[page number of print ed.: 1]


Honourable Minister of Lands and Agriculture, Mr Kumbirai Kangai, Honourable Minister of Finance, Dr Herbert Murerwa, Project Manager of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Dr Roland Schwartz, Members of the Council of the Zimbabwe Economics Society, distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you once again to the third seminar of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES) in its pursuit for dialogue on economic issues. We are gathered today in order to find a solution to one of the greatest challenges of our times - the Land Question. ZES has no doubt that today, with all the representation from key stakeholders, an amicable and practical solution to the problem can be shaped. I believe that as long as we remain open -minded, objective and sincere, such a solution is feasible. If we put national interest at the forefront and accommodate one another and remain ever conscious of justice, we can face any challenges. Let me make it clear though, that achieving justice should not necessarily mean acceptance of economic blunders. We need to ensure that our solution to the land challenge must not be one that retards productivity growth in the long run. For this reason, land designation and redistribution must not be allowed to be an end but the beginning of a process.

There is little doubt that the current pattern of land distribution was born out of exclusivity and repression. The Land Tenure Act of 1930 divided the country along racial lines. The Europeans were placed in rich and productive areas while „Native Purchase Areas" were reserved for Africans. It is the lopsided ideologies on which such laws are based, among other things, that we are gathered here today.

The vision of ZES seeks justice. ZES would like to be part of the birth of a progressive distribution system which our great grand children will be proud of. But this can only be so if we are unashamedly committed to the principles of justice and equality for all. Anything short of this will simply be a creation of yet another wrangle for posterity.

Zimbabwe has almost 391 000 square kilometres of land. Let us share it and use it in a responsible manner. It is not my duty today to argue authoritatively on this subject. ZES has today provided a platform for serious discourse on the issue by major stakeholders.

With these few words ladies and gentleman, may I wish all of us a fruitful and productive conference.

[page number of print ed.: 2]

Dr Schwartz.

Distinguished experts on land issues, ladies and gentlemen,

Please listen to the headline of the Herald of June, 3rd, 1998:

„The CFU and the Government of Zimbabwe have settled once and for all the controversial land question"

To see this headline, I had to look into my crystal ball. It is an optimistic crystal ball. But you might want to ask „how did they do that?", that is to settle the land question once and for all? It was through frank, open, transparent and truthful negotiations. Do not call me naive and blue eyed, this answer is the sole responsibility of my crystal ball. However, I fully agree with it.

The land in Zimbabwe is unequally distributed between LSCF and SSCF and CFS. I believe we all agree up to this point, but then the problem begins. How do we reallocate that land? Who is going to get land and who is going to lose it? Let us remember some facts:

  1. The amount of land to be resettled is a political decision which can hardly be challenged by anybody if Government is determined to acquire it, hard as it might be to accept this fact especially in the case of affected farmers.
  2. The challenge essentially consists of how to maintain or to make the acquired land productive. It requires assistance from several stakeholders which include the CFU and donor agencies. Government alone will certainly fail to resettle successfully. A significant number of peasant farmers and is not likely to have sufficient resources to handle a huge land resettlement programme on its own.

Both the CFU and the Government need each other, for the ultimate good of Zimbabwe. They may not yet be aware of it. Once they have recognised this, the well being of Zimbabwe requires all parties to seek consensus rather than adopt a confrontational attitude. An attitude to demonstrate power on either side is counter-productive. And somehow decision makers have lost pace if they did not experience any hitches on the way in order to pass the six milestones/principles down the road of the land reform process (land acquisition and land resettlement). These fundamental principles are:

    1. To accept the amount of land to be resettled (Main focus on unproductive land; How much is it?)

    2. Acquired land/improvements will be paid for (the distinction between land and improvement is artificial)

    3. Identification of farms (Pre-selection of farmland over and above the amount of required land based on some criteria.)

    4. Government introduces a law into Parliament stipulating that with the agreement arrived at, the compulsory land acquisition exercise has once and for all come to an end. No further land acquisition will ever take place anymore. Such a law would take the whole of Zimbabwe a big step towards a situation of investment stability.

