Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Land reform debate must be based on fact

Land reform debate must be based on facts

Written by Robin palmer
Wednesday, 19 January 2011 10:50

Ian Scoones made this plea in your paper last week (‘CFU welcomes debate on
land reforms’,13 January 2011): ‘We want the debate (on land reform) to move
ahead based on evidence, on facts, on details and on information based on
research rather than on conjecture.’

At the Royal African Society launch of his co-authored book, Zimbabwe’s Land
Reform, in London the following day, Ian got his wish, when we enjoyed two
hours of presentations, questions and answers without the normal ranting
that emerges whenever Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe is mentioned.

At that meeting I was invited to make an historical presentation. So I
referred back to my 1977 book, Land and Racial Domination in Rhodesia, long
out of print and sadly never available inside Zimbabwe. In my introduction
to that book I referred to a considerable mythology which had grown up
around the subject of land, and went on:

‘While conscious of this mythology, I have felt it best to ignore it as far
as possible, and to attempt to produce a sober, dispassionate study which
will withstand (as well as such things can ever withstand) the ravages of
time and the changes of political climate, and one which perhaps will permit
future mythologies to have a somewhat firmer basis in reality.’ (p.1)

At the end of the book I concluded:

What can be affirmed with certainty is that the most acute and difficult
question confronting the first Government of Zimbabwe will be that of land,
bedevilled by its past use as a political and economic weapon by the whites,
and by the consequent mythologies to which this has given rise. The problem
will not be an easy one to resolve. The continuing stranglehold of the land
division of the 1890s, the fact that Rhodesia is part of the Southern
African regional economic system, and the lessons to be drawn from the
agricultural failures of neighbouring Zambia, will all impose constraints on
future land and agricultural policies. That the country possesses enormous
potential is not in doubt; that such potential can be harnessed effectively
and with social justice remains to be determined.’ (p.246)

When Nelson Marongwe, one of the co-authors of Zimbabwe’s Land Reform,
finally completed his doctorate in 2009, I presented him with a copy of my
1977 book as a reward for his great perseverance! That single copy has since
been circulated hand to hand around Masvingo ‘with great enthusiasm’, and
been appreciated on both sides of the political divide – which has pleased
me greatly. Another co-author, B.Z. Mavedzenge, has pointed out that ‘the
younger generation now have no idea about their real history.’

I am quietly hopeful that my 1977 historical study may finally be published
in Zimbabwe, and so make a belated contribution to the triumph of history
over mythology in this deeply and bitterly contested subject.


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