15 March, 2010 — MRZine-Monthly Review – Pambazuka News
Zimbabwe’s land issue has generated unprecedented debates both within and outside the country. The debates, which followed the dramatic occupations of white farms by rural peasants in the late 1990s, are generally polarised between those who support radical land reform and those who support market-orientated reforms. The former stand accused of supporting Mugabe’s regime while the latter are generally maligned as neo-colonialists running a smear campaign against Zanu PF. An unfortunate outcome of these polarities has been the trivialisation of the land issue: land occupations have been depicted as simple acts of political gimmickry; landless peasants who occupied these farms have been branded as agents of agrarian and environmental destruction and are often considered to be in service to the ‘evil’ regime of Robert Mugabe. Some academics have even gone so far as to brand the whole process of land occupations, and the violence associated with it, as an apocalyptic end of modernity. In academia, supporters of radical land reform are generally in the minority; this has made it extremely difficult to challenge the current neo-liberal orthodoxy, which dominates land and agrarian reform policy making in many African countries. The few scholars who have openly challenged the ‘hostile’ neo-liberal approach to argue for radical land reform, including Sam Moyo, Paris Yeros, and Mamood Mamdani, have often been accused of colluding with Mugabe’s undemocratic regime.