Title: African studies quarterly
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African Studies Quarterly

Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3
Fall 2003

Special Issue

Zimbabwe Looking Ahead

Guest Editor: Todd Leedy

Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida

ITN- 1 92152-448

African Studies Quarterly

Executive Staff
Hunt R. Davis, Jr. Editor-in-Chief
Todd H. Leedy Associate Editor
Shylock Muyengwa Managing Editor
Corinna Greene Production Editor

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for
individuals to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Table of Contents

The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics: Constitutionalism versus the Law of
Power and the Land, 1999-2002
Susan Booysen

Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis: Primitive Accumulation, Nation-State Formation and
Democratisation in the Age of Neo-liberal Globalisation
David Moore

Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political Economy
Padraig Carmody and Scott Taylor

Narratives on Land: State-Peasant Relations Over Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe
Bevlyne Sithole, Bruce Campbell, Dale Dor6, and Witness Kozanayi

The Experience of Resettled Farmers in Zimbabwe
Sophia Chiremba and William Masters

Opposition Politics in Independent Zimbabwe
Liisa Laakso

War Veterans: Continuities Between the Past and the Present
Norma Kriger

Crisis in the State and the Family: Violence Against Women in Zimbabwe
Mary Johnson Osirim

Press and Politics in Zimbabwe
Stanford D. Mukasa

Globalizing Land and Food in Zimbabwe: Implications for Southern Africa
Carol B. Thompson

AT ISSUE: Responding to Kitching's "Why I Left African Studies."

Africanists and Responsibility: Some Reflections
Guest Editor: Marc Epprecht

Eyes Wide Shut: Africanists and the Moral Problematics of Postcolonial Societies
Timothy Burke

Academic Melancholy, Romantic Cynicism and the Road Not Taken
Lisa McNee

Beyond Blame?
Carole Pearce

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Colonial and Post-colonial Latin America
David Sheinin

Why I Love African Studies
Marc Epprecht

Jagged Fragments: Imperialism, Racism, Hurt, and Honesty
Gavin Kitching

Book Reviews

The Post-Apartheid Constitutions: Perspectives on South Africa's Basic Law
Penelope Andrews and Stephen Ellmann (eds.). Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University
Press, 2001. 606 pp.
Shedrack C. Agbakwa

Protestant Churches and the Formation of Political Consciousness in Southern Mozambique
Teresa Cruz e Silva. Basel, Switzerland: P. Schlettwein Publishing, 2001. 210 pp.
Inge Brinkman

Why Peacekeeping Fails
Dennis C. Jett. Palgrave MacMillan 2000. 240 pp.
Josiah Brownell

The Bang Bang Club: Snapshots From A Hidden War
Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva. (Foreword By Archbishop Desmond Tutu). New York:
Basic Books, 2000. 253 pp.
Derek Charles Catsam

The London Missionary Society in Southern Africa, 1799-1999: Historical Essays in
Celebration of the Bicentenary of the LMS in Southern Africa
John de Gruchy, (ed.) Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2000. 229 pp. Proclaiming
Political Pluralism: Churches and Political Transitions in Africa
Isaac Phiri. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2001. 169 pp.
Alan L. Chan

Understanding African Philosophy: A Cross Cultural Approach to Classical and
Contemporary Issues
Richard Bell. New York: Routledge, 2002. 189 pp.
Muyiwa Falaiye and Oscar Odiboh

Media and Resistance Politics in Namibia: The Alternative Press in Namibia, 1960-1990
William Heuva. Basel, Switzerland: Schlettwein Publishing, 2001. 166 pp.
Wence Kaswoswe

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Workers, War and the Origins of Apartheid: Labour and Politics in South Africa, 1939-48
Peter Alexander. Ohio University Press, 2000. 214 pp.
Chima J. Korieh

Money Struggles and City Life: Devaluation in Ibadan and Other Urban Centers in Southern
Nigeria, 1986-1996
Jane Guyer, LaRay Denzer and Adigun Agbaje (eds). Portsmouth NH: Heineman, 2002. 269
Insa Nolte

The Root Causes of Sudan's Civil Wars.
Douglas Johnson, Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press 2003. 234 pp.
Lee J. M. Seymour

The African Stakes of the Congo War
John F. Clark (ed.), New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. 249 pp.
Stefaan Smis

Africa Since 1935 (General History of Africa. Volume 8)
Ali. A. Mazrui (ed) California: University of California Press 1999. 1072 pp.
Jerome Teelucksingh

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics:

Constitutionalism Versus The Law of Power and The Land,



Abstract: This paper explores the dualities in the coexistence within Zimbabwean politics
of constitutionalism and legality versus a complex combination of paralegal, supralegal,
oppressive and brutal political action, especially as this pertains to elections and land.
The analysis is set in the period 1999-2002. The investigation concerns the issue of how
the Zimbabwe African National Unity (Patriotic Front) government had been using a
complex combination of constitutionalism-legality and the unconstitutional-paralegal to
ensure political survival, despite national resistance and international pressure. An
epilogue presents a brief thematic comparison between the core arguments in this article,
and developments from 2002-2003. The article has three interconnected parts. The first
presents the major contours of constitutionalism in Zimbabwe. It argues that the state
contested and manipulated both the practice and discourse of human rights, recasting the
'individual' and the 'liberal' in the context of 'African' and 'socialist', but with the slant to
favour the government of the day. The second section highlights how ZANU-PF built the
extensive constitutional, legal and electoral-domain front of constitutionality and multi-
partyism, precisely to defeat and undermine opposition challenges, whilst maintaining
itself in power. It argues that in the electoral domain ZANU-PF uses the legality of
constitutionalism to aid and veil unconstitutional, arbitrary, and authoritarian means of
maintaining power, and simultaneously garners the moral force of land and colonialism
to create 'political immunity'. Thirdly, the article deals with the convergence of liberation
politics, land and elections. It assesses the way in which ZANU-PF's anchoring of its
electoral conquest in the issue of the land and post colonial liberation superimposed
forms of legitimacy and justice that tended to override (in the eyes and minds of many
citizens and parts of the international community, including SADC) paralegal and supra-
legal action. The abrogation of constitutionalism in the domain of land effected some
electoral favour and also conferred a degree of political immunity because of the
'sacredness' in the post-colonial struggle for land justice. The conclusion reviews possible

Susan Booysen is Professor of Political Studies at the University of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and is Deputy
President of the South African Association of Political Studies. She specialises in Southern and South African politics
and political economy. Her primary current research and writing project is Comparative Liberation Movement
Governance and Opposition in "',. Southern Africa: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Angola. Booysen
is the author of more than thirty academic articles, chapters in books and monographs. She has recently published
on Zimbabwe in the journals Journal of African Elections, and Africa Insight. She has participated in two election
observer missions to Zimbabwe. She serves on the editorial board of the South African Journal of Political Studies

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

2 I Booysen

explanations and notes the extent to which the period of 1999 to 2002 witnessed the
convergence of constitutionalism, legality, and the moral force of land reform, with
coercion, oppression and legal-institutional manoeuvring to maintain fragile regime

By the time of the 2002 presidential election in Zimbabwe, contestation between the worlds
of constitutionalism and legality, and supra-legal political practice within the belly of the
constitutional epitomised developments in the Zimbabwean African National Union-Patriotic
Front's (ZANU-PF) struggle for political survival. The dualities of constitutionalism, legalism,
and formal party-electoral actions, versus actions beyond constitutional provisions and law,
contribute to an overall characterisation of contemporary Zimbabwean regime politics as
precariously vacillating between these two worlds. The co-existence of the legal and the supra-
legal means that, for each reality and understanding that emerges, observations from the other
side of the constitutional-legal divide reveal another reality.
'An edifice of legality', or 'pretence of constitutionalism', are phrases that opposition and
community voices in Zimbabwe used to describe the contradictions between the upholding of
the law, constitution and liberal-democratic practice, on the one hand, and the actions or
measures of ZANU-PF in maintaining and justifying their hold on political power, on the other.
ZANU-PF alternately denied practices of coercive and paralegal state action, or otherwise
defended these in terms of security, anti-colonialism and nationalism. ZANU-PF pointed to
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) actions as unpatriotic, driven by foreign
funding, and disinterested in resurrecting the pre-colonial bond between people and the land.
This article therefore argues that in Zimbabwe circa 1999-2002 there was a chasm between
new constitutionalism, and ZANU-PF's use of the shell of constitutionalism as a cordon around
its counter-constitutionalist political practice, as well as its portrayal of challenges to its abuse of
constitutionalism as the defence of settler privilege. In both the interconnected domains of
electoral and land action, the Zimbabwean ruling party upheld a facade of constitutionalism
and legality.
Constitutionalism, defined minimally, alludes to the principle that the exercise of political
power shall be bounded by rules that determine the validity of legislative and executive action.
The procedure according to which this action must be performed is thus prescribed, or the
permissible content of the action is delimited. As De Smith notes, constitutionalism "becomes a
living reality to the extent that these rules curb the arbitrariness of discretion and are in fact
observed by the wielders of political power."' Shivji outlines the 'new constitutionalism' that
articulates with African orientations and contexts. He emphasises several pillars of the right to
people's and national self-determination; the right to practise democratic self-governance and
the participation of citizens therein; the collective right of people and social groups to organise
freely for political, ideological and other purposes (including the right to resist oppression); and
the right to security and integrity of the person. These pillars present to the people of Africa the
"assurance of the legitimacy of their struggle."2 In similar vein and in defence of rights as part
of a new African orientation, Mamdani points out that discourse about rights can invoke the
image of a defence of settler privilege, whilst there is a continued denial of justice for a 'native

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 3

majority'.3 Legalism, in turn, is conceptualised as government and political action that is
conducted in terms of national laws, as well as the legally adopted rules and procedures of that
political system but with the connotation that there is a facade of legal and procedural action
that veils actions that are contrary to the spirit of constitutionalism. Legality refers to action that
has the stamp of the law. Paralegal is used to denote violent actions, for instance torture,
abductions and intimidation. Supralegal refers to actions that are projected as being above the
law or actions that are justified through a higher morality, for instance as is projected to prevail
in ZANU-PF's 'struggle against continued colonialism'. Furnace politics is the term that this
article uses to denote political practice, which belies claims to constitutionalism.
The facade of supremacy of the law and legality of political and electoral measures, and, on
a certain level, adherence to electoral procedure and multi-partyism, started caving in under the
pressure of the electoral domain trilogy of the 12-13 February 2000 constitutional referendum,
the 24-25 June 2000 parliamentary, and the 9-10 March 2002 presidential elections. A growing
chasm emerged between constitutionalism-legality, and furnace politics within the legal-
constitutional shell.
The first objective of this article is to outline the contours of legalism and constitutionalism
in contemporary Zimbabwe and to analyse how the legalism-constitutionalism dimension was
manifested in the period of 1999-2002. The analysis is positioned in the context of the debate on
new constitutionalism in Africa. The second objective is to map the contrasts between
constitutionalism and the opposing underworld of the constitutionally or legally manipulated
life of electoral management and opposition control. A consistent theme is the interplay of
constitutionalism and legality with boundary-illegality and paralegal action. In the domain of
land and political power, analysed in the third section, it is the legacy of colonialism that is
directly challenged through both land seizure and the legitimate discourses of pan-Africanism
and anti-colonialism. The article indicates how 'the law of the land' and the need for post-
colonial justice were used to largely legitimise otherwise forceful, coercive, and unconstitutional
action. The article assesses the reasons why ZANU-PF engaged in the 'game' of
constitutionalism and legalism, given the overwhelming of evidence of unconstitutional,
paralegal and oppressive political behaviour.

POLITICS, 1999-2002

The duality of constitutionalism-legalism versus actions that are partly or fully anchored in
unconstitutional, paralegal and supra-legal state operations was particularly characteristic of
Zimbabwe circa 1999 to 2002. This range of actions helped entrench ZANU-PF's hold on
political power.

Constitutionalism and Decolonisation in Zimbabwe

Constitutionalism was bestowed on many African countries in the form of their
independence constitutions. In several cases across Africa, the liberal model of democracy held
sway in the design of new constitutions. African regimes, as Shivji points out, have been
practical in their choice of the liberal model. Also, African regimes have been tinkering with

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

4 I Booysen

their constitutions in the direction of liberalisation, sometimes under pressure, "and maybe to
re-establish their credibility with the West."4 These liberal perspectives departed from
preceding statist orientations that found their inspiration in sources as varied as African
authenticity, American realism, and the Soviet non-capitalist thesis. Two factors contributed to
degrees of non-acceptance and illegitimacy of independence constitutions: the fact that the
preceding colonial-African regimes did not rule in terms of the principles of constitutionalism
and that the particular Western form of constitutionalism was seen to be foreign to Africa.
Examples of such incompatibility are the concepts of individual rights or the separation of
powers between the head of state and head of government.5
Post-liberation Zimbabwe has been characterized by its contestational relationship with the
inherited Lancaster House Constitution. Constitutional amendments in Zimbabwe were
exercised at least 18 times in 21 years. Many of the changes were uncontroversial attempts at the
indigenisation of the Zimbabwe Constitution, once the limitations that were imposed by the
Lancaster House Agreement had fallen away. Other controversial, changes included those that
were designed to entrench ZANU-PF in power. These 'entrenchment changes' often occurred in
the leeway that was provided by the constitution's provision for wide presidential powers. The
Electoral Act of 1990 specifically related the conduct of elections to presidential omnipotence.
The combination of constitutional and legal concentration of power in the president therefore
provided the setting for Zimbabwe's special case of a 'liberation party rule through elections'.
When the tide started turning (circa 1999 to 2002) and popular resistance began translating into
formalised opposition politics, the constitutional and legal provisions were used to effectively
constrain challenges to ZANU-PF.
The Zimbabwe constitutional debate engaged with the dual pressures of moving away
from Lancaster House constraints towards indigenisation and socio-economic transformation,
and, on the other hand, engendering change that would create space for the voices of civil
society and opposition. These pressures articulated with the broader debate on the nature of
constitutionalism in Africa. Several authors point to the need to develop constitutions that
would not mechanically lift from the Western historical experience, but would build a
constitutionalism that recognized African realities.6 As Mamdani notes,
the point is not to oppose one-sidedly the demand for human rights and the rule of the law;
it is, on the other hand, to struggle towards a definition of the agenda of human rights and the
rule of law that will not displace the discourse on power and popular sovereignty but will in
fact lead to it. To do so, of course, is not possible without arriving at a conception of rights that
flows from a concrete conceptualising of the wrongs on the continent.7

From Constitutional Indigenisation to Presidential Fiat

Over the years, the Zimbabwe constitution has remained a contested document. First, there
was the component of 'foreignness' (and this is something that has continued), the idea that the
constitution remained a non-Zimbabwean, colonial relic.8 Secondly, struggles developed
around the appropriation and, as many argue, the abuse of reactionary components of the
Lancaster House Constitution, by the ZANU-PF government in order to sustain its hegemony.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 5

This constitution should be interpreted in the context of the preceding phase of both white
settler colonialism-republicanism (which was unconstitutional and illegal), and the liberation
struggle's action against the edifice of the Smith regime's form of constitutionalism. In the
Lancaster House Constitution of 1979, however, the liberation forces compromised and
achieved less than they might have expected as the result of a liberation war. The British
government was seen to have "deliberately designed a constitution aimed at preserving and
protecting the interests of the white minority group. To this end, the original Lancaster House
Constitution (LHC) had several entrenched clauses which prevented the first Zimbabwe
government from amending the constitution easily."9 Other authors and politicians concur, for
example, E. D. Mnangagwa states:
In the case of Zimbabwe, the new constitution was encumbered in the sense that it
contained certain entrenched provisions which ensure that certain policies could not be
changed until a specified time had elapsed or until the matter was determined by a specified
majority vote in the House of Assembly.10
Indigenisation was an important consideration in early constitutional changes in
Zimbabwe. For instance, one of the earlier changes was the removal (by the expiry date of the
provision) of the twenty seats that were reserved for whites in parliament." Related changes
were the substitution of a ceremonial presidency and premier for an executive president, as well
as the abolition of the senate to create a 150-member unicameral legislature.12
The 1979 constitution made provision for both the retention of land-use patterns for a
certain period and several socio-economic constraints on the post-liberation state. For instance,
private property was guaranteed for ten years. On the question of land, it has been pointed out
that even if "a new government of Zimbabwe were committed to implementing a
comprehensive land reform programme, the inhibiting cost would put it out of reach of the
government."13 One early constitutional amendment to address some of the land concerns was
the authorisation in 1990 (Act 11) of the acquisition of land for resettlement.14 The decade of the
1990s saw the development of land programmes which, with limited success in
implementation, fed into the turn-of-the-century land action that superseded legal and
constitutional frameworks.
The Zimbabwe constitution had been changed not only to indigenise and offer restitution,
but also, as in 1987 (Amendment No. 7), to remove the president from questioning by and
accountability to parliament. Some provisions of this amendment placed the president above
parliament while other provisions placed him above the judiciary in that the judiciary was
denied the right to question the substance of or the process through which presidential
decisions and policies were derived.15 The constitution furthermore makes provision for
presidential powers ('Temporary Measures') that essentially give the president powers of rule-
making equal to those of the rest of the legislature. Amendment No. 7 grants the president
immunity from "being personally liable to any civil or criminal proceedings..."16. Makumbe
states that this amendment concentrated so much power in the president that "he does not need
either parliament or his ministers and deputy ministers in order to run the country."17 He
alludes to the constitution having become an instrument of authoritarian government in the
hands of the ruling ZANU-PF. He observes that many of the thirteen amendments of the

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

6 I Booysen

constitution of Zimbabwe that had been passed by Parliament by 1998 had tended to perpetuate
the tenure of office of the ruling ZANU-PF.
The convergence of the need for an indigenous constitution and concern about presidential
usurpation of power led to constitutional initiatives on the part of civil society, including those
embodied in the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) in the late 1990s. The government-
sponsored reaction was the appointment of the Constitutional Commission. The draft
constitution offered to the Zimbabwean electorate in the February 2000 referendum was
rejected. The government, however, continued its pursuit of enhanced power on the basis of the
often-amended Lancaster House Constitution.18 After the June 2000 parliamentary election,
ZANU-PF no longer had a two-thirds majority, and constitutional amendments were
obstructed. Increasingly, therefore, extensive presidential powers became the substitute for
constitutional and law-based measures of governance.
The president of Zimbabwe throughout the period of analysis continued to enjoy a range of
powers that allowed him to exercise control over the electoral process. The major law that
regulates presidential powers on elections is the Electoral Act of 1990. Section 151 of this Act
provides for the president to "make any such statutory instruments as he considers necessary or
desirable to ensure that any election is properly and efficiently conducted and to deal with any
matter or situation connected with, arising out of or resulting from the election". 19 From the
1984 constitutional amendments (Act 4), the president had gained the right to appoint (amongst
others) the members of the Electoral Supervisory Committee (ESC), judges, ombudsmen, police,
defence forces and the auditor-general. In effect, the president became the sole ruler of the
electoral process. The president practically appoints all of the personnel of the three core
electoral institutions of Zimbabwe: the Election Directorate, the Delimitation Commission, and
the ESC. In the appointment processes, the president is required to consult with specified
bodies, but he is not obliged to follow their advice. These appointments seem to articulate with
ZANU-PF party political patronage networks.20 Sections 15 (1) and (2) afford the president the
power to regulate the electoral process to the extent that he is able to suspend or amend any
provisions of either the Electoral Act or any other law in so far as it applies to elections. In 1995,
the president used this provision to reduce the number of categories of persons that could
exercise postal ballots.21 These changes continued into 2002.
It is widely accepted in Zimbabwe that neither the Registrar-General nor the ESC are
independent.22 The civil servants that are appointed to supervise the elections are ZANU-PF
loyalists. In 2000, then-chairperson of the ESC, Elaine Raftopoulos, attempted to enforce
neutrality (or, non-ZANU-PF dominance) in ESC operations. A court struggle ensued, and the
results emasculated the ESC. In preparation for the 2002 election, the ESC was reconstituted
with its voter education function diluted and subsequently steered away from NGO
participation. The new ESC also asserted full control over election monitors.
Several authors note ZANU-PF's methods of marginalising and eliminating opposition.23
They provide details about ZANU-PF's methods of dealing with opposition. Dirty tricks,
electoral manipulation, and violence against opponents have been an integral part of ZANU-PF
governance ever since it came to power in 1980.24 What distinguishes the period of 1999 to 2002
is the extension of a multi-faceted strategy for simultaneous annihilation of the opposition and
construction of a 2002 presidential electoral victory that would allow ZANU-PF to reinvent the

