by Vernon Kathemba
It is trite that the land reform programme has been viewed from a myriad of perspectives. In some quarters, the land reform programme has been vilified and relegated to the realm of political tomfoolery and labelled the height of political blunder. Nothing more than a manifestation of Zanu-PF’s desperation to hold onto political power in the face of a clear and impending defeat at the upcoming 2000 polls by the MDC.
On the other hand, others have praised the land reform programme as a second wave of Chimurenga in terms whereof the indigenous population has taken control of our economic destiny in the face of opposition from imperialist external forces bent on keeping Zimbabwe as another debt ridden third world state whose citizens yield very little, if any economic power.
As a young 31 year old lawyer steeped in the Western ideological tradition, I must admit that I was initially persuaded to the former position, and I regarded the land reform programme as a gravely pernicious pursuit. Today however, I am not ashamed to admit that my views have since changed, and I implore all Zimbabweans, particularly the youth, to change their attitude to the land reform programme for the reasons I will elucidate below.
In order to appreciate how much of a master stroke the land reform programme truly is, one has to be willing to advance their understanding of socio-political-economic and legal issues beyond the strictures imposed by neo-liberal discourse.
In other words, in order to have a proper conception of the genius inherent in the land reform programme, one has to go beyond neo-liberal criteria in order to evaluate the actions taken by the government of the day.
Acquisition of land through colonisation
It is impossible to deal with the land question without first taking into account the manner in which our erstwhile colonial masters acquired land from our African forebears.
In this regard, one is confronted with a stark reality. The reality in this regard being that Colonialists struggled to shroud the true nature of their enterprise under a thin veneer of legality. This veneer is apparent in documents and treaties such as the Rudd Concession which purportedly provided a “lawful” basis for the annexation of various territories.
These documents are very easy to dismiss from a legal standpoint. The most obvious reason being that the British common law of contract was not enforceable in the various annexed African territories, therefore these concessions could not have the purported legal effect since the obligations they allegedly created were founded on a foreign legal system that was not enforceable in the territory where these same obligations were supposed to be enforced.
In the premises, it is clear that properly construed, colonialism was nothing more than a naked military dispossession cloaked in an illusory veneer of Western idiosyncracies meant to justify what was in reality the act of conquest and subjugation.
The dilemma of the post colonial state
The issue then is what does this mean for the post-colonial state that seeks to close the curtain on the opera of maladies conceived by the colonial state and visited upon the African population with the well documented dire social, political and economic consequences?
It is trite since the end of the cold war, the dominant political discourse and cognitive model is that of neo-liberal democracy. As such, the post colonial state finds itself constrained by this model in the formulation and implementation of its domestic and foreign policies.
Given the dependence of most Third World States on Foreign Aid, and the neo-liberal conditions attached thereto by Financiers such as the World Bank which serve the interests of the Western Military and Industrial Complex, it is extremely difficult for the post colonial African State to implement policies that do not conform to the neo-liberal model as these conditions would negate the interests of the Western Military and Industrial Complex.
The Zanu-PF Choice
This brings us to the question of our dear Zimbabwe as a post-colonial state. Without question, the fast track land reform programme was at variance with the dominant neo-liberal model. However, I believe that criticism of the land reform programme should go beyond neo-liberal semantics. The key issue to me is whether or not the land reform programme has addressed the issue of dispossession, since as outlined above, this was the true character and essence of colonialism.
In my view, the land reform programme represents the best opportunity for addressing the glaring issue of dispossession through conquest. Furthermore, it offers the majority of Zimbabweans a unique opportunity i.e. the opportunity to become masters of their own destiny.
It is an extremely rare opportunity to be afforded the chance to possess land at no cost. Most people are going to spend the rest of their lives paying rental or mortgages in a bid to acquire some right to occupy land. Well here the government of Zimbabwe is giving us all the opportunity to have our own piece of land at no cost to ourselves. All we need to show is that we are citizens and sons of the soil. What a marvellous opportunity this is indeed.
Instead of complaining about the lack of capital and inputs etc, our people need to develop an enterprising and entrepreneurial spirit that will see them solve the challenges associated with farming so as to render the land productive.
We need to cultivate a noir Zimbabwean free from the bondage of Western middle-class neo-liberal thinking. The Zimbabwean of today should regard himself as a Pioneer. Just like Rhodesia was created through the tenacity and relentlessness of the British Pioneer Column, we need Zimbabwean Pioneers who see the enormous opportunity presented by Zanu-PF's fast track land reform programme.
The MDC Choice
To me, the MDC as far as the future of Zimbabwe is concerned represents an alignment of Zimbabwe with the dominant neo-liberal model.
Without doubt, the adherence of Zimbabwe to this model will yield benefits to the people of Zimbabwe. However, I stress that these benefits will be nothing but an illusion which will in the final analysis keep the country and the people in a state of unconscious bondage and slavery to the Western Military and Industrial Complex. This model of development is currently being applied in South Africa.
However, will this sort of policy ultimately address the lingering question of dispossession and the empowerment of indigenous people beyond the middle class level? I do not think so and this is a key difference between the MDC and Zanu-PF approach that each voter needs to understand.
The Zanu-PF way is without doubt the hard way, however, it is in the long term the best way. The MDC way is a short term solution that will ultimately lead Zimbabwe into the abyss of individual poverty, Third World debt and subservience to the Western Military and Industrial Complex. All we will have to show for the wealth in our country is an indigenous middle class with no real economic power and access to resources.
This is the reality of the global context in which our country operates, and ultimately the difference between Zanu-PF and MDC policies reveals two different paths to our social, political and economic development as a nation both domestically and internationally.
Zanu-PF needs to articulate its position on these issues a lot more clearly so that the average unsophisticated thinker steeped in neo-liberal ideology does not simply dismiss its position as mere propaganda. Our country is truly at an ideological precipice, and we as its citizens need to understand which path of alignment our vote represents. Personally, I would vote for the path to true economic empancipation. Zimbabwe is now the new frontier, and as Zimbabweans we need to appreciate that in order for us to make the most of the fast track land reform programme.
The writer, Vernon Kathemba is a lawyer based in Cape Town, South Africa.