    5. CFU offers clearly specified services to the resettled farming community.

    [page number of print ed.: 3]

    6. Settlement of Farmers (social and economic identification criteria, i.e. women, war veterans, farm workers, master farmers)

The CFU brings in their agricultural expertise as an asset into a patriotic and historical exercise of land resettlement. Government on the other hand recognises the merits of the LSCF sector and secures them a permanent and irrevocable right on a well defined area of agricultural land.

Addressing the land question means conflict. It is not the time to make friends or even to be nice to each other. Any solution to the land question will necessarily hurt all parties involved. Only a compromise can be achieved and a compromise is never the position you started off with at the beginning. Despite this, be happy about the crisis. In the countries of Latin America where I worked before coming to Zimbabwe, they have never managed to unleash a similar debate on land reform as we currently have in Zimbabwe, not to mention any meaningful change in property patterns. I do not want to elaborate further on that, but be assured that you are in a privileged situation to have a historical change on land in your hands. The current crisis on the land question provides a range of options, some for better and some for the worse. Let us choose the way for the better.

There are three reasons why I saw this headline being published in June , and not in any other month:

  1. People need time to negotiate - it cold not have been earlier.
  2. We need a decision on land reform as early as possible - and a deadline is required. Any delay in resolving the land issue is potentially dangerous. In the Republic of South Africa, it has been reported that since 1992, 2730 attacks on white farms have been carried out and 464 farmers killed.
  3. But: I do not want to see the headline in the Herald of April, 1st 199-.

For the reason why I stand here to address you, on behalf of Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), I would like to extend a warm welcome to you. This is the third conference jointly organised by the Zimbabwe Economics Society and Friedrich Ebert Foundation on burning macro-economic topics. The conference was designed to carry away the discussion on land acquisition from its political level and to focus the deliberations on the technical aspects, namely the economic and social impact of the envisaged land reform. I am particularly happy about the good attendance which proves that the topic and the timing for this event was right.

Lastly, but not least, may I thank all the resource persons for their much needed input papers in order to enable discussion of „The Land Reform Challenge".

Finally, may I wish all of us a vibrant discussion today. I look forward to seeing you at the next conference organised by Zimbabwe Economics Society and Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

Harare, 27th of February 1998

[page number of print ed.: 4]


Mr Chairman
The President of the Zimbabwe Economics Society, Mr. K Mafukidze
Project Manager of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Dr. Roland Schwartz
Council Members of Zimbabwe Economic Society
Distingushed Guests
Ladies and Gentlement

I feel greatly honoured to be invited and accorded this opportunity to officially address and open this very important seminar. I am glad that the Zimbabwe Economic Society and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) have organized this seminar so that various stakeholders in the private sector, Government, farming community, academic and civil society can deliberate in an objective and constructive manner, the various issues pertaining to the land issue in Zimbabwe. As Government, we welcome this kind of honest and genuine debate and trust that something useful will come out of this seminar.

Mr. Chairman, the centrality of the land question in Zimbabwe's political, economic and social arena cannot be over emphasized. We are all well aware of the history of this region which has been one of land dispossession. Policies were deliberately designed to ensure the marginalisation of the majority of our people in agriculture. Citizens of the region became "squatters" and migrants on their own land. In Zimbabwe, the situation at independence was particularly deplorable. The rural people were living in abject poverty amidst great potential and wealth.

Mr Chairman, the question of land distribution has been one of the most critical policy issues that has faced the independent Government of Zimbabwe. The land issue was of fundamental significance during the struggle for independence. To the majority of black people, it was Raison D'etre for the liberation struggle. It was therefore inevitable that for independence to be meaningful to the majority of the population, Government had to embark on the land redistribution programme. To date, about 71 000 families have benefited from the resettlement programme. Given the increasing population pressure in communal areas, the pressure to proceed faster with resettlement is mounting.

