Zimbabwe - Context and Land Governance | Land Portal

By Rick de Satgé, peer-reviewed by Ian Scoones, Institute of Development Studies (IDS)

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It borders on South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia. It has a population of 14.8 million. There are five natural regions. Almost 64% of the country falls into natural regions IV and V characterised by low rainfall, vulnerability to extreme weather events and limited livelihood opportunities.
Zimbabwe has a long and complex history of contestation over land stemming from colonial conquest and the establishment of colonial authority in Rhodesia. The transition to majority rule in Zimbabwe followed a protracted guerrilla war between the Rhodesian military and nationalist guerrilla forces. Political negotiations facilitated by Britain, as the colonial power resulted in the Lancaster House agreement and set the stage for elections and independence in 1980.

Despite land dispossession being a major impetus for the war, the independence Constitution protected settler land rights for a period of ten years. A market-based land reform programme based on the Willing Buyer-Willing Seller (WBWS) principle was adopted which was supposed to redress deeply unequal access to land. This programme made slow progress. By 1997 3,5 million hectares had been transferred to 70,000 families [1].  Facing popular pressure, Zimbabwe sought to speed up land transfer through legal expropriation and began listing farms for state acquisition, but this proved unsuccessful. The government subsequently negotiated a second phase of the resettlement programme with donors. At the same time, the government came under pressure from land occupations in several parts of the country.
In 2000, twenty years after independence in a context of economic decline, mounting evidence of corruption in government and a serious challenge from an increasingly popular political opposition with a predominantly urban base, Zimbabwe’s political leadership launched the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). This responded to popular discontent over the slow pace of land redistribution and would result in the forced occupation and confiscation of more than 10 million ha of land [2]  from predominantly white landowners. which radically changed the agrarian structure in the country [3].

The combination of land occupations, the upsetting of property rights, the abrogation of the rule of law and the violent suppression of political opposition triggered punitive economic sanctions from the United States and the European Union. Notionally these targeted individuals within the ruling party, but in practice prompted disinvestment and capital flight. Zimbabwe experienced a deep economic crisis in which GDP/capita fell to its lowest level of US$ 356.69 in 2008 [4].  The combination of political conflict, economic mismanagement, extreme hyperinflation and the increasing frequency of droughts and floods experienced over the past two decades have seen millions of Zimbabweans leave the country, an exodus estimated to comprise 75% of the national skills base [5]. 

There are widely differing analyses of the impacts of land reform. However, there is a body of rigorous longitudinal research that indicates that “the story is not simply one of collapse and catastrophe; it is much more nuanced and complex, with successes as well as failures” [6].   However  land issues in Zimbabwe are complex. They cannot be seen in isolation from processes to consolidate “a deeply authoritarian, violent and predatory state (which) has existed in Zimbabwe as a basis for political survival and as the foundation for asset accumulation by the ruling party, state and military elite” [7].  

While there has been a substantial reallocation of agricultural land through the FTLRP, this has not been matched by improved support for small farmers, or tenure security. In 2018 the Zimbabwe Land Commission Land commenced an audit of the 300,000 subdivisions and farms comprising national agricultural land. The two phases completed to date have audited 70,000 land parcels, or a quarter of the land redistributed under the FTLRP. Reports on the preliminary audit findings have highlighted the “shambolic” nature of land allocation records which have been issued by different authorities across a variety of resettlement and land allocation schemes [8]. 

In 2020 Zimbabwe faced a renewed economic crisis with GDP having contracted by 8.1% in 2019, after a steady rise since 2008. The World Bank and other institutions have long suspended their lending programmes due to unpaid arrears. In September 2020, the inflation rate in Zimbabwe was running at 659.4%. The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have worsened food insecurity with UNICEF estimating that 4.3 million Zimbabweans in both rural and urban areas were in need of assistance [9].

Historical backdrop

Zimbabwe’s turbulent history of conflict, dispossession and internal contestation provides essential context to better understand the contemporary political economy of land. The precolonial period was marked by the rise and fall of sophisticated Shona polities [10], including the stone city state of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, which was at its peak between 1200 – 1500 [11]. The Ndebele people entered modern day Zimbabwe around 1840, having themselves been violently displaced during a period of social upheaval in South Africa known as the Mfecane. Ndebele-Shona relations in the second half of the 19th century were dynamic, characterised by a mix of conflict, assimilation and coexistence [12]. The Ndebele under Lobengula entered into agreements with concessionaries and missionaries which were a precursor to the colonisation of the territory by the British South Africa Company (BSAC), established by Cecil John Rhodes in 1890.

