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Land Reform in the Twenty Years After Independence

Land has been a source of political conflict in Zimbabwe since colonization, when the country was known as Rhodesia, both within indigenous black communities and especially between white settlers and the black rural communities. Under British colonial rule and under the white minority government that in 1965 unilaterally declared its independence from Britain, white Rhodesians seized control of the vast majority of good agricultural land, leaving black peasants to scrape a living from marginal "tribal reserves." An end to white minority rule came after a protracted war of liberation in which land was a major issue, but was ultimately negotiated through talks brokered by the British government that led to a settlement known as the Lancaster House Agreement, and then to elections in 1980. Robert Mugabe, leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), the dominant liberation movement, won a resounding victory. However, the new government was bound by "sunset clauses" in the Lancaster House Agreement that gave special protections to white Zimbabweans for the first ten years of independence. These included provisions that the new government would not engage in any compulsory land acquisition and that when land was acquired the government would "pay promptly adequate compensation" for the property. Land distribution would take place in terms of "willing buyer, willing seller." (From 1985, every vendor of land was required to obtain from the government a "certificate of no present interest" in the acquisition of the land concerned before going ahead with the sale.)

Released from the constraints of the Lancaster House Agreement in 1990, the Zanu-PF government amended the provisions of the constitution concerning property rights. Compulsory acquisition of land for redistribution and resettlement became possible. In 1992, the Land Acquisition Act also gave the government strengthened powers to acquire land for resettlement, subject to the payment of "fair" compensation fixed by a committee of six persons using set (nonmarket) guidelines, including powers to limit the size of farms and introduce a land tax. A 1994 land tenure commission also recommended that the best way to achieve vital redistribution was through a land tax, though no tax was in fact put in place.1 Despite the new laws, the government land acquisition and resettlement in practice slowed down. In the first decade of independence, the government acquired 40 percent of the target of eight million hectares, resettling more than 50,000 families on more than three million hectares.2 By the end of the second decade of independence, the pace of land reform had declined. Less than one million hectares was acquired for distribution during the 1990s and fewer than 20,000 families resettled.3 Budgetary allocations showed that land acquisition was not a government priority during these years. By the end of what became known as "phase one" of the land reform and resettlement program in 1997, the government had resettled 71,000 families (against a target of 162,000) on almost 3.5 million hectares of land.4 Only 19 percent of this was classed as prime land, the rest was either marginal, or unsuitable for grazing or cultivation.5 About 400 black elite farmers were leasing 400,000 hectares of state land, and about 350 black people had bought their farms.6 There were positive and sustainable results from the resettlement process, though problems beset the resettled communities who lacked infrastructure and support networks, whether governmental or from their previous communities.7 Moreover, population density in the "communal areas," the former tribal reserves, actually increased. More than one million families still eked out an existence on sixteen million hectares of poor land. Despite wealth in one sector of the economy, Zimbabwe remained one of the most unequal countries in the world.

Where the blame should lie for the failure to change the racially skewed nature of land ownership in Zimbabwe has been a key point in diplomatic interactions over the current land crisis. In the first two decades of independence, Zimbabwe received financial assistance from various governments, including Britain, which provided £44 million through a "land resettlement grant" and budgetary support to the Zimbabwe government. The land resettlement grant was mostly spent by 1988 and formally expired in 1996.8 Conditions were put on the way that the money handed over could be used. Britain in particular, especially under the Conservative Party government in power from 1979 to 1997, favored redistribution based on government purchase of land from willing sellers at full market prices, a bias that contributed to the purchase of scattered, low-quality land for resettlement. In 1997, the new British Labour Party government proposed that its new policy directing development assistance to poverty alleviation guide its support for land reform. But Minister for International Development Clare Short wrote to the Zimbabwean government stating that "we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe."9 The donor community also raised various problems with the way in which the funds provided for land redistribution were disbursed; arguments that the Zimbabwean government rejected not least on the basis that the money paid was as a matter of historical obligation rather than development assistance. Zimbabwe accused the new British government of following the same racist policies as its predecessors.

By 1999, eleven million hectares of the richest land were still in the hands of about 4,500 commercial farmers, the great majority of them white.10 Moreover, some farms purchased for redistribution had in fact been given to government ministers and other senior officials rather than to the landless peasantry.11 Most rural black Zimbabweans continued to suffer immense poverty. In the face of government failure to deliver, grassroots land occupations were already taking place in the 1980s and 1990s; in many cases government security forces then removed people from the land with some brutality. This was particularly the case in the context of the conflict in the 1980s in Matabeleland between Zanu-PF and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu), the other main liberation movement, which drew its support base from among the Ndebele.12 By late 1997 and 1998, much larger scale occupations were taking place.13 But, despite occasional saber-rattling by the government, white farmers were mostly left undisturbed; several became prominent supporters of Zanu-PF.

The conflict over land was related to growing tension between the government and veterans of the liberation war. In 1980, there were about 60,000 men and women who had been guerrilla members of the two liberation armies, Zanla (affiliated with Zanu) and Zipra (affliated with Zapu). About 20,000 were integrated into the national army; the remainder were demobilized and awarded a small pension, but given little other assistance to help them in starting a new life. In April 1989, the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans' Association (WVA) was formed, bringing together excombatants from both Zanla and Zipra to lobby for increased government assistance. By 1991, the government opened negotiations with the veterans group and several laws were passed in their favor, including a War Victims Compensation Act (1993). The administration of the compensation, however, was corrupt and inefficient. A number of senior Zanu officials were later found to be claiming large pay-outs, while those in real need remained neglected. The confrontation over these issues provoked a crisis in relations between the government and the WVA. In August 1997, a commission of inquiry was appointed to look into abuses in the payment system (the Chidyausiku Commission), provoking a split in the WVA between those who supported and those who opposed the investigation. In September of that year, at the Zanu-PF summit, Mugabe bowed to pressure and announced a package for veterans that included a once-off payment of Z$50,000 to each veteran, and a Z$2,000 per month pension for life. It was not clear how the state would pay for this commitment. The pledge, however, gave some war veterans an interest in the continued rule of Zanu-PF; by mid-1999, the WVA faction led by Chenjerai Hitler Hunzvi, who was to be a key figure in leading the land invasions of 2000, was clearly close to the government.14

