Land Expropriation: Learning from the Zimbabwean experience

South Africa is said to be at crossroads – for lack of a better expression. This is due to the recently voted Constitutional Review Committee‘s report in parliament on the constitutional amendment for expropriation of land without compensation – a motion adopted in February and voted in December 2018.

Whereas there is no national consensus on this motion, what is indisputable is that this debate has brought ‘the land question’ back into the national discourse.

Meanwhile, there is global experience offering abundant examples of land reform and the resulting consequences to think about the applicability of other histories to South Africa’s circumstances. Nevertheless, discussions about South Africa’s land reform options seem largely fixated on its neighbour, Zimbabwe – its travails and victories.

In the minds of some of its more fervent critics, Zimbabwe’s land reform has been depicted as one of plagues from the Biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt – defined by land invasions, extra-legal expropriations, the near-collapse of commercial farming and agricultural exports, the poverty, hunger and famines.

On the other hand, the proponent of Zimbabwe’s land reform have argued it went through the fundamental changes of the agrarian structure that allowed for many small and medium-sized farms to be established, thereby breaking the problematic agrarian structure and skewed land ownership that was similar to what we have in South Africa today.

With Zimbabwe having the ‘Fast Track Land Reform Programme’ by far, the question confronting the Tshintsha Amakhaya constituencies – farm dwellers, farm workers, former labour tenants, small-scale farmers on municipal land and those living in communal areas under undemocratic chiefs – is what South Africa can learn from the Zimbabwean experiences with an attempt to resolve the land question?

This question, informed by Zimbabwe’s proximity to South Africa and similarity with experience of settler colonialism that resulted with land dispossession, spurred Tshintsha Amakhaya constituencies to visit Zimbabwe in the quest for truth.

As stated in the learning exchange concept note, the rationale behind this trip was ‘to deepen (our) understanding of the politics and complexities of the land reform processes, in order to enhance our campaigns and policy advocacy strategies. Also, to strengthen (our) networks through solidarity’. Therefore, this report speaks to the said learning exchange held in Zimbabwe between Tshintsha Amakhaya and Sam Moyo Institute for Agrarian Studies.

The relevance of Zimbabwean experience for contemporary South Africa is drawn together in the conclusion.

 The land question in Zimbabwe has been contested since before independence in 1980. One of the reasons why people participated in the liberation war was because of the skewed land ownership patterns that favoured the minority white population. From 1890 to 1965, Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia, was under the rule of the British. Through a process of systematic and ‘legal’ evictions, about 5,000 large commercial farms had come to occupy 15.5 million hectares of the 33 million hectares of farm land by independence. This process expropriated fertile land from blacks and ensured that most of it was in the hands of white commercial farmers.

In 1980, the new Zimbabwean government set out to acquire millions of hectares of land on which to settle thousands of families under phase one of its Land Reform and Resettlement Programme (LRRP). However, between 1980 and 1989, the government managed to acquire only 2.6 million hectares and resettled only 52,000 families. 70% of these families were resettled by 1983, the period by which most of the land was released by the white farmers. Without any doubt, the ‘willing seller, willing buyer’ principle ensured that whites withheld their best land, thereby denying new settlers an opportunity to fully participate in the agricultural economy. By the late 1980s, it was clear that plans for mass resettlement were not going to materialise. Hence the approaching expiration of the Lancaster House Agreement (1990) once again brought the land question to the political agenda. It provided an opportunity to reform policy to facilitate a more aggressive transformation to neutralise the looming crisis of expectation on part of the landless masses.

After the expiration of the Lancaster House Agreement in 1990, the government amended the country’s Constitution to allow for the compulsory acquisition of land with little compensation and limited rights of appeal to the courts. There followed in 1992 a Land Acquisition Act which gave government the right to compulsorily acquire land with minimal compensation. In 1997, the government decided to act radically. It launched the second phase of the LRRP (LRRP2), based on compulsory acquisition, but with compensation. It identified a number of farms for acquisition based on criteria spelt out in the 1990 land policy statement: where farmers owned more than one farm; the farmer is absent; the farm is derelict or under-utilised; or the farm borders a communal area. This increasing radicalism in acquiring land can be understood as a response to farmers that were resisting letting go their massive productive farms.