Almost immediately the forces recruited by the BSAC went to war to destroy the Ndebele state. By 1893 the Ndebele capital at Bulawayo was destroyed. Two separate uprisings by Ndebele and Shona people followed in 1896, seeking to throw off settler control, but this resistance was crushed by 1897. As the settler state consolidated power, it began the systematic dispossession of many African people, claiming the most fertile and well-watered agricultural land, while forcing the African population into reserves on land with poorer soils and drier conditions in natural regions IV and V. By 1920, 83 Reserves had been created for some 847,000 Africans. Of the 8,74 million ha allocated for African occupation, 1,21 million ha were acknowledged to be “totally unsuitable for human habitation” [13]. Nearly 75% of the land in the reserves was recognised as “marginal for agricultural production” with “an extremely high proportion of the land under the plough… in regions not suited to cropping” [14].

Legislation passed in 1930 formalised wide-ranging land dispossession. A further wave of dispossession took place following World War 2, when the settler government incentivised immigration by white ex-servicemen with offers of farms and financial support. The combination of colonial land grabs and the denial of African political representation accelerated the rise of an increasingly militant, yet internally conflicted African nationalist movement. The intransigence of the settler government, which unilaterally declared independence from Britain in 1965, and its refusal to address nationalist political demands, propelled the country into a protracted civil war, which would claim more than 20,000 lives before a cease fire in 1979. Two political parties – the original ZAPU and the breakaway ZANU vied for popular support with a promise of radical land reform once they came to power [15].

Zimbabwe finally gained political independence from Britain in 1980 with ZANU PF winning a clear majority in the elections. The Lancaster House constitution entrenched white land and property rights for a period of ten years. A land reform programme was put in place on the basis of the Willing Buyer – Willing Seller (WBWS) principle, in which the state exercised the right of first refusal to purchase land coming onto the market. Britain agreed to meet 50% of the costs of a resettlement programme to buy land from willing sellers and to provide infrastructure for those resettled [16].

Conflict between ZAPU and ZANU accelerated in the early post-independence period. This culminated in the violent repression [17] of largely Ndebele speaking ZAPU aligned communities in Matabeleland, in which thousands of people were killed [18]. This was followed by persistent state neglect of people and infrastructure in the South of the country.

The WBWS based land reform programme met with some initial success, but it soon lost momentum, rapidly falling short of its targets. By 1997, some 71,000 families had been resettled – less than half of the original target figure of 162,000 families. Legislation passed in 1992 empowered the state to designate land for compulsory acquisition with compensation payable at controlled prices. However, legal requirements made expropriation slow and expensive. In 1997 the state listed 1471 farms for compulsory acquisition. However, by the end of the decade the state had reneged and delisted the majority of these properties. A National Consultative Economic Forum was established which set up a land task force. The government convened a new donor conference to try and forge consensus on the land reform programme.
Donors agreed to support an Inception Framework Plan to acquire a million ha of land through a combination of expropriation and WBWS. This resulted in the proposed Land Reform Resettlement Phase 2 (LRRP-2) [19].

By 2000, twenty years after Zimbabwe attained independence, land reform had almost completely stalled. The Zimbabwean economy was in poor shape, following imposition of an economic structural adjustment programme. The ZANU-PF ruling party faced mounting allegations of corruption, which escalated into a crisis of legitimacy [20] as political opposition mounted from independent trade unions, civil society organisations, public sector workers and former combatants. To counter the rising challenge by disgruntled war veterans, in 1997 Parliament approved unbudgeted expenditure of 3% of GDP to provide 60,000 veterans with pay-outs and allowances [21]. 

Against this backdrop, ZANU-PF established a Constitutional Commission to draft a new Constitution for Zimbabwe. The draft was unilaterally amended by the President who introduced ‘corrections’, including a clause enabling the state to ‘compulsorily acquire agricultural land for resettlement’, while obliging Britain as the ‘former colonial power’ to compensate farmers [22]. This draft Constitution was put to a referendum in February 2000 and was rejected by 54.31% of the voters.

This defeat prompted an unrestrained fightback campaign by the ruling party, which immediately amended the 1992 Land Acquisition Act, introducing new clauses enabling expropriation of land without compensation.

These factors coupled with mounting land hunger combined to provide momentum for the so-called Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). This culminated in the confiscation of an estimated 4,500 farms [23]. When the Supreme Court issued a judgment declaring the land occupations illegal and in breach of the Constitution, President Robert Mugabe sanctioned open defiance of the rule of law and the judiciary, characterising judges as “guardians of white racist farmers” [24].

The FTLRP has been described as the largest land reform programme in the 21st century [25]. Analysts are deeply divided on the outcomes of land reform in Zimbabwe. It remains challenging to isolate analysis of land reform from wider processes of authoritarian state capture, economic asset stripping by factional patronage networks and economic indigenisation policies for the principal benefit of local elites and their investment partners.