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 7

party and construct a new hegemony based on anti-colonial liberation discourse. ZANU-PF
actions at this time comprised not only the extension of constitutional and legal provisions in
order to build the space for elaborate legal-constitutional action against opposition, but also the
extra-legal use of violence and coercion to enforce the envisaged hegemony a Third Chimurenga
required. The measures also aimed at promoting ZANU-PF's longer-term project for the
reconstitution of ZANU-PF as a hegemonic liberation movement government. 25

Constitutionalism and Zimbabwean Adaptations of Multi-party Democracy

In its 22 years of regular engagement in elections, ZANU-PF has on several occasions
changed positions with regard to one-partyism, socialism, neo-liberalism, Marxism, and pan-
Africanism.26 In 1980, ZANU-PF campaigned as a "would-be single party of a Marxist-toned
Zimbabwe"27 In 1985 it followed a Marxist script that was designed to root out dissidence. By
1995, it was showcasing its adoption of ESAP. Sylvester points out that ZANU-PF has always
'iconised' itself as the torchbearer of the struggles that others might have been too weak to
embrace. 28 In the late-1990s, this zeal converged with the mission to counter a 'multi-party
onslaught' on its power (which ZANU-PF construed as the MDC, 'puppet' NGOs on media
organizations, and a range of colonial and Western powers). This onslaught comprised a set of
legal-constitutional and paralegal actions that would deliver electoral practices regulating
election outcomes.
Some tolerance of opposition still prevailed in the 1999-2000 campaign for the
constitutional referendum, despite growing ruling party intimidation of the anti-constitution
activists.29 In preparation for the June 2000 parliamentary elections, however, ZANU-PF
launched a wide-ranging campaign of intimidating opposition, controlling the media, and
mobilising voters around the issue of land. By 2002, ZANU-PF's political tolerance had further
decreased, but the party paraded the formal processes and rules of multi-party elections as
evidence of democracy. It also continued using the existence of a fair number of political parties
(irrespective of level of political action and organisation) as evidence that Zimbabwe was a
vibrant multi-party democracy.30 It furthermore used the outer face of multi-party democracy to
help drive its thrust for African recognition of the March 2002 elections. ZANU-PF presented a
multi-pronged oppressive onslaught against electoral and civil society opposition, rendering
Zimbabwe a multi-party democracy in only a nominal way. Subsequently, in the post-election
period ZANU-PF threatened to continue its campaign for reduced opposition action and
One of the persistent anomalies of the Zimbabwean case of constitutionalism has been the
ability and periodic willingness of the courts to bring government to order. Up to 2001, this was
a relatively strong feature. However, pressure came to bear on certain judges to step down
(including former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay) especially from government and war
veterans following judgements in cases of land redistribution.32 A phase followed in which
ZANU-PF had much more assurance of a compliant judiciary. High Court judges such as Rita
Makaura and Ben Hlatswayo occasionally delivered judgements that went against the ZANU-
PF government. On appeal to the Supreme Court, however, ZANU-PF from 2001 to 2002 could
be virtually assured of favourable judgements.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

8 I Booysen

This preliminary delineation of the dualities of contemporary Zimbabwean politics
highlights the extent to which Zimbabwe diverges from the principles of constitutionalism, as
defined in an African context. Despite the constitutional and legal edifices, methodical
constitutional disorder prevailed. Not only was the principle of constitutionalism selectively
upheld, but the ZANU-PF government also felt compelled to create an elaborate edifice and
pretend to operate by legal and constitutional criteria. In some instances, the edifice was
proactively instituted, but more frequently the ZANU-PF government acted retrospectively to
effect legalisation.


This section analyses the range of actions that constituted the systematic multi-front
ZANU-PF assault on popular and electoral action during the mobilisation of civil society, NCA,
and MDC against ZANU-PF's exercise of state power. Under the burden of this opposition
surge and two electoral near-defeats (see Table 1: Zimbabwe Parliamentary and Presidential
Election Results, 1980-2002), ZANU-PF by 2002 had become increasingly vehement and elaborate
in its measures to control opposition and secure its own hold on power. Beyond the broader
constitutional and legal changes that led to the powerful Zimbabwe presidency, it was the far-
reaching and intensifying application of legal-constitutional and oppressive-authoritarian
powers, concurrent with an insistence that liberal-democratic standards were being upheld, that
characterized the 1999-2002 period. This section focuses on the threefold interplay of
constitutionalism-legality, unconstitutional and paralegal acts presented in the language of
constitutional-legal interventions, and outright disregard of constitutionalism in the form of
actions that were 'beyond the law' or paralegal.

Table 1

Number of elected seats and percentages

POLITICAL 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2002 2000
PARTY Presidential
(Note 2) (Note 3) Referendum
(Note 1) election

ZANU-PF 57(63,0%) 63 117 118 62
(77,2%) (75,4%) (81,4%)
(Mugabe) ____(48,8%)
ZAPU 20 (24,1%) 15 (0,4%)
ZANU-Ndonga 1 (1,3%) 1 1

Proportion of 697,754 to
vote to 578,210 votes
ZANU-PF (54,7% versus
candidate: 45,3% of the
1990: 80%
5 m voters

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 9

MDC (Note 4)



1(0,9%) (6,5%) (0,7%)


1996: 93%

2002: 57%

RF/CAZ 20 15 Mugabe 1,7m


(from '94:UP)

3 (2,2%)



ZUM (16,6%) 0 00 _


(_,34%) (5,86%) (2,1%)
Forum Party -

(from '94: UP)
UP 6,3% 0




of 2,9m

+-/- 3 m
cast for

3y merger





,6+ m voters
n 2002

Boycotts; Emergence
55 ZANU- of MDC, un-
PF seats free context

I _(Note 5) 1
PERCENTAGE 94-98+% 97,3% 42,8-60% 53,9% 50% 55% 26%
(Note 6) (Note 7) (Note 8) (Note 9)
Note 1: ZANU-PF=Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front); ZAPU: Zimbabwe African
Peoples' Union; MDC= Movement for Democratic Change; RF/CAZ=Rhodesian (Republican
Front/Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe; ZUM=Zimbabwe Unity Movement (Tekere); UP=United

Note 2: Figures for the 'White Voters' Roll' elections of 1980 and 1985 are not included in this table
(Saunders, 2000).

Note 3: Only 65 of the 120 constituencies were contested.

Note 4: The MDC challenged 37 of these seats; the 37 Zanu-PF constituency wins were being contested

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

10 I Booysen

for reversal.

Note 5: 85 of total of 150 seats therefore uncontested.

Note 6: Estimated percentage; no registration figures available (Saunders, 2000:46). Other estimates are
that the percentage was closer to 94% (Booysen, 2001).

Note 7: Estimated percentage, based on questionable ESC registration figures (Saunders, 2000:46). Other
estimates are that the range of participation was between 54 and 65% (Booysen, 2001). Sylvester
(1990:376) refers to a poll of 'less that 60%'. Represents a sharp decline in comparison with turnout of
95% and above in previous elections.

Note 8: Other sources estimate participation at 57% (see Booysen, 2001).

Note 9: Estimated that 50% of the total of 5 049 815 voters voted (Booysen, 2001).

Sources: Saunders, 2000:38; 46; Booysen, 2001; Sithole, 2000; selection of additional print media sources
On the eve of the 2002 presidential election, a body of repressive legislation was in place, in
the name of preserving law and order as well as national security.33 Such laws, while in many
cases couched in patriotic terms, were designed to suppress opposition and pave the way for
ZANU-PF's retention of power. Generally, ZANU-PF managed to keep electoral measures and
processes veneered in the language and practices of legality and liberal democratic procedure.34
As the civil society and party political opposition threat grew from late 1999 to 2002, ZANU-
PF's counter-offensive assumed shades of demonising political opposition, anti-colonialism,
and real or construed linkages between political opposition and imperialist influences. The
offensive also projected ZANU-PF as a force of pro-national sovereignty and pan-Africanism.
Despite what amounted to a total onslaught on opposition, the ZANU-PF government
continued to publicly promote its commitment to 'free and fair' elections. Zimbabwean political
and electoral authorities concentrated attention on the core aspects of the conduct of the poll.
The 'ability' and 'freedom' to vote on the polling days were pegged as icons of the liberal-
democratic project. Yet, beyond this narrow core of electoral action, there were extensive
measures in place to subvert the opposition.
To analyse how the degrees of constitutionalism versus 'beyond the law' actions
manifested themselves in the electoral domain, this section explores electoral management, the
application of violence and coercion, and the ideological framing and logistical decapitation of
opposition. These measures constitute the Third Chimurenga, or the so-called final phase of the
liberation struggle that would return the land to the people.35

Electoral Contests in the Context of Campaigns of Violence and Terror

In the propagation of the Third Chimurenga, ZANU-PF attached little value to elections as
the means for the realisation of popular aspirations. Rather, the two elections became part of the
means to dispose of an enemy that included, inter alia, the contesting opposition parties. At the
December 2001 ZANU-PF congress, Mugabe urged supporters to view his 2002 re-election

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The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 11

campaign as 'total war'.36 The ZANU-PF campaigns around all three of the 2000-2002 voter
contests used force and coercion that ranged from direct, violent attacks on the MDC to wide-
ranging projects of community terror. The urban and rural electorates in this period were
subjected to widespread violence. In one of the most prominent techniques for control and
coercion, the new militia (national youth trainees working for ZANU-PF) supplemented the role
of the war veterans and riot police, setting up base camps close to town and villages centres to
intimidate, abduct, and torture residents who were suspected of being opposition party
supporters.37 Community opposition was driven back into subservience and electoral
abstention. Through this process, ZANU-PF regained an edge over the MDC opposition.
The project of community terror commenced in the run-up to the 2000 elections.38 Base
camps mushroomed from the late 2000 by-elections to the 2002 presidential elections. They
were erected both in high-density urban areas and across most of the rural communal lands to
house, feed and train ZANU-PF militias. The camps also became centres for re-education,
intimidation, and torture. Militia activities included the setting up of roadblocks, at which
soldiers, war veterans, and youths either confiscated the identity documents of citizens who
could not prove ZANU-PF membership or forced the acquisition of ZANU-PF membership
cards.39 Some torture centres in Harare also became polling stations. 40 In other places, base
camps were across the road from voting stations.41 News services reported many similar
instances.42 In 2002, militia actions extended to the confiscation of identity cards and
intimidation of voters queuing on the March polling days.43
The Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) worked closely with ZANU-PF war veterans
in campaigns of terror. The CIO is funded through the "special services" category in the budget
votes, and the use of these funds may not be questioned in parliament, nor may items and
expenditures be scrutinised by government auditors. The estimates (2000 Zimbabwe Budget
Estimates) indicated that compared with the previous year's Z$1,2billion, this budget item
would receive Z$3 billion (a 143% increase). The war veterans are funded through the Ministry
of Defence, set to receive Z$429 million.44
Violence was most prevalent in the provinces where the ZANU-PF grip on the electorate
was seen to be loosening, especially in Manicaland and Midlands.45 Furthermore, there was
intense contestation of violence statistics as indicators of the nature of electoral procedures. The
weight of evidence gave credence to allegations of systematic and extensive state violence. For
instance, The Herald of 6 March 2002) observed that more than half of reported cases of political
violence in the first 25 days of February 2002 (241) had been traced to the MDC, and 223 to
ZANU-PF. University of Zimbabwe academics put the loss of lives at 107, substantially higher
than police estimates.46 Earlier in 2002, the MDC had published a list of 89 of its supporters who
had died as a result of ZANU-PF attacks. Statistics from the Mass Public Opinion Institute (7
March 2002) were: 70,000 displaced, 107 killed, 397 abducted, 83 MDC rallies banned, and 5,308
opposition supporters tortured.
The processes of coercion and violence started manifesting themselves in the run-up to the
February 2000 referendum. War veterans and so-called 'thug forces' then continued their
electoral clean-up functions for the June 2000 elections. There were regular reports of illegal
roadblocks, confiscation of identity cards, and the presence of war veterans in the vicinity of
voting stations. Several rural areas were completely sealed off from the outside world. No-go

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12 I Booysen

areas became frequent occurrences across Zimbabwe. Crisis Alert noted that 'no-go areas',
'curfews', and 'militia road blocks' had become part of the vocabulary of the 2002 election.47 No-
go areas were most prevalent in provinces under ZANU-PF control, especially Mashonaland
West, East and Central. In Makoni-North constituency, the only form of access for the MDC was
to scatter campaign literature on nearby roads at night.48 Widespread assaults on the organizers,
officials, and agents of the MDC occurred in the run-up to both the 2000 and 2002 elections, and
in the intermediary by-elections.49 Assaults, abductions and murder of activists and polling
agents became commonplace.50 Analyses of the 2000 election indicate that ZANU-PF had either
encouraged or condoned electoral violence. After the 2000 election, there was an official pardon
for those (overwhelmingly ZANU-PF) who had committed these acts.51

Electoral Management and Pushing the Boundaries of the Legal

The president of Zimbabwe fully utilised his constitutional and legal powers for the
management of elections. The government's measures for near-totalitarian control of multi-
party elections were increasingly sharpened from the June 2000 elections onwards. This was
facilitated by the exercise of executive powers, in combination with presidential control over the
legislature and the judiciary. In June 2000 and March 2002, court cases and new legislation,
often in the form of Statutory Instruments, emerged right up to the polling days. The rules for
the conduct of elections changed and so did rules for the electoral activities of media, parties,
and civil society. The changes pertained to the voters' roll, eligibility to vote, constituency
versus national bases for voting, postal voting, selection of staff for the administration and
implementation of elections, the impartiality of monitors and voting staff, and responsibility for
voter education.52
The president of Zimbabwe appoints all core electoral personnel under the Electoral Act of
1990. These include the Registrar-General and the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC). The
Registrar-General, Tobaiwa Mudede, is mainly responsible for implementing presidential
measures and directives. Events in 2000 proved that staff "adhere or get out."53 In 2000, the ESC
suffered a reduction of powers in the accreditation of monitors and observers as well as its voter
education functions. Subsequent to these changes, ZANU-PF was effectively in control of voter
education. In 2000, NGOs still autonomously conducted voter education. In 2002, the ESC
assumed full control of all aspects of voter education, including the curriculum and the
channelling of voter education funding. Furthermore, in 2002 election monitors were appointed
from the ranks of civil servants or the security forces, no longer from civil society. There was
also evidence that CIO staff had strategic placements within voting stations, sometimes actually
marking names off the voters' roll.54 The 2002 Electoral Amendment Act, amending section 34 of
the Electoral Act, gave the Registrar-General the power to alter the voters' roll at any time
without directly informing the voters concerned and without giving them the right to appeal.
The 'voters roll process' severely impacted on the ability to exercise 'the right to vote.' The
management of this process, including decisions on eligibility, the dates for registration,
displacement of voters, etc. contributed to confusion and disenfranchisement. In both the 2000
and 2002 elections, the Registrar-General's office did not treat the voters' roll as a public access
document as is required in terms of section 18 of Zimbabwe's 1990 Electoral Act.55 Up to 36

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The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 13

hours before commencement of the 2002 poll, the final voters' roll had not been made public.
Evidence of removals from the voters' roll only came to light when it was too late to challenge.
In 2002, the widespread powers of the Registrar-General facilitated the engineering of the
voters' roll process to effect both disenfranchisement and selective or limited voter turnout.
These actions included the Registrar-General opening the voters' roll for inspection and
registration changes between 19 November and 23 December 2001. He closed it with effect from
10 January 2002. On 29 January 2002, using his powers under s94(2) of the Electoral Act, he
retrospectively gazetted a later date of closure, namely Sunday 27 January 2002. After the roll
was closed and in contravention of s25 (1) and s34 (1)(c) of the Electoral Act (amended by the
General Laws Amendment Act), 5,000 permanent residents who had ceased to be citizens but
retained their right to vote under the Constitution of Zimbabwe Schedule 3 s3 (3)(b) were
excluded. The closing date of the voters roll was then further extended to 3 March 2002.56 Even
beyond this period, evidence surfaced of continuous registration (for instance in Chinhoyi). The
Registrar-General claimed that voter registration at this time was part of the continuous
functioning of his office and that these people were not being registered with a view to
participation in the March election. Selective removals from the voters' roll also became easy
after several MDC branch chairpersons in 2001 were forced to hand over MDC membership
Because of terror campaigns by militias, war veterans and the hired 'thug forces', many
Zimbabweans were displaced from their usual places of residence or registration, and
consequently, the place to exercise their vote. The process of fast-track land reform also resulted
in additional tens of thousands of farm labourers (regarded as 'totemless' because of possible
Malawian or Mozambican origins) being displaced.57 Displacement was reinforced through the
March 2002 Supreme Court ruling specifying that the election would be held on the basis of
constituency voters' rolls. This followed the 25 January 2002 High Court ruling by Justice
Makarau that the election was to be held on the basis of a non-constituency common roll.58
Temporary displacement was also effected through the closure of tertiary state educational
institutions for the polling period (and indeed beyond). This disenfranchised large percentages
of students who were registered to vote in their campus constituencies.59
The number of 2002 voters in Zimbabwe was estimated to be 5,6 million.60 It had been
approximately 5.1 million in 2000.61 The office of the Registrar-General released the final voters'
roll on the Thursday before the Saturday-Sunday March 2002 election. It was then reported that
another 400,000 names were to appear on the supplementary voters' roll, and that most of these
additions would be from the ZANU-PF heartland of the Mashonaland provinces.62
On election days in Harare and Chitungwiza, confusion prevailed about the location of
voting stations (dual or tripartite elections were to be held: for president and council, or
president, mayor and council). This confusion contributed to low voter turnout. This situation
contrasted with the relatively orderly dissemination of polling station information in 2000. Then
the location of voting stations had been published in newspapers, albeit only a number of days
prior to polling.63
Disenfranchisement also happened through an overload of urban polling stations. In 2000,
urban residents had approximately 50% more voting stations than in 2002 (official figures were
never released). The MDC and the Combined Harare Residents Association stressed that the