The Zimbabwean government’s land reform programme can be seen as comprising three phases: the first from 1980 to 1990, where the Lancaster House Agreement dictated the pace; the second from 1990 to 1996, where several acts were passed after the realisation that the first decade had achieved very little land reform; and the third phase, radical in nature, commenced with the identification of 1,471 farms for compulsory acquisition in 1997. The purpose of land reform in post-independence Zimbabwe was to redress past land alienation by creating equal access to land for the majority of the population. The LRRP’s goals were to create political stability and an acceptable property rights regime; to promote economic growth through wider equity and efficiency gains from land redistribution; and to foster national food security, self-sufficiency, and agricultural development through labour intensive small farm production, optimal land productivity, and returns to invested capital targeting the landless, war veterans and poor farm workers.

Today, Zimbabwe has a radically altered agrarian and land ownership structure. In 1980, over 15 million hectares were devoted to large-scale commercial farming, comprising around 6,000 farmers, nearly all of them white. This fell to around 12 million hectares by 1999, in part through the modest LRRP. By 2010, there were less than 5 million hectares under large scale farming, representing just over 2,000 white-owned commercial farms. Most land today is under small-scale farming, either as communal or resettlement areas. Estimates vary but around 7 million hectares have been taken over through the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP), exceeding the original FTLRP target of expropriating 5 million hectares. There have been some major shifts in production, with certain commodities such as tobacco, beef, horticulture, tea and coffee, seen by some as Zimbabwe’s mainstay in agricultural economy, being badly affected by land reform, while others such as cotton, traditionally a small holder crop, have been less affected. Food production, particularly maize, has gone down in most years compared to 1990s averages; a result of the dislocations of land reform and the establishment of new farms, as well as poor input supply and repeated drought. Food imports and emergency relief have occurred each year since 2000, although the 2009 maize harvest was estimated at 1.24 million tonnes, reducing the need for emergency measures. However, it has not been established if the general drop in production can be attributed to poor land utilisation by new land owners, or to the transitional process from seasoned farmers to inexperienced ones. In 2018, Zimbabwe was reported to be “food secure” and likely not going to import maize as farmers delivered over 1 million tons to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) after a “successful Command Agriculture Programme”.                   

About 13 participants informing different constituencies under Tshintsha Amakhaya left South Africa on the morning of 25th September 2018 and flew to Harare in Zimbabwe for their six-days stay there. Hosted by the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies (SMAIAS) – an independent policy research institution – throughout the visit, in a period of 5 days.

Women and Land in Zimbabwe
On the first two days, the 25th and 26th of September, participants were on the road visiting women beneficiaries of land reform accompanied by the representatives of Women Farmers Land and Agriculture Trust – a women organisation found in 2006 after a study that was conducted by the Ministry of Women in Zimbabwe which found that a less significant number of women have access to land. Subsequently, this Trust was formed with an intention to address issues of women’s access to land to provide support to those with an access. This Trust addresses unequal ownership of, and control over, land and natural resources. Working in five provinces of Zimbabwe, the organisation supports women beneficiaries of land reform by lobbying government, traditional leaders and local authorities to ensure equitable access to land and other natural resources. The group also trains women on land rights and advocacy in support of their lobbying work.

Currently, the Trust has 12000 women in membership and continues to organise women farmers and assist in grant applications for agricultural inputs. Thus far, per their advocacy strategy, they have lobbied for 20% of land to be owned by women in Zimbabwe. In their success stories, they mention with pride that Zimbabwean women are now able to apply for land in their own names. Previously, families were given 8 acres each. However, males became sole beneficiaries – not women, because of ‘traditional roles’ informed by patriarchy. After land redistribution, women also had the chance to access land but men were the main beneficiaries. Although women are less productive due to lack of capital and inputs’ support, today women use land mainly for household consumption and then sell the surplus.


1.1 Sundays Farm: a  history of land occupations
About 3O kilometres from Harare in Mashonaland. There in Nyabiri, the first visit was held under a tree at Sundays Family Farm as hosted by the Women Farmers Land and Agriculture Trust and the Sundays’ family. The Sundays’ family is one of the first beneficiaries of land reform which began as land occupations. This farm belongs to both husband and wife – both their names appearing on the offer letter.