Exacerbating these problems was a growing economic crisis in the country. The new government had borrowed heavily from the World Bank during the 1980s, and servicing the debt rose to 37 percent of export earnings by 1987. Small-holding peasants defaulted on more than 75,000 out of 94,000 loans given to them, worsening the government's fiscal crisis. Loan conditions were placed on the government, which led to food subsidies falling in 1986 to two-thirds of their 1981 level and a cut in education and health spending. The adoption of an Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) in 1991 led to increases in interest rates and inflation, and drought in 1992 and 1995 compounded the problems. Land reform was not integrated into ESAP, while large scale commercial farmers were the principal beneficiaries of reforms promoting agricultural exports. The stock market fell and manufacture contracted by 40 percent between 1992 and 1996.15 Many workers were laid off. By 1997, Zimbabwe was in the throes of a serious economic and political crisis. Spiraling food and fuel prices inspired urban strikes and political protests, radicalizing the trade union movement under the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. A militant strike wave in 1998 saw public sector workers at the forefront of this growing resistance, including two successful national general strikes. Despite the domestic financial problems, in June 1998, the government sent the first of what would eventually be 11,000 soldiers from the Zimbabwean army to the Democratic Republic of Congo, to fight in support of the government of President Laurent Kabila.

In the wake of a growing confrontation between the British and other donors and the Zimbabwean government over the financing of land transfers, and the November 1997 government notice of compulsory acquisition of 1,471 farms (about 3.9 million hectares),16 an international donors' conference on land reform and resettlement was held in September 1998. This forum aimed to build a consensus among various stakeholders in land reform. A set of principles was adopted to govern "phase two" of land resettlement in Zimbabwe, including respect for a legal process, transparency, poverty reduction, affordability, and consistency with Zimbabwe's wider economic interests. A technical committee worked on finalizing the details of the new system.17 Nevertheless, relations between the donors and the government broke down. The Zimbabwe government accused the donors of not actually putting up the funds that they had pledged and of protecting the neo-colonial interests of white-owned agribusiness; the donors accused the government of continued lack of transparency and failure to adhere to the principles agreed at the conference. New conditions related to governance were attached to funding for land reform. Despite these difficulties, some progress was made: by the end of 1999, thirty-five farms totaling 70,000 hectares had been purchased, with others in line to be acquired. A draft land tax bill had been produced, and steps taken to limit farm sizes.18

While these debates were ongoing, many of those demanding economic and political reform came together in 1997 to form the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), an alliance of civil society groups which initiated a process of debate on the need for a new constitution. In 1999, representatives of a wide range of interest groups formed a new political party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The creation of the MDC was the first time in Zimbabwe's post-independence history that an opposition party had succeeded in creating a genuinely national movement, and thus represented a real threat to the ruling party. In particular, the MDC was the first party to attract support from white Zimbabweans, and received significant financial support from the white business and commercial farming communities. In addition to calling for national renewal on a range of issues, the MDC promised "people-driven land reform." The party committed itself to purchasing "6-7 million [hectares] of land for resettlement through the acquisition of underutilised, derelict and multiple owned land, land already identified and designated for the purpose and corruptly acquired land."19 At the time, the government's policy was eventually to acquire five million hectares of land from the commercial farming sector for redistribution.20

In an attempt to coopt the demand for constitutional reform, in May 1999 President Mugabe created an official government commission, consisting of almost 400 members, to rewrite the constitution. A large number of public meetings was held to solicit public views, though these were ultimately largely ignored. A draft constitution, including provisions that would greatly strengthen the executive at the expense of parliament, and extend the powers of the government to acquire land compulsorily without compensation, was adopted against the protests of a substantial number of members of the constitutional commission and submitted to a national referendum in February 2000.21 The MDC campaigned for a "no" vote. The government was defeated in the referendum, by 53 percent of the 1.3 million votes cast.

In the face of the challenge represented by the MDC and other increasingly outspoken critics of his government, President Mugabe and Zanu-PF responded on two fronts. On the one hand, the government revived the call for radical land redistribution to fulfill the promises made at independence, giving official blessing to a new wave of land occupations led by members of the War Veterans Association that had rapidly accelerated following the referendum result. Members of the army were also involved in coordinating and facilitating these occupations. Capitalizing on the fact that land reform remains a powerful issue for any political party to invoke, Zanu-PF campaigned for the June 2000 parliamentary elections on the slogan "Land is the Economy; the Economy is Land."22 The government implemented the provisions of the rejected draft constitution relating to land acquisition through parliament, adding a new section 16A to the existing constitution. The amendment, which became law in April 2000, significantly extended the grounds on which land could be compulsorily acquired and absolved the government from providing compensation, except for improvements; instead, the "former colonial power" should provide any compensation.23 The Land Acquisition Act was further amended in May 2000, using the power given to the president to enact six month temporary legislation under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act of 1986; and again November, through parliament in a two-day process. The stated aim was to "clarify and streamline various procedural aspects of the acquisition process and to prescribe new compensation rules in accordance with the Constitution."24 On the other hand, the ruling party mobilized violence against the political opposition.

