Friday, November 23, 2007

"Passage of the Land Acquisition Act in 1992 finally permitted a more flexible approach to land reform, but progress continued to be constrained by outside pressure. Despite real progress, by the time the latest round of land reform was launched, 70 percent of the richest and most productive land still remained in the hands of a mere 4,500 white commercial farm owners. Meanwhile, six million African peasants eke out a precarious existence on small farms averaging 3 hectares [1 hectare = 2.47 acres] in the "communal areas," formerly native reserves. Due to the historically imposed overcrowding in the communal areas, the already barren land was further depleted by deforestation and over-grazing. (4) Over one million landless blacks were engaged as hired labor on white commercial farms, condemned to work for low wages on the land their ancestors once owned. (5) Agriculture is the most significant sector of Zimbabwe's economy. Western news reports encourage the view that land reform is harming economic performance, implying that efficient farming is best left in the hands of 4,500 wealthy white farmers, while ignoring the millions of blacks barely able to survive. The unspoken assumption is that only white farmers are capable of efficiency. The concern expressed in the West for "efficiency" is in reality a mask for the preservation of white privilege. Temporary economic dislocation is an unavoidable byproduct of land reform, but genuine and lasting progress can only be achieved through land redistribution. In the West, the gross imbalance imposed by colonial theft is accepted as the natural order in Zimbabwe, with the indigenous population lacking any claim to the land. Fast track land reform is intended to rectify historical injustices and to ensure a more equitable division of the land." (thanks Tanweer)