The year was 1999 when Mrs Sundays joined the group of women led by the war veteran to occupy farm lands that were owned by whites. She recalls of how they walked for hours in bushes from Harare to the countryside in search of vacant land to mark, claim and settle on. On arrival, they would confront the white commercial farmers and demand the land. Those who agreed, shared the land with occupiers and those who refused were beaten up and chased away.

According to Mrs. Sundays, they were ‘not free without the ancestral land’ and they could not farm which side-lined them from partaking in the agrarian economy of their country. Also, in town – where they resided before – there was congestion and overpopulation. Unoccupied and available pieces of lands were not fertile nor arable.

The absence of land and a failure to partake in the rural economy, according to Mrs Sundays, was a betrayal to the struggle they have waged against the colonisers who have seized the land. Furthermore, it implied the betrayal of independence for Zimbabweans from the clutches of foreign white minority who owned the majority of land. Lastly, it meant a bleak family legacy and the inheritance for generations – ‘Zimbabwean’s future was threatened’. Thus, this spurred Mrs Sundays to join forces with other women to pursue their own liberation to seize the land through land occupations.

However, Mrs Sundays has minor reservations with their victory. She says there are things which could have been done better. Namely: there should have been a post-settlement support for those who occupied the land; in terms of production and the access to the market. Also, with the drive of the war veterans aligned with the ruling party (ZanuPF), she felt that others who were not card-carrying members or aligned to the party did not receive adequate communication and support during the land occupations. To some, it was just a ‘partisan programme’ and they were left out for this perception. If done otherwise, it could have catered for more Zimbabweans.

Moreover, Mrs Sundays shared that their occupations were also resisted by the farm workers who remained on the farms following the departure of white farmers. She says farm workers thought white farmers will return as they had little faith in black farmers toiling the land. Also, farm workers were destroying the fields and stealing from black farmers, according to Mrs Sundays.

These land occupations which informed Zimbabwe’s fast track land reform programme started in 1999 where people just moved into farms and stayed without any applications. Initially, arrests were made but due to the pressure and the number of people; the government was compelled to change policies. When land was occupied, the Zimbabwean president gave a go-ahead to the people that they must invade the farms. White people receded because there was no support for them and there were laws that secured the people. The Parliament Act was passed which enabled the invaders a secured tenure.

The numbers of invaders pressured the Government to establish laws that’s support Land Reform. Also, Mrs Sundays argues that their occupations were constitutional as stipulated in the constitution that there has to be land redistribution in place. Therefore, they were demanding their rights.

1.2 Women land acquisition in face of hyper-masculinity 

On the second day, delegates and hosts traveled for about 140 km from Harare to Wedza, Mashonaland East. At their arrival, they met with Florence who is a chairperson of the Wedza District for Women Farmers Land Agriculture Trust. They met at her land of 110 hactres in a farm of 2400 hectares subdivided to 87 settlers where she narrated her story.

It was the year 2000, while in Harare, when Florence received a telephone call which began her journey of acquiring her piece of land. The telephone call encouraged her to join forces with other people who were occupying land. Her and 20 other women with 30 men formed a land occupation group led by the war veteran.

This group walked to the countryside and reached a particular spot which interested them. However, the owner was there – a white farmer. At their arrival, they explained what was taking place – their interest to occupy the land – and the farmer was given an option to vacate his other land but to be given 400 hectares to farm on while the rest of the land will be subdivided by this group of occupiers.

However, the farmer declined the bargain – accusing the group of trespassing, threatening to release dogs on them. With occupiers not barging, he further threatened them by pulling out a pistol on them. Occupiers remained unshaken! Then, the landowner came to realisation of how determined they were and then he decided to leave immediately. With his departure, occupiers began to subdivide the land. After pegging and securing a piece of land, Florence returned to Harare.