There had been some political violence before the February 2000 referendum, but the parliamentary elections were marked by much worse violence and intimidation, supported by public statements by senior Zanu-PF figures, particularly directed against MDC candidates and supporters, white farm owners and black farm workers, teachers, civil servants, journalists, and residents of rural areas believed to support opposition parties. While there was some reciprocal violence by MDC supporters against the ruling party, all systematic monitoring showed opposition supporters as the majority of victims, and Zanu-PF supporters as the majority of perpetrators.25 There was also widespread criticism of the conduct of the poll, of media bias, and the legal framework provided by the Electoral Act. Nevertheless, the MDC came close to winning more seats than Zanu-PF, gaining fifty-seven seats to the ruling party's sixty-two (plus thirty MPs appointed by the executive), on a 50 percent turnout. The MDC challenged thirty-nine constituency results in the High Court; the defeated candidates and many witnesses were themselves subjected to serious intimidation. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, basing its findings on information received by its constituent organizations, found that at least seventy-two people had died in pre-election political violence, and eight in post-election violence, up to the end of the year.26

Political violence continued in 2001, including in connection with the land reform program, and at least forty-eight people died in political violence during the year.27 According to reports from human rights groups, harassment of opposition activists and intimidation of farm workers escalated by the end of the year and into early 2002; though there was some transfer of geographical focus from commercial farming areas to communal land and towns.

Fast Track Land Reform

The Zimbabwean government formally announced the "fast track" resettlement program in July 2000, stating that it would acquire more than 3,000 farms for redistribution. Between June 2000 and February 2001, a national total of 2,706 farms, covering more than six million hectares, were gazetted (listed in the official government journal) for compulsory acquisition.28 According to the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU), which represents the large-scale commercial farming sector in Zimbabwe,29 more than 1,600 commercial farms were occupied by settlers led by war veterans in the course of 2000, though others have questioned the number, and some were occupied only for a short period.30 Not all of these occupations were accompanied by violence.

In April 2001, the objectives of the land reform and resettlement program were, among other things, said to be to acquire not less than 8.3 million hectares from the large scale commercial farming sector for redistribution (an increase from the five million hectares stated in 1998).31 In October 2001, the government announced that it intended to list for acquisition 4,558 farms, covering 8.8 million hectares.32 In the same month, based on a survey of its members, the CFU estimated that 1,948 farms had been physically occupied and that the number of people occupying farms had risen to 104,000 from an estimated 25,000 at the end of 2000, with an overall average of fifty-three occupiers per farm.33 By the end of 2001, about 250 farmers out of the CFU's total membership of 3,500 had left their farms over the previous year,34 and the Ministry of Land, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement had recorded that 114,830 households had physically moved and resettled on 4.37 million hectares. By January 2002, up to 6,481 farms had been listed for acquisition. Of these, 918 had been removed because they were counted twice, and 689 were delisted after litigation or negotiation; leaving a total of 4,874 listed farms, or 9.23 million hectares of land.35

According to official government documents, the identification of land for compulsory acquisition under the fast track process is in theory coordinated by a National Land Identification Committee, chaired by the vice-president's office. Four ministries are officially involved: Lands, Agriculture, and Rural Resettlement; Local Government, Public Works and National Housing; Rural Resources and Water Development; and Environment and Tourism. In practice, the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing plays the critical role. Provincial Land Identification Committees chaired by the provincial administrator coordinate implementation; a technical committee short-lists and evaluates applications. This structure is duplicated at district level, where committees are chaired by the district administrator (DA). Representatives of the rural district councils (RDCs), traditional leaders, and the War Veterans Association are all members of these committees.36 Zanu-PF Party chairmen are also represented from local to national level. Farm owners can appeal to the Provincial Land Identification Committees if they believe that official criteria are not being followed, and negotiate modifications to the acquisition process.

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) technical report on the fast track program noted in January 2002 noted that the program is "affected by cumbersome consultations and decision-making processes involving numerous district, provincial and central government actors.... Problems of weak capacity and poor coordination have led to numerous errors in processing the acquisition of properties."37 Among the farms listed for resettlement have been properties totally unsuitable for the purpose, including land flooded under dams, land already resettled, or land currently used for industrial purposes. The team commented that even after recent amendments to the law, the land acquisition process was "complex, cumbersome and tedious to execute," and that the team "is not aware of any other country in the region where the procedure for compulsory acquisition of land is so elaborate."38

There are two models for resettlement under the fast track program: model A1, "the decongestion model for the generality of landless people with a villagized and a self-contained variant," to benefit 160,000 beneficiaries from among the poor; and model A2, aimed at creating a cadre of 51,000 small- to medium-scale black indigenous commercial farmers.39 Twenty percent of all resettlement plots under the model A1 pattern are officially reserved for war veterans, repeating a commitment made by the government since the early 1990s.40 In order to request land from the fast track program applicants must fill in an application form. This form is available either from the official structures-a district administrator, RDC councilor, or civil servant-or, in practice, from the commander of the war veterans militia leading the occupation of the relevant farm.