By 2008, external debt as a share of GDP had risen to 119%. Agricultural exports fell by 50% between 2000-2009. The value of tobacco, the country’s major export cash crop, was down 64% from 2000 levels. Commercial production of maize dropped 76% during the same period. Zimbabwe’s economy was overwhelmed by galloping inflation when the annual inflation rate peaked in November 2008, reaching 89.7 sextillion (10^21) percent [26].

Informal market, photo by Ian Scones (all rights reserved)

Different readings of the FTLRP emerge that provide conflicting narratives about land access and the impact of land reform on rural livelihoods and the economy as a whole. However, it is clear that the FTLRP has brought about a radical change in the agrarian structure. The outcomes of the programme are differentiated. The smallholder A1 schemes have seen success, with a significant number of farmers accumulating, investing, producing food and cash crops like tobacco. However, many of those accessing larger properties through the A2 scheme struggled to progress due with lack of capital. Their access to bank finance has been blocked by lack of certainty concerning leasehold arrangements.

Many accounts foreground a mix of violent seizure, subsequent elite capture and patronage influenced land allocation particularly on the larger A2 farms. These narratives are challenged by researchers who present convincing longitudinal evidence from smallholder studies which make it clear that “elite capture is not the whole story of Zimbabwe’s land reform; nor indeed the dominant one” [27].

Research also highlights ‘collateral damage’ of FTLRP to the livelihoods of many farm workers [28] employed on commercial farms redistributed as part of the A2 scheme [29].  Overall, farm worker livelihoods generally became more precarious, characterised by continued super exploitation and perpetuation of labour tenancy in farm compounds [30]. However there is evidence that some farm workers have been able to access small portions of land to become producers in their own right [31].

Land legislation and regulations

The 21st century land struggles were deeply rooted in colonial laws legitimating dispossession and controlling land allocation. A full listing of these laws has been compiled in the supplementary timeline which accompanies this profile. 

Land laws passed in post independent Zimbabwe set out to reverse its colonial legacy:

●  The 1981 Communal Land Act vested all land in the former TTLs in the President. The Act put in place new Rural District Councils, village and ward development committees. The newly elected ZANU-PF government was hostile to traditional leaders, many of whom they regarded as having collaborated with the settler government. Post-independence land administration processes set out to limit the role of chiefs and ‘tribal authority’ structures. 

●  The Rural District Councils Act of 1988 empowered District Councils to authorise the allocation of land for residential and agricultural purposes, although they were required to consult with the Chief and recognise ‘norms’ of customary law. District Councils were also empowered to issue (and cancel) permits authorising the use of land for business and public purposes.

●  With regard to land reform and resettlement, the 1985 Land Acquisition Act required that anyone selling land should give the government the right of first refusal to purchase. This Act was replaced in 1992 and the new Act empowered the state to designate land for compulsory acquisition with compensation payable.

Following the launch of the FTLRP, legislation was retrospectively passed to legitimate land occupations while the government installed a compliant judiciary.

The Rural Land Occupiers (Prevention from Eviction) Act passed in 2000 sought to protect land occupiers from any legal challenge arising from their occupation, while the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act of 2000 provided the legal framework for compulsory land acquisition, vesting ownership of all land acquired in the State. Amendment No. 17 which was passed in 2005 limited compensation payable by the state to improvements on the land, while simultaneously preventing the landowner from challenging the compulsory acquisition in the courts which, according to the amendment no longer had jurisdiction in the matter.

The actions of the Zimbabwe government were contested in 2008, when 79 landowners approached the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal to challenge the compulsory acquisition of their farms under the FTLRP and Amendment 17 to the Constitution. They argued that the actions of the Zimbabwe government were in breach of the SADC Treaty to which Zimbabwe was a signatory. The judgment (which has been questioned by some) handed down by the Tribunal confirmed that Zimbabwe was in breach of the SADC Treaty and that fair compensation was payable for land compulsorily acquired through the FTLRP process. However, Zimbabwe failed to act to give effect to this judgment.

●  The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act passed in 2008 and, as amended in 2011 and 2014, required that at least 51% of the shares of every public company and any other business should be owned by indigenous Zimbabweans. This meant that any land and mining investments needed to show a majority ownership stake. However recent amendments in 2018 relaxed these conditions, which now only apply to the diamond and platinum extractive industries where 51 % of shares must be held by a state-owned entity. The latest amendments aim to recreate a climate more conducive to foreign investment.

Land tenure classifications

Tenure uncertainty and the absence of functioning land administration systems present important challenges in Zimbabwe. 