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14 I Booysen

reallocation of urban voting stations to rural areas effectively wrought the disenfranchisement
of urban voters, in that it would have required a voting throughput of one ballot per 10 seconds
in some urban areas, based on a 70% turnout.64 The Registrar-General, in a ZBC "Face the
Nation" interview on 1 March 2002, emphasised that the reduction in the number of urban
voting stations was intended to assist rural people who had previously been subject to long
distances of travel to the polling stations. He never gave reasons as to why there had to be a
trade-off between urban and rural. This form of disenfranchisement was highly visible,
especially in Harare in 2002.65
In the final days of the 2000 election process, it was widely believed that the Registrar-
General 'manufactured' large numbers of marked ballot papers. Counting processes in the
Harare South constituency confirmed that postal ballots from the DRC, channelled into this
strategic constituency, were uniformly marked in favour of the ruling party.66 With regard to
2002, the Registrar-General on 6 February 2002 ruled that applications for a postal ballot (then
still within terms of the General Laws Amendment Act) would commence on or around 7
February, and these could be returned up to the first day of polling.67 Three days before the
election, reports surfaced that army members had been required to vote in the presence of their
Amendments to the Electoral Act (ss20 and 21) also effected a form of 'class
disenfranchisement'. In 2002, one requirement to vote was proof of residence. The ZHR
estimated that many lodgers and tenants in high-density areas had no lease agreements or proof
of tenancy. This disqualification extended into rural areas, where traditional leaders would
often have been the only persons able to vouch for residential details. Other forms of mainly
urban disenfranchisement happened through 'deregistration' (omitting previously confirmed
names off new rolls), splitting voting between presidential and municipal/mayoral votes,
delaying voting processes (through go-slows, lunches, and station closures) discouraging
turnout (through militia presence and nearby militia training camps), and attrition induced by
long voting lines (personal observation, 10-11 March 2002). The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
pointed to the inflation of the voters' roll with 'phantom names' that facilitated the subsequent
stuffing of ballot boxes.68 Statutory Instruments 41A-F, adopted in March 2002, had reinstated
aspects of the General Laws Amendment Act which could not be implemented because of the
Supreme Court nullification of the Act (28 February 2002). This law, amongst others, had
limited postal votes and civil society engagement in voter education. The Statutory Instruments
reinstated the restrictions.
Vote specialists also pointed to several flaws in the 2002 management of ballot papers and
ballot boxes. First, the Registrar-General refused to release the details of the specific number of
ballot papers that had been printed. This refusal occurred amidst opposition fears that:

" voters in ZANU-PF heartland areas were being forced to mark ballots
" these might be channelled into pre-loaded ballot boxes
" ballot boxes would only be sealed at the apertures and not at the seams
" not all ballot boxes would be screened by party agents
" mobile voting stations would deliver ample opportunities for ballot fraud (in the form of
substitution of ballot boxes en route between voting venues.69

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The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 15

Judges of the High Court and Supreme Court of Zimbabwe played crucial roles in the
implementation of ZANU-PF's election strategy. On the eve of both the 2000 and 2002 elections,
the judiciary at crucial junctures offered rulings that were favourable to ZANU-PF. In 2000, the
High Court ruled against appeals by the ESC. In 2002 the Supreme Court overruled the High
Court's judgement in favour of voting on a national rather than constituency base. However,
there were exceptions. In 2002, the High Court (Sunday 10 March) ruled in favour of extending
voting by one more day. A week earlier the Supreme Court had overturned the General Laws
Amendment Act, because of its unprocedural adoption. This relative balance between pro- and
anti-ZANU-PF judgements, however, only illustrates the extent to which ZANU-PF did not
depend on a compliant judiciary to effect many of its electoral plans. In the case of the General
Laws Amendment Act, the government used Statutory Instruments to amend the Electoral Act
of 1990 and instituted all of the provisions in the General Laws Amendment Act required to
manage the poll in their own way, including the accreditation of monitors/observers and the
conduct of voter education.

The Engineering and Ideological Framing of Opposition Election Campaigns

Beyond the legal-constitutional measures (including their adaptations, reformulations and
post-defeat reintroductions), ZANU-PF made effective use of control over mass media to limit
the impact of opposition and optimise the effect of the governing party. Governing party
control over information combined with the constraints that it imposed on the campaign
activities of the MDC, helped to ensure that voters would primarily hear ZANU-PF's
interpretations of the electoral battle. Various laws, such as the Citizen Amendment Act (2001),
the Broadcasting Services Act (2001), and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
Act (2002) served this purpose.
ZANU-PF's 2000 and 2002 rural dominance was secured with a combination of measures:
delivery of land to many of the previously landless and threats of war or personal retribution
should ZANU-PF's rural dominance be threatened. The urban anti-ZANU-PF vote, in contrast,
was largely countered through a suppression of the pro-MDC vote through the forms of
disenfranchisement already outlined above and the widespread fear of either violence or war in
the event of an MDC victory.70
ZANU-PF constitutional, legal, and paralegal action hampered the MDC's ability to
campaign. Restrictions ranged from its ideological demonisation by ZANU-PF to logistical
issues, such as selective provision of transport to rallies. The range of legislation, including the
2002 Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and Statutory Instruments, meant that the MDC
had to obtain government permission to have rallies, and that it was not allowed to provide bus
transport to their rallies. ZANU-PF itself openly flouted this regulation. ZANU-PF had a virtual
monopoly over public advertising space. Militias ensured that shop and taxi owners would fear
for their lives and property should they either remove ZANU-PF posters or allow the MDC to
display posters.71
Other constraints included accusations against the MDC leader of an assassination plot, the
burning of MDC offices in Bulawayo, and several attacks on offices in Harare, continuous legal
charges against MDC leaders, and the bombing of the printing presses of the MDC-sympathetic
Daily News. Although the assassination plot allegations were soon questioned and/or dismissed,

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16 I Booysen

the Mugabe 2002 presidential campaign thrived on suggestions of opposition weakness and
gullibility.72 Whereas the independent Zimbabwe press continued to provide coverage of
opposition voices, ZANU-PF enjoyed virtual monopoly access to the electronic media, such as
ZBC television. Short-wave radio stations that broadcast from the United Kingdom and the
Netherlands did spring up in the months preceding the election. There was little, however, that
could counter the extended and established chain of government information.
'Ideological warfare' and the delegitimisation of opposition had a significant role in the
electoral performance of ZANU-PF. ZANU-PF contested and manipulated both the practice and
the discourse of human rights, recasting the 'individual and the 'liberal' in the context of
'African' and 'socialist'. It projected opposition challenges as reactionary, racist, colonial, and
devoid of patriotism. Raftopoulus points out that whereas ordinary voters were unlikely to
have been affected by the revival of ZANU-PF liberation rhetoric, the ZANU-PF-sympathetic
middle and intellectual classes were substantial enough to have warranted this new ZANU-PF
hegemonic project. ZANU-PF effectively used the reality of continuous colonial fault-lines of
dispossession, as well as land scarcity, to construct a campaign message that "anti-ZANU-PF
equals anti-land fast-tracking and reform, and equals support for reactionary forces, sell-outs
and puppets of the British/Western-imperial project that wish to destroy the sovereignty of the
Zimbabwean state and people."73 Patriotism, nationalism, sovereignty and movement to a land-
centred 'new future' were combined with a one-dimensional assignation of blame for problems
on the MDC, white farmers, businesses, and their international associates.
Raftopoulos characterises this disjuncture in Zimbabwean politics as "a severe break" that
had developed between the discourse and politics of the liberation struggle (as channelled
through party ideologues), on the one hand, and that of the civic struggles for democratisation
in the post-colonial period.74 He observes that this friction developed in the context of a
declining liberation movement that had drawn a lethal distinction between a violence driven,
'anti-imperialist' project centred on the land question, and the politics of human rights which
ZANU-PF characterized as an imposition of global imperatives. The civic opposition, in
contrast, had espoused its agenda largely through the language of citizenship rights, articulated
most clearly in the campaign for constitutional reform. However, Raftopoulus states, "this
politics of democratisation has not sufficiently negotiated its connections, as well as its
differences, with the legacies of the liberation struggle."75
Electoral observation, far from being the supposedly neutral project of assessment, became
an integral part of the Zimbabwean electoral process from 2000 onwards.76 Increasingly from
2000 to 2002, the state was engineering who the observers would be and what they would be
permitted to see.77 Observers were manipulated through delaying the processes of accreditation
so that there would be an overwhelming focus on the two polling days, and, at most, the week
preceding polling. The determined effort to stamp out critical electoral exposure had its first
serious trial run in June 2000. There were delays and refusals in accreditation. To the extent that
accreditation in 2000 did happen, it became effective only two days before the poll. Control over
election observation was further fine-tuned for 2002. Large organizations such as the EU were
excluded.78 Furthermore, observers in both elections were 'self-censored'. For fear of their
personal safety, they did not venture far beyond the main centres and bigger cities. Observer

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The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 17

missions have simply been too small, even in combined numbers, to effect countrywide
coverage. Yet, most missions tended to report that their observers 'covered all province.'79
These were elections that could not be lost by the governing party. Beyond talk of rigging
in the form of stuffing ballot boxes (which remained a possibility in both 2000 and 2002), an
array of measures contributed to a stacking of the odds in favour of ZANU-PF. Many of these
actions occurred beyond the electoral domain. Yet, the end-result put on display was one of
multi-party parliamentary elections and competitive presidential elections. These electoral
actions all played out on the stage of multi-party politics, but were positioned in a world where
liberal democracy was 'not enough' to address the fault lines of the state that was inherited
from colonial powers. ZANU-PF mobilised several lines of action, supplementing the accepted
repertoires of multi-party contestation with extra-constitutional or paralegal measures, as well
as action by executive fiat and state-administrative monopoly. It might even be argued that
liberal, multi-party democracy is inappropriate as a model of government, given that
Zimbabwean society demands far-reaching socio-economic change, including corrections of
continuing colonial fault-lines.


The 1999-2002 electoral crisis in Zimbabwe revolved around land ownership in conjunction
with the unfinished business of the colonial past and the determined attempts by the former
liberation movement government to maintain itself in power.8s The brutalities attendant upon
retaining power became obscured through ZANU-PF's recourse to constitutional and legal
packaging for pervasive coercion and violence. On the other hand, ZANU-PF's actions to
maintain itself in power took recourse to a superior morality, namely that of resisting continued
and renewed colonialist intervention in Africa. Objections against the methods of ZANU-PF's
actions would themselves be construed as unpatriotic and in defence of colonial powers'
disregard for the continent. The land programme's violations of rights and constitutionalism
were therefore offset by the illegitimacy of colonial and white settler occupation (as well as
subsequent purchases and accumulation) of prime land.
ZANU-PF contextualized the turn-of-the-21st century Zimbabwean land struggles in terms
of the Third Chimurenga, or the completion of the struggle for decolonisation and return of the
land to the people. It may be argued that, out of the ashes of feared electoral loss and the
problem of how to deal with war veterans, there arose a land strategy that turned elections into
only a small part of the broader struggle for post-colonial justice. The unresolved issue of post-
colonial land justice in Zimbabwe was undoubtedly a part of the alienation between a large
proportion of Zimbabwean voters and their liberation movement government. Land action,
however, also became the crux of a ZANU-PF strategy for political survival, invoking aspects of
the liberation struggle ethos. Moreover, the renewed emphasis on land found resonance
amongst other African leaders. The strategy of fast-tracked land redistribution from 2000
onwards would be slow to turn the economy around, but provided an inner-sanctum of post-
colonial legitimacy and ZANU-PF could then use the powerful arguments of pan-Africanism to
buy time. Evidence of ZANU-PF insincerity in the land project manifested itself in widespread
elite manipulation of land redistribution, the fact that ZANU-PF supporters were the main

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18 I Booysen

beneficiaries, and the reality that there was little facilitation or support for post-invasion
agricultural and settlement initiatives.81 By early 2002, evidence started emerging that both
government officials and politicians, not to mention ZANU-PF non-government functionaries,
benefited on a much larger scale by gaining access to prime land.

Rupture Between Land Redistribution and Rights Issues

Many of the land actions contrast with new constitutionalism in Africa, as articulated by Shivji
(1991). Mhanda observes that the "liberation struggle was driven by political, economic, social
and cultural demands" and that "land distribution was just one of the key economic
demands".82 Raftopoulos, on the basis of major writings on the liberation struggle, notes:
A programme of violent land occupations, sanctioned by the ruling party, that abrogates
other issues around political and civil rights, is at odds with an important part of the nationalist
legacy. Even during the difficulties of the liberation war itself, when violence and coercion
formed a central part or nationalist mobilisation, rural communities attempted to impose a
moral economy of controls over the activities of the liberation forces, through traditional
leaders, and long existing party structures.83
The 2000 election slogan of ZANU-PF, "The Land is the Economy, the Economy is the
Land" came to epitomise the convergence between contemporary economic crisis, electoral
threats to ZANU-PF, and the political will to allow the liberation movement government the
chance to resurrect itself. It was in December 1999, at the ZANU-PF conference, that the party
realized that it would not survive politically without actions such as the land campaign.84 Both
its sliding popular fortunes and the inescapable problems of its relationship with war veterans
contributed to this realisation. The reality of ZANU-PF's position was reinforced by the
constitutional referendum results of February 2000.85
It is therefore through this extensive project of land and liberation-cum-pan-Africanism
that ZANU-PF strategised for its longer-term electoral survival. Beyond the scrutiny of election
observers, ZANU-PF used violence and coercion to enforce its land project because "belly
dissent" was likely to escalate before there would be economic revival. ZANU-PF needed the
suppression of dissent and disregard of individual rights in order to remain in power long
enough to witness a reversal of electoral fortunes. Ordinary Zimbabweans talked about the
need for change. Only some of this, however, was connected to the land. Inside Zimbabwe, it
was predominantly the politics of the belly (hunger, unemployment, and frustration with
inability to get ahead in life) that caused a large proportion of voters to desire a new
government. 86 The 2002 election result, however, also demonstrated that in parts of Zimbabwe
there indeed would be pro-ZANU-PF voting as an expression of gratitude for land

Legal Measures on Land and Overrule by the President

Liberal democracy's shortcoming that it is not a panacea for economic ills is an
insufficient explanation for years of relatively little action on the issue of land justice in
Zimbabwe. Up to 1997, the acquisition of land in Zimbabwe was based on a slow and cautious,

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The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 19

market-based approach to land reform. The 1980s did witness low-intensity land occupations,
but the government discouraged these. The ZANU-PF government, in the decade between the
end of Lancaster House and the 2000 referendum, had several opportunities to expedite the
land reform process. Parallel to the adoption of ESAP and its effects on the Zimbabwean
economy, war veterans challenged the authority of ZANU-PF and the president in 1997 by
demanding gratuities for their role in the liberation struggle. This was a turning point, and the
president would become increasingly reliant on violent means of mobilisation.88
Constitutionalism became a relative value. In the language of new constitutionalism for Africa,
certain individual rights (such as property rights) created the space for social and group rights.
The 2000-2002 period constituted a historical juncture that uniquely facilitated a relative
breach of constitutionalism in favour of long-awaited, far-reaching land reform. The historical
moment was conducive to the pardoning of 'lawlessness' by other former colonially occupied
states that suffered from similar backlogs of post-colonial restitution, and by former colonial
powers that suffered a mild form of colonial guilt.
To some extent, the ZANU-PF government complied with the insistence (Zimbabwean,
Southern African and other international) that their land reform project should be conducted in
a lawful manner. As was the case with regard to various electoral measures, however, these
legal measures often only emanated after initial ZANU-PF action was followed by opposition
efforts to fault the action on legal grounds. In the run-up to the 2002 elections, the Commercial
Farmers Union (CFU) and individual farmers challenged the invasions, the listing of farms, and
the 'fast-track' programme in the Administrative Court. The Supreme Court, however, ruled in
favour of the government. It found that there was no legal basis for the Administrative Court to
demand the existence of a land reform programme before it could confirm or reject government
acquisition orders. 89 The government then tabled the Rural Land Occupiers (Protection from
Eviction) Bill in April 2001 to undermine the legal efforts by the commercial farmers.90
Opposition members of parliament dismissed the Bill as a plot to 'legalise the illegal.'91 The
donor community also expressed its displeasure. According to the Zimbabwe Independent of 4
May 2001, diplomatic sources reckoned that the Bill undermined the goodwill created after the
United Nations Development Programme visited Zimbabwe in December 2000 and the
government made commitments to non-partisan, organised and transparent land reform. This
prompted the United States to hasten the approval of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic
Recovery Act (2001) which sought to pressure Mugabe to improve human rights, respect the
constitution, restore good governance and ensure conditions for economic prosperity -- in
exchange for development funding.92
It is in this context that Mugabe overruled his Cabinet's support for two April 2000 High
Court rulings that ordered new land settlers to withdraw from occupied farms. Freeman points
out that Mugabe also brushed aside attempts by then Home Affairs Minister Dumiso
Dabengwa and Deputy-President Joseph Msika to secure withdrawals from the farms.93 A
purge of intra-government and ZANU-PF opponents of the land programme followed. This
was at a crucial point shortly before the June 2000 elections and ZANU-PF needed a project that
would distinguish it from the opposition. A range of examples of paralegal action and
presidential overrule can be cited. In one of the most far-reaching instances from October 2001,
President Mugabe's newly constituted Supreme Court (with a new chief justice and three new

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

20 I Booysen

justices) reversed all previous rulings that fast-track seizures had been illegal. They stated that
land reform was proceeding according to the law. This was one of the criteria of the September
2001 Abuja Agreement. The ruling meant that the government could now claim to be fulfilling
the conditions of the Agreement.94

'The Economy of the Land' Clashing with Constitutionalism

The new land revolution was built around the assertion that the return of rural land would
be the genesis of a new Zimbabwean economy. Jobs and housing would be created in rural
Zimbabwe and the stream of migration to the cities would be reversed.95 The Third Chimurenga
was then conceived as the struggle to give the land back to the black majority.96 In the words of
a ZANU-PF election advertisement, "Like life itself, jobs come from the land, not factories
which will not be there if the land is not in the hands of the people."97 The official denial of the
importance of industrialisation belied the fact that the Zimbabwean economy depended on
international trade relations and its own internal industrialisation. The land project was utopian
in its assertion that it could be the basis of the future Zimbabwean economy. Moore points out
that without plans for industrialisation and high wages for the urban proletariat, the 'return of
the land' to a mythical peasantry is not progressive.98
The Zimbabwe economy is now generally considered, and objectively judged by all
standard macro- and micro-economic indicators, to be bankrupt. By 2002, the country was
already hugely in debt, only partially and temporarily rescued by the spoils of the DRC war and
temporary Libyan oil rescue missions.99 Without a rapid economic plan to alleviate hunger,
poverty, unemployment, and ensure realistic economic reversal programmes for the large urban
centres, land redistribution would not win the time required for adequate numbers of
Zimbabweans to feel its benefits.
The low prospects for economic revival could indicate a prolongation of the coercion
prevalent in the 2000 to 2002 period. Essential neo-constitutionalist rights would remain
suspended. In 2000-2002, ZANU-PF also commenced its project for the reorganisation of civil
society. Working through a range of newly constituted civil society organizations such as trade
unions, ZANU-PF hoped to supplement its projects of control and destabilisation of existing
civil society structures with new alternative organizations.100 This alternative civil society
network would help the ZANU-PF state to move to lower levels of coercion and build the new
hegemonic project.1'1
The longer-term suspension of core aspects of constitutionalism in Zimbabwe was also
indicated by the fact that the Zimbabwean economy remained suspended between its
integration into neo-liberal globalism and the pronounced 'return to socialism'.102 Extensive
privatization combined with equally extensive political elite patronage derived from interest-
holding in privatised transport, telecommunications, and other industries. Nhema points out
that privatization was not initiated in a context of private sector competitiveness and this
negatively affected consumers.103 As he further observes that there were few indicators ZANU-
PF might be moving away from policies of state capitalism and corporatism.104 On the one hand,
this could mean that despite a lack of public focus, ZANU-PF might be committed to drive both
the land and the industrialisation legs of the economy. Alternatively, the fact that Zimbabwe in