Zimbabwe has a total land area of 39 million hectares. Of this, about 33.3 million hectares is reserved for agricultural purposes. The remaining 6 million hectares are reserved for national parks and wildlife and urban settlements.

As a result of deliberately ocherstrated policies of the previous colonial Governments, at independence, Government inherited a land distribution system which was highly skewed in favour of the large scale commercial farmers who were predominantly white. Agricultural land was divided along racial lines as follows:-

[page number of print ed.: 5]

  1. 6 000 white large scale commercial farmers controlled about 15.5 million hectares1 almost half of the total agricultural land in the country;
  2. 700 000 communal area families on about 16.4 million hectares and
  3. 8 500 small scale commercial farmers on about 1.4. million hectares.

This uneven distribution pattern between the large scale commercial sector and the communal areas also extended to the suitability of the land for agricultural purposes. Of the total communal area land, more than three quarters is located in the low rainfall regions IV and V where the potential of the land for agricultural purposes is severely limited. In the large scale commercial sector, over half of the total land is located in the high rainfall 1, II, and III regions where land is quite suitable for agricultural production. Land ownership as well as the supply patterns of agricultural infrastructure, finance and other services were biased towards the large scale commercial sector.

All these imbalances, Mr Chairman, were a result of deliberately designed discriminatory policies of preindependence Governments. To date, Government has acquired 3.5. million hectares and 71 000 families have been settled.

The Government introduced the National Land Policy in 1990 that stipulates its targets in land redistribution. Government is committed to ensure that the future land distribution pattern will be as follows:-

  1. The large scale commercial sector will remain with 6 million hectaes of land.
  2. 8.3 million hectares of land will be reserved for the resettlement programme.
  3. Communal areas will remain with 16.4 million hectares of land.
  4. The small scale commercial sector will remain with 1.2 million hectares.
  5. The state farming sector will have 2.5 million hectares.

Mr Chairman, the current land reform programme focuses on the identification and acquisition of land across all agro-ecological regions. This is intended not only to eliminate the racial and sectoral imbalance in the distribution of land, but will ensure access by smallholder farmers to the well watered and fertile land in natural regions I and II and to a limited extent in natural region III. It is this anomaly, Mr. Chairman that the Government through the current land acquisition exercise intends to rectify.

Let me dwell more on the land question. After taking cognisance of the imbalances in land ownership, Government introduced the land reform programme. The enabling legislation was also put in place to facilitate the acquisition and equal distribution of land. Deliberate policies have been put in place to compliment the legislation. The enactment of the Land Acquisition Act (chapter 20:10) was meant to accelerate the process of land acquisition. The use of statutory instrument 297 of 1992 together with this Act gives the Minister of Lands and Agriculture the right of first refusal to purchase rural land. This has resulted in more land being acquired for resettlement on good soils. The Government is still to purchase more land to resettle more small-lolder farmers. To this end, the National Land Acquisition Committee identified 2209 farms measuring 5.3. million hectares for acquisition and out of these 1471 properties were gazetted on 28 November 1997. The acquisition of the gazetted farms by Government is on course.

The Government has also realised that simply resettling people without ensuring efficient and effective utilisation of land would not result in optimum production in the resettlement

[page number of print ed.: 6]

areas and state land. In this regard, the Government had to ensure the creation of a conducive environment by coming up with a suitable Land Tenure System.

The commission set up by his Excellency the President in 1993 recommended that some form of security of tenure was a necessity that would lead to investment in the communal, resettlement and small scale commercial areas. My Ministry is spearheading the drafting of a new land Bill that will put into law the recommendations which were accepted by Cabinet.

The Government has also a number of policies that supplement legislation on Land acquisition and distribution. These include the one-man one-farm concept, avoiding land ownership by absentee landlords and minimising ownership of land by foreign companies or individuals.

The Government is also promoting the entrance of black farmers into large scale commercial farming in order to ensure continuity in production, as well as to facilitate the establishment of a more balanced racial composition of the large scale commercial sector. In line with that policy, some 64 500 hectares of land formally owned by ARDA have been subdivided into 100 commercially viable units ranging from 60 to 1450 hectares in extent and were allocated to 100 indigenous commercial farmers in 1997 under the commercial farm settlement scheme.