Back in Harare, Florence began to hear stories of how the Minister of Land Affairs was issuing out farms to new beneficiaries including the already marked or pegged pieces of land by the occupiers. With news escalating, she went to the ministerial office to inquire about this. It was at the ministerial office where she was informed of ‘legal redistribution ‘that was led by the government and advised that she return to her piece of land for a formal settlement where she will be officially recognised with the Offer Letter handed from the Minister. If the land has already been allocated to another person, she must find herself a vacant piece of land.

In 2003, Florence and her husband went to reside on the farm with the hope to receive an Offer Letter once settled. In 2005, at a social gathering close to their farm, she overheard a ‘big man’ inquiring from other people about her land; he talked about the land ‘being cleaned and in it being good condition’. The following day, the same man came to her farm and asked them to vacate the farm as he found an interest in that land. They refused.

A day later, about three tractors had been sent in by the same man who had previously pleaded Florence and her husband to vacate the farm, the tractors were ploughing on Florence’s land. Her husband immediately rushed towards the direction of the tractors with his axe, in pursuit of scaring them away, meanwhile, Florence went to the local minister’s office to plead for their Offer Letter which they had not received. Upon Florence’s arrival at the Minister’s office, she was promptly advised return back to her land and not leave the grounds whilst they swiftly work on assisting her get their Offer Letter.

Swiftly afterwards, Florence was introduced to the Trust. This is where she was given a platform, however brief, to tell her story and how the officials had been dragging their feet in helping her and family in receiving the offer letter. The Trust hosted a conference and invited Florence and coincidentally, Florence met a lady whose situation was very similar to hers. Deputy Minister had been present at the conference and Florence was able to explain the torturous experience she has had regarding the Offer Letter. Florence explains that the Deputy Minister responsibly assessed the ongoing progress of her family’s promised Offer Letter.

A season following the encounter, the man who had inhumanly sent three tractors to plough on Florence’s land had returned. This time, he planted his tobacco on the vacant land that Florence had been planning to plant on. She inquired with the Ministerial Office to a lay complain about the issue of the farmer who had planted on her land. Again, Florence was advised to return back to her land and assured her and her husband of a thorough follow-up. However, she was given a letter that stated that the land was indeed Florence’s. On her arrival at home, Florence showed this man who was still planting his tobacco on her land, the man is said to have laughed at Florence. Having being infuriated by this gesture, Florence spit on the man’s face and later faced charges of harassment laid by the very same man.

Later that day at the police station, both Florence and the man told their side of stories for statement records, an officer clearly stated that the land was indeed Florence’s as she had lived there for years.

A few days later, Florence received a telephone call from the Ministerial Office and was informed of a meeting with the man she had previously quarreled with. Each one of them had to tell their side story in a thorough, detailed way. While Florence obeyed what she was instructed to narrate, the man only said that he had been given the land by the officials. Shortly afterwards, the Chief Officer congratulated Florence in attaining her land and commended her for also following the right procedures. The man was advised to apply for his own land. To date, the land belongs to Florence undisturbed.

2. Business as usual; workers vs capital 

2.1 Compounded: land and custom marriages 

On the third day, delegates meet with a woman who benefited from the FTLR through the A1 Scheme – namely, Mrs. White who resides at the Baketh Farm. She explains that she used to be farm worker. That while working on a neighboring farm, she learned that ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe had the right to apply and register for land through land reform programme. Although Mrs. White had her doubts and skepticism about the process, she went to the nearest office of the Ministry of Land and applied. Soon after filing in her application, she received a telephone call informing her of the successful land application. After a number of attempts from the Ministry of Lands office assuring her that not only had she been allocated a plot but also that her offer letter was ready. She went and found out that this was indeed true, this took place in 2001.

The farm that she was allocated to was already subdivided into 6ha. She, together with her children, relocated to the plot and left employment on the farm and her husband who refused to move; claiming that living in a compound is all he knows, all he was comfortable with and was not willing to leave. The husband passed away in 2005 as a farm worker residing in a compound. Mrs. White states that she wanted to be an owner of her space. She furthermore explains that she had outgrown working for other people and wanted to earn from her own yard. She also wanted to own livestock and grow crops but the compound setting and space did not allow for that which is why she opted for own land. She, after getting land, had the privilege of making her own broader decisions.