According to the land policy statement of the government of Zimbabwe adopted in 1990, which still applies, the criteria for identifying land to be acquired for redistribution are that the land is: derelict, underutilized, owned by a farmer who also has other farms, foreign-owned, or contiguous to communal areas. Some refinements of these criteria can be deduced from government statements.41 Under the fast track land reform process, as more and more farms have been listed, these criteria have largely been abandoned. In particular during the initial land occupations and when fast track land reform was officially adopted, farms have been selected for gazetting on different criteria, which, judging by the practice, have apparently included whether the farm owner is a prominent MDC supporter, in addition to farms where the farm owner did not treat workers well, those where there was conflict between the farm owner and farmers on surrounding communal area land, and farms where a community now resident in a communal area has a historical claim to the land. However, there is no formal process, for example, to ensure that people from a communal area who have a historical claim get precedence in settling on that land. Rather, the fast track process has brought people who otherwise have no connection with each other together in new settlements. The government has not engaged in any speedy process to guarantee security of tenure on land allocated for resettlement: settlers on A1 model farms are in theory being issued temporary occupation licenses, expected to be converted in time into proper leases.42 Moreover, in practice farms have been occupied even when they have not been listed under any of the set legal procedures; though this process seems to have slowed in the last quarter of 2001.43

Since the introduction of the fast track process, government policy and stated aims in relation to redistribution and land occupations have repeatedly changed.44 There are clearly divisions within Zanu-PF as to the way forward on land reform, between those favoring an orderly legal process, and those urging a "revolutionary" approach.

New legislation has been brought in to supplement the original laws providing for the fast track program and to legalize processes that were formally illegal at the time they were begun. The Rural Land Occupiers (Protection from Eviction) Act of June 2001 protects from eviction for a period of twelve months (originally six months) those who had occupied land up to February 2001 without following the proper procedures, and suspended the application of court orders for eviction. In November 2001, President Mugabe used his "presidential powers" to amend the Land Acquisition Act, with retroactive effect to May 2000. The new provisions mean that ownership of designated land is transferred immediately, irrespective of any court challenge, to the acquiring authority and serves as a ninety-day eviction notice for the previous owner (penalties for noncompliance include imprisonment for up to two years). At any time after the serving of a "section 8" notice under the amended act, the government has the right to stop farming operations on the farm affected. In November 2001, the minister of lands, agriculture and rural resettlement launched regulations limiting maximum farm sizes to units ranging from 250-400 hectares in the main arable areas and 2,000 hectares in the grazing areas.

The Commercial Farmers' Union has adopted a two-track approach in responding to the fast track land reform process and land occupations. On the one hand, the union has challenged the new laws and policies in the courts. In December 2000, the CFU was successful in obtaining an interdict from the Zimbabwe Supreme Court barring further land acquisitions on the grounds that the fast track program was unconstitutional, because it was being carried out in a violent and haphazard manner. The government has criticized the courts generally for standing in the way of land reform and has repeatedly failed to abide by court orders; including this one. In November 2001, the same court overturned the interdict, on the grounds that the government now had a lawful program of land reform. The judgment accepted the government's argument that new legislation had retroactively legalized occupations that had been carried out in violation of what were then the legal procedures.45 Between the two judgments, several judges on the court, including the chief justice, had been forced to retire and replaced with individuals perceived to be loyal to Zanu-PF.46

At the same time, the CFU took a decision to negotiate with the government on the land reform process, by offering land for resettlement. Historically, commercial farmers have not taken active steps to move the redistribution process forward. A spokesperson for the CFU noted on this point: "While commercial farmers can be criticized for not doing enough earlier to avert the current crisis, there was no incentive, because the government was doing even less."47 Only recently have land owners offered significant amounts of land in large blocs or contiguous to communal areas for the redistribution program. In November 2001, following an agreement with the Zimbabwe government on land reform brokered by the Commonwealth in Abuja, Nigeria, the CFU formally announced the launch of the Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative (ZJRI), based on a proposal submitted to government in May 2001.48 Under the initiative, the CFU offered 562 farms to the government, representing one million hectares of land distributed across the country, with assistance for newly resettled farmers. Fast track land occupations did not, however, cease.

Production on some commercial farms has continued, where settlers have adopted a pragmatic approach of coexistence, or where land committees have operated to resolve disputes. But the CFU estimated that 31 percent of farms were experiencing total or partial work stoppages in late September 2001.49 By January 2002, about 1,000 commercial farms had closed operations completely-either the resident farm owners had left, or were allowed to stay but not allowed to farm by militia occupying the land. The areas particularly affected were Mashonaland East, Central, and West, the most productive arable land in Zimbabwe.50 Some farms continue to produce relatively normally, though investment in infrastructure and planting is greatly reduced. In February 2002, however, President Mugabe reportedly told an election rally, attended by senior diplomats among others, that whites whose conduct reflected an unwillingness to live under black rule would be expelled, and urged villagers to take over any properties that might have been left unlisted by government authorities.51

Problems Caused by a Disorderly Process
Because the "fast track" process of resettlement is being carried out so rapidly, short-circuiting legal procedures, it appears that many of those who have moved to new plots or those who might otherwise do so, are worried about the lack of certainty that their title will be secure. As noted by UNDP, "apart from discouraging settlers from taking up plots allocated to them, this is likely to defeat the productivity goals of the resettlement programme as a whole."52 Others who wanted land told Human Rights Watch that they had not taken up the opportunity because they did not have the resources to cultivate the land and there was no government support to assist new settlers. The absence of legal security and government assistance could leave them vulnerable to hunger and displacement.

A war veteran who was given a piece of land described to Human Rights Watch how he found that the same land had been reallocated to different people in subsequent weeks when he tried to go back to his plot. He had been given no written proof that the land was allocated to him. He lamented, "I felt angry because I felt there was some kind of disorder and there was no proper responsibility for the exercise."53

In many cases the people being resettled are also told not to erect permanent shelters. There is a high turnover in new settler populations, with people coming and leaving resettled areas after varying periods of time.