In the pre-independence era, rural land in Zimbabwe could be divided into four categories:

●  Surveyed farms with freehold title;

●  Land in so called Native Purchase Areas (often in marginal agricultural areas) where small scale black producers could access land under freehold title or long lease;

●  Land in the reserves, later known as Tribal Trust Lands allocated in terms of state approved customary law;

●  State land comprising: 

  • State agricultural land leased to companies and individuals; 
  • State land set aside for conservation purposes.

Following independence, landowners wishing to sell freehold farmland were required to offer this first to the government. In cases where the government did not want the land for resettlement purposes, it issued “a no present interest certificate” which allowed the owner to sell the land on the open market. “A significant number of farms, totalling well over one million hectares, changed hands in this way, many to senior members of the government and the new black ruling elite” [32].  

Others gained access to leased state land through the Commercial Farm Settlement Scheme in more marginal agricultural areas. Effectively, many of the properties leased in this category were donated, as the state never assessed them to determine rental charges [33].  

The different phases of land reform in Zimbabwe are characterised by differentiated levels of tenure clarity and security.

In the first phase of the programme two principal resettlement models were developed:

●  Model A: Land allocated for homestead, arable and communal grazing in planned resettlement schemes. Tenure was awarded in the form of permits, but there were concerns that these permits conveyed no real tenure security and were open to abuse [34]. 

●  Model B: A collective co-operative model which was poorly supported before being abandoned in the late 1980’s.

In the FTLRP, a revised Model A1 redistributed land to small farmer households through a permit-based form of conditional tenure, while Model A2 distributed land to black commercial farmers by means of conditional leasehold. In both instances the state retained ownership of the land, with powers to reallocate and/or withdraw tenure rights.

During the period of land occupations multiple institutions and centres of power authorised land seizures and approved occupiers. Ironically, with the launch of the FTLRP those with freehold tenure became the most tenure insecure [35].  After the land of 90% of white commercial farmers had been confiscated, the remaining 10% were issued with five-year renewable leases [36].  These conditions have since been relaxed and farmers can obtain 99 years leases (where these are issued). Some black landowners also had their land seized. Some had bought land in the so-called African Purchase Areas under white rule, while other prominent black Zimbabweans associated with opposition political formations were also arbitrarily dispossessed [37].   

A closely fought election resulted in a power sharing agreement and a Government of National Unity in 2009. The agreement recognised land as a critical issue and led to the redrafting of the Constitution of Zimbabwe in a process involving all political parties. The new constitution was subsequently approved by almost 95% of those voting in a national referendum in March 2013. 

The constitution gives the state power to alienate land to persons, through four mechanisms, namely: (i) transfer of ownership, (ii) a grant of lease, (iii) grant of occupation rights and (iv) grant of use rights. Section 292 requires the state to take appropriate measures to give security of tenure to every person lawfully owning or occupying agricultural land.

Section 296 of the Constitution requires the establishment of a Zimbabwe Land Commission. In 2017 the Commission was tasked with establishing who owned and occupied what land in the aftermath of the FTLRP. Reports on the findings of the preliminary audit report have indicated that because there were multiple land allocations by authorities “who were not following laid-down procedures” this created conditions which in some cases have “made it impossible to verify the legal status of genuine farm beneficiaries” [38].  

Given current constraints on institutional capacity and a multiform tenure system, Zimbabwe has to ask what combination of tenure forms can best facilitate production and investment on redistributed land. In this regard a combination of state leasehold and permits is thought to offer the most immediate possibilities [39].

Land investments and acquisitions

Some land protected by Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs) was also occupied under the FTLRP programme. Twelve agreements protected investors in South Africa, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, who had invested in agriculture in Zimbabwe. Section 295 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe requires that farmers protected by BIPPAs, as well as indigenous Zimbabweans whose land was seized are entitled to compensation.

However, since the implementation of the FTLRP a new trend has emerged which has seen private companies entering into land deals with the government. A prominent example is the case of the Nuanetsi Ranch Biodiesel Project resulted in the displacement and marginalisation of local land users [40]. 

After the imposition of sanctions by the US and the EU in 2001 and 2002, Zimbabwe adopted a Look East policy. Chinese investment in mining, agriculture and manufacturing rose by 5000% between 2009 and 2013. However Chinese investors are reportedly exempt from Zimbabwe’s indigenisation policy requiring 51% local ownership. Chinese companies have been alleged to have been involved in illegal mining activities, illegal labour practices and environmental degradation [41].  The Zimbabwean government has also been encouraging joint ventures, subletting and contract farming initiatives – some of the smaller and less formal initiatives are thought to show potential [42].

Women’s land rights

In the first seven years after independence there was a strong commitment to bring about equality of women. A number of laws were passed including the Legal Age of Majority Act and marriage laws to improve the legal status of women’s rights [43].  However, thereafter the state appeared to  withdraw its support for the 1980’s equality-based legal framework which made it “difficult for women to become legitimate recipients of land” [44].  In the communal areas customary law remains the primary determinant of women’s land rights and this frequently places widows and single women in vulnerable positions. Nationally, land and tenure laws were slow to advance women’s secure access to land. Even under the FTLRP ‘offer letters’ or land allocation permits to new ‘settlers’ were mostly issued to men [45].