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 21

recent years has 'de-industrialised' could mean that whilst industrialisation goes into a decline
and the land reform project collapses, the extensive economic crisis in Zimbabwe might provide
the backdrop for further deconstitutionalisation to aid political survival.
The heads of state of Southern Africa have largely supported the ZANU-PF government in
its efforts to keep water and electricity flowing, to find relative approval of electoral outcomes,
and to provide a cordon of support against the Western world that insisted on orderly, lawful,
and gradual land reform.105 One of the donor preconditions for support of land reform was that
funds for 'orderly' land reform would not be released unless there was a return to the Land
Reform and Resettlement Programme which Zimbabwe had agreed to in 1998. This agreement had
specified conditions for land reform and transfer that included adherence to the rule of law,
stakeholder involvement, and full compensation. Land talks with the British government
collapsed on the eve of the 2000 election, when Zimbabwe refused to return to the 1998
agreement. At a September 2000 summit in Windhoek, SADC leaders endorsed Zimbabwe's
land reform programme.106


This article has analysed how the ZANU-PF government of Zimbabwe in the period of
1999-2002 used a complex combination of constitutional-legal and paralegal-supralegal
measures in conducting elections and reclaiming liberation movement zeal.
On the first tier of analysis, this article emphasised the ZANU-PF government's
determination to create the semblance of constitutionalism and legality, of procedural
democracy, of adherence and loyalty to 'multi-party democracy'. On the second tier, however,
there was an extensive reliance on the paralegal and the abrogation of fundamental rights to
organise and oppose, and the denial of the constitutional right to personal security. The ZANU-
PF government defended the paralegal, supralegal, and constitutional executive power excesses
on the basis of its actions being lodged in the constitutional and the legal. The question arose as
to the motivation for such an elaborate and concealing edifice of constitutionalism and legality.
The analysis assessed the labyrinth of interconnections between elections, land, and
electoral retention of political power. An elaborate network of constitutional and legal measures
was used to effect what usually would be regarded as unconstitutional, oppressive, and
dictatorial. As the details of this network unfolded in the analysis, and as the effects of the
measures emerged, it became clear that ZANU-PF had effected its own political survival.
Through its appeals to being a constitutional multiparty democracy and having used the land
campaign to effect post-colonial land justice, ZANU-PF had constructed a defence of its power
which will take a substantial period possibly an electoral term or longer to disentangle.
Through this constitutional-paralegal combination, ZANU-PF had survived a trilogy of
electoral and opposition movement assaults. It had ensured that dislodging the party in the post
2002 period would be a complex and daunting endeavour.
The ZANU-PF government weighed in with an approximately equal balance between the
constitutional-legal and paralegal-coercive in the two domains of elections and land. Its action
in the domain of land, however, gained added immunity from African and other international
sanctions through its twin appeals to continued resistance against colonialist intervention and

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22 I Booysen

post-colonial land justice. The fact that some land justice had been effected, even if it had been
through extra-legal and coercive measures, created a forceful legitimation of a regime that had
been re-elected in a constitutionally and legally dubious manner. The great dilemma for
Zimbabwe, and for many other post-colonial or neo-colonially occupied states, is to decide
whether there are circumstances in which contemporary manifestations of collective and social
group rights of restitution to the dispossessed should prevail over adherence to constitutional
and legal procedure and justice if the former cannot be achieved by means of the latter. The
jury is out on whether the two had been mutually exclusive in the case of Zimbabwe 1999-2002,
or whether it had been a contrived incompatibility in the name of retention of political power.


By March 2003, the evidence was abundant that multiple pressures were mounting on the
Mugabe regime. There was, for instance, a stream of reports of negotiated efforts to get Mugabe
to hand power to a ZANU-PF successor, evidence of behind-the-scenes negotiations between
ZANU-PF and the MDC, the refusal by the MDC to disband its legal challenge to the 2002
election, signs of South African and Nigerian vacillation in upholding an undiluted defence of
the Mugabe regime, a rapidly escalating collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, and continuous
exposure of human rights violations by intelligence, security and paramilitary forces. These
pressures started penetrating the cordon of invincible legality and constitutionalism, which had
carried the Mugabe government through the trilogy of electoral challenges. Yet, the effect of the
pressures remained uncertain and the stalemate continued. Given the political and economic
exhaustion of both the MDC and the general population, combined with hunger,
unemployment, and reports of fragmentation of the MDC, a range of outcomes remained
possible. Possible outcomes included an internal ZANU-PF succession, Mugabe clinging to
power for the rest of his presidential term, or an African-mediated cooperative interim
government. By early 2003, however, a new resolution remained a distant prospect, given the
intractability of the complex constitutional, legal and security entrenchment of ZANU-PF.


1. Quoted in Shivji, I.G. (ed.) "State and Constitutionalism: A New Democratic
Perspective". State and Constitutionalism: An African Debate on Democracy. Harare: SAPES
Books, 1991, p. 28
2. Shivji, 1991: 46.
3. Mamdani, M. "Social movements and constitutionalism in the African context". In
Shivji, I. G. (ed.) State and Constitutionalism: An African Debate on Democracy. Harare:
SAPES Books, 1991.
4. Shivji, 1991: 27.
5. Shivji, 1991.
6. See Mamdani, 1991, & Shivji, 1991.
7. Mamdani, 1991: 241.

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The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 23

8. Makumbe, J. M. "Electoral Procedures and Processes in Zimbabwe". In Sichone, 0. (ed.)
The State and Constitutionalism in Southern Africa. Harare: SAPES Books, 1998.
9. Ibid: 64. In the 1990 election, ZUM attacked ZANU-PF for its record on land distribution,
contending that the constraints that were imposed were not the sole explanation for
failure to meet targets. See Sachikonye, L. "The 1990 Zimbabwe Elections: A Post-
Mortem." Review of African Political Economy. Vol. 48: 93-99, 1990.
10. Quoted in Mandaza, I. "Perspectives on Armed Struggle and Constitutionalism: The
Zimbabwe Model. In Shivji I. G. (ed.) State and Constitutionalism: An African Debate on
Democracy. Harare: SAPES Books, 1991: p. 71.
11. Act 15 of 1987, which abolished the "white roll seats" from parliament.
12. Act 23 of 1987 created the executive presidency (which meant that the president could
appoint top officials in government and, in effect, placed the president above the law)
and Act 31 of 1989, respectively. Sithole, 2001: 161 comments on the fact that the
combination of an executive presidency and strong governing party control over the
legislature led to an "excessively powerful" presidency.
13. Mandaza, 1986: 39
14. Ironically, Zimbabwe emerged out of the period of constitutional constraints when it
was already submerged in the constraints wrought by agreements with the International
Financial Institutions (IFIs).
15. Makumbe, 1998
16. See Amendment No. 7, Section 30(1) Subsection (2).
17. Makumbe, 1998: 68
18. Ihonvbere, J. "Constitution-making and Constitutionalism in Post-Colonial Africa.
SAPEM. August/September: 46-48, 2000.
19. For a discussion of Section 151, see Ncube, 1994:13. One of the implications is that the
president could even declare election results null and void and still be constitutionally
correct. The regulatory powers of the president are described in EISA, 2000: 30.
20. See Makumbe, 1998
21. Ibid
22. For the regulations regarding their appointment, see EISA Handbook, 2000.
23. Mandaza 1995.
24. Freeman points out that ZANU-PF's approach to the 2000 election had been
unsurpassed in this genre of electoral intervention. See Freeman, L. "Gulliver in
Southern Africa: South Africa and Zimbabwe in the Post-apartheid Era". Paper
delivered at the University of Natal (Durban), 2001.
25. See NCA Supplement, Zimbabwe Independent, 10 March 2002 for a detailed exploration of
the build-up of repressive legislation on the eve of the March 2002 election. See the
Electoral Amendment Bill and Statutory Instruments 41A-F for full details of the
formulation of these extensions, and compare these amendments and instruments with
the retracted General Laws Amendment Act for the details on how the amendments and
instruments virtually replace the General Laws Amendment Act, through a route which
could still uphold the provisions in time for election day 2000.

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24 I Booysen

26. Africa over the years has had relatively positive experiences with one-partyism. Such
examples are cited as Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Cameroon and Tanzania. Most
African states ruled by either one party or the military, however, have not fared as well.
Analysts also point out that the transitions to multi-partyism themselves are
characterized by boycotts, demonstrations, strikes, violence, etc. See Songmin & Jiang,
1992: 13-16. Also see Mandaza & Sachikonye, 1991. See also Lewis Machipisa, "Mugabe
plans to return to his socialist roots", Business Day, 16 October 2001.
27. Sylvester, C. "Whither Opposition in Zimbabwe?" Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol.
33: 407-423, p. 406
28. Ibid
29. Holland, S. Panel discussion. Conference of the African Studies Association of
Australasia and the Pacific. University of Western Australia, Perth. 26-29 November
30. Mugabe, R. G. Address at rally, Rufare Stadium, Harare, 23 June 2000.
31. Raftopoulos, B. Interview. Harare. 11 March 2002.
32. See EIU Country Report, March 2001: 14-15
33. See Mottiar, S. "Effects of the New Zimbabwean Legislation on the Prospects for a Free
and Fair Election." http://www.org.za/WEP/zimbabwe mot- 1.htm. 25 February 2002.
34. Sithole, S. and Makumbe, J. "Elections in Zimbabwe: The ZANU (PF) Hegemony and
the Incipient Decline". African Journal of Political Science, 2(1), 1998.
35. The details below should be seen as summaries and illustrations of the state and election
actions to which the paper refers. Because of the important, but contested, nature of
much of the electoral practices of ZANU-PF, the rest of this section provides as much
detail as possible within constraints of space.
36. Southern African Reports, 5 January 2002, p. 7
37. Alternately, they have been called the "Green Shirts", or the "Green Bombers". Amnesty
International, 2000 provides an overview of terror tactics in the run-up to the 2000
elections. The report also focuses on the range of rights that were infringed.
38. Freeman, L. 2001
39. See M. Sayagues in Mail and Guardian, 1 July 2000.
40. South African observer, Interview, Die Burger, 15 March 2002.
41. For example, in Glenview 3 Shopping Centre, Budiriro constituency, Personal
observation be the author, 10 March 2002.
42. See Jo-Ann McGregor e-newsletter, 8 February 2002, regarding similar occurrences in
43. Personal voter interviews Avondale and Glenview; The Daily News, 12 February 2002
44. These figures are all dwarfed by the Z$19,8 billion in requested food aid, as requested by
Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Simba Makoni, from the UNDP in The
Mirror, 12 November 2001. A further Z$14,4 billion would come from the Zimbabwean
45. Sachikonye, L. Address to a meeting of the Mass Public Opinion Institute, Monomotapa
Hotel, Harare. 7 March 2002.
46. Mass Public Opinion Institute meeting, 7 March 2002.

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The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 25

47. Crisis Alert, 22 February 2002, p. 6 also published a list of 77 recorded youth
paramilitary training bases. Also see Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Briefing paper No. 5: 2-
48. Special Assignment, SABC, 6 March 2002.
49. Booysen. S. "Multi-stage Monitoring and Declaring Elections Free and Fair: The June
2000 Zimbabwe Election." Journal of African Elections. Vol. 1 (2), 2002a.
50. See Special Assignment, SABC, 5 March 2002; and Zimbabwe Independent, 8 March 2002.
51. Clemency Order No. 1 of 2000. The Human Rights Forum estimated that 90% of human
rights violations that occurred during the election were pardoned. By November 2000 a
total of 111 individuals who had been implicated had been released. The MMPZ, 2001:
42 reported that 90% of the more than 1000 violent incidents were attributable to ZANU-
PF supporters.
52. Ruhanya, P. "MDC wins poll case." In J. McGregor Newsletter, 28 February 2002.
53. Interview Elaine Raftopoulus, former ESC chairperson (sidelined days before the 2000
election, after questioning government actions regarding ESC operations), June 2000.
54. Mhanda, W. Interview, Harare. 12 March 2002. (Mhanda is the leader of the Zimbabwe
Liberators' Platform and former commander of the ZIPA group).
55. ZHR NGO Forum, 2002
56. Zimbabwe Independent, 8 March 2002.
57. BBC World, 17 September 2001, reported on this dimension of inclusion and exclusion in
Zimbabwean politics.
58. ZHR, 2002.
59. Ibid
60. Mudede, T. 1 March 2002. Face the Nation. Interview on ZBC.
61. EISA Briefing Document, May 2000
62. Zimbabwe Independent, 8 March 2002. Renewed contestation of figures on the size of the
March 2002 electorate emerged in early 2003. Census data then revealed the size of the
Zimbabwean population as 11,6 million. An electorate of 5,6 million means that 48,28%
of Zimbabwe's population is over 18 years of age and eligible to vote. See Daily News, 10
March 2003.
63. The Daily News, 21 June 2000
64. Combined Harare Residents' Association. Introductory speech. Harare, 5 March 2002.
65. Personal observation by author, 10-11 March 2002.
66. Personal observation, 26 June 2000; Also see Booysen, 2001.
67. See ZHR, 2002.
68. Election Bulletin 2, 2002.
69. See ZHR, 2002: 6
70. For a comparison of Mugabe's urban versus rural election campaign of March 2002, see
Moto, March 2002. The analysis points out that Mugabe was not intending to give up
power despite leading Zimbabwe through a futile one-party state, and the disastrous
ESAP with its massive inflation and the DRC project, which finished off the ailing

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26 I Booysen

71. Interviews with shop-owners in Mufakose, March 2002; Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition,
10 March 2002.
72. For details on the alleged plot, see Jo-Ann McGregor e-newsletter, 15 February 2002;
ZBC 1 special broadcast, Sunday 3 March 2002. For other examples of charges against
the opposition leadership, see EIU Country Report, March 2001: 13.
73. Raftopoulos, 2002.
74. Raftopoulos, B. "The State in Crisis: Authoritarian Nationalism, Selective Citizenship
and Distortions of Democracy in Zimbabwe." Paper. Institute of Development Studies,
University of Zimbabwe. Harare, 2001, p. 16.
75. Ibid
76. Booysen. S. "Multi-stage Monitoring and Declaring Elections Free and Fair: The June
2000 Zimbabwe Election." Journal of African Elections. Vol. 1 (2), 2002a; Booysen. S. "In
the Crossfire of Zimbabwe's War for Political Survival". Africa Insight. Vol. 32(3), 2002b;
(also see Pottie, D. "Parliamentary Elections in Zimbabwe, 2000." Journal of African
Elections. Vol. 1(1): 61-70, 2001)
77. See Africa Research Bulletin, 1 November 2001: 14628-9.
78. See Irin News, 8 February 2002
79. For instance the South African Observer Mission; see Sunday Times, 17 March 2002.
80. The land reform process was controlled out of the office of President Mugabe, bringing
together the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), senior officials of ZANU-PF,
provincial governors, senior army officers (led by General Perence Shiri and retired
Brigadier Ben Matanga), top police officers and the Liberation War Veterans"
Association (first under the late Chenjerai Hunzvi, and later led by Joseph Chinotimba).
The implementation forces comprised large numbers of war veterans and associated
forces that in 2000 included the so-called "thug-forces" of unemployed Zimbabweans
that were recruited from the ranks of the unemployed, party officials, and provincial
governors. In many instances, security forces supplied active and passive (guarantees of
no intervention) back-up. Also see S. Moyo, 2003: 59-75.
81. Ankomah provides an exposition of the ZANU-PF justifications of and figures on
officials and government ministers that have benefited ("less than 10%"). See Ankomah,
B. "Righting Colonial Wrongs". The Sunday Mail, 10 March 2002. Also see Crisis in
Zimbabwe Coalition, 2003.
82. Quoted in Raftopoulos, 2001: 1
83. Raftopoulos, 2001: 1
84. Noko, E. Interview. June 2000. Noko is Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, ZANU-
85. For more details, see Moore, 2000; 2001. In the referendum, ZANU-PF's draft
constitution was defeated by 697,754 to 578,210 votes (54,7% versus 45,3% of the votes).
86. For the official forecasts of increased food production on the basis of land resettlement,
see Africa Confidential, 10 August 2001:5). In contrast, in the late 2001 budget speech, it
was noted that the agricultural sector would undergo a major decline -- of 12,2%, as
opposed to the earlier estimate of 9,5%. See Africa Research Bulletin, 16 October 2001:

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The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 27

87. Mandaza, 2002 noted in analysing the March 2002 election trends that constituency
swings from MDC (2000) to ZANU-PF (2002) have occurred in a number of regions that
had benefited from land reform.
88. Raftopoulos, 2001:11
89. The Herald, 03 July 2001
90. The purpose of the Bill was to restrict or suspend, for a certain period, legal proceedings
for the eviction of occupiers of rural land who by 1 March 2001 occupied land in
anticipation of being resettled and would still be occupying that land at the time of the
enactment of the Bill. See Extraordinary Government Gazette, April 2000.

91. Parliamentary Debates, 2001: 7311.
92. Zimbabwe Standard, 15 July 2001.
93. Freeman, 2001
94. EIU Country Report, December 2001: 13; Africa Confidential, 23 November 2001.
95. Noko, 2000
96. The People's Voice, 23 February 2002.
97. The Herald, 4 March 2002.
98. Moore, D. "The Zimbabwe Crisis: An Original Twist on the Problem of Primitive
Accumulation, State Formation and the Universalisation of Property Rights in the Era of
Neo-liberal Globalisation". Paper, African Association of Political Science. Fort Hare,
2000. See also Moore, D. "Is the Land the Economy and the Economy the Land?
Primitive Accumulation in Zimbabwe" Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 19 (2):
253-266, 2001; Moyo, S. "The Political Economy of Land Acquisition and Redistribution
in Zimbabwe: 1990-1999," Journal of Southern African Studies. 26(1): 1-28, 2000; and
Kinsey, B. "Land reform, Growth and Equity: Emerging evidence from Zimbabwe's
Resettlement Programme", Journal of Southern African Studies, 25,2: 173-96, 2000.
99. This contrasts with evidence of individual enrichment of Zimbabwean officials and
politicians. See Southern Africa Report, 18 January 2002; Africa Confidential, 20 April 2001;
Venter, 2000: 2-3.
100. Nhema, A. G. Democracy in Zimbabwe: From Liberation to Liberalization. Harare:
University of Zimbabwe Publications, 2002. See also Saunders, R. "Never the Same
Again: Zimbabwe's Growth Towards Democracy, 1980-2000. Harare: Edwina Spicer
Productions, 2000.
101. Raftopoulus, 2002
102. See Machipise, L. "Mugabe plans to return to his socialist roots", Business Day, 16
October 2001.
103. Similarly, price controls were instituted by the ZANU-PF government in the face
of scarcities of principal, mass consumer foodstuffs. But control could not ensure supply.
104. Nhema, 2002
105. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has, on several occasions refrained from
criticising the Zimbabwe land strategy, emphasising that the problem is, first and
foremost, the issue of the land. See, for example, Southern Africa Report, 26 April 2000:1.
Also see Booysen, 2002b.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

28 I Booysen

106. Freeman, 2001 points out that the representatives of Southern Africa ruling
parties met in October 2000 to "plot strategies to reinvigorate the glory of past struggles
against colonial and white minority rule."