You will see a certain plot being pegged ten times to different people When they bring the first lot, they will stay about five or six weeks, then they leave on the war veterans' tractor, then they come back with some old and some new.54

Farmers who are members of the Commercial Farmers' Union have also reported conflict between different groups of settlers, caused by the lack of certainty in the process.55

Many rural black Zimbabweans expressed a profound disapproval of the manner in which government is carrying out land reform, in particular the lack of clear criteria for the allocation of land and the lack of structured support for new settlers. "This issue of land, we are not saying people should not be given land, of course they should; but it should be done in a proper way. Some people can just go and settle at a place where there are no facilities like water, schools, clinics, sanitation...And the loss of jobs brings hunger to the farming areas, since the workers aren't buying from the small-scale farmers either."56 A UNDP technical team considering the fast track land reform program in late 2001 noted that "the provision of roads, schools, clinics and boreholes, etc. was lagging far behind settler emplacement," and that the provision of essential public infrastructure within a reasonable timeframe "will be impossible on the Government's past track record and its current implementation capacity."57 Therefore, the team concluded that

the current scope of the Fast Track is not implementable on a sustainable basis unless (a) the settlement timetable is substantially adjusted; (b) there is a considerable infusion of resources to finance the necessary infrastructure and support services; and (c) there is a stronger basis for optimism on the part of settlers about their future leading them to form viable community organizations aimed at ensuring the sustainability of new settlements.58

One women's rights activist commented that the fast track process meant that, "You are just moving poverty from one location to another."59

Uncertainty has been exacerbated by the rule that land in the communal area be given up when fast-track land is taken: land in communal areas is allocated for cultivation and occupation by traditional leaders, with no absolute ownership; if the person to whom the land is allocated is not present, he forfeits his right to hold it. Giving up communal land without secure tenure elsewhere may leave one displaced and without any access to land. People respond with pragmatic interim arrangements.

I will give up claims to my land in the communal area by letting my son inherit it. I can't give up my communal area, that's taboo. I will pretend I have.60

As a consequence of the perceived lack of security of tenure and of support for new settlers, some of those who might otherwise want land are reluctant to come forward. One councilor described to Human Rights Watch how he was having difficulty filling up his quota:

They asked councilors to give the names of people to be resettled, in my ward I was asked to get ten names. I will hold a meeting to ask who wants to be resettled. I hold a meeting with people in the ward every two months. I've asked two times now for names, but I only got one name, though there are about 400 people at each meeting, and 934 homesteads in my ward, with an average five people per homestead. We were given no forms, we just had to give the names. People don't want to move because they have no money or resources-it's expensive to move to a new place, you need more than land only.61

Therefore, "you get people who are being pushed onto the farms. If they were not pushed they would not have gone."62

In some areas, occupiers of land are being paid in order to overcome their reluctance to move. In the Marondera area, for example, a farm foreman told human rights researchers, confirming similar reports, that:

The squatters are paid, yes...Soldiers are coming to the farm, and the deputy police commissioner. He's the one who wants this farm. There are big people who employ the squatters to harass the farmers and us, who work for him. They come in groups of 200 or 150 when they see the tractors in the field. They harass us, and chase us. [Q: How do you know?] I hear from the war vet that he [the police officer] wants the farm. He has a white Toyota Hilux twin cab, and we see him driving here on the weekends. [Q: How can you tell that he's paying the squatters money?] I develop a friendship with them, and they tell us. [Name deleted], he is employed as the base commander. He got paid Z$2,000 to Z$2,500 for each shack that gets built. There's no floor in the shacks, just walls. No one is supposed to live there, it's just to show that the land is occupied.63

Many people in communal areas reported that those from their area that had gone to the fast track resettlement areas had left their families behind, or the families had returned even if the men had stayed on the new plots. Children who had moved to new areas were missing classes because they sometimes faced walks of twenty-five kilometers or more to school. Even those who have remained have faced problems in securing education for their children, since many teachers have been driven away from their schools by Zanu-PF militia on suspicion of being MDC supporters.

Assessment of the level of satisfaction of those resettled under the fast track program with their land is difficult, since access to those areas for outsiders is regulated by militia supporting the ruling party and often led by war veterans, and thus hard to achieve. Some journalists and NGO workers have been assaulted or narrowly escaped assault by these militia on trying to visit resettled farms.64 Undoubtedly, there are people who want land and have the skills and resources to farm who have taken the opportunity presented by the fast track program to obtain a plot. However, problems faced by families resettled during earlier land reform programs do raise concerns about the sustainability of the fast track process. There is a danger that the effect of the unplanned relocations of communal area residents can in some cases be their further impoverishment.

In older resettlement areas, some of the land allocated has been abandoned or not fully utilized, due to lack of resources such as fertilizer or tractors, and in particular lack of access to credit. Assessments of the programs of land redistribution undertaken during the 1980s noted positive and sustainable results, benefiting some of the poorest people, increasing their incomes, and providing access to education and health services. However, they also noted that some areas remained without schools within walking distance or water supplies more than a decade after resettlement, as well as underutilization of land by new settlers, and recommended that these problems be addressed as the land reform program was continued.65 At the Musasa resettlement scheme close to Harare, settled in 1986, for example, several household heads told Human Rights Watch that they were only able to plow a small proportion of the twelve acres allocated to them, for lack of resources. "People were very happy back in 1986, but now there are mixed feelings. The problem is just the question of inputs."66 As a result, "out of twelve acres I am only using four acres because of lack of access to resources."67

Interviews with some newly settled villagers confirm that, because of the hasty nature of the fast track program, there is a danger that this pattern is now being repeated: one commented to Human Rights Watch that she had no idea how she would get the implements and other resources to farm her piece of land, she would just hope that some help would come.68 A retired school teacher from the same district said, "In this country it's very hard to get employment, but if they just get dumped on a piece of land that is worse."69

Women and men interviewed from a resettlement scheme of the 1980s also disapproved of the fast track program, due in part to their feeling that the process was not fair, but also because of the adverse consequences for themselves. Some of their sons had taken the opportunity to take land on neighboring commercial farms, but this unregulated process was seen to generate problems rather than benefits for the existing community.