A government initiative ( or project) known as the Command Agricultural Scheme (CAS) under the Ministry of Lands has provided support but this is always subject to the agreement or contract made between the land owner and the scheme. In Mrs White’s case: she approached the scheme through an extension officer, to seek support so that she can plant not just for subsistence but also to earn profit. It is through this process that Mrs. White was able to get inputs (seeds, fertilizer) and was able to produce two bags of maize. However, she is now faced with a debt hurdle. The initial agreement between her and the scheme was to receive inputs and in return all the yields be given to the scheme. The agreed number of maize was not met due to armyworms. As she was unable to meet the agreement, she has accumulated debt. This has now happened for two consecutive planting seasons. She was able to recover debt from the previous season with the 2 bags that she harvested this season. Because she is still in debt, the scheme cannot provide any further support until the debt is settled.

All individuals who applied for land, were successfully given land. Depending on the envisaged use, they would either be allocated to A1 or A2 farms. There were a number of citizens who were very skeptical of the process and in result did not apply. This group could not be allocated and does not have land to-date. Majority of these individuals are former farm workers.  Those who applied were allocated to farms that had already been subdivided. The sizes of the plots for these beneficiaries are mostly A1 and use of land is linked to housing and subsistence farming. The process of obtaining an offer letter is much quicker and less strenuous. Citizens are conscious and aware that without their offer letters, they won’t be allowed to have access to bank loans or access to making formal agreements.

The invasion was a process led by war veterans and involved, for the most part, violence. It also required citizens to either identify “unused” land, quickly occupy i.e. planting, building – even if it was a one-roomed house, or trust that the relevant stakeholders will support their process of obtaining offer letters.

The process of changing land ownership for divorced couples who have had a joint registration, widows etc., requires both individuals, if both still alive. If one is deceased, the system picks it up and automatically updates. Polygamous marriage can be tricky as it is compulsory for the husband to get proof of consent from the first wife. If consent is granted by the first wife, all individuals within the marriage will formally appear on the joint registration.

2.2 Forgotten citizens 

At the same visit, now with farm workers on the outskirts of farms, the group met with former farm workers who now reside in compounds on a farm which is situated in Zvimba, Riverside Western Park.

Durring the proceedings, former farm wrokers shared their experience: one man shared his story of him working on the farm and after a few years got promoted to a tractor driver. He left the farm a few years after it was taken over by the new farmers but returned to the farm as he felt he had a better life there on the farm.

He further explained that few farm workers received one hectare of land each through a government process. However, the government did not support them as with inputs, fertilisers, seeds, etc. He explained that they do not have “offer letters” suspecting its due to the fact that they are former farm workers and all negative connotations attached to them, they then cannot benefit from any government programme and only ¾ of them  at the compound benefited from the one hectare program which means others that did not benefit from this program have no means of living off the land.

The farm workers also talked about when the land invasions took place they did not understand what was going on as they were never consulted, they were afraid to lose their jobs, they were not sure if the program will succeed and thought it was politically driven, they also did not want to lose their benefits as some of them have worked a long time for the white farmers.

2.3 Large farms and farm workers’plight 

On the fourth day of the stint in Zimbabwe delegates focused mainly on the history of acquisition of the land, the methods applied and the relationship between the compound dwellers (who are former farm labourers), the current labourers and farm owners. We visited a farm in Mashonaland where they interacted with the farm manager, Mr Thawanda Phasi and the compound (farm) dwellers. The farm is located approximately 96 kilometres from the city of Harare. It was presented that the farm was confiscated from a white farmer who used to specialize in wheat production prior to the fast tracked land reform. The white farmer initially resisted the land invasion which resulted in the farmer taking the legal route to challenge the invasion. In 2003 the matter was settled through the court of law which ruled in favour of the land invaders.

The total farm size is 326 hectares. About 110 hectares of the farm is used for growing crops while the remaining 216 hectares is used for grazing and shelter of livestock. It was presented that about 20 hectares is used for cropping. This limitation is as a result of insufficient running water on the farm as the farmer depends on rain for more water which has negative impact on their produce.

