From livelihoods to citizenship: the redistributive land reform in Zimbabwe

Mutanda, Gideon Walter
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The launch, process and outcomes of the fast track land reform programme (FTLRP) in Zimbabwe have been highly contentious nationally and internationally. There are arguments that FTLRP was a large-scale program and the first of its kind in Southern Africa, hence it could not escape controversies. However, researchers should move away from the evaluation of the divisive process of ‘fast track’ to the evaluation of its livelihood outcomes. However,, evaluation of the ‘agri-livelihood’ outcomes of FTRLP brought more controversies than before, making contemporary researchers to argue for the need to look for more indicators on which the policy can be measured. Controversies also emanate from the narrow view of the developmental and poverty reduction role of FTRLP in economistic terms. There is an argument that the new notion of development now embeds the citizenship concept and poverty should be defined as a multidimensional term referring also to lack of feelings and practices of citizenship (like belonging, identity and participation in local development). The broad objective of this study was to understand how FTLRP as a development policy had shaped perceptions and practices of citizenship among beneficiary communities. The study was conducted in Maware and Peter Wenhamo A1 farms of Chiredzi district, Masvingo province in Zimbabwe. It used a qualitative ethnographic design to understand how FTLRP had shaped perceptions and practices of citizenship by A1 settlers. A total of 40 households and some few key informants were interviewed on their experiences of ‘fast track’, its impact on livelihoods, feelings and practices of citizenship. Results show that resettled households felt that ‘fast track’ had led to substantial land gains, ‘liberation’ of land resources and many people ‘caged’ in communal areas. Households also condoned farm invasions and showed trust of the informal institutional framework as it led to an inclusive land allocation. Such institutions were more concerned with having more people on land to evade evictions thereby ignoring political and ethno-regional traits of potential beneficiaries during land allocation. While informal institutions were ‘celebrated’ for advancing the notion of political and ethno-regional inclusivity, they were gender insensitive and led to ‘gendered belonging’. Results also showed that land beneficiaries had tenure insecurity though they evaded it by offering overwhelming support to the ruling party. Settlers felt the support being offered to the ruling party was a peaceful ‘practice of citizenship’ to uphold and defend their land gains and rights against reversal of FTLRP by ‘proxies’ of colonialists. iv Land beneficiaries also expressed satisfaction with their incomes, agricultural land, livestock and farm implement ownership despite lack of some social services, unmet rights, food and water insecurity. These challenges faced post resettlement did not affect their sense of general well-being, an indication that land was more than an asset and an ingredient for livelihood outcomes. This led to the third research objective which sought to understand how land access through FTLRP had shaped feelings and practices of citizenship among beneficiary communities. Feelings of improved well-being in the face of some challenges in A1 farms show that well-being is not only a product of satisfaction of livelihood outcomes. Access to land brought a sense of belonging among the landless who joined the community of landowners. It also made them belong to the ‘community of commercial farmers’ which was all ‘white’ before FTLRP. Access of many rights remained a principle despite a constitutional provision stating that land reform enables households to re-assert their rights. Partisan politics during fast track, delays in regularising land ownership and limited budgetary ‘fought’ the very rights land reform was supposed to promote. However, actualization of the settlers’ rights to land, work and ‘property’ was enough to inculcate feelings of belonging. These economic rights overshadowed other rights that had not been made real. Settlers’ long history of landlessness and land ‘hunger’ made them to regard some economic rights as ‘more equal’ than other rights. Households felt the government had done its part by formalizing land invasions. It was now their role to actualize their other rights, improve their national belonging and sense of well-being by participating in local economic development. Intrinsic feelings of improved social identity and belonging did not only shape citizens with a developmental mindset but also environmentally responsible. Though households had been resettled near conservancies and in former game ranches, they had adopted environmentally friendly methods to safeguard their assets, lives and crops against stray wild animals. There was an improvement in knowledge of environmentally friendly methods to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, dispelling allegations that settlers engaged in unsustainable behaviors.
A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geography and Environmental Studies to the Faculty of Science, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2021