This is a different administrative arrangement. It is jambanja [confusion, nonsense]. I did not attend the meeting. I am not part of those meetings. Some women went who wanted to hold land for their children...It [fast track] created lots of problems for people. There was cattle-thieving. The children who have gone into fast track no longer go to school. Some of them were employed in town but now they have no money. Crops left drying on drying trays are being stolen...In here it's clear-cut that the jambanja people stay there so there's no mixing. Conflict can arise with illegal hunting. In this village there is a policy because we think the way it is done, they were not properly settled. So we think if they go, they must go with their whole families, so we don't have security problems.70

The fast track resettlement program was also seen to endanger food security for the rural population. An agricultural extension officer commented: "I don't think the land invasions are there to promote production, because when you invade you are disrupting production," and complained that the unregulated movement of animals to the new areas spreads diseases.71 Meanwhile, "the war veterans on the farms in this area that are settled are just drinking beer and causing trouble, while they are waiting for the seeds, fertilizer, and tractors that have been promised."72

In many cases, farm workers and farm owners said war veterans were occupying commercial farm land without using it, other than to harvest crops and kill and eat livestock already on the farm. "On some farms they are planting maize and sunflowers and beans, but on the farm where I work they are just sitting there causing problems. Sometimes they stop the workers going to work; sometimes they are killing cattle to feed themselves."73 Farm workers and peasant farmers from communal areas repeatedly expressed to Human Rights Watch their dismay at the wastage caused by occupations of efficiently run commercial farms, when there was unused land that could be allocated to new settlers instead.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned in December 2001 that "the already tight food situation has deteriorated as a result of reduced cereal production and general economic decline...705,000 in rural areas are at risk of food shortages. In addition, 250,000 people in urban areas are experiencing food difficulties due to a sharp increase in food prices, while some 30,000 farm workers have lost their jobs and are left without means of assistance."74 The Commercial Farmers' Union estimated that close to 250,000 head of cattle (nearly 20 percent of the national commercial herd) had been forcibly "destocked" by late 2001, and that over 1.6 million hectares of grazing land had been burnt out, while commercial maize planting was down to 45,000 hectares from 150,000 hectares in the 1999/2000 season. Export crops such as tobacco were similarly affected.75 Inflation topped 100 percent per annum in November 2001.76 These problems have exacerbated food shortages already generated by a period of drought. The first consignment of donated maize arrived in Zimbabwe, usually a maize exporter, in January 2002, and the World Food Programme began emergency food distribution in February 2002.77

1 The commission was known as the Rukuni Commission, after its chair, Professor Mandiyamba Rukuni of the University of Zimbabwe Department of Agricultural and Extension Services.

2 Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions, Land, Housing and Property Rights in Zimbabwe (Geneva: COHRE, September 2001), available at, p.16, accessed November 10, 2001.

3 Ibid.

4 Technical Committee of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Resettlement and Rural Development and the National Economic Consultative Forum Land Reform Task Force, Inception Phase Framework Plan: 1999 to 2000, An Implementation Plan of the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme - Phase 2 (Harare: Government of Zimbabwe, undated (1998)), paragraph 1.2.

5 Tapera Knox Chitiyo, "Land Violence and Compensation: Reconceptualising Zimbabwe's Land and War Veterans' Debate," Track Two Occasional Paper, vol. 9, no. 1, (Cape Town: Centre for Conflict Resolution, May 2000), p.16.

6 Sam Moyo, "The Interaction of Market and Compulsory Land Acquisition Processes with Social Action in Zimbabwe's Land Reform," paper presented at SAPES Trust annual colloquium, Harare, September 2000, p.7.

7 See, for example, Zimbabwe: In the Party's Interest? (London: African Rights, June 1999).

8 Background Briefing, Land Resettlement in Zimbabwe (London: Department for International Development, March 2000). ₤20 million was provided as a specific land resettlement grant, and ₤27 million as budgetary support to help meet the Zimbabwe government's own contribution to the program. ₤3 million was eventually returned unspent to the British government.

9 Letter from British Minister for International Development Clare Short to Zimbabwe's Land and Agriculture Minister Kumbirai Kangai, quoted in Chris McGreal, "Blair's worse than the Tories, says Mugabe," Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg), December 22, 1997.

10 According to the Commercial Farmers' Union, basing its summary on official government figures, 39,079,000 hectares of land in Zimbabwe are split among: large scale commercial sector, 11,020,000 hectares (28.2 percent of the total), of which CFU members own 8,595,000 ha; small scale sector, 1,380,000 ha (3.15 percent); communal areas, 16,350,000 ha (nearly 42 percent); resettled areas, 3,540,000 ha (9.1 percent); national parks and forest land, 6,339,000 ha (16.2 percent); state-owned land through ARDA, 250,000 ha (0.6 percent); urban land, 200,000 ha (0.5 percent). CFU statement, October 19, 2001. All CFU documents cited are available on the CFU website,

11 A list of commercial farm allocations up to 1999 was obtained by independent MP Margaret Dongo, and published in early 2000. Republished in COHRE, Land, Housing and Property Rights in Zimbabwe, annex 2.

12 See Breaking the Silence; Building True Peace: A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands 1980 to 1988 (Harare: Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Legal Resources Foundation, February 1997). At least 3,000 people are known to have died in this violence, possibly many more. As part of the effort to resolve the conflict, Zapu later merged with Zanu-PF.

13 Moyo, "The Interaction of Market and Compulsory Land Acquisition Processes with Social Action," pp.28-30; Chitiyo, "Land Violence and Compensation," p.19. See also Sam Moyo, "The Land Occupations Movement and Democratisation: The Contradictions of the Neoliberal Agenda in Zimbabwe" (unpublished paper, 2001).