The farm falls under A2 Scheme category. This scheme (programme) provides access to land solely to farmers showing potential to utilize the land on commercial purposes. A2 scheme objective differs from the A1 Scheme which mainly aimed at decongesting communal areas by providing people access to land for human settlement. In this category agricultural production is used as a surplus. The A2 farm beneficiaries are in possession of 99 year lease agreement which is in a form of legal a document known as offer letter.

Following the 2003 successful court process which ruled in favour of the land occupiers, the beneficiaries started using the farm. In the beginning the farm was used for tobacco production on 18 hectares and part of the farm was used for soya beans. At a later stage the farmer ventured into other enterprises of livestock, brick and crop production. There are 5 livestock enterprises (piggery, goat, sheep, poultry and cattle). In terms of crop enterprise, the farm produces soya beans, tobacco and maize.
Production and sale

The tobacco plantation was one of their successful enterprises. They produced good yields which contributed to the purchase of the first tractor. Their harvest in the previous ploughing season produced about 20 tons of maize. The other enterprise worth mentioning is poultry. There are 3 poultry shelters of approximately 60×20 (length and breadth). At the time of the visit, there were 3000 chicks and grown chickens combined. The enterprise mainly supplies walk-in customers and local shops. The farm used to produce tobacco and sell through auction. This refers to produce sold directly to the consumers and formal market without the involvement of the middle man. This method was later discontinued when the farmer started selling their produce through contract farming. The contract farming refers to an agreement forged between Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and farmer. The farmers receive the inputs from the GMB prior to the ploughing season and pay back the agreed amount after sales. Mr Phasi indicated that he prefers the auction sale because it does not involve the middle man and farmers are most likely to be debt free unlike in contract farming.

The enterprises employ 20 permanent labourers which also residing on the farm (compound area). During the harvest season about 150 seasonal workers are lured in the crop production .There are about 600 people living on the farm

The farm only received support from the state in a form of fuel and inputs and fuel at the beginning. This support was solicited through the GMB arrangement which is a developmental support for farmers spearheaded by the government.

3. Consultation with experts, academics and activists

On the last day in Zim, participants partook in a land colloquium with academics and land activists involved in the land struggles of the country. Steve Mberi from Sam Moyo Institute for Agrarian Studies gave a background of the history of Zimbabwe as it is a long history which South Africa can learn a lot about from the experiences. In 1980 the country government won Independence. Part of the arrangements when it comes to land was that land will be transferred from the white farmers to black people. It was a “Willing seller, willing buyer” process and the arrangements was that the British colonisers would pay for the transfers. This process was very slow and the land that was transferred was not productive land, in areas with little rainfall and it was not progressive.

In 1996 when it comes to the economic context, there was a spike in strikes, revise growth, lots of job losses and war veterans that demanded their pay outs. The Zimbabwe dollar then crashed as the country also had to pay foreign depths that was made during the war.

War veterans started land invasions and occupations in 1999, and then farmworkers joined the occupations which led to associations forming. It was illegal and police even got involved to try to stop the occupations. The war veterans didn’t give up and even urban people got involved. News spread fast and last over a 6 month period. Former farm workers resisted the occupations as they worked for the white farmers and was scared of losing their jobs. Government then needed to get involved as thing got radical and violent and put an Act in place to allow land invasions. Pressure first needed to be put before any actions were taken by government to pass policies.

In 1999 the opposition party come to the front and in 2000 a referendum happened when the ruling party lost the elections. Post 1999 the country had eight negative years of economic growth and in 2008 the dollarization had an impact on the capital of the agriculture in the country. Due to production decreases and it caused a collapse of the economy.

The purpose of the FastTrack Land Reform that took place was to assist racial imbalance as 40% of the country’s land belonged to only 5000 white farmers as 60% of black nationals shared the rest. The country also wanted to digest the congested areas and tackle poverty in which the government wanted to improve households/ livelihoods through agriculture and develop the commercial agriculture.

Agrarian transformation has changed more A1 small-scale farmers; whereby 10040 households benefited and former and farm workers also own land through land reform. Most farmworkers were left behind as most of them worked on the land before the constitution were changed; they were resisting the occupations as they were loyal to the white farmers. Most were foreign nationals or also known as “aliens” and most new farmers claim they are foreigners as their parent may have been from other countries but because they were born in Zimbabwe they are now Zimbabwean.

