Saturday, 20 November 2010

Zimbabwe: Who Got The Land?

By Ian Scoones
One of the most repeated myths about Zimbabwe’s land reform is that all the land went to ‘Mugabe’s cronies’; those with access to elite connections and benefiting from political patronage. This did, of course, happen, and continues to do so. Tackling such extreme excesses of land grabbing through a land audit remains a major challenge. But elite capture is not the whole story of Zimbabwe’s land reform; nor indeed the dominant one.

Who got the land? 
Who got the land and what is the profile of the new settlers? Our study of 400 households across 16 sites from Masvingo province showed by far the majority of the new settlers are ordinary people. About half of all new settler households are from nearby communal areas and another 18% from urban areas. These are people who had little or very poor land in the communal areas or were unemployed or with poorly-paid jobs and living in town. The remaining third of household heads was made up of civil servants (16.5% overall, but increasing to around a quarter of all settlers in A1 self-contained and A2 sites), business people (4.8% overall, but again proportionately higher in the A1 self-contained and A2 sites), security service personnel (3.7% overall) and former farm workers (6.7% overall). Farm workers made up 11.5% of households in the A1 villagised sites, with many taking an active role in the land invasions. In one case a farm worker organised and led the invasion of the farm where he had worked. Given that in other parts of the country, farm workers were displaced in large numbers, often ending up destitute, living in camps on the farms, this is perhaps surprising. Yet this reflects the extent and nature of labour on the former large-scale farms in Masvingo province. Unlike in the Highveld farms, where  large, resident labour forces existed without nearby communal homes, our Masvingo study sites were formerly large-scale ranches where labour was limited, and workers came, often on a temporary basis, from nearby communal areas.

Across all of these categories are ‘war veterans’. As household heads they make up 8.8% of the total population. The category ‘war veteran’ is however a diverse one. Prior to the land invasions, most were farming in the communal areas, a few were living in town, while some were civil servants, business people and employees in the security services.
....However, across our sample only 12% of households had a woman named as the land holder on the permit. The highest proportion of female-headed households was in the informal settlements, as women often saw the land invasions as an opportunity to make a new independent life and escape abusive relationships or accusations of witchcraft, for
So who amongst these groups are ‘the cronies’?

Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities by
Ian Scoones, Nelson Marongwe, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, Jacob
Mahenehene and Chrispen Sukume
will be published in November 2010
by Weaver Press in Zimbabwe (,
 Jacana Media in South Africa ( 
and James Currey in the rest of the world (

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