Amnesty International. Zimbabwe: Terror Tactics in the Run-up the Parliamentary Elections, June
2000. London, 2000.

Ankomah, B. "Righting Colonial Wrongs". The Sunday Mail, 10 March 2002.

BBC World: Africa. "Living on the Front-line -- Storm clouds gather for farm workers". 17
September 2001.

Booysen. S. "Multi-stage Monitoring and Declaring Elections Free and Fair: The June 2000
Zimbabwe Election." Journal of African Elections. Vol. 1 (2), 2002a.

Booysen. S. "In the Crossfire of Zimbabwe's War for Political Survival". Africa Insight. Vol. 32(3),

Chege, M. "Between Africa's Extremes." Journal of Democracy. Vol. 6(1): 44-51, 1995.

Combined Harare Residents' Association. Introductory speech. Harare, 5 March 2002.

Electoral Institute of Southern Africa. Briefing Document for SADC-ECF Election Observers,

Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA). A Handbook of Zimbabwe Electoral Laws and
Regulations. Johannesburg: EISA, 2000b.

Freeman, L. "Gulliver in Southern Africa: South Africa and Zimbabwe in the Post-apartheid
Era". Paper delivered at the University of Natal (Durban), 2001.

Holland, S. Panel discussion. Conference of the African Studies Association of Australasia and
the Pacific. University of Western Australia. Perth. 26-29 November, 1999.

Ihonvbere, J. "Constitution-making and Constitutionalism in Post-Colonial Africa. SAPEM.
August/September: 46-48, 2000.

Kinsey, B. "Land reform, Growth and Equity: Emerging evidence from Zimbabwe's
Resettlement Programme", Journal of Southern African Studies, 25,2: 173-96, 2000.

Machipise, L. "Mugabe plans to return to his socialist roots", Business Day, 16 October 2001.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 29

Makumbe, J. M. "Electoral Procedures and Processes in Zimbabwe". In Sichone, 0. (ed.) The
State and Constitutionalism in Southern Africa. Harare: SAPES Books, 1998.

Mamdani, M. "Social movements and constitutionalism in the African context". In Shivji, I. G.
(ed.) State and Constitutionalism: An African Debate on Democracy. Harare: SAPES Books, 1991.

Mamdani, M. "When does a Settler Become a Native? Reflections of the Colonial Roots of
Citizenship in Equatorial and Southern Africa". Inaugural Lecture. University of Cape Town. 13
May 1998.

Mandaza, I. Introduction, In Mandaza, I. (ed.) Zimbabwe: The Political Economy of Transition:
1980-1986. Dakar: Codesria Book Series.

Mandaza, I. & Sachikonye, L. (ed.) The One-Party State and Democracy: The Zimbabwe Debate.
Harare: SAPES Books, 1991.

Mandaza, I. "Perspectives on Armed Struggle and Constitutionalism: The Zimbabwe Model. In
Shivji I. G. (ed.) State and Constitutionalism: An African Debate on Democracy. Harare: SAPES
Books, 1991.

Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), "A Question of Balance: The Zimbabwean
Media and the Constitutional Referendum", 2000.

Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ); "Election 2000: The Media War", Harare, 2001.

Mhanda, W. Interview, Harare. 12 March 2002 (leader of the Zimbabwe Liberators" Platform;
former commander of the ZIPA group).

Moore, D. "The Zimbabwe Crisis: An Original Twist on the Problem of Primitive Accumulation,
State Formation and the Universalisation of Property Rights in the Era of Neo-liberal
Globalisation". Paper, African Association of Political Science. Fort Hare, 2000.

Moore, D. "Is the Land the Economy and the Economy the Land? Primitive Accumulation in
Zimbabwe" Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 19 (2): 253-266, 2001.

Mottiar, S. "Effects of the New Zimbabwean Legislation on the Prospects for a Free and Fair
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Moyo, S. "The Political Economy of Land Acquisition and Redistribution in Zimbabwe: 1990-
1999", Journal of Southern African Studies. 26(1): 1-28, 2000.

Moyo, S. "Land reform in Zimbabwe." New Agenda, 9: 59-75.

Mudede, T. 1 March 2002. Face the Nation. Interview on ZBC.

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Mudede, T. 6 March 2002. Press Conference for Election Observers. Harare.

Mugabe, R. G. Address at rally, Rufare Stadium, Harare, 23 June 2000.

National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Press statement, 7 March 2002: "NCA deplores the
desperate attempts by government to rig the presidential elections."

Ncube, W. "A review of electoral law and institutions in Zimbabwe". In ZimRights Bulletin,
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Nhema, A. G. Democracy in Zimbabwe: From Liberation to Liberalization. Harare: University of
Zimbabwe Publications, 2002.

Noko, E. Interview. Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, ZANU-PF. June 2000.

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70, 2001.

Raftopoulos, B. "The State in Crisis: Authoritarian Nationalism, Selective Citizenship and
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Zimbabwe. Harare, 2001.

Raftopoulos, B. Interview. Harare. 11 March 2002.

Raftopoulos, E. Interview. Harare, 15 June 2000.

Ruhanya, P. In J. McGregor Newsletter. 28 February 2002. "MDC wins poll case."

Sachikonye, L. "The 1990 Zimbabwe Elections: A Post-Mortem." Review of African Political
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Sachikonye, L. Address to a meeting of the Mass Public Opinion Institute, Monomotapa Hotel,
Harare. 7 March 2002.

Saunders, R. "Never the Same Again: Zimbabwe's Growth Towards Democracy, 1980-2000.
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Sithole, M. "Zimbabwe's eroding authoritarianism". Journal of Democracy, 8(1): 127-141, 1997.

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The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics I 31

Sithole, M. "Fighting Authoritarianism in Zimbabwe". Journal of Democracy. Vol. 12(1): 1601-169,

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13-16, 1992.

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Special Assignment, 6 March 2002, Analysis of the March 2002 Zimbabwe Presidential Election.

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423, 1995.

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Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Booysen,
Susan. "The Dualities of Contemporary Zimbabwean Politics: Constitutionalism Versus the Law
of Power and the Land, 1999-2002." African Studies Quarterly 7, no.2&3: [online] URL:

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis: Primitive Accumulation, Nation-

State Formation and Democratization in the Age of Neo-Liberal



Abstract: This paper utilizes classical and 'modernization' theoretical perspectives on
primitive accumulation, nation-state formation and democratization to analyze the
'conjunctural' aspects of the current Zimbabwean crisis. Taking a structural perspective
on the long-term factors, the paper provides the context to the violence-ridden and
economically devastating current crisis of land reform, elections, succession, and class-
stalemate. It also develops an analysis of 'medium' term factors such as years of
structural adjustment. Written just after, and taking into account the March 2002
Presidential elections, the paper concludes that strengthening democracy is essential for
the resolution of structural socio-economic problems--even though such an assertion
may appear to be a 'voluntarist' solution to a structural problem.
"The Land is the Economy and the Economy is the Land" I

"This is no ordinary plebiscite ...it is... a crucial defining moment which will determine the direction this
nation will take in terms of its sovereignty." 2

"I can't believe we are fighting again for the right to vote." 3

The above quotes signify three perspectives on what might be called the 2000-2002
Zimbabwean election. 4They bring together the conjunctural 'events' of the 'long election'
(which in itself contains elements of succession crisis within the ruling party), the land
invasions, and the struggles involving 'sovereignty' around them. They reflect the long term
crises of transition those of 'primitive accumulation,' nation-state formation, and
democratization-faced by all 'developing' societies (or societies 'becoming capitalist,' however
unevenly and haltingly so). This merger of transitions in the longue dure and les vnements (or
structure and agency) are combined on the terrain of the 'middle term' contextual arena -that
of more than a decade of debilitating structural adjustment programs, the specific modalities of

David Moore teaches Economic History and Development Studies at the University of Natal in Durban. He has
published recently on Zimbabwe in Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Third World Quarterly, Arena (Australia),
and Africa Insight (South Africa). His recent publications on development theory include a volume edited with G.
Schmitz, Debating Development Discourse: Institutional and Popular Perspectives, (Macmillan, 1995), "Africa: The Black
Hole at the Middle of Empire"' Rcthiniing Marxism, 13, 3/4 (Fall-Winter 2001) and "Levelling the Playing Fields and
Embedding Illusions: "Post-Conflict" Discourse and Neo-liberal "Development" in War-torn Africa,' Review of African
Political Economy, 83 (March 2000).

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

34 I Moore

a world disorderr emerging out of the bipolar Cold War, and the (re)emergence of political
opposition and an active civil society in Zimbabwe. 5 Thus Zimbabwe's state-society complex
is facing a condensation and high-lighting of three elements of long-simmering crises and
transformation in the context of a collapsed time frame in which two crisis-ridden 'moments'
(the middle and the short term) are stacked on top of the structural/historical dimension. 6 This
paper specifies the content and the form- the contour of the conjunture and the terrain of
Zimbabwe's 'organic crisis.'
The structural or longue dure elements of this triple crisis consist of:

a) Primitive accumulation, which encompasses the alteration of pre-capitalist ('communal'
and/or feudal) agrarian relations of production to capitalist ones, and the formation of a
capitalist class. As Marx is often quoted, capitalism emerges from its preceding modes of
production with 'blood dripping from every pore.'

The process of primary accumulation is by no means 'natural' or spontaneous: state force
and many other 'non-market' modalities are necessary. 7 In the 'third world' it may never
emerge and thus the blood usually flows more slowly; but the emergence of 'war-torn Africa'
suggests a permanently stalemated process of violence in some regions. 8 At other moments, the
process speeds up in a very uneven and contradictory way also probably with violence. The
process is always quite unique in spite of its structural base. Many of its variations can be
attributed to the historically specific ways in which a combination of externally 'imposed' and
internally developing capitalist social formations 'articulated' with pre-existing modes of
production. One may say that primitive accumulation always has 'twists in its tail' and the
ideological perspectives accompanying and contesting it will add many twists to its tale.
In Zimbabwe and other African settler-colonial societies, primitive accumulation has
identifiable and comparable characteristics -race and the agrarian question. Capitalist
agriculture has been dominated by white settlers who carried out their process of primitive
accumulation by forcibly taking 'native' land and denying African farmers not merely
commercial opportunities, but also a chance to become capitalist land owners. 9

b) Nation-state construction, which involves the creation of a national 'community' and
territorial space accepted by other regional and international 'sovereigns.' This involves both
the struggle to create 'imagined communities' out of regionally, ethnically and racially
dispersed 'communities' and the metaphorical and real battles for state managers to maintain
relative autonomy and gain power vis vis their near and far neighbors and non-state- but very
powerful- actors in the global political economy. 10

The state managers involved are intricately related to and often part of the bourgeoisie
emerging in the process of primitive accumulation. They have complicated alliances with
myriad international classes, groups, and agencies. They often condemn their objective allies:
hence the many contradictions of 'anti-imperialist' rhetoric from those on the periphery of
global capitalism who, on close analysis, collude with their ostensible enemies.

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Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis I 35

Further complicating the process, especially in Africa, is the legacy of the arbitrarily
constructed borders within which 'national' identities are forged. This process obviously has
'local' and 'international' dimensions. In Zimbabwe, the near genocide in Matabeleland in the
1980s could be seen as part of the former, while involvement in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo since 1997 (especially 1998), combined with a renewed anti-imperialist rhetoric, brings in
the latter aspects.

c) Democratization, is a process through which power and participation are gradually won by
more and more social groups, and (ideally) come to be exercised in mutually agreeable modes
of representation and conflict resolution. As Rita Abrahamsen's Disciplining Democracy makes
clear in the Zambian case, the currently dominant modality of 'democracy' is liberal, and its
restrictive purchase does not come near to solving the problems of socio-economic disparity
and its own idiosyncrasies encourage 'thin' forms of participation. 11 Socio-political analysts
may tend to dismiss 'democratization' as a 'superstructural' phenomenon, but this essay
contends that in the universal structural-historical sense, as well as its manifestations in the
contemporary 'third world,' it has as much impact on transformational processes as primitive
accumulation and nation-state formation.
The historical development of powerful working classes often has a strong relationship
with 'democracy,' and vice versa. 12 The strongest 'democratic' societies thus also have high
levels of 'social' democracy. This form of democracy, which combines a universalistic discourse
of first-order civil rights with separate judiciary and parliaments, has historically provided a
powerful purchase against the authoritarian emerging bourgeoisies common to peripheral
social formations undergoing the trials of primitive accumulation and nation-state formation. 13
Democratization trajectories often lead to violence as opposition is repressed and fights
back. Opposition forces also make counterintuitive alliances with international forces and
ideologies. One only has to think of the transformation of working class based opposition
movements, born in struggles against the travails of structural adjustment in Africa, into
political parties espousing neo-liberal ideas. Such realities mean that the issues of sovereignty
and primitive accumulation are intricately tied up with 'democratization,' and that one must
move on the terrain of the middle level and 'events' to unravel their connections.
This paper will proceed to combine the structural elements of Zimbabwe's crisis with its
middle and immediate levels. At an abstract level they can be represented graphically. At the
level of narrative these categories can be explicated by expounding upon the quotations at the
beginning of the paper.

longue dure Primitive accumulation, Nation-state formation, Democratisation

Moyen dure Neo-liberalism, Post-Cold War disorder, Rise of opposition (ZCTU,

Les vnements Land invasions, sovereignty: 'new liberation' & DRC war, election &

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36 I Moore

The components of the crisis are intertwined: an economic crisis is aggravated and catalyzed by
more political spheres. That is why the crisis is organic. Its integral nature is revealed if the
quotes are unraveled.


'The land is the economy and the economy is the land' was the main campaign slogan for
ZANU (PF) in the parliamentary elections of June 2000. It appeared to celebrate a renewed 'land
reform' process coincidental with the post-February constitutional referendum invasions of
between 1,000 and 1,600 large scale commercial farms (LSCFs). This was hailed by ruling party
propagandists and its supporters as the beginning of the end of a racially skewed agrarian
system. 14
By mid-2001 ZANU (PF) claimed to have taken over 3,500 farms on over 3.5 million acres,
with 105,000 people resettled in its 'fast-track' land reform process (on the other hand, the
Commercial Farmers' Union claimed only 35,000 people had been resettled). 15 Immediately
after the 2002 election more commercial farms were invaded. Whether or not the new settlers
are the deserving poor, 'war veterans', or the urban unemployed temporarily installed and
subsidized by the state and the army as part of a vast intimidation strategy, the fact that the
land issue is currently resonant among the people suggests that its historical roots need
investigation. 16
The notion of primitive accumulation at least reminds one that a society where half of the
population (i.e., over six million people) live in very poor, only partially marketized 'communal
land,' while half of its land is 'capitalist' and owned by just over 4,000 people, is prone to
A potential problem with using the 'primitive accumulation' framework is that it could
seem to accentuate a strict piding line between 'capitalist' and 'non-capitalist' forms of tenure,
much as the more orthodox discourse speaks of a 'dual sector' in agriculture and even a stark
pide between urban and rural dwellers. Thus one too easily finds clearly demarcated chart-like
representations of the land issue in Zimbabwe, like the following, to indicate land pisions before

4,400 LSCF farmers on 11.2 million hectares, averaging over 2,000 hectares each;
1 million families or 6.5 million people on16 million hectares of land in the
communal areas (CA);
10,000 small scale commercial farmers (mainly black) on 1.2 million hectares;
70,000 black resettlement families with 3.5 million hectares; and
A state farming sector of about 0.5 million hectares.

In contrast, but still remaining within the 'dual sector' discourse (albeit with the 'state'
incorporated more definitely, in a clear ideological gesture), the Commercial Farmers' Union's
(CFU) statistics suggest a different picture in late 2001:

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Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis I 37

39.6 million hectares of land in total, with 33 million reserved for agriculture and
the rest for 'national parks, forests and urban settlement';
The state owns 22 million hectares out of the 33 million, meaning that it owns sixty-
seven per cent of all agricultural land including communal lands;
Commercial farmland comprises 11.2 million hectares of which union members had 8.56
million hectares before the current acquisition program;
The 8.3 million hectares claimed by the state for 'fast-tracking' is over 95% of the 8.56
million hectares previously owned by CFU members;
CFU membership is less than 3,555 in comparison to 4,500 before September 2001;
CFU members owned only 20.7% of Zimbabwe's best farmland, contrary to ZANU(PF)'s
assertion of seventy per cent;
There were 7,132 farms listed by September 2001 with '2,335 errors and duplications on
the lists of acquisition;'
495 were since delisted, while 4,593 were still subject to listing and further action. 17

A 'black and white' view of these abstractions tends to cluster the patterns into 'capitalist'
or 'non-capitalist.' Closer studies, however, indicate a high degree of differentiation and a
multitude of 'ownership' and control patterns in the CAs. As Blair Rutherford's finely textured
study of farm workers reveals, many of these 'rural proletarians' all but own misha in the
supposedly 'communal' areas (and many of them are not exactly sure whether or not they paid
a 'chief,' a kraal-head or a ZANU (PF) official for it) and many of them employ wage laborers.
To further complicate the bifurcated discourse, he found that a significant number in his survey
of CA 'owners' were actually born outside Zimbabwe. 18
As Beacon Mbiba notes, even in the minority-rule era, 'there was (is) a 20-30 per cent core
group "owning land" (but without freehold title)' in addition to the very small, but more
famous, owners of land in the Native Purchase Areas (the 10,000 small scale commercial
farmers on 1.2 million hectares noted above). 19 Other writers note that in the Cas, title is
'invested' in the resident but is in fact a mix of customary and 'state defined tenure.' Farmers
usually inherit 2 hectares of land, 0.5 hectares of which are homestead sites that can be sold due
to the infrastructure on them -- or, as Rutherford puts it, according the 'labor' put into them.
Grazing and woodlands are 'communal.' Although the state has de jure ownership of the land,
the authority for land transfer is most often a kraal-head or a 'chief,' but the rise of Village
Development Councils (VIDCOs) has sometimes placed a ZANU (PF) member in new positions
of responsibility. 20
In post-1980 resettled areas, resettlement officers are supposed to handle issues of land
transfer and even expel farmers if they do not maintain good farming practice or other
standards of 'good behavior.' 21 On LSCFs it should be noted that many of the paternalistic
patterns of domination and control but also of 'obligation' in many cases between owners
and workers, such as reduced farm-shop prices and extensive credit arrangements, are more
akin to 'feudalism' than to strictly defined bourgeois-worker relations.
In the post-2000 invaded areas, there is considerable debate about 'who owns what.' In
some cases certificates are given to people who are able to negotiate for them with the
appropriate 'war veteran' but in most cases the 'settlers' have a most indeterminate form of