Currently, Section 17 of the Zimbabwean Constitution of 2013 commits the state to take practical measures to ensure that women have access to resources, including land, on the basis of equality with men. Overall, it would appear that women remain secondary beneficiaries of land reform in Zimbabwe, although they are able to access and inherit land through marriage.

During the CODID-19 lockdown in February 2021, photo by Ian Scones (all rights reserved)

Urban tenure issues

For many years colonial planning laws remained unchanged in post-colonial Zimbabwe. The Regional, Town and Country Planning Act of 1976 was used to criminalise informality and authorise evictions [46].  In 2005, the Zimbabwe government set out to demolish all informal housing in urban and peri-urban areas across the country and crack down on informal trading. This was known as Operation Murambatsvina (Drive out the filth) and resulted in the arrest of some 100,000 vendors and the loss of homes, shelter and livelihood for an estimated 700,000 people countrywide. “Hundreds of thousands of women, men and children were made homeless, without access to food, water and sanitation, or health care. Education for thousands of school age children has been disrupted” [47].

With the high levels of political polarisation and violence pertaining in Zimbabwe at the time, this action was interpreted as an attack on supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the political opposition to ZANU-PF, the majority of whom lived in urban areas. The wave of state-led demolitions and evictions triggered a UN investigation in July 2005 [48]. 

Post 2010, the award of residential and vending sites to ZANU-PF political supporters recreated an enabling environment for the regrowth of informality. According to recent analysis “when the poor received land, it was under unclear conditions and lacking tenure rights”. This has created a situation in which the original racially based “colonial spatial segregation in settlement development and provision of basic services” has been replaced by a new regime “based on political affiliation, class and income” [49].  This renders the rights of poor urban dwellers in the main urban centres insecure – an insecurity which is doubled if urban residents are seen as politically opposed to the state. In smaller rural towns more economic opportunities have been created due to the expansion of urban and peri urban agriculture.

A commission of enquiry was established in 2018 to investigate the sale of state land in and around urban areas since 2005. The commission presented a summary of its findings in December 2019 which indicated widespread illegal sales of state land in urban areas, resulting in the establishment of new settlements without basic services. 

Community land rights issues

Zimbabwe has a history of displacing communities as a consequence of development projects. In the late 1950’s some 57,000 Tonga people were relocated to make way for the construction of Kariba dam.

The Nuanetsi Bio Diesel project mentioned above threatened the removal of 6000 households – many of whom had occupied the land under the FTLRP. Households living in Marange in Manicaland were given no choice but to relocate more than 100 km from their homes, after diamonds were discovered in the area [50] .  As the state is desperate to attract foreign direct investment (see above), the rights of local communities are likely to be marginalised in cases where public-private investment agreements are reached.  

Sokwanele displaced farm workers, originally published in FLICKR, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license

Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Tenure (VGGT)

In 2019 it was reported that the government of Zimbabwe and the FAO had entered a partnership to develop a “gender sensitive land policy”, as part of a technical cooperation programme guided by the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT). At a launch of the process, it was stated that the new land policy should address land issues holistically, with sections on land tenure, access to land, land use planning, land information management, land dispute resolution, environmental sustainability management, management of wildlife, forestry and water.

As has been recently observed “the problem in Zimbabwe is that, despite the repeated proclamations, there remains no finalised political settlement over land, even after 20 long years” [51] since the advent of the FTLRP. However, in July 2020 Zimbabwe signed an $3.5 billion agreement to compensate white farmers whose land was confiscated under the FTLRP. While there is scepticism that Zimbabwe will be able to honour this agreement, some analysts regard this as a key step if the 20-year impasse over land is to be resolved. If the agreement is implemented “this will mean that the land reform areas, now settled for years, can no longer be deemed ‘contested’ by international donors and investors” [52].  This could usher in a new and more equitable land and farming dispensation with improved tenure security for all which could reboot the agricultural economy in Zimbabwe.

Where to go next?

The author's suggestion for further reading

There is an enormous volume of research on land issues in Zimbabwe which remain highly dynamic. A single Google Scholar search (14 Dec 2020) using the search term “Zimbabwe land reform programme” will yield more than 107,000 results while a search on “Zimbabwe land tenure” yields 76,000 results. One of the most consistent and up to date  sources of information and analysis on land related issues is the Zimbabweland blog written by Ian Scoones who leads a team of Zimbabwean researchers that has been conducting and publishing research on land in Zimbabwe over many years.   There is a wealth of high-quality scholarship to contribute to an in-depth understanding of land issues in Zimbabwe, past and present. We provide links to the work of a few established researchers on history and land related issues in Zimbabwe. These include Jocelyn Alexander, Walter Chambati, Admos Chimwohu, Amanda Hammar, Kirk Helliker, Freedom Mazwi, JoAnn McGregor, Sam Moyo, Gaynor Paradza, Terence Ranger, Brian Raftopolous and Blair Rutherford.

