources after independence to buy the land.
At independence in 1980, they were 33M hectares (Ha) of arable farming land in Zimbabwe. Of this land, 6000 white commercial farmers owned 45% of it, 11M Ha of the most prime land. 8,500 mainly small black commercial farmers controlled 5% of the land in the drier regions. 700,000 black families occupied the remaining 50% of the poorest unfertile land in the communal areas, the former reserves, from the colonial era.
At Independence the government made a commitment to resettle 162 000 farmers by 1990 when the “willing buyer, willing seller” agreement expired. However, by 1990 the government had barely reached its target for several reasons. The WSWB became one of the major reasons why the land reform programme faltered. The government did not have enough capital to buy the land and the situation worsened by corruption within government and general bureaucracy. Britain had donated an estimated of $47 million dollars by 1990, which was 44% of what was required. Soon after independence $630 million had been pledged. The IMF and World Bank suspended aid for land reform in 1989 for reasons of corruption. (To be continued).