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38 I Moore

tenure. 22 According to one source, some invaded farms are pided up into sections under the
control of war vets who then bring in 'settlers' from their own parts of the country. The war vet
in charge of each group receives intermittent payments from the army or the WVA
headquarters, which he may or may not distribute to his wards. On one farm, the senior war vet
did not receive payment for months. The white farmer then hired him as a security guard. 23
The existence of varieties of land tenure by no means invalidates the concept of primitive
accumulation since this transformation is a protracted process, taking years and involving
political struggle as well as much state intervention. 24 Perhaps Arrighi's 'classical' text on
Zimbabwean political economy also signposts the same phenomenon: he chronicled the 'semi-
proletarian' status of Africans in the Rhodesian social formation many years ago. 25 As Mark
Duffield warns us about the moyens dure, current efforts to 'liberalize' the world economy are
leading to 'non-liberal' (indeed war-dominated) modes of production in its 'hinterlands.' 26
Therefore, the question to ask is whether or not current land restructuring efforts in
Zimbabwe lead to the fulfillment of the whole primitive accumulation process in that country.
That is, do they lead to an urban proletarianization of rural dwellers as well as the
commodification of agrarian social relations? The answer is, no.
For this transformation to take place, industrialization is needed to accompany a process of
agrarian restructuring. If not, the process of capitalist differentiation will go in one of two
directions. It will either take a long process of 'spontaneous' transfer of agricultural surplus
product into urban-industrial 'sectors', with the peasants losing out in the struggle for agrarian
accumulation to working class positions in the cities. Alternatively, it could lead to a semi-
subsistence stalemate, and the 'urban-rural' gap, blurred in interminable survival strategies,
will remain more or less permanent. 27
Current debates in Zimbabwe highlight the different interests involved in this
transformation. One 'bourgeois' approach (aside from the white bourgeoisie!) to the current
efforts at land reform is clear enough. It calls for the state to legalize the privatization of the new
settlements as soon as possible. The Affirmative Action Group (AAG)-one of the original lobby
groups representing what the emergent black bourgeoisie--has called for the state to 'issue title
deeds to thousands of resettled farmers to enable them to fully develop their properties, saying
that it is 'pointless' for the government to continue with the 'fast-track' reform without the
"necessary documentation to prove one's claim to the piece of land." 28 In response, the
'government' was reported as having approached financial institutions to provide guaranteed
housing loans (no mention was made about credit for farming inputs). 29
However, a conference in March 2002 of the Indigenous Business Development Centre
(IBDC), a competing 'economic empowerment' organization, avoided AAG's clarity on tenure.
30 Its vice-president, an insurance executive, said that the conference's theme 'Economic
Empowerment is Land' was to create awareness among its members about the implications of
land reform for their success or lack thereof. He criticized foreign sanctions, and linking them to
ideas of the dependenia approach, he argued that Zimbabwe's raw materials are being exported
to Western countries only to be refined and then imported at exorbitant prices. He therefore
proposed a total indigenization of the country.
The president of the Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union (ICFU) was more cautious in
his praise for fast track land reform, suggesting its goals should be sustainable food production

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Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis I 39

at a cost affordable to the general populace, that private and public sectors ensure farmers
produce adequate raw materials for local industries and sufficient volumes of exportable
goods. However, he too was vague about land tenure. It took until the end of the conference for
one executive to declare that long leases should be given to the farmers so that they could be
used as security for loans from financial institutions. 31
Thus, even the emerging accumulating class seems to be disconcerted by the current
conjuncture. They see problems with the present policies, but also wish to continue their good
relations with the party-state apparatus that has muddied the waters. 32 Meanwhile, the already
entrenched party-state bourgeoisie has ensured that in the new dispensation they will be
allocated at least ten per cent of the new lands. 33
Presenting the 'traditional' point of view on agrarian social relations, an appointed member
of parliament, Chief Jonathan Mangwende, said in October 2001 that the land resettlement
program was not decongesting the overpopulated rural areas because the chiefs were not being
given their due recognition in the process. He claimed that the names of people for the
resettlement program should come from the chiefs, but this had not happened. He pointed out
that one of the clauses in the constitutional drafts, circulated by ZANU (PF) in its late 1999
efforts, advised that chiefs should be in charge of all resettlement. 34 Perhaps ZANU (PF)'s pre-
2002 election promises to hire new secretaries for traditional authorities and to equip then with
e-mail was enough to re-convince them to support the ruling party.
As the previous words on the relationship between land and industrialization have
suggested, discussion of 'primitive accumulation' cannot end with agrarian relations alone. It
must also focus on the formation of a 'bourgeoisie' in its agrarian, 'comprador,' financial, and
industrial forms. It needs to take into account its relationship with the state and classes of a
similar ilk at the international level.
One must also ask how structural adjustment programs, that have stripped Zimbabwe's
once healthy education system, have made fertile ground for the armed force's head to build a
private primary school. 35 The war vets, too, must be considered as an 'interest group' with
hierarchical gradations and corruption patterns potentially leading to class differentiation -
with a special relationship to the state that has turned into an avenue for accumulation as well
as purely 'political' power. 36 In general, it would appear that a bourgeoisie which might have
been on the road to a productive and industrially-based accumulation in the early to mid-1980s
has been turned by neo-liberal policies and authoritarianism into one based on financial
speculation, war economies, and the plundering of historically alienated agricultural spaces, but
it will take much more investigation to determine its exact contours.
One can conclude this section on 'primitive accumulation' with the following proposition.
It appears that the racial structural flaw in the process of primitive accumulation (the longue
dure), while possibly on the way to gradual amelioration with the 1980s reforms, came to a halt
with a combination of externally imposed structural adjustment programs and donor
disenchantment. This transformed the internal ruling group, which forgot its liberation war
rhetoric, and instead dropped the alliances and ideological affinities adopted during that
struggle. 37 This moyen dure process came to a halt and turned into a 'crisis of events' when the
economic consequences of neo-liberalism (for example, debt and de-industrialization) and the
rise of strong opposition (partially created by them) led to a faltering of ZANU (PF) leadership's

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40 I Moore

alliance with the 'war veterans.' 38 This alliance was sealed in August 1997 when the veterans'
were awarded a lump sum of Z$50,000 and monthly pensions of Z $2,000, with promises to
resurrect land reform (twenty per cent of which would go to members of the WVLA). 39 The cost
was in the range of Z$4.5 billion.
When added to many more billions siphoned out of parastatal corporations in the
preceding few years, the fiscal strain led to 'Black Friday' in October 1997, when the
Zimbabwean dollar lost seventy-five per cent of its value. 40 From there on, event piled upon
event to add chaos to the conjuncture. Over 1,400 farms were slated for acquisition but were
soon delisted. The Kabila rgime was supported against the 'rebels', the Rwandans and the
Ugandans. Promises of donor money for the new land reform program were reneged upon.
What was then only an oppositional social movement formalized into the MDC.
The failure of the February 2000 constitutional referendum pushed Robert Mugabe (and
perhaps a group of mafikizolo, or 'those who came yesterday,' aspirants to ZANU(PF)'s
leadership) even further into alliance with the 'war vets' and some peasants who were
sporadically invading LSCFs. 41 But such chronicles or events fail to differentiate their structural
and historical roots. Another lens through which they can be viewed is the way Zimbabwe's
rulers have responded to the many challenges to their sovereignty.


On the issue of state-building and sovereignty, the 'land is the economy' discourse is
intricately related to the Zimbabwean ruling group's ostensible desire to free itself from a neo-
colonial relationship to white farmers, Britain, and 'western imperialism' in general (while also
wishing to avail itself of its avenues to conspicuous consumption). 42 The support of regional
and third world leaders can also be garnered in this fashion. The chess-board of international
relations is a component part of ZANU (PF)'s tactics and strategies. Thus, the rhetoric against
whites in Zimbabwe and Tony Blair and his "gang of gay gangsters" can be understood as a
discursive effort to rebuild a fading hegemonic project, using the international backdrop.
Recourse to the faade of state sovereignty through patriotism and 'traditional' values is
nothing new, of course, but it takes on almost hysterical tones in an age where 'globalization'
has changed the language of 'progressive alternatives' to neo-liberalism well beyond the
boundaries that it has irrevocably altered. 43 Those who challenge the reconstruction of this
discourse are referred to as 'puppets' and 'enemies of the people' mobilizing armies on the
borders of a re-sanctified territory. 44
The formation of a cohesive nation-state is one of the historical tasks of 'modernity' as
defined by classical political and sociological theory, and it is not granted without violence and
dastardliness. 45 The question posed by both dependenia and conservative theorists is
whether or not it can be constructed in the 'third world'. 46
Contemporary structuralist accounts tend to say that for Africa, if the process of nation-
state formation was progressing during the sixties and seventies, it was halted with the advent
of structural adjustment policies. 47 If Zimbabwe is an example of a failed structural adjustment
project and even the failed efforts of global democratizers in their NGO and state-led forms -

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Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis I 41

we may be witnessing the revival of an authoritarian populist anti-imperialism in tandem with
a regional imperialism. This is manifested in the Zimbabwean involvement in the DRC (itself a
nation-state in an awkward process of construction) in competition with Uganda and Rwanda.
Libyan 'support' in the form of oil for Zimbabwe swapped for real estate, is another example of
'mini-imperialisms' in the fray.
Thus we arrive at the Herald's quote on the dawn of the election, defined as: "a crucial
defining moment which will determine the direction which this nation will take in terms of its
sovereignty." These words bring the whole election down to a battle against 'recolonization' by
'the west' especially by the former colonial power. The United Kingdom is said to be pulling
the strings of its puppet, the MDC. An example of this discourse is a ZANU (PF) newspaper
advertisement consisting of a cartoon portraying 'Tsvangison' dressed as a tea-boy serving
Tony 'Bliar' (sic) a map of Zimbabwe in a cup. The tea-boy asks Blair, "Is this what you want to
have on March 9 & 10, Baas?" Blair responds, "Yes, yes, my boy Morgan, but keep some for the
EU, Australia and Canada." Under the cartoon are the bold, upper case phrases:

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Tel: 753323 Fom; 752388 Email: zanupt@africaonllne.co.zw Waesitea: www.zanupt.com zausplpubhco.zw

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42 I Moore


Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis I 43

Another example of a sovereignty discourse aimed at Zimbabweans can be found in the
party/state run The People's Voice, which started as a rural mouthpiece for ZANU (PF) in the
early 1980s. In an edition full of the president's portraits and wishes for a happy 78th birthday
paid for by various parastatals, a two-page article by the secretary for administration of ZANU
(PF) Harare province, runs through the anti-imperialist trope. "Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
and his life-long fight against British imperial perfidy," starts off with:
Britain, the country that perfected the art of imperial domination into a science is engaged
in a do or die tussle with Cde Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe. It has been hurling
whatever weapon it can lay its hands on as it tries to remove him from power. It is armed with a
sinister arsenal that it has amassed from its years of over-lordship of other countries, many of
them much bigger than Zimbabwe. It also has a veritable phalanx of kith and kin allies in
former dominions, a shared lingua franca with America, the only world power that remains as
well as the close racial affinities of Germanic northern Europe.
The target of all this imperial froth and venom is Cde Robert Mugabe, a ferociously
intellectual African with unbending pride and unshakable belief that the Black race shall once
again have its encounter with destiny as it overcomes the blight of slavery and the violent
alienation of colonialism. 48
This discourse is different from the liberation war days of Zanu News. Then, Scandinavians
and anti-apartheid solidarity groups across 'Germanic northern Europe' and other western
spaces gave considerable support to ZANU (PF) keeping its rhetoric on an even keel. This 2002
version, however, is much more 'communitarian' in its racial language, while at the same time
melding the inpidual leader with the destiny of the nation-state.
The article goes on to praise the president for single-handedly stabilizing a "mortally
threatened" Mozambique, being "the stalwart of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa
until its eventual demise" (thus forgetting the antagonism between newly independent
Zimbabwe and the ANC, such that even Thabo Mbeki was a guest of Chikurubi prison), and for
"helping preserve the sovereignty of the pivotal Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the
process thwart[ing] a misguided British attempt to encircle Zimbabwe." Mugabe is credited
with building a modern African nation an "anvil upon which British imperialism has
painfully knocked its head" "to a level that is yet to be attained by any African country" (and
this for a nation that has only three million, the article says). It is hard to know how many
Zimbabweans were convinced by this rhetoric. Placed against a history of 'ethnic cleansing' in
the mid-1980s in Matabeleland, the wounds of which are still open, it seems inadequate to the
task of nation-building.
Judging by the actions of regional states and people in the aftermath of the Abuja
agreement, it has some international and continental purchase, however including with the
president of South Africa. 49 Strains of pan-Africanist discourse on the Zimbabwean situation
have also spread to the USA. A group of 'concerned Howard University students' submitted an
article to the Herald declaring their solidarity with "the very popular Pan-Africanist Cde
Mugabe and his party" fighting "western countries who are worried about maintaining white
supremacy ... giv[ing] funding to an oppositional leader", and calling for a massive campaign
in the USA to end the sanctions. 50

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44 I Moore

Aside from the discourse on sovereignty and Pan-Africanism, the spending on the
international sovereignty-boosting DRC exercise has had a more substantial impact. The
Zimbabwean state, military, and financial complex has gambled heavily and time alone will tell
if the shares in the DRC's mines will bear much revenue. In the meantime, 10,000 to 13,000
troops demand upkeep. While the economy bears the costs, some of the generals and their kin
who own transport and textile companies, are the immediate beneficiaries. It may be of
importance to note that the first 'sanction' on Zimbabwe was IMF's refusal to continue
operations when it detected improper accounting on war expenditure.
It is likely that as the DRC war festers, the warlordismm' accompanying that process may
infect Zimbabwe too. Increased militia style attacks on farms and MDC supporters suggest this
possibility. Nation-building may be confused with exclusionary violence. 51 As the literature
on war-torn Africa suggests, the combination of structural adjustment ravaged political
economies and authoritarian politicians is potent. Whether democratization processes are a
counter-tendency is an open question.


On the 'democratization' stage, many observers see the 'land question' as but an election
winning ploy for ZANU (PF). Those who are implementing it, however, operate at another
level. For them, the language of land rights challenges that of civil society and the opposition.
First order rights are seen as the preserve of the bourgeoisie, while substantive social rights, of
which land is the most basic, is made out to be the legacy of the liberation war.
If one took the ZANU (PF) discourse seriously, the 'long election' was about countering the
empty western and liberal rhetoric of 'freedom to sleep under a bridge or in the Carleton Hotel'
with socio-economic freedom in the form of land to the tiller and price controls for the urban
consumer. It is ironic then, that the man who in the mid-1970s challenged Mugabe and the
ZANU 'old guard' from the left (and for so doing was placed in Mozambican jails for three
years) was articulating the classic language of bourgeois liberalism. "Here we are, twenty-two
years later, still fighting for the right to vote. The whole country fought for this in the bush, and
we still have not got it". 52 Most objective observers contend that voters were kept away from
their Harare area polling stations and others added to the rural rolls in the last few weeks of
registration, that intimidation accounted for a lot of the absentees, and around a million
Zimbabweans living outside the country were disallowed from the polls. If these people had
voted for the MDC, the 420,000 or so votes separating the 'winners' from the 'losers' would be
accounted for and the election could indeed be seen as 'stolen.' But just as importantly for
Wilfred Mhanda and the other members of the Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform, one of the key
goals of the liberation war democracy was still-born two decades after an ostensible victory
for 'majority rule.'
Conservative historians of the longue dure might contend that such goals in the 'third
world' are premature. As Samora Machel condemned young Marxists for being 'ultra-leftist,
Trotskyist and infantile', in the 1970s, so might a structuralist today caution patience on the
democratic front. After all, if Zimbabwe is barely approaching a feudal mode of political rule --
in which problems of leadership succession have society-wide consequences or if an absolutist

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Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis I 45

state is needed to manage an unevenly articulated transition to modernity, is it not too early for
too much democracy? 53
Is not the Herald's editorial correct to note that "while our democracy is in its infancy the
people.. .have demonstrated maturity" except for the 'spoilers' funded by the west, who are in
any case planning a civil war if their expectations are not met. 54 Should not 'the west' and its
Zimbabwean civil society clones be patient (perhaps in the meantime accepting a government of
national unity, imposed from above and also outside so that a form of lite acting could ease
the transition to democracy along)?
If such discourse had any purchase at all it could be taken up by ZANU (PF), but its
language also accepts the modalities of 'western' democracy: it is simply hypocritical about this
in its claims that challenges to its rule emanate from the imperialists. 55 All sides to the debate
agree that all adult Zimbabwean citizens should have the right to choose their rulers the
minimum condition of liberal democracy. However, there is an argument and it was put forth
by the Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform as civil society groups and the MDC hammered out their
approach to the election that by accepting participation in an election that was flawed from
the beginning (because it did not meet the SADC minimal condition of an independent electoral
commission), the MDC fated itself to failure. It would have been better to refuse to participate in
elections that did not meet the minimal conditions of African neighbors. Consistent with this
line is the argument that the results of the 2002 presidential election should be declared null and
void. New ones should be called that will meet basic regional standards. Finding the
international support for such demands will be extremely difficult as will finding the stamina
in civil society.
Nevertheless, such expansionary perspectives on democracy forestall efforts of lite acting
and slow down grass-roots political participation. In the end, democratic pressure on all aspects
of the state and economy is the only way to raise incomes which could trigger the virtuous
circle of consumptive and productive increases necessary to kick-start social formations out of
the triple impasse of primitive accumulation, nation-state formation, and further
democratization. Rather than being epiphenomenal to the first two historical-sociological
prerequisites to 'modernity', democracy may be fundamental to it.


This paper has attempted to analyze the current Zimbabwean crisis with a three-fold conceptual
apparatus. It contends that Zimbabwe's 'organic crisis' consists of a combination of problems
rooted in long-term transitions of primitive accumulation, nation-state formation, and
democratization which have 'erupted' in the context of 'middle-term' processes and policies
such as structural adjustment, the effect of post-Cold War globalization in Africa, and the rise of
opposition politics. The 'short-term' conjuncture includes land invasions, violent elections, and
severe economic problems. Democratization might appear, intuitively, to be the least important
part of this troika, but if pursued diligently and carefully may well be the key to Zimbabwe's
turn-around. Most Zimbabweans appear to believe this proposition, but have been prevented
by force and fraud from participating in its testing. They may have to resort to more force of
their own in order to participate in this most basic of experiments.