There is also a whole new generation of researchers on the rise. Visit the Sam Moyo African Institute of Agrarian Studies (SMAIAS) for links to new research.

Timeline - milestones in land governance
200-400 AD  Zimbabwe was originally populated by groups of San hunter gatherers. The first Bantu Shona speakers migrated into the territory around 200-400 A.D
1840’s  An Nguni group, the Ndebele were displaced during a period of social upheaval in South Africa known as the mfecane settle in the South of modern-day Zimbabwe
1890  In 1890 a settler column organised by Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company (BSAC) enters the territories occupied by Ndebele and Shona groupings
1896  Separate Ndebele and Shona uprisings against settler invaders are defeated
1898  The BSAC administration backed by the Crown begins the process of creating ‘native reserves’
1925  A government commission advocated for complete separation of the races with respect to land holdings. The right of Africans to own land anywhere in the colony was withdrawn
1930  The Land Apportionment Act allocated 51% of the best land to some 3000 white farmers, while some 1.2 million Africans were confined to native reserves or ‘tribal trust lands’ on 30% – the majority of which was poor quality agricultural land
1951  The Native Land Husbandry Act introduced restrictions on the number of livestock which could be grazed and imposed controls on the size and allocation of arable plots. Further land dispossession followed the settler influx after World War 2
1964  Nationalist forces opt for armed struggle for black majority rule
1965  The white minority government under Prime Minister Ian Smith unilaterally declared the independence of the settler state from the British government
1965 – 1979  Guerrilla war in Zimbabwe
1979  Lancaster House agreement ends the war and paves way for elections and majority rule. The Constitution negotiated at Lancaster House imposed restrictions on land reform and limited any compulsory acquisition of land from white farmers for a period of 10 years
1980  ZANU-PF under the leadership of Robert Mugabe wins a majority in the elections
1980- 1996  Phase 1 of the Zimbabwe Land Reform and Resettlement Programme.

Model A: Land allocated for homestead, arable and communal grazing in planned resettlement schemes. Tenure was awarded in the form of permits. Model B: A collective co-operative model which was poorly supported before being abandoned in the late 1980’s. Land reform stalls and Zimbabwe government opts for expropriation resulting in withdrawal of donor support

1997  17 years after independence land reform had met 44% of its household targets and 33% of its land transfer targets. 1471 farms were identified for state acquisition. Land invasions in Mashonaland East
2000  The initiation of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme involved the transfer of an estimated 4500 farms comprising 7. 6 million ha
2001  US economic sanctions on Zimbabwe. All donor development assistance (except humanitarian aid) ceased
2005  Operation Murambatsvina (sweep away the chaff) resulted in the destruction of the homes and informal businesses of 700,000 people mostly poor supporters of the opposition MDC, which had a largely urban support base
2008-9  Zimbabwe experiences hyperinflation. Zimbabwe’s official annual rate of inflation exceeds 231 million% in 2008
2009  Cumulatively between 10-12 million ha of land have been transferred through land reform to 203,000 small scale farmers and 30,000 black commercial farmers
2010  Fast track land reform leads to radical change in the agrarian structure
2013  A new Constitution is drafted by all political parties in a government of national unity which is subsequently overwhelmingly approved in a national referendum. Attempts to attract FDI to the agricultural sector leads to large scale land deals
2017  The Zimbabwe Land Commission Act passed, and a phased land audit begins. November 2017  President Mugabe steps down after a coup supported by the military. Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is sworn in as President
2019  Commission of enquiry appointed to investigate sales of urban state land publishes preliminary findings indicating widespread illegal transactions
July 2020  Zimbabwe signed an $3.5 billion agreement to compensate white farmers whose land was confiscated under the FTLRP

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[2] Moyo, Sam. 2011. "Land concentration and accumulation after redistributive reform in post-settler Zimbabwe."  Review of African Political Economy 38 (128):257-276.

[3] Scoones, I, N Marongwe, B Madedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, J Manhenehene, and C Sukume. 2011. "Zimbabwe's land reform: challenging the myths."  Peasant Studies 38 (5):967-993.

[4] World Bank. 2020. "The World Bank in Zimbabwe: Overview." accessed 20 August. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/zimbabwe/overview.