The Government will also introduce a tax on agricultural land in order to encourage efficient utilisation of land and discourage the holding of land for speculative purposes. The tax on agricultural land will also result in more land being made available on the market.

Mr Chairman, Government is aware of the controversy which the current land acquisition exercise has sparked. Anger and even threats of legal action from certain quarters, and outright support, have characterized the public's reaction to the programme.

The objective of our land reform programme is not to disposses present land owners but to share equitably and utilise efficiently the available land resources among Zimbabweans. The land reform program also seeks to eradicate poverty among those settled, increase total agricultural production and ultimately reduce pressure for land in the communal areas. Some questions have been raised regarding the resettling of poor peasants on prime land. Yes, some problems have been encountered in the past, like the shortage of draught power, inputs and extention services to the resettled areas. This time Government has made a commitment to ensure that support services are provided to ensure the viability and success of the programme.

Mr. Chairman, let me reiterate that Government is totally committed to this land reform programme and would want to make sure that it is implemented as soon as possible. Finally, may I close by wishing you all a successful and productive seminar.

I now declare this seminar open.

Thank You.

[page number of print ed.: 7]


The Hon. Minister’s speech attracted a lot of questions and comments. The following provides a summary of the key issues raised.

a) What mandate did the minister have from the people to go ahead and ‘designate’ land? As Zimbabweans, does our Constitution really give us the right to land? Where had we met in terms of the interaction of brains? i.e. whose product was the land identification exercise?

b) The Hon. Minister indicated in his speech that, ‘all stakeholders will be involved in the implementation of the programme’. The concern was over the fact that the Hon. Minister did not say „involved at the planning stage".

c) There is need for clarity on the payment of compensation to farmers whose land will be acquired. There have been too many conflicting statements ranging from „Government will not pay a cent" to „it will be implemented according to the rule of law". Has the position of the President not to pay for the land (compensation) changed?

d) Where is the money to pay compensation going to come from given the tight budgetary state of the fiscus?

e) The Hon. Minister’s address states that the land redistribution programme, aims to promote justice and equity. It will, among other things, acquire the good agricultural land and settle people. It turns out that in fact when one analyzes in detail the location of the approximately 1471 farms identified for acquisition, only 17% is located in region 1, 19% in region 2 and 34% in region 4 and 5. Isn’t there some contradiction in the Hon. Minister’s representation?

f) What is the time frame of the programme?

g) Where is the Black woman in the land issue? What will happen to women in the SSCS, RAs where issues of contestation rage on despite inheritance law? There appears to be an implicit assumption that Black women will continue to be labourers and not owners of land after land is acquired and redistributed.

h) The current land programme does not address the need for land in urban areas (for residential and business purposes). The programme must be redesigned so that the land issue can be considered more globally.

i) The definition of farmer in the Land Acquisition Act of 1992 side steps women.

j) What strategies are in place to curb the possibility of an uprising from the desperate landless people?

k) On the criterion for designation: proximity to communal areas. Why continue the separation of communal and commercial farming sectors?

l) Will Government consider the CFU plan as an alternative to the original designation process?

[page number of print ed.: 8]

Hon. Minister Kangai’s Response

a) Mandate

The constitution was amended to include land acquisition. (Land Acquisition Act, 1992 ) Government has indeed consulted the people. MPs in the 120 constituencies have campaigned on the issue to raise awareness. The „ People’s review Congress" was another forum where support for the programme was expressed. We welcome suggestions on any areas that need to be changed. On the right to land, Zimbabwe is a sovereign state. The constitution governs the right to the land, Government is therefore operating within the constitution when it seeks to acquire land for resettling the landless.

b) Involvement of wider society in the planning of land reform.

As stated in (a) above, Government has involved Zimbabweans in the land reform programme.

c) Compensation.