Some of the commonalities of South Africa and Zimbabwe is that consolidated land is/was in the hands of few white commercial farmers, both countries adopt the “Willing seller, willing buyer” approach, people were forcefully removed from their land and Act’s was put in place by whites and government to push blacks in reserves or black communities such as 1913 Native Land Act.

Some of the difference is that Zimbabwe implemented the agreements that were made and it forms part of the counties constitution while South Africa do not implement the agreements especially when it comes to land reform.

Civil society engagement in Zimbabwe around women organising and mobilisation is that the Ministry of Women Affairs are responsible for the development of women and implemented different women groups in law, economic, skills development, etc. These projects were previously funded and supported by government but switch to NGO’s when it no longer got funded. This development ensured that women can vote, open bank accounts, and start projects but needed government to be able to bring the change to previous oppression.


Understanding Zimbabwe’s land reform trajectory of the broad political, social and economic processes that fueled the radical reform and the subsequent reconfiguration of domestic and external politics.

Land in South Africa and Zimbabwe is regarded as a source of belonging and economic sustenance. Based on the legal provisions that these countries have adopted, the redistribution phases these countries have gone through, and resources that have been employed in the acquisition and redistribution of land, it is not unreasonable to draw a conclusion that the driving desire behind all this is to ensure that the poor, vulnerable  and previously disadvantaged in society are given access to land. Therefore, the process of land reform should be considered a start towards the progressive realisation of socio-economic rights. However, land reform should result in agrarian transformation which must promote economic participation by the vulnerable, but still ensure food security for the whole country as well as environmental sustainability. Consensus at present is that this process has not moved as fast as expected. A progressive transformation process should benefit small farmers and emerging black commercial farmers, who should be capacitated by being equipped with the requisite skills to assist them not only to own land, but to also contribute to food security within the country. Small farmers should also be assisted to move up the farming ladder. This can be achieved through deliberate and radical empowerment processes where loans and grants are availed to new entrants into the farming economy.

Land reform must also empower rural and peri-urban poor communities. Mostly, these areas are occupied by subsistence farmers. These communal farmers should be given adequate land (including grazing land) to practice subsistence farming. If there is anything South Africa can copy from the Zimbabwean land reform experience, it should be the model where new land owners are given small plots of between two and five hectares to practice subsistence farming and petty commodity production. This can be achieved in South Africa by sub-dividing large farms into smaller units to act as multi-function farms that will benefit more people. This will ensure that more people have access to land, which should be considered the basis of socio-economic development. New land owners must be enabled to access markets, preferably local ones, to sell their produce. Off-farm initiatives such as marketing and transportation services can also provide the multiplier effect to provide more employment in rural areas.

Farm workers, youths and women should be the main target groups for the land reform process. This is mainly because young people and women make up the majority of the unemployed people in both countries. The farming industry is a highly labour intensive sector and it therefore makes sense to equip the youth, who still have the energy to work the land. Furthermore, returns in farming are realised after a long input period, hence the importance of building and sustaining experience. Inexperienced land reform beneficiaries can gain experience by being attached to successful neighbouring farms and mentors.

Governments must also allocate more resources to the process of land reform in order to attract good land. The failure to define and enforce post-transfer support that presents an overwhelming obstacle to people’s livelihoods. Post-settlement support in the form of loans and farming skills development should be prioritised and facilitated in order to ensure that distributed land is utilised productively. To ensure a more radical movement towards resolving the land question, governments must devise a clear instrument that can be used for identifying land that should be purchased for redistribution. Such an instrument must ensure the exclusion of highly productive farms to ensure continued food security and export earnings. Once a clear criterion has been set, a people-driven participatory process should be adopted. Such a model will be helpful because resettled people would have owned the process and would thus likely use the gained land purposefully and with commitment.


PUBLISHED BYtshintshaamakhaya
Tshintsha Amakhaya is a civil society alliance for land and food justice in South Africa. Rural women and men stand united in solidarity to advance their rights and secure livelihoods. Our members are farm workers, farm dwellers, smallholder farmers, fisher folk, forest dwellers, livestock keepers, people on communal land and people on church land. View all posts by tshintshaamakhaya




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