Last Friday on Al Jazeera’s global talk show South 2 North, Redi Tlhabi asked whether Zimbabwe’s land reforms are finally bearing fruit as President Robert Mugabe reaches his 33rd year in power.
Redi’s in-studio guests were Teresa Smart, co-author of Zimbabwe Takes Its Land Back; Professor Samson Moyo, executive director of the African Institute for Agrarian Studies and author of Land and Agrarian Reform in Zimbabwe: Beyond White Capitalism; and Charlene Mathonsi, one of the new generation of commercial farmers in Zimbabwe.
While Teresa admitted that 10% of Zimbabwe’s farms went to Mugabe’s cronies, she said it was also important to speak about the other 90%.
“Since 2000, we had 150 000 farmers take over 6000 large farms,” said Teresa. “The majority took over small farms of six hectares or so. These farmers aren’t subsistence farmers; they are small-scale commercial farmers. Since the end of hyperinflation and the start of the dollar economy in 2009, production has gone up every year, until its approaching that of production in the 1990s before land reform. The small farms are producing as much, if not more, than the large mechanized farms. This changes the narrative that says that the only way to deal with food shortages in Africa is to bring in very large merchandised farms…”
Samson agreed, adding that Zimbabwe’s land reforms have led to a redistribution of income, as well as land. “Take your 60 000 tobacco producers,” he said. “They are now sharing 500-700million US dollars from tobacco sold to merchants, where [before] 2000 were sharing.”
If the situation is improving, why are so many people still leaving Zimbabwe? Why does Zimbabwe still need to import maize? Can Zimbabwe’s land reform be held up as a model for the rest of the world? If Zimbabwe’s land reform really is working, was President Mugabe right all along?
For more information, visit aljazeera.com/programmes/south2north, where all episodes are available to watch online.