Ignore some of these false and misleading media statements. The Land Acquisition Act has provision for the payment of compensation. Government evaluators assess and tell us the value of the land. We are going to implement the programme in accordance with the law which requires fair and reasonable compensation for land. But for idle or derelict land, there will not be payment.

d) Source of finance to pay compensation.

The Government has friends. It will find the money somehow. We already have unsolicited support to fund the land acquisition. Some donors have also pledged technical support.

e) The anomaly between Government’s stated goals of promoting justice and equity Vs land identification biased towards regions IV and V.

The land identified in IV and V has been found suitable (e.g. for cattle ranching). It is therefore logical that we acquire land in these areas.

f) Time frame.

Government has a target of 5 to 10 years to acquire and resettle people on five million hectares of land.

g) Land Redistribution and the Black Woman

DA’s in each area will deal with settlers (A, B model) for SSCS, LSCS, Government will advertise and the Land Resettlement Board will interview potential settlers and assess their potential/suitability as farmers. Government will then enter into a lease agreement (options to purchase will be considered). There will not be any discrimination on the basis of gender. On issue of inheritance, ownership of land in RA’s, in the event that a man dies living behind surviving spouses, there is provision under the law that surviving spouses will continue to earn a living regardless of who is the heir( usually the eldest son).

[page number of print ed.: 9]

h) Land needs in urban areas.

A valid point which Government will consider. The current identification process was only the beginning of an on -going exercise for the next 5 to 10 years.

I) -

j) Strategies to curb uprising

The fact that Government is already tackling the land problem should prevent any such uprising.

k) -

l) Government and the CFU plan.

Government has received a lot of suggestions as possible alternatives, (CFU, the Royal Agriculture College, are examples). We are considering all these plans and we welcome any suggestions. The CFU plan has some positive aspects .

[page number of print ed.: 10]

Hon. Deputy Minister of Lands and Agriculture, Dr Olivia Muchena

Responses to questions to Hon. Minister Kangai’s speech.

A number of questions and comments were raised even after the Hon. Minister Mr K Kangai had left. The Hon. Deputy Minister, Dr O Muchena responded to all these issues.

Questions/ Comments addressed to the Hon. Deputy Minister, Dr O Muchena.

  • What was the rationality of the Government’s land redistribution programme?

  • The Government’s programme needs a strategic plan. This is lacking at the moment.

  • The Government programme seems to ignore the plight of farm workers. No provisions appear to have been made on what happens to them in the event that new landowners drove them away.

  • Government needs to make substantial resources available in order to provide infrastructure and other support services to newly resettled farmers.

  • Concerns raised that if resettled farmers were not chosen carefully, the programme could result in collapse of the agricultural sector, given that some of the prospective settlers lacked training, had limited draught power etc.

  • Why was Government taking the land debate to the London Conference? The land issue is a primary national concern which should be discussed and solved within the country through dialogue and debate among citizens.

  • Just where was Government going to get the resources to finance the programme?

  • Was there no danger of Government raising hopes among those who need land yet it may fail to deliver?

  • Was not the land programme out of shear political expediency?



The Hon. Deputy Minister Dr Muchena responded to the number of questions and comments raised from the floor after the Hon. Minister Mr K Kangai had left the meeting for another engagement.

Dr Muchena began by reinforcing Mr Pazvakavambwa’s sentiments on the need to shake off our emotions on the land issue. Alluding to the Christian view that sometimes God had to use pain to get attention from people, she welcomed the fact that, perhaps in response to the Government’s land identification exercise, the land issue was now being taken more seriously that before.

Dr Muchena expressed her appreciation of the day’s deliberations. It was, in her view, a hallmark in the sense that, ‘for the first time, we had a balanced view - we have moved a lot from the emotional to the objective and technical realm’.

Responding to the issues raised concerning the rationality of the Government’s land redistribution initiatives, Dr Muchena quoted the Biblical verses: Numbers, 36:39 „And to the large tribe, give a large piece of land, to the small, a small piece."

