[page number of print ed.: 76]


In 1978, when it was dangerous to talk of these issues, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace published a document in the Rhodesia to Zimbabwe series, entitled „The Land Question". The final paragraph of this document starts with the words, „We have argued in the last section that a radical land reform is necessary if it is assumed that high priorities for an independent Zimbabwe should include the narrowing of inequality, the elimination of poverty and economic growth based on the integration of all into the development process."......and ends with the words, „To refrain from attempting to initiate a radical land reform on the grounds of impossibility would be both defeatist and historically inaccurate."

In February 1992, the Commission wrote to the President expressing the concern of the Commission on the proposed Land Acquisition Bill, our letter pointed out, inter alia, the following:-

  1. it is bad legislation which gives one man, the Minister, unwarranted and extraordinary powers;

  2. it denies affected persons access to the Courts, thereby denying them the protection of law;

  3. it has the potential to encourage corrupt practices;

  4. it will seriously threaten both the agricultural sector and the agricultural finance sector;

  5. it will have a serious negative impact on the country’s investment climate;

  6. it will not solve, but worsen, the position of the country’s food security;

Unfortunately, only cosmetic changes were made to the bill before it passed into law and the corrupt use to which the new Act was put is now a matter of historical record. The designation aspect of the new law served only to bring false hope to the landless and a high degree of insecurity to both the land owners and the investor community.

We have been told, ad nauseam, of the historic wrongs of land distribution in this country since colonialisation. Unfortunately, however, one cannot correct one wrong with another. The correction of the land imbalance in Zimbabwe requires not political expedience, but deep and detailed planning in order that the correction of the imbalance will not destroy what it was designed to correct.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome has recently published a document on this precise topic. Chapter three, Para 45 of the document starts with the words: „The benefits of such reform will not be forthcoming, however, unless its programmes are correctly formulated. Their success must not be compromised by the error of thinking that agrarian reform refers simply to the expropriation of large land holdings,......."

Precisely because Government policy has been compromising by that error in thinking, the country has witnessed the abject failure of many of the resettlement efforts, which have served only to further impoverish both the people they were intended to assist and the land which was resettled. These failures were the direct result of lack of detailed planning and the corruption which characterised the exercise.

[page number of print ed.: 77]

Unhappily, it appears to have been the intention of Government to use land acquisition as a political tool to enhance its popularity, not as a tool to seriously address the unjust imbalances, to alleviate poverty, to increase social integration or to protect the environment. Indeed, the failed resettlement schemes have served to negate all those benefits.

Perhaps it is truly fortunate for the nation that the political chickens have now come home to roost, because it has forced us as a nation, and it has forced Government, to concentrate the mind on this problem, the solution to which can be indeed the saving of our country. The conference today may be an important step in the direction of a truly just and holistic solution to the problems we face and may give a solid foundation to the meeting to take place in London next month.

The word HOLISTIC there introduces a name which was at one time, well known in Zimbabwe, that of Allan Savory, now the head of the Centre for Holistic Management, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His deep concern for the environment of this country and indeed, of the world is well known.

However, no matter how we go forward, the word HOLISTIC does describe the correct planning which is required for this exercise, which must take into consideration all aspects of the social, political and economic well being of the nation, including the tragedy of AIDS and the effect it will have on the future of this beloved country.

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

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