14 See generally, Chitiyo, "Land Violence and Compensation," pp. 19-22; Richard Carver, "Zimbabwe: A Strategy of Tension," Writenet, June 2000.

15 Patrick Bond, "Radical Rhetoric and the working class during Zimbabwe nationalism's dying days," in Brian Raftopoulos and Lloyd Sachikonye (eds.), Striking Back: The Labour Movement and the Post Colonial State in Zimbabwe 1980-2000 (Harare: Weaver Press, 2001).

16 Of these, only 109 were eventually purchased on offer, while the government delisted others on appeal, failed to file papers in time, or was successfully challenged through the courts. Moyo, "The Interaction of Market and Compulsory Land Acquisition Processes with Social Action," p.23.

17 Technical Committee of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Resettlement and Rural Development and the National Economic Consultative Forum Land Reform Task Force, Inception Phase Framework Plan: 1999 to 2000, An Implementation Plan of the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme - Phase 2 (Harare: Government of Zimbabwe, undated (1998)).

18 COHRE, Land, Housing and Property Rights in Zimbabwe, p.20; Moyo, "The Interaction of Market and Compulsory Land Acquisition Processes with Social Action," p.24.

19 MDC manifesto, paragraph 3; see also Agriculture, Land and Water Policy Statement, June 2000; both available at, accessed December 4, 2001.

20 The "inception phase" of "phase two" of the land reform and resettlement program aimed to redistribute one million hectares in a twenty-four month period; in the longer run, within five years, the objectives of phase two were to acquire five million hectares of commercial farmland and resettle about 150,000 families. Technical Committee, Inception Phase Framework Plan, paragraphs 1.1 and 1.2. The MDC did not state a time limit for its own distribution plans.

21 See Angela Cheater, Human Rights and Zimbabwe's June 2000 Election (Harare: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Human Rights Research Unit, January 2001), pp.8-13 for a summary of the constitution-drafting process. The members of the NGO Forum are: Amani Trust, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Legal Resources Foundation, Transparency International (Zimbabwe), University of Zimbabwe Legal Aid and Advice Scheme, Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and the Rehabilitation of Offenders, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association.

22 In an opinion poll conducted in March 2000, 30 percent of Zimbabweans wanted to see farms removed from white owners. (Land, however, ranked fourth among respondents' concerns, after inflation, unemployment, and the fall in the value of the Zimbabwe dollar.) The survey was of 1,900 randomly selected respondents interviewed during the run-up to the referendum and results were published in the Harare Standard on March 12, 2000; see Cheater, Human Rights and Zimbabwe's June 2000 Election, p.15.

23 Section 16A now provides that, among other things:
(1)(c)- the people of Zimbabwe must be enabled to reassert their rights and regain ownership of their land; and accordingly-
i - the former colonial power has an obligation to pay compensation for agricultural land compulsorily acquired for resettlement, through an adequate fund established for the purpose; and
ii - if the former colonial power fails to pay compensation through such a fund, the Government of Zimbabwe has no obligation to pay compensation for agricultural land compulsorily acquired for resettlement.
See COHRE, Land, Housing and Property Rights in Zimbabwe, for further discussion of Zimbabwe's constitutional provisions on land acquisition.

24 Land Reform and Resettlement Programme: Revised Phase II, paragraph 2.5.

25 Cheater, Human Rights and Zimbabwe's June 2000 Election; Amnesty International Zimbabwe: Terror Tactics in the Run-up to Parliamentary Elections (London: Amnesty International, June 2000); see also European Union, Report of the E.U. Election Observation Mission on the Parliamentary Elections in Zimbabwe 24-25 June 2000 (Strasbourg/Harare: European Union, July 2000), available at, accessed November 25, 2001. E.U. monitors independently found that, of 250 incidents of violence reported to monitors in the field, Zanu-PF supporters were alleged to be perpetrators in 68 percent of cases, MDC supporters in 7 percent of cases, and other perpetrators including war veterans in 18 percent of cases. The Amani Trust found Zanu-PF supporters and government officials to be responsible for more than 90 percent of the cases of violence reported to it, and MDC and others for 2 percent. Amani Trust Matabeleland Office, Recount on Political Violence in Zimbabwe (Bulawayo: Amani Trust, June 2000).

26 Cheater, Human Rights and Zimbabwe's June 2000 Election, p. 35; for detailed statistics see also Human Rights Monitor 2000 Annual Report (Harare: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, 2001).

27 Politically Motivated Violence in Zimbabwe, 2000-2001: A report on the campaign of political repression conducted by the Zimbabwean Government under the guise of carrying out land reform (Harare: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, July 2001), p.4; Political Violence Report January 2002 (Harare: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, February 2002).

28 Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, and Rural Resettlement, Land Reform and Resettlement Programme: Revised Phase II (Harare: Government of Zimbabwe, April 2001), paragraph 2.4.

29 The CFU is widely perceived to represent white interests, though it has several hundred black members. The Indigenous Commercial Farmers' Union represents other black commercial farmers; the Zimbabwe Farmers' Union represents small-scale black farmers, with about 200,000 members.

30 COHRE, Land, Housing and Property Rights in Zimbabwe, p.27; Moyo, "The Interaction of Market and Compulsory Land Acquisition Processes with Social Action in Zimbabwe's Land Reform," p.31-32.

31 Land Reform and Resettlement Programme: Revised Phase II, paragraph 1.3; People First-Zimbabwe's Land Reform Programme (Harare: Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, and Rural Settlement, June 2001).

32 "Zimbabwe govt has seized 4,558 white-owned farms: minister," AFP, October 31, 2001.