[page number of print ed.: 11]

On the need for planning the land redistribution programme, she explained that Government was definitely aware of the need to plan. She also explained that people were aware of what Government was doing regarding land.

Regarding the pace of reform, she explained to participants that the Government had indeed been trying to abide by the law pertaining to land acquisition. Farms had been identified for resettlement. Objections to land identification were invited and currently the majority of farmers whose land had been identified had launched their objections. Government was considering these before moving on to the next stage of acquiring those farms.

Concerning the plight of the farm workers, the Hon. Deputy Minister assured their representative that they were taken into account in the current land strategy. She reminded participants that in the immediate post independence experiment with land resettlement, a lot of farm workers had been abandoned by their employers. It was Government which had resettled them.

On the matter of infrastructural support to those farmers who will be resettled, Dr Muchena reminded the audience that it was not just the responsibility of Government alone i.e. to provide housing, roads, health services etc. She said that there was a „fantastic opportunity for business" in the land reform programme. She urged the private sector to explore these openings and use them to the full.

Responding to the numerous comments and cautioned statements that Government should select carefully farmers for resettlement in order to ensure productivity did not fail, Dr Muchena painstakingly challenged the audience to rid themselves of that negative perception about peasant farmers which still seemed to prevail in Zimbabwean society. Contrary to these stereotypes i.e. the peasant communal sector as „ignorant, environmentally uncaring, inefficient etc.", she expressed her confidence in the ability of the sector to produce record crop yields with more limited resources than commercial farmers. To illustrate her point, the Hon. Deputy Minister informed the audience about her own personal experience with small scale farmers in her constituency of Mutoko South. Her experience was that a peasant farmer was in fact doing better (in per ha terms) than the commercial farmer. She had recently attended a field day in her constituency. The tobacco crop exhibited by the peasant farmers „was as of good quality as any other."

Dr Muchena vehemently disagreed with Dr Grant on his argument that agricultural productivity would go down if land reforms were carried through. Using data based on the Agricultural Bureau of Statistics, she showed slides which indicated that for many crops (e.g. maize, cotton), production in the smallholder sector was higher in per hectare terms than commercial production. In addition, the communal herds of cattle were quantitatively larger than the commercial (though of lesser quality due to the inadequacies in grazing lands, among other things).

The smallholder sector had not yet ‘started’ in terms of raising efficiency, marginal productivity in the sector was in fact on the increase. In light of the above, it was therefore inconceivable that if these farmers were resettled in regions I and II, productivity would decline.

On the reason why Government was going to take the land issue to the London Conference Dr Muchena explained that the conference was actually not the initiative of the Government.

[page number of print ed.: 12]

Rather, it was the centre of African Studies who had expressed an interest to discuss the issue with all the relevant stakeholders on the land issue in Zimbabwe.

On the issue of finance for the programme, the Hon. Deputy Minister indicated that the Government was going to mobilise resources both internally and externally in monetary and non-monetary terms.

On the question about the timetable for the land acquisition and redistribution, Dr Muchena stressed that the Government’s plan was not intended to be an indefinite exercise, hence the suggested 5 to 10 year period suggested by Government.

In order to emphasise the importance of the Government land reform programme, Hon. Deputy Minister Dr Muchena drew the attention of the audience to the fact that even the so called Asian tigers did not begin by big industry. They in fact began with agrarian reforms. She posed a challenge to academics to develop models of development where there was a gradual shift from agriculture to industry.

Finally, in response to a concern raised from the floor about Government perhaps inadvertently raising false hopes within a ‘land hungry’ populace should it turn out that acquired land was not infact distributed to those who needed it and could use it, Dr Muchena made an impassioned statement to the effect that „Zimbabwe’s survival depends on how we resolve the land issue..... It is not a politically expedient venture to obtain votes." She added that the centrality of land to Zimbabwean society could not be overemphasised. She recounted how, even as a little girl, the almost sacred identification of her being with the soil - "mwana wevhu," was an integral part of her existence, and indeed, that of masses of other Black people.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | August 2001

Previous Page TOC Next Page