[5] SAPES Trust. 2020. Harnessing Zimbabwe's diaspora towards the national settlement. In Policy Dialogue Forum Online Series Number 2 of 2020. Harare.

[6] Scoones, I, N Marongwe, B Madedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, J Manhenehene, and C Sukume. 2011. "Zimbabwe's land reform: challenging the myths."  Peasant Studies 38 (5):967-993.

[7] Helliker, Kirk, and Tendai Murisa. 2020. Zimbabwe: continuities and changes. Taylor & Francis.

[8]Towindo, Lincoln. 2019. "Land audit makes startling revelations." The Sunday Mail. https://www.sundaymail.co.zw/land-audit-makes-startling-revelations.

[9] UNICEF. 2020. "Zimbabwe rated as one of the world’s top global food crises in new United Nations report." accessed 15 September. https://www.unicef.org/zimbabwe/press-releases/zimbabwe-rated-one-worlds-top-global-food-crises-new-united-nations-report#:~:text=The%20joint%20report%2C%20released%20by,million%20rural%20Zimbabweans%2C%20including%20children.&text=More%20than%20half%20of%20the,affected%20by%20the%20food%20crisis.

[10] Garlake, P. S. 1982. "Prehistory and Ideology in Zimbabwe."  Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 52 (3):1-19. doi: 10.2307/1160522.

[11] Huffman, Thomas N. 2009. "Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe: The origin and spread of social complexity in southern Africa."  Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 28 (1):37-54.

[12] Beach, D. N. 1974. "Ndebele Raiders and Shona Power."  The Journal of African History 15 (4):633-651.

[13] Floyd, Barry N. 1962. "Land Apportionment in Southern Rhodesia."  Geographical Review 52 (4):566-582. doi: 10.2307/212615.

[14] Whitlow, JR. 1979. "A scenario of changes in subsistence land use and its relevance to the tribal areas of Zimbabwe."  Zambezia 7 (2):171-190.

[15] Palmer, Robin. 1990. "Land Reform in Zimbabwe, 1980–1990."  African Affairs 89 (355):163-181. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a098283.

[16] Palmer, Robin. 1990. "Land Reform in Zimbabwe, 1980–1990. 166"  African Affairs 89 (355):163-181. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a098283.

[17] Yap, Katri Pohjolainen. 2001. "Uprooting the Weeds: Power, Ethnicity and Violence in the Matabeleland Conflict 1980-1987." PhD, University of Amsterdam.

[18] Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe, and Legal Resources Foundation. 1997. Breaking the Silence - Building True Peace: A report on the disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands 1980- 1988.

[19] Moyo, Sam. 2000. "The Political Economy of Land Acquisition and Redistribution in Zimbabwe, 1990-1999."  Journal of Southern African Studies 26 (1):5-28.

[20] Raftopoulos, Brian, and Ian Phimister. 2004. "Zimbabwe now: The political economy of crisis and coercion."  Historical materialism 12 (4):355-382.

[21] Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. 2011. "Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe." accessed 27 August. https://www.dallasfed.org/~/media/documents/institute/annual/2011/annual11b.pdf.

[22] Dzinesa, Gwinyayi. 2012. Zimbabwe's Constitutional Reform Process: Challenges and Prospects. Cape Town: Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

[23] Scoones, I, N Marongwe, B Madedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, J Manhenehene, and C Sukume. 2011. "Zimbabwe's land reform: challenging the myths."  Peasant Studies 38 (5):967-993.

[24] Human Rights Watch. 2008. "Our hands are tied": Erosion of the rule of law in Zimbabwe. New York: Human Rights Watch.

[25] Binswanger - Mkhize, Hans, Camille Bourguignon, and Rogier van den Brink. 2009. "Introduction and summary." In Agricultural land redistribution: Toward greater consensus, edited by Hans Binswanger - Mkhize, Camille Bourguignon and Rogier van den Brink. New York: World Bank.

[26] Hanke, Steve. 2017. "Zimbabwe Hyperinflates Again, Entering the Record Books For A Second Time In Less Than A Decade." Forbes, accessed 11 November. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevehanke/2017/10/28/zimbabwe-hyperinflates-again-entering-the-record-books-for-a-second-time-in-less-than-a-decade/?sh=41ddd3c93eed.

[27] Scoones, I., N. Marongwe, B. Madedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, J. Manhenehene, and C. Sukume. 2011. "Zimbabwe's land reform: challenging the myths."  Peasant Studies 38 (5):967-993.

[28] Scoones, Ian, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, and Chrispen Sukume. 2019. "Labour after Land Reform: The Precarious Livelihoods of Former Farmworkers in Zimbabwe."  Development and Change 50 (3):805-835.

[29] Rutherford, Blair. 2008. "Conditional Belonging: Farm Workers and the Cultural Politics of Recognition in Zimbabwe."  Development and Change 39 (1):73-99. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7660.2008.00469.x.