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46 I Moore


1. ZANU(PF) election slogan, June 2000. In March 2002 there were variations on the theme
such as 'People First. Our land is our prosperity,' 'Work the Land, Reap Prosperity,
Build the Nation,' and 'What Would You Vote For? Plots to Kill ... or Plots to Till. On
March 9 and 10 Vote for Your Land, Vote for President R.G. Mugabe.'
2. 'Comment: D-Day for Zimbabwe,' The Herald, (Harare) March 9, 2002, p. 1.
3. Wilfred Mhanda, aka Dznishe Machingura, founding member and director, Zimbabwe
Liberators' Platform, March 10, 2002. For aspects of Mhanda's biography and his
relationship to ZANU(PF)'s history see my "Democracy, Violence and Identity in the
Zimbabwean War of National Liberation: Reflections from the Realms of Dissent,"
Canadian Journal of African Studies, 29, 3, (December 1995), pp. 375-402; R.W. Johnson,
'How Mugabe Came to Power,' London Review of Books, 22 February 2001, pp. 26-27
and my letter in response, LRB, 23, 7 (April 5, 2001), p. 6; also 'The Alchemy of Robert
Mugabe's Alliances,' Africa Insight, (Pretoria) 30, 1 (May 2000), pp. 28-32.
4. This long election could be split into three phases: the first was the constitutional
referendum of February 2000, narrowly lost by ZANU(PF); the second was the June 2000
parliamentary election and the third was the March 2002 presidential election. The last
two components of the 'long election' considered by some to be a referendum on
Robert Mugabe's rule were narrowly won by the ruling party in the context of much
intimidation, violence, and manipulation. The 2002 election results saw over 1,609,000
votes for Mugabe and 1,230,000 for his main opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai of the
Movement for Democratic Change: The editor of the Zimbabwe Independent estimates
that almost 350,000 of Harare's 800,000 voters were denied voting rights, and the
Zimbabwe Election Support Network says that 400,000 rural people were added to a
secret voter's roll. (Mail and Guardian, March 15-21, 2002, pp. 2, 15). For details on the
violence up to the 2002 election see the first few pages of my 'Zimbabwe: Twists on the
Tale of Primitive Accumulation,' in Malinda S. Smith, ed. Globalizing Africa, Trenton:
Africa World Press, forthcoming; for figures on the 2000 election see my 'Democracy is
Coming to Zimbabwe,' Australian Journal of Political Science, 36, 1 (March 2001), p. 163.
5. The use of these categories comes from Fernand Braudel. They are used to some effect in
Jean-Franois Bayart, The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly. London: Longmans,
(1989) 1993.
6. The phrase 'state-society complex' is a key component of Robert Cox's theoretical
apparatus. See his Production, Power and World Order: Social Forces and the Making of
History, New York: Columbia University Press, 1987, and Problems in World Order,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
7. Micheal Perelman, The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and the
Secret History of Primitive Accumulation. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000.
8. Claudia von Werlhof, '"Globalization" and the "Permanent" Process of "Primitive
Accumulation": The Example of the MAI, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment,'

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Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis I 47

Journal of World Systems Research, 6, 3 (Fall-Winter 2000), pp. 718-47,
http://colorado/edu/jwsr; Mark Duffield, Global Governance and the New Wars: The
Merging of Development and Security, London: Zed Books, 2001; William Reno,
Warlord Politics and African States, Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1998.
9. I have explored these issues briefly in "Is the Land the Economy and the Economy the
Land? Primitive Accumulation in Zimbabwe," Journal of Contemporary African
Studies, 19, 2 (July 2001), pp. 253-266 and David Moore, 'Neoliberal Globalisation and
the Triple Crisis of "Modernisation" in Africa: Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of
the Congo, and South Africa," Third World Quarterly, 22, 6 (December 2001), pp. 909-
930. Along with the issues of nation-state formation and democratisation, they are
inspired by a reading of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt's Empire, Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 2000, analysed with an African perspective in my 'Africa: The
Black Hole at the Middle of Empire?' Rethinking Marxism, 13, 3/4 (Winter 2002).
10. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of
Nationalism, London: Verso, 1983.
11. Rita Abrahamsen, Disciplining Democracy: Development Discourse and Good
Governance in Africa London: Zed Books, 2000.
12. Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Elaine Stephens & John Stephens, Capitalist Development and
Democracy,Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
13. Michael Mann, "The Dark Side of Democracy: The Modern Tradition of Ethnic
Cleansing," New Left Review, 235 (May-June 1999), pp. 18-45, for an argument
suggesting that the best defense against genocidal forms of modernization is a
combination of liberal political systems and ideologies with strong working classes.
14. The 'opposition' private newspaper The Daily News (June 21, 2000) reported 1,631 large
scale commercial farms invaded between February and June, while the Commercial
Farmers Union (also part of the 'opposition' in the eyes of the ruling party, but usually
conservative in its estimates of recently resettled land) reported 1,060 (quoted from the
Financial Gazette, June 15, 2000, in Jocelyn Alexander, 'Settling an Unsettled Land:
"Squatters," Veterans and the State in Zimbabwe,' paper at seminar on 'Rethinking
Land, State and Citizenship through the Zimbabwe Crisis,' Centre for Development
Research, Copenhagen, September 4-5, 2001, p. 20.)
15. Basildon Peta, 'New land grab to put 300,000 jobs on the line,' Financial Gazette,
(Harare), July 5, 2001; F. Masiokwadzo, '35,000 people "extraneous" in land crisis,'
Zimbabwe Independent, 3 August 2001. In early 2000 there were about 4,400 LSCFs.
16. I use quotation marks around the term 'war vet' because, as the Zimbabwe Liberators'
Platform (ZLP) and many other observers and participants repeat, many of the
members' of the War Veterans' Association (WVA) claims to their status are suspect.
17. Forward Maisokwadzo, '95% commercial farms listed,' Zimbabwe Independent,
September 28, 2001. The CFU said it 'could not quantify the number of farms
fast-tracked, but said 900 farms have been occupied.' However, Maisokwadzo writes,
'CFU leaders have recently privately said 2,700 farms have been seized under fast-track.'
18. Blair Rutherford, Working on the Margins: Black Workers, White Farmers in
Postcolonial Zimbabwe, Harare: Weaver, 2001, pp. 201-230. The issue of citizenship

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48 I Moore

should be referred to the section on 'democracy:' suffice for now to mention that in 2000
Robert Mugabe stated that 'those without totems' should not be considered
Zimbabwean, by whom he meant 'foreign' farmworkers and an undifferentiated mass of
urban residents.
19. Beacon Mbiba, 'Communal Land Rights in Zimbabwe as State Sanction and Social
Control: A Narrative,' Africa, 71, (October 2001), pp. 429-430.
20. Rutherford, Working ..., 2001; Michael O'Flaherty, 'Communal Tenure in Zimbabwe:
percent Models of Collective Land Holding in the Communal Areas', Africa, 68, 4
(December 1998) pp. 537-57; Allison Goebel, "Then It's Clear Who Owns the Trees':
Common Property and Private Control in the Social Forest in a Zimbabwean
Resettlement Area,' Rural Sociology, 64, 4 (December 1999), pp. 624-40.
21. Susie Jacobs, 'The Effects of Land Reform on Gender Relations in Zimbabwe,' T.A.S.
Bowyer-Bower and Colin Stoneman, eds. Land Reform in Zimbabwe: Constraints and
Prospects, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000, p. 184.
22. For the most inclusive account of the invasions, see J. Alexander, 'Settling ...' My
'Democracy ...,' 'Is the Land ...?' and 'Zimbabwe: Twists ...' also deal to some extent
with the invasions. Interview, Charles Pfukwa, Harare, March 12, 2002. Mr. Pfukwa
stated that on a resettled farm near Chipinge 34 out of 100 at a meeting to discuss these
issues had completed 'the legal niceties,' but then stated that the authority for the Al
settlements was 'still being formed.'
23. Anonymous interview, Harare March 7, 2002.
24. Perelman, The Invention ..., 2000.
25. Giovanni Arrighi, The Political Economy of Rhodesia, The Hague: Mouton, 1967, and
chapters in Arrighi and John S. Saul, Essays in the Political Economy of Africa, New
York: Monthly Review Press, 1973.
26. Duffield, Global Governance ..., 2001.
27. Jens A. Andersson, 'Reinterpreting the Rural-Urban Connection: Migration Practices and
Socio-Cultural Dispositions of Buhera Workers in Harare,' Africa, 71, 1 (January 2001),
pp. 82-112.
28. Brian Raftopoulos, 'Fighting for Control: The Indigenization Debate in Zimbabwe',
Southern Africa Report, (Toronto) 11, 4 (December 1996).
29. 'Group calls on State to Issue Title Deeds,' The Herald, (Harare), June 19, 2001.
30. 'Land Reform gets Backing: Major Conference set for Sunday,' The Herald, March 1,
2002, p. 6.
31. Caiphas Chimhete, Mirror, (Harare), 'Land Reform: Agriculture Revenue Set to Double,'
March 8-14, 2002, pp. B1-2. The text revealed that this doubling would be dependent on
its execution in a 'professional manner' and proper inputs and financial resources.
32. This researcher is not sure what proportion of the emerging bourgeoisie is aligned with
the Movement for Democratic Reform (MDC), although apparently the owners of the
Kingdom Bank are committed MDC backers.
33. Baffour Ankomah, 'Righting Colonial Wrongs,' Sunday Mail, March 10, 2002, pp. 113-14,
quotes Minister of Home Affairs John Nkomo (formerly of ZAPU) saying that 'less than
ten per cent' of the recent land acquisitions have gone to well-established members of

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Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis I 49

the black elite. There is a special facility in the program for 'indigenous large scale
commercial farms' called the Commercial Farmers' Settlement Scheme. Recall that in
1997 the Development Trust of Zimbabwe, headed by Joshua Nkomo, owned 319,929
hectares second only to the Anglo-American Corporation's 474,200. Sam Moyo, The
Land Acquisition Process in Zimbabwe (1997/8), Harare: United Nations Development
Programme Resource Centre, 1998, pp. 30-31. Moyo also noted in 1998 that the 1997
listings exhibited 'exclusive tendencies [and] ... corrupt practices in land allocation
schemes benefiting elites in the name of black capitalist development' (p. 35).
34. 'Chief Attacks Land Reforms,' Daily News, October 24, 2001.
35. R.W. Johnson, 'Zimbabwe Inc.' Focus (Johannesburg), 19 (2000). Also, participant
observation by author of election queues near Warren Park, Harare, March 10, 2002.
36. Norma Kriger, 'Zimbabwe's War Veterans and the Ruling Party: Continuities in Political
Dynamics,' Politique Africaine, 81, (March 2001), translated as 'Les Veterans et le Parti
au Pouvoir: Une Cooperation Conflictuelle dans la Longue Dure;' R. Mukundu,
'Hunzvi, Mhlanga named in $45m Zexcom scam', Zimbabwe Independent Online,
October 27, 2000. accessed November 1, 2000.
37. Lionel Cliffe, 'The Politics of Land Reform in Zimbabwe,' T.A.S. Bowyer-Bower and
Colin Stoneman, eds. Land Reform in Zimbabwe: Constraints and Prospects, Aldershot:
Ashgate, 2000, pp.42-3; Bill Kinsey, 'Land Reform, Growth and Equity: Emerging
Evidence from Zimbabwe's Resettlement Programme,' Journal of Southern African
Studies, 25, 2 (March 1999), pp. 173, 177-9; Sam Moyo, 'The Political Economy of Land
Acquisition and Redistribution in Zimbabwe: 1990-1999,' Journal of Southern African
Studies, 26, 1 (2000); see also my 'Zimbabwe; Twists...'
38. Patrick Bond and Masinba Manyana, Zimbabwe's Plunge: Exhausted Nationalism,
Neoloberalism and the Struggle for Social Justice, Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal
Press, 2002.
39. The 'event' which marked the agreement to pay the pensions is said by some observers
to have been a war veterans' raid on State House, during which the Presidential Guard
failed to fire. Well before that, however, the 'war vets' were expressing their discontent.
One observer stated that at a 'heroes day' event earlier that year they beat drums
throughout Mugabe's speech.
40. Peter Alexander, 'Zimbabwean Workers, the MDC & the 2000 Election,' Review of
African Political Economy, 85 (September 2000), p. 388. Official conversion rates to the
American dollar in September 1997 were approximately ZWD 12.12 to 1 $US, making
these figures approximately US$ 278 per month and a lump sum of $4,165, for a total of
approximately US$380 million. However, the 75 per cent plunge decreased those values
significantly. By February 21, 2002 the official exchange rate was ZWD 53.22 to the US
dollar but the parallel market ranged from 300 to 350.
41. Anonymous interview, March 2002. J. Alexander, 'Settling ...,' pp. 14-16.
42. It should be added that the ruling class rhetoric of racism is not too deeply felt: the
Rautenbachs and Bredenkamps of the formerly Rhodesian bourgeoisie are well-
entrenched accomplices of ZANU(PF) incorporated.

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50 I Moore

43. See Mark T. Berger's 'The Rise and Demise of National Development and the Origins of
Post-Cold War Capitalism,' Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 30, 2 (Spring
2001), pp. 211-234 and 'The Nation-State and the Challenge of Global Capitalism,' Third
World Quarterly, 22, 6 (December 2001), pp. 889-908.
44. Members of the ruling party went so far as to enlist an Israeli 'political consultant' based
in Montral and an Australian journalist to frame Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a plot to assassinate Robert
Mugabe. This has resulted in treason charges against MDC leaders: Vincent Kahiya,
'Menashe a master of "dirty tricks",' Zimbabwe Independent, February 15, 2002; Peta
Thorneycroft, 'Tricks, lies and videotapes,' Mail and Guardian, February 15-21, 2002, p.
11. Lest we forget that this politics is not new, many years ago John Day entitled a book
on the rise of ZANU(PF) and company International Nationalism: The Extra-Territorial
Relations of Southern Rhodesian Nationalists, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967.
45. Charles Tilly, 'War Making and State Making as Organized Crime,' Peter Evans, Dietrich
Rueschemeyer, & Theda Skocpol, eds., Bringing the State Back In, New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1985.
46. Robert Jackson, Quasi-States: Sovereignty, International Relations and the Third World,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
47. Reno, Warlord ...1998; Duffield, Global Governance ..., 2001.
48. Chris Mutsvangwa, Secretary for administration, ZANU PF Harare Province, 'Robert
Mugabe of Zimbabwe and his life-long fight against British imperial perfidy,' The
People's Voice, 24 February 2nd March 2002, pp. 15-16.
49. In September 2001 the Zimbabwean delegation to Abuja declared it would stop violence
on farms in return for British promises to resume dialogue on aid for resettlement.
SADC was supposed to monitor the situation but let the 'campaign' continue. See also
John Battersby, 'Angry Mbeki Lashes Out at "White Supremacy",' The Sunday
Independent, March 10, 2002, p. 1.
50. Concerned Howard University, US, Students, 'Land Ruthlessly Taken from Indigenous
People: Africans Forced to Move to Areas with Poor Soil,' Herald, March 11 2002, p. 8.
See also Gerald Horne, From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against
Zimbabwe, 1965-1980, Durham and Harare: University of North Carolina Press and
SAPES Trust, 2001, p. 285, for an approving commentary on the tumultuous Harlem
reception to Robert Mugabe's October 2000 address. However, a poll conducted by the
National Association for the Advancement of Coloured Peoples of 217 people saw 65.9%
agree that the 2002 Zimbabwean election was not free and fair:
www.naacp.org/polls/results.php, thus indicating the Howard University students may
not be representative of African Americans.
51. ZANU(PF) Organising Secretary and Manicaland supreme Didymus Mutasa has been
quoted as saying that Zimbabwe would be better off with only 6 million people 'with
our own people who support the liberation struggle.' Christina Lamb, 'Thugs who rape
in the name of Mugabe,' Sunday Times (Johannesburg), 1 September 2002, noted in
Roger Southall, 'Democracy in Southern Africa: Moving Beyond a Difficult Legacy,'
forthcoming in Review of African Political Economy. In light of many accusations that

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Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis I 51

food aid is denied to MDC supporters, and even Ndebele people, such statements
approach the status of 'genocidal.'
52. In fact, the anomaly is not so great between the 1970s and 2000 discourse: the radical
challengers to Mugabe in the middle of the liberation war had a clear sense that the
'national democratic revolution' they were fighting for should emphasise 'democratic.'
53. An intriguing article entitled 'The Zvimba Dynasty,' The People's Voice, 24 February-2
March 2002, appears to confirm rumors about this village's whose men surround the
president's office claim to the Mugabe dynasty. A photograph of Grace Mugabe who,
rumors state, was strategically placed in the president's office in order to begin such a
dynasty in a large kitchen is captioned thus: 'Behind every successful man there is a
woman. First Lady Cde Grace Mugabe gets ready to prepare a meal for her beloved
husband, Cde R.G. Mugabe.'
54. Comment, 'A Clear Message to the World,' The Herald, March 11, 2002, p. 8.
55. 'MDC to get $10,2 million UK funding,' Herald, October 28, 2001; Herbert Zharare,
'USAID Buys War Vets to De-campaign Mugabe,' Zimbabwe Mirror, 8-14 March 2002.

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Moore,.
David. "Zimbabwe's Triple Crisis: Primitive Accumulation, Nation-State Formation and
Democratisation in the Age of Neo-Liberal Globalisation." African Studies Quarterly 7, no.2&3:
[online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v7/v7i2a2.htm

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African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political



Abstract: The land question and Zimbabwe's current crisis of governance appear to be
intimately related. However, an extensive survey of the population in the mid-1990s
ranked land access very low on the list of priorities when compared to employment
creation. Zimbabwe's current constitutional and political crises spring primarily from the
urban, not the rural areas. Initially the MDC's primary support base was in the urban
areas amongst workers disaffected with rising prices and unemployment. Even if the
MDC acceeds to power, it will have to face the same set of expectations from workers for
improvement in their living and working conditions. Consequently, the regeneration of
Zimbabwe's political economy will depend, in part, on the rehabilitation of Zimbabwe's
urban industry. This paper examines developments in Zimbabwe's manufacturing sector
since 1997. It explores trends in employment, output and exports by sub-sector in order
to understand the evolution of sector during the years of crisis and the implications for
Zimbabwe's political economy.

Ironically, Rhodesia became a model for a Frankian form of 'delinking'.1

Zimbabwe launched a promising economic reform program in 1991 that was instrumental in
liberalizing and briefly stabilizing the economy, but the momentum of adjustment was not
sustained. As a result, per capital income contracted by an annual average of 1.4 percent during
the decade.2


The Zimbabwean economy is in crisis. The budget deficit for 2002 was estimated to be
17.7% of gross domestic product (GDP).3 The economy may have contracted by 7.5% in 2001.
Inflation has skyrocketed and social indicators are deteriorating. Real incomes per head have
fallen 23% in the last five years.4 Zimbabwean society has become increasingly wracked with
instability, authoritarianism and brutality; although these trends were particularly acute during

Padraig Carmody is a Lecturer in Geography at St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra (a College of Dublin City
University). His research interests include: economic restructuring and impacts of economic liberalization on the
development of manufacturing in Africa, globalization and corporate restructuring in South Africa, as well as
poverty alleviation and alternative development strategies. He is the author of Tearing the Social Fabric:
Neoliberalism, Deindustrialization, and the Crisis of Governance in Zimbabwe (Heinemann, 2001). Scott Taylor is an
Assistant Professor of African Studies at Georgetown University. He teaches African Politics and Government,
Contemporary Southern Africa, US-African Relations, and African Political Economy. Dr. Taylor's research interests
include contemporary African politics, politics and business in developing countries, southern African politics,
comparative politics, and international relations.

