Elliot Ziwira Senior Writer
The revelation by the Zimbabwe Land Commission (ZLC) that it has so far covered 57 000 farms in two phases of its national audit which ended last month, with indications that the exercise might be complete by year end, is, indeed, sweet music to the ear, as it dovetails with President Mnangagwa’s call for maximum land use to ensure food security.
The essence of nationhood is pivoted on food security as hungry citizens are susceptible to hypocritical inclinations of charlatans quick to promise hanging apples and pies in supposition in exchange for votes. Playing politics of the stomach, political grandstanders ride on their proximity to the gravy train to misdirect citizens, claiming to remain on their side through toil, only to push them off the rails when it suits them.
There is something disheartening about food aid, in that it creates an element of entitlement in those for whom such relief is meant, thus robbing them of urgency and initiative. The tendency to give people fish is still to be known as the panacea to poverty, but teaching citizens how to lay their fishing rods for that big haul, goes a long way in mitigating the expectancy that comes with aid. That way sustainability and self-reliance may be fostered, thus, making our nation food secure.
Our country was once known as the breadbasket of the SADC region, and that says a lot about the state of our agriculture then and now. There certainly is something we did wrong; something within our power to do right.
The “crisis” in colonial Rhodesia, and the purveyed “crisis” in independent Zimbabwe was, and remains linked to the land; the loss of land, and the physical, spiritual and psychological dislocation of the black African. As De Waal (1990) points out, the struggles of the 1890s and 1970s were precipitated by the land issue.
The Land Apportionment Act of 1930 (amended 60 times) and the Native Land Husbandry Act of 1951 separated the land between black and white ownership; with whites getting the richer half despite their being in the minority, and about 700 000 black families being driven into rocky and arid reserves (Ranger, 1985, De Waal, 1990, Martin and Johnson, 1981).
History recalls that Gwayi and Shangani reserves were created for the Ndebele in 1894, the major reason for the 1896 uprisings.
Now that the land is in the hands of its rightful owners, thanks to the Fast Track Land Reform Programme spearheaded by the late former president and revolutionary icon, Robert Mugabe, there is need to bring productivity to the same.
In Charles Samupindi’s “Death Throes” (1990), Mbuya Nehanda, who is on trial for the murder of Native Commissioner Pollard, tells Herbert Carstens, Acting Public Prosecutor, appearing for the “Crown”, thus: “I told my people to stand their ground against these foreigners who were snatching away their land, cattle and their heritage — plundering and routing in the process. They have decimated us as they did the Ndebele. Now the land is the playground for vultures.”
Whereas history cannot be disparaged or ignored, for it is the enforcer and shaper of the future, it is imperative that the centrality of the land to the struggle goes beyond correcting historical imbalances, to also capture heritable considerations that factor in productivity.
Future generations need more than the history of the redistribution of their ancestral heritage, but evidence of how that inheritance has been made worth inheriting. It is this that the President is mindful of, as is apt in his remarks in honour of the country’s founding father Robert Mugabe at a State funeral held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Saturday, when he says: “Allow me to state that our land reform will never be reversed. It is sacred, complete and finished.
“We remain firm and unshakable on this matter. Now the challenge for us is to be productive as we modernise and mechanise our agriculture processes. We must equally use our land sustainably, be it in agriculture, mining or tourism so that we bequeath it to future generations,” he said.
Indeed, there is need to bestow to future generations more than the good tidings that we reclaimed our land, but to relay the pride that we also were able to change outcomes for the common good through the acquisition of our ancestral inheritance.
It is, therefore, crucial that the land audit informs Government’s decisions on existing and future agricultural policies with the view to increasing productivity, which will go a long way in promoting social equity and sustainable farming practices. Ownership patterns, tenure, productivity and optimum sizes should be probed so that those not utilising the land are relieved of the burden of carrying the nation’s food basket on their shoulders.
As the Zimbabwe Land Commission chairperson, Commissioner Tendai Bare pertinently said: “President Mnangagwa is on record stating that restructuring the economy is a top priority for Government.
“The ZLC has a huge role to play in bringing stability and conclusion to the land reform programme. This will allow farmers to focus on production and to bring Vision 2030, as enunciated by the President, to reality.
The coming to fruition of such a reality, where productivity overrides all other factors, is what will take our nation forward, and make us food secure, thus positioning us within sight of our Vision 2030 agenda.