33 CFU statement, October 19, 2001; see also "White farmers see major escalation of violence in Zimbabwe," AFP, October 19, 2001.

34 CFU "Background briefing" submitted to the SADC heads of state summit January 13-15, 2002. The CFU had 3,514 paid up members as of October 2001.

35 United Nations Development Programme, Zimbabwe: Land Reform and Resettlement: Assessment and Suggested Framework for the Future-Interim Mission Report (New York: UNDP, January 2002), p.12.

36 Land Reform and Resettlement Programme: Revised Phase II, paragraph 3.3.6.

37 UNDP Interim Mission Report, January 2002, p.11.

38 UNDP Interim Mission Report, January 2002, p.28.

39 In early 2002, the government began publishing in the state media the names of those who would be granted significant properties under the "A2" resettlement scheme aimed at creating a cadre of black commercial farmers. According to press reports, among the named beneficiaries were senior police officers and other security force personnel, civil servants, journalists with the state-owned Herald newspaper, and prominent Zanu-PF supporters. However, many of the allocated properties were allegedly in fact already occupied by Zanu-PF militia members or other settlers, meaning that the proposed new owners could not move onto the land. "Would be farmers yet to see new plots," Financial Gazette (Harare), January 17, 2002.

40 Land Reform and Resettlement Programme: Revised Phase II, paragraph

41 Moyo, "The Interaction of Market and Compulsory Land Acquisition Processes with Social Action in Zimbabwe's Land Reform," p.24.

42 UNDP Interim Mission Report, January 2002, p.30.

43 Ibid., p.18.

44 As early as February 28, 2000, the minister for home affairs issued a statement instructing the occupiers of land to leave, but the order was reversed by the president. In April 2000, Acting President Msika again called on war veterans and their followers to vacate the occupied farms; President Mugabe countermanded this when he returned to Zimbabwe from traveling abroad-while claiming that the government had no control over the veterans. Contradictory statements have continued.

45 Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement and Others vs. Commercial Farmers' Union Judgment No. SC111/2001.

46 See International Bar Association, Report of Zimbabwe Mission 2001 (London: International Bar Association, April 2001) for a discussion of the government's assault on independence of the judiciary (hereafter "IBA report").

47 Human Rights Watch interview, Jerry Grant, Commercial Farmers Union, Harare, July 18, 2001.

48 Mr. P.W. Hughes, GoZ/ZJRI implementation launch, Retreat Farm, Bindura, Mashonaland Central, November 2, 2001. Statement available on CFU website, (accessed December 12, 2001).

49 CFU statement, October 19, 2001.

50 Human Rights Watch telephone interview, CFU, February 12, 2002.

51 "Mugabe says he will ban ZCTU, expel whites," Financial Gazette, February 21, 2002.

52 UNDP Interim Mission Report, January 2002, p.30.

53 Human Rights Watch interview, war veteran, Bulawayo, Matabeland South, August 3, 2001.

54 Human Rights Watch interview, farm security officer in Beatrice, Mashonaland East, and settler from Masvingo, July 23, 2001.

55 In Mashonaland East, for example, in November 2001, a farm owner reported "fighting between the old and the new settlers over land that has been plowed." Commercial Farmers' Union, Farm Invasions and Security Report November 12, 2001.

56 Human Rights Watch interview, villager, communal area, Chimanimani, Manicaland, July 17, 2001.

57 UNDP Interim Mission Report, January 2002, pp.21-23.

58 Ibid. p.24.

59 Human Rights Watch interview, Harare, July 12, 2001.

60 Human Rights Watch interview, fast track resettlement farms, Bulawayo, Matabeleland South, August 2, 2001

61 Human Rights Watch interview, councilor, Chimanimani, July 17, 2001.

62 Human Rights Watch interview, ex-district administrator, Matabeleland South, August 2, 2001.

63 Amnesty International interview, Marondera, December 4, 2001. Amnesty International made available to Human Rights Watch several testimonies the organization collected in Zimbabwe during a December 2001 mission.

64 For example, three journalists and a driver from the independent Daily News were seriously assaulted in September 2001. "Lawlessness goes on as Mugabe party backs Abuja deal," SAPA-DPA, September 18, 2001.

65 Assessments of the land redistribution programs of the 1980s were carried out by the British Overseas Development Association, the Zimbabwe Comptroller and Auditor General, and the World Bank, among others.

66 Human Rights Watch interviews, Musasa resettlement area, July 19, 2001.

67 Human Rights Watch interview, headperson, 1980s Resettled Area, Beatrice, Mashonaland East, July 19, 2001.

68 Human Rights Watch interview, settler, Chikukwa Resettlement Area, Chimanimani, Manicaland, July 31, 2001.

69 Human Rights Watch interview, retired school teacher, Communal Area, Biriwiri, Manicaland, July 17, 2001.

70 Human Rights Watch interview, headwoman, 1980s Resettled Area, Beatrice District, Mashonaland East. July 19, 2001.

71 Human Rights Watch interview, agricultural extension officer, Chimanimani, July 17, 2001.

72 Human Rights Watch interview, communal area, Chimanimani, July 17, 2001.

73 Human Rights Watch interview, farm worker from Marondera area, Harare, July 18, 2001.

74 FAO, "Food Supply Situation Tightening in Southern Africa," Africa Report No. 3, December 2001, available at

75 CFU statement, October 19, 2001; CFU "Background Briefing" submitted to the SADC heads of state summit, January 13-15, 2002.

76 "Inflation in Zimbabwe surges to record 103.8 percent," SAPA-AP, December 18, 2001.

77 "Programme to send food to Zimbabwe set for clearance," Financial Times (London), January 17, 2002; "Emergency food aid deliveries start," IRIN, February 21, 2002.

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