[30] Chambati, Walter. 2017. "Changing forms of wage labour in Zimbabwe’s new agrarian structure."  Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy 6 (1):79-112.

[31] Scoones, Ian, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, and Chrispen Sukume. 2019. "Labour after Land Reform: The Precarious Livelihoods of Former Farmworkers in Zimbabwe."  Development and Change 50 (3):805-835.

[32] Palmer, Robin. 1990. "Land Reform in Zimbabwe, 1980–1990. 170"  African Affairs 89 (355):163-181. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a098283.

[33] McCallum, W. 2006. "Land, Property and Power." PhD, School of Politics, University of Adelaide.

[34] Jacobs, Susie. 1983. "Women and Land Resettlement in Zimbabwe."  Review of African Political Economy (27/28):33-50.

[35] Scoones, I. 2009. Land tenure dilemmas: next steps for Zimbabwe. In Livelihoods after Land Reform Programme. Sussex: Institute for Development Studies.

[36] Chikohomero, Ringisai. 2019. Open for business? Appraisal of FDI in Zimbabwe. South Africa: Institute for Security Studies.

[37] Matibe, Phil. 2010. "Land: Zanu PF Tool in Suppressing Dissent." Zimbabwe Independent, 4 February. https://www.theindependent.co.zw/2010/02/04/land-zanu-pf-tool-in-suppressing-dissent/.

[38] Staff reporter. 2019. "Mnangagwa’s Land Commission red flags tenure chaos." New Zimbabwe accessed 31 August. https://www.newzimbabwe.com/mnangagwas-land-commission-red-flags-tenure-chaos/.

[39] Scoones, I. 2014. "Land tenure dilemmas in Zimbabwe." Zimbabweland, 27 August. https://zimbabweland.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/land-tenure-dilemmas-in-zimbabwe/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=email_subscription.

[40] Mujere, Joseph, and Sylvester Dombo. 2011. "Large Scale Investment Projects and Land Grabs in Zimbabwe: The Case of Nuanetsi Ranch BioDiesel Project." International conference on global land grabbing, Sussex.

[41] Chipaike, Ronald, and Paul Henri Bischoff. 2019. "Chinese Engagement of Zimbabwe and the Limits of Elite Agency."  Journal of Asian and African Studies 54 (7):947-964. doi: 10.1177/0021909619848783.

[42] Scoones, I. 2020. "Still debating land tenure reform in Zimbabwe." Zimbabweland, 28 August. https://zimbabweland.wordpress.com/.

[43] Bond-Stewart, Kathy. 1987. Independence is not only for one sex. Harare: Zimbabwe Publishing House.

[44] Goebel, Allison. 2005. "Zimbabwe's ‘Fast Track’ Land Reform: What about women?"  Gender, Place & Culture 12 (2):145-172. doi: 10.1080/09663690500094799.

[45]  Scoones, I, N Marongwe, B Madedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, J Manhenehene, and C Sukume. 2011. "Zimbabwe's land reform: challenging the myths."  Peasant Studies 38 (5):967-993.

[46] Matamanda, Abraham R. 2020. "Mugabe’s Urban Legacy: A Postcolonial Perspective on Urban Development in Harare, Zimbabwe."  Journal of Asian and African Studies:0021909620943620. doi: 10.1177/0021909620943620.

[47] Tibaijuka, A. 2005. Report of the Fact-Finding Mission to Zimbabwe to assess the Scope and Impact of Operation Murambatsvina by the UN Special Envoy on Human Settlements Issues in Zimbabwe. New York: United Nations.

[48] Ibid

[49] Matamanda, Abraham R. 2020. "Mugabe’s Urban Legacy: A Postcolonial Perspective on Urban Development in Harare, Zimbabwe."  Journal of Asian and African Studies:0021909620943620. doi: 10.1177/0021909620943620.

[50] Dhlakama, Tafadzwa. 2017. Legal, Policy and Institutional Frameworks for community land rights in the wake of developmental projects in Zimbabwe: Challenges and Way Forward. Harare: Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association.

[51] Scoones, I. 2020. "Can joint ventures and sub-letting unleash Zimbabwe's agricultural potential?" Zimbabweland, 20 November. https://zimbabweland.wordpress.com/2020/02/17/can-can-joint-ventures-and-sub-letting-unleash-zimbabwes-agricultural-potential/.

[52] Scoones, I. 2020. "Can joint ventures and sub-letting unleash Zimbabwe's agricultural potential?" Zimbabweland, 20 November. https://zimbabweland.wordpress.com/2020/02/17/can-can-joint-ventures-and-sub-letting-unleash-zimbabwes-agricultural-potential/.


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