The land question has consistently stayed at the center of Zimbabwe’s political, economic and social development. It remains the root of the political tension between Zimbabwe and the former colonial power, Britain. The advent of European settler occupation in Zimbabwe was the genesis of the dispossession of black people from their land.
The period of formal colonisation in Zimbabwe lasted 90 years, from September 1890 until independence in April 1980. It was marked by European settler occupation of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and the dispossession of millions of black farmers from their land. A series of land provisions that deprived the black majority their land rights while granting rights to the white minority settlers.
In the 1880s, the British arrived with Cecil John Rhodes British South Africa Company. The racial oppressor and colonialist advanced the colonisation of the regions land.
The Shona staged unsuccessful revolts (known as Chimurenga) against the invasion of their land. Following the failed revolution of 1896-97 the Ndebele and Shona groups ended up being subjects to Rhode’s administration thus precipitating white settlement en masse which led to the land distribution disproportionately favouring the white imperialists over the black indigenous people.
The black population was marginalised by a system of state managed repression, segregation and violence. The whites possessed all the ripe land in the country and blacks were grouped in tribal trust lands, where they squeezed out a hopeless presence on minor bits of ineffective land. A period marked with racism, exploitation and abuse of the black majority by the Western imperialists.
The attainment of independence in 1980 was a historic moment in Zimbabwe as the country was returned to its rightful holders that is the black indigenous Zimbabweans. However political freedom would not be complete without economic freedom. At independence, the Government of Zimbabwe sought to redress the inherited colonial legacy of glaring and skewed racial inequalities in land distribution.
Under the Lancaster House Constitutional arrangements, no meaningful land reform program could happen. The Constitution committed Government to acquire land on a willing seller willing buyer basis during the first ten years of independence. Where land was offered to the Government, in most cases it was expensive, marginal and occurred in pockets around the country, making it difficult to effect a systematic and managed land reform. Moreover, land supply failed to match the demand for land resettlement. Added to these complicating factors was the absence of international support to fund land acquisition.
One of the significant reasons that caused the second Chimurenga was to reclaim the land from the white colonialist who had customarily appreciated unrivaled political and economic status.
In 2000, former president Robert Mugabe’s government seized land from about 4,000 white farmers to resettle landless black people. It can be contended that exclusive Zanu pf elites profited from the land reform program because of the manner in which it was mobilised and politicised.
However in as much as the land reform is concerned Cde R.G Mugabe will go in history as an icon of Zimbabwe, similar to that of Comandante Fidel Castro and Chairman Mao Zedong.
Many African states have hailed Cde R.G Mugabe for his radical stance in tending to the land question without fear of being victimised by the Western settler powers. The land hunger was at the focal point of all African liberation movements therefore the land revolution was inevitable. Countries such as South Africa have already started lobbying for the expropriation of land without compensation.
It is disgracing that the current Zimbabwean government is considering setting up a tribunal to determine the value of compensation payable to white farmers who lost property during the land reform programme. This is unacceptable.
The reactionary mind set of the current regime is obnoxious, an unacceptable compromise of the revolution.
If the land reform programme was historically necessary and irreversible, why then does the compensation of white people come into play?
It clearly violates the gains of the liberation struggle.
The only reasonable and acceptable solution is to institute a land audit in order to redistribute the land equally among all Zimbabweans.