One of the most controversial aspects of Robert Mugabe’s tenure in power has been land reform; the systematic grabbing of white owned farms, often with violence and the subsequent redistribution to blacks, many who were at the time, considered ill-equipped and inexperienced to take on the task of farming. It was a policy that was to result in direct confrontation with the west led by the UK government, and resulted in economic sanctions, hyperinflation, a collapse in food production and what many would describe as a crashing of what was once, one of the strongest economies in Africa.
Channel 4 TV reports on how land reform has fared and points to what many independent international commentators continue to see as a positive turnaround. The changes have been positive enough to encourage some members of the Zimbabwean African diaspora to consider returning to the country. Whether it remains an enticing investment area given the complexity on the ground is open to question.
The news item above leads on from a report that was published 4 years ago by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) challenging the perceptions of the land reform policy as a disaster for the country. Listen to IDS fellow Ian Schoones speaking to the BBC at the time.
In November 2013, Al Jazeera’s South to North global talk show, hosted a discussion which featured Teresa Smart one of the authors of Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land, in which she talked about the long term research which had been conducted and the positive outcomes observed. Also on the show was Sam Moyo, professor and executive director for the Institute of Agrarian Studies in Harare.
The Al Jazeera program was criticised for not having any dissenting voices. However, what is clear is that there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue. What is also true is that the mainstream headlines of a failed policy in terms of outcomes, is not the only story.
Image credit: Martin Addison, Soya Harvest, CC BY NC-ND