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

54 I Carmody and Taylor

the run-up to the March 2002 elections, they have scarcely abated in the ensuing months.5 How
has this situation come about, in what was, until recently, one of Africa's most stable and
prosperous societies?6
Some analysts contend that Zimbabwe's current politico-economic crisis revolves around
the land question, the dimensions of which have been well documented.7 However, whereas
disparities in land ownership and distribution unquestionably pose long-term structural
problems for Zimbabwe, this paper argues that the immediate origins of the contemporary
crisis lie in the precipitous decline in the urban-industrial sector. Indeed, "a survey of 18,000
rural and urban households in 1995 found that only one percent of respondents wanted land,
only two percent thought redistributing land could resolve poverty, and most wanted jobs and
better salaries."8 Notwithstanding the possibility that these surveys may underestimate
demand for land reform, the economic and political crisis engulfing the country from the mid-
1990s onwards was primarily the result of the deindustrializing effects of World
Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF) structural adjustment policies, combined with the
absence of a competitive electoral system.
Zimbabwe's Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) was inaugurated in 1991.
Although the program expired in 1995, its aftereffects continue to be felt. Indeed, the
emergence of meaningful political competition in Zimbabwe, in the guise of the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), established only in 1999, is due partly to the impact of ESAP and
the rise to prominence of the labor movement.9 MDC has its origins in the country's trade
union movement, as it was workers who were most affected by increasing unemployment and
declining real wages under ESAP. Following parliamentary elections in 2000, MDC now holds
56 seats in Parliament and represents a credible political force, although the party's success and
influence is constrained by an electoral system that overwhelming favors the ruling party. The
government's response to the MDC's challenge was to try to rhetorically and politically displace
the economic crisis from the urban to the rural areas, where two thirds of the population
continues to live, and where the long-dormant land issue still has traction. Irrespective of
which party is in power, however, the resolution of Zimbabwe's economic crisis will depend, in
large part, on the regeneration of the country's urban-based manufacturing sector.


It is well known that after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) by the
Rhodesian Front government the economy boomed and there was substantial economic
diversification, despite the imposition of economic sanctions by the United Nations.10 The
legacy of industrial diversification gave the ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union -
Patriotic Front) government greater latitude, at least with regard to external forces, in its choice
of development strategy at independence. Internally, Moore argues that there was a domestic
class stalemate, although the settler fraction of capital remained powerful."
In Zimbabwean political economy there is a debate about the role and cohesion of the
settler fraction of capital. For example, Moyo claims that "together with transnational capital,
white agrarian interests control key sectors such as tourism, forestry, commodity exports and
the narrow agro-industrial sector underlying the urban political economy."12 Others argue

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Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political Economy I 55

industry was more diversified and that the industrial bourgeoisie (represented by the
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, CZI) and the agrarian bourgeoisie were relatively
independent of each other.13 In any event, the perceived convergence of their interests as the
CZI adopted a pro-liberalization stance with those of the state elite was an important factor in
the adoption of ESAP.14
While Zimbabwe long ranked as one of Africa's most industrially diversified economies,
this position has eroded considerably. Some recent analyses trace Zimbabwe's economic
decline from the immediate post-independence period.15 By most accounts, however, the
"Zimbabwean model" was relatively successful economically in the 1980s.16 Indeed, following
reforms to the preexisting control regime, such as the introduction of new export incentives,
based on newly recalculated statistics, the economy grew rapidly by 4% a year from 1986-
1990.17 However, South African destabilization had been costly, and Zimbabwe's debt at the
start of its structural adjustment program was equivalent to its defense costs in the 1980s.18
With two recessions in the 1980s, internal and external advocates for adjustment argued that
high government deficits, an overvalued currency, and restrictive access to industrial inputs
could only be relieved through a SAP. The predicted benefits for manufacturing proved to be
wishful thinking, however.
ESAP undermined the country's industrial base, and the urban sector was particularly
affected.19 Manufacturing's share of GDP declined from about 20% to 16% during the first
phase of ESAP. Some observers blame this on the use of inappropriate policy instruments and
sequencing during ESAP, with tariffs imposed on intermediate inputs to manufacturing.20
However, tariffication and the imposition of tariffs on intermediates were part of the
program.21 Bjurek and Durevall argue that deindustrialization "was to some extent expected[in
the short-term] since trade liberalisation exposed manufacturing companies to foreign
competition, while benefiting other sectors such as agriculture," although in the longer term,
manufacturing was meant to be one of the main beneficiaries of the program.22
Of the 31 manufacturing sub-sectors that Bjurek and Durevall studied "during the periods
1981-1985 and 1986-1990, productivity increased in most sub-sectors, while during the period
1991-1995 more that half of the sub-sectors show decreasing productivity."23 "Manufacturing
sector liberalization led to a decline in both real wages and employment, and an increase in
capital intensity," again in contrast to the predictions of orthodox theory.24 Employment in
manufacturing contracted from 205,000 in 1991 to 187,000 by mid-1995.25
The specific effects of structural adjustment on manufacturing have been explored in detail
elsewhere.26 However, the program's overall impact was deindustrializing, with foreign
competition increasing dramatically. For example, whereas final consumption demand for
footwear prior to ESAP had been almost exclusively met internally, afterwards "of the 18
million pairs of footwear purchased yearly, 10 million pairs were imported cheaply from China,
leaving a demand of only eight million pairs for local producers."27 Of the manufacturing firms
which Chipika et al. surveyed, half reported increased profitability during ESAP, whereas 84%
of workers felt their standard of living had fallen. Inflation and dramatic decreases in real
wages shifted the income distribution away from urban unskilled labor, as wages and salaries
as a percentage of GDP fell from 57% in the 1980s to only 45% by 1995.28 The World Bank

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56 I Carmody and Taylor

regarded reduced real wages as a "brutal but necessary" adjustment to generate export-led
In the key textile, clothing and footwear sub-sector, which was meant to be an engine of
growth under ESAP, 56% of firms had decreased profits from 1993/4 to 1995/6, as the full force
of trade liberalization took effect, with 18% saying their profits were unchanged and 26% noting
an increase.30 Between 1991 and 1996 manufacturing output fell by 16%.31 This was a disastrous
record for a program designed to promote productive accumulation and, with increased
unemployment and rapidly falling real wages, also laid the foundations of serious legitimation
ESAP also had important macro-economic impacts. In 1996 the external debt service ratio
had been reduced to 17.5% from 20.5% in 1990. In part this was the result of a 40% increase in
exports. However, this export growth was itself largely due to recovery in the agricultural
sector from the drought of 1995.32 The terms of trade moved against Zimbabwe after 1996, and
the sustainability of some manufacturing exports was open to question as they resulted from
the deflation of the domestic market.33 Since the trade deficit, when measured with a corrected
"equilibrium" exchange rate, reached 20% of GDP.34 Imports of luxuries for the elite increased
dramatically. "From 1990-95, the real import value of TVs and VCRs rose by 45%, passenger car
import were up by 258%, and imported yachts and pleasure boats 243%."35 Partly as a result,
foreign debt as a percentage of GDP increased from 45% to 75% of GDP from 1990-1994.36
Ultimately the program failed, chiefly because it led to the autonomous development of the
trade and financial sectors, which proved detrimental to production.37 Even orthodox analyses
conclude: "ESAP failed where it counted most: it did not lead to a substantial and sustained
increase in investment."38
Some observers claimed the failure of ESAP in Zimbabwe was the result of the inability of
the government to adequately restrain and cut-back public expenditure, thereby crowding out
private investment and generating inflation.39 Others argue that the failure of structural
adjustment was inevitable because the theory underlying it is fundamentally flawed.40
The theory underlying structural adjustment is indeed deeply flawed, given the unrealistic
assumptions behind it. In fact, considerable evidence suggests that because of close adherence
to the prescriptions of the adjustment program, Zimbabwe's economy declined substantially in
the 1990s. In Zimbabwe, the government vigorously enacted the reforms, implementing trade
liberalization through free access to foreign exchange a year ahead of schedule.41
Structural adjustment was meant to enable countries to escape the debt trap. In Zimbabwe,
while there was some excessive expenditure, such as large pay increases for cabinet ministers,
the government initially pursued a tight fiscal policy, as prescribed. Central government
expenditure as a percentage of GDP, excluding interest payments, fell from an average of 30.4%
in 1986-90, to 28.8% in 1991-95.42 However, higher interest rates and currency devaluation,
which made paying back foreign loans more expensive, meant budget deficits increased. The
way in which these were financed, through short-term Treasury Bills under the new "free
market" regime, led to high interest and inflation rates.43 There was also revenue reduction as a
result of cutbacks in taxes, as called for by ESAP.44 "If the level of revenue in 1991/92 (28.8 per
cent of GDP) had been maintained over the following three financial years, the budget deficit
would have fallen to below the 5 per cent of GDP by 1995/6 and below 3 per cent in 1996/7."45

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Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political Economy I 57

Likewise, if interest rates on Treasury Bills had stayed at 1991/2 levels the 5% target would also
have been met.
A 1998 IMF review cited in Robinson argued that the program was poorly designed from
the start and that the required scale of public sector cutbacks was likely to put the program
under "great political strain."46 Thus, in a convenient sleight-of-hand, the problem was perhaps
too much government "ownership" of the reforms, with the World Bank noting that budget
cutting had become an end in itself.47As a result of missed macro-economic targets being
missed, the IMF and World Bank suspended disbursement of structural adjustment credits in
The IMF prediction of "great political strain" proved prophetic. The economic
liberalization measures had dramatic political implications. Sachikonye noted that the
patronage base of ZANU-PF shrank as liberalization depleted the size of the public sector.48 In
the early stages of ESAP, the government promoted the "ideology of indigenization" and
manipulated gender ideology to compensate for the loss of patronage resources and economic
decline.49 These strategies of diversion had severe temporal limitations, however.50 In the
medium-term, the social impacts of ESAP began to generate societal resistance, which the
government sought to counter, both by increasing expenditure on the one hand, and fomenting
disorder on the other.
Throughout the first decade of independence, so long as the industrial sector continued to
provide employment and the economy experienced modest growth, the status quo was
acceptable in urban areas.51 However, as ESAP threatened the industrial sector, and in the
longer term, generated increased unemployment, the government was faced with the choice of
abandoning the program or facing electoral defeat.52


Beginning in 1995, the political commitment to ESAP began to evaporate as urban
opposition mounted.53However, diminished patronage resources meant that the principal tool
available to ZANU-PF as it attempted to power was a racially-charged populism that sought to
lay Zimbabwe's economic problems at the feet of its market-dominant white population. This
strategy was designed to shore up support in rural constituencies, where ZANU-PF support
had always been strongest, as well as placate rising urban discontent. While the strategy
achieved some traction among peasant populations, urban residents did not buy into ZANU-
PF's rhetoric that whites were the principal obstacles to indigenous empowerment and
improved living standards.
By 1996 it had become clear that Zimbabwe's urban areas could not be counted on as
reliable bases of support for the ruling party.54 The regime recognized that this threat had to be
contained, if possible, and that increased political resources would have to be diverted to rural
areas and potential supporters. Arguably, ZANU-PF itself was never an urban phenomenon.
Dating back to the liberation struggle, ZANU-PF's armed wing drew on rural peasants from the
Zimbabwean countryside, and relied on recruitment (and frequently, coercion) of rural dwellers
to fuel the war effort.55 Nonetheless, there was a concerted attempt to capture urban support in
the 1996 presidential elections by resorting to an increasingly virulent anti-white rhetoric as

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58 I Carmody and Taylor

President Mugabe and his handlers sought to shift the blame for urban decline to white farmers
and industrialists.56 This effort did not convince many, as the government's commitment to
"indigenization" was, by that time, highly discredited and seen to benefit only a narrow black
elite.57Mugabe ultimately recaptured the presidency in 1996 (uncontested), although the election
failed to convince urban constituencies, and was marked by record low turnouts.


The Zimbabwean political economy is affected by the porosity of the rural-urban
boundary. Given the historical importance of migration and remittances, with many
households' livelihood strategies "straddling" both sectors it is important to pay attention to the
rural-urban nexus in Zimbabwe. [58
Paradoxically, the government's rising anti-white rhetoric served to limit its economic and
political options, while its narrowing patronage base made it increasingly dependent on a
diminishing number of societal clients, thereby increasing the latter's bargaining power vis--vis
the government.59 This diminished state autonomy was effected by several key actors who rose
to the fore: a small elite that used threats and intimidation and its connection to the
government to capture the indigenization agenda; and the so-called "War Veterans" of the
liberation struggle.60 Of these groups, the "War Vets" rose to become a substantial threat to
ZANU-PF and to Mugabe himself. Having alienated labor and urban populations, as well as
white capital, in part by evoking the unfulfilled goals of the liberation struggle, the government
lacked the capacity to challenge the rising power of the war veterans. To do so would have
threatened ZANU-PF's very credentials as the heirs of the post-colonial state.
The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association was formed in 1991. Early in
the decade, the liberation war veterans broke with ZANU-PF over its conversion to
neoliberalism and the consequent lack of opportunities for its members.61 When it was
discovered in 1997 that the War Victims' Compensation Fund had been looted, to the tune of
Z$450 million (at the time, about $44 million USD), by senior officials in ZANU- PF, war
veterans organized mass demonstrations. They also directly confronted President Mugabe at
his residence where they demanded pensions and land redistribution.62 The fact that they were
not resisted by the Presidential Guard suggests they had the backing of the army.63Mugabe thus
was under direct pressure to placate the war veterans and agreed to give them lump-sum and
pension payments costing Z$4.5bn.64 The War Vets thus emerged as a powerful constituency,
even if the appellation did not accurately describe all the members of the association.
The settlement with the war veterans led to a surge in imports in anticipation of increased
demand and a huge increase in the budget deficit and hence, inflation. Coupled with the
decision to seize large-scale commercial farmland, and previous balance of payments pressure,
this resulted in the macro-economy spiraling out of control.65 On November 14, 1997 the value
of the Zimbabwe dollar fell 74%, as international investors panicked.66
While the payments to the veterans served as a trigger, there were longer term reasons for
the crisis. One component of ESAP was openness to foreign portfolio investment. Inflows of
"hot money" create trade deficits, which eventually prompt foreign portfolio investors to
withdraw their capital, given the likelihood of devaluation to restore trade balance.67

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Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political Economy I 59

Zimbabwe was a top "emerging market" in 1996 as its stock exchange had risen by 70% in US
dollar terms that year.68
The currency crash imported inflation and led to urban riots over price increases in maize
and fuel. President Mugabe was also under political pressure due to the rising urban discontent
over food and other price increases, which was periodically expressed through rioting, strikes
by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and later through electoral pressure from
the incipient MDC.69There was also rising student unrest.70 As a result, foreign exchange
controls were re-imposed in 1998.71
In 1998 a ZCTU general strike forced the cancellation of a 5% surtax to pay for war veterans
pensions, a move which was supported by capital. Despite conceding, President Mugabe
resorted again to anti-white rhetoric, and claimed that white capital and the black working class
had allied against the peasants and the veterans.72 Increasingly he came to define the rural
areas as the moral "heart of the nation."73 However, somewhat paradoxically, whites remained
the dominant economic force in the rural areas at the time.
Although ESAP had undermined productive accumulation in manufacturing, it promoted
it in commercial agriculture. However, the fact that most large-scale commercial farms
remained under white ownership, coupled with the squeezing of the incipient black business
class by ESAP, heightened racial tensions.74 Mugabe sought to exploit this situation for political
According to Dashwood, "peasants, over two million of whom are now chronically
dependent on government food handouts, continue to vote for ZANU-PF out of fear of loss of
these handouts as much as out of genuine support."75 These handouts were available to those
with ZANU-PF membership cards. However, with the consolidation of the opposition under
the MDC, this was insufficient to ensure electoral victory. Indeed, the parliamentary elections
of June 2000, in which MDC captured 57 of 120 the seats contested, revealed that the major
urban centers had completely abandoned ZANU-PF, and that even the party's rural support
had weakened.76 It is worth noting that by this time "ZANU ministers had come to the
conclusion that ESAP was their most important policy error."77
Given the fact that the direct threat came from the war veterans and that the majority of the
electorate lived in the countryside, Mugabe's preferred strategy of intimidation and promoting
land invasions seemed obvious, particularly in light of the loss of the February 2000
constitutional referendum78and the close result in the subsequent parliamentary elections.79
The initial shock-troops of the land invasions were not peasants, but urban unemployed
youth (mostly too young to be genuine "war veterans") who were paid by the army and
subsequently incorporated into the army reserves.80 This helped to get the ball of rural disorder
rolling, while also deflecting an important source of discontent in the urban areas. Frustration
with the grossly unequal and racialized distribution of land was widespread in the rural areas,
particularly given that 89% of the population were living in poverty, versus 50% in the urban
areas.81 This may have been further heightened by deteriorating economic conditions, inflation,
and reductions in remittances from the urban areas as a result of industrial decline.
The regime's strategy to transfer the zone of conflict from the urban centers to the rural
areas, where traditionally it could claim greater support, initially yielded modest results.
However, as violence and economic decline spread, even these traditional constituencies began

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60 I Carmody and Taylor

to abandon ZANU-PF. Therefore, faced with waning rural support, an unwieldy coalition with
the War Vets, and the near-disappearance of urban support, it became critical to the ZANU-PF
government to keep the increasingly powerful military leadership on board.82
In spite of the dire condition of the domestic economy, alternative opportunities for
patronage, particularly for military-related firms and the indigenous business class, were
opened up by the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), making violence a mode of
accumulation.83 In reference to the war in the DRC, an official of the trade development
organization, Zimtrade, noted that "within Zimbabwe the small to medium guys[often
indigenous firms] are being squeezed out. Thus they are being forced to look outwards."84
Some ZANU-PF owned and affiliated companies also established operations in the DRC.85
The military has been both placated and empowered by its new politico-economic role. In
an unprecedented display of strength and hubris prior to the 2002 presidential election, the
military declared that it will be the final arbiter of who governs Zimbabwe.
We wish to make it very clear to all Zimbabwean citizens that the security organizations
will only stand in support of those political leaders that will pursue Zimbabwean values,
traditions and beliefs for which thousands of lives were lost, in pursuit of Zimbabwe's hard-
won independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests. To this end, let it be
known that the highest office in the land is a straitjacket whose occupant is expected to observe
the objectives of the liberation struggle. We will, therefore, not accept, let alone support or
salute, anyone with a different agenda that threatens the very existence of our sovereignty, our
country and our people.86
Before the 2002 elections, security personnel received a 100% pay raise, which was the same
as the inflation rate, versus 50% for other workers.87 Additional orders for riot gear were also
As the 2002 presidential election neared, the strategy of fomenting discontent over land,
buying off war veterans and facilitating business opportunities for the military was
complemented by attempts to buy the urban vote with price controls on basic foods, as well as
intimidation and factory invasions by the ZANU-controlled Zimbabwe Federation of Trade
Unions.89 As indicated above, however, beyond ZANU's hired thugs and youth brigades, and
the War Vets, the party's support in urban areas is virtually non-existent. Electoral advantage
could only come at the cost of further economic decline, at least in the immediate term.


It is tempting to blame economic mismanagement, corruption, or the megalomania of
Mugabe for the country's current woes, as some observers have done, but such analyses are so
one-sided that they lack much explanatory power.90 As Abrahamson notes, one of the problems
with the good governance discourse is that it only pays attention to democracy within countries
and not within international institutions and relations.91
Alternatively, the strategy to foment and "institutionalize" disorder could be seen as a
rational way to maintain power.92 This, however, is also a limited way to conceptualize the
problem. Bayart (1993) and Sandbrook (1993) argue that after independence local capital and
the Zimbabwean state formed one of the few historic blocs in Africa which had succeeded in

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Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political Economy I 61

generating hegemony. Thus, it is worth asking why a strategy to foment disorder became
rational. As ESAP undermined the productive base of the economy, it destroyed the alliance
which underwrote the first ten years of independence. Moore argues that "perhaps the Marxian
idea of Bonapartism... could be invoked to interpret the collision of the social and the personal
on Robert Mugabe's head."93
States are embedded in their societies and in the international system. They can be
thought of as institutions to mediate and resolve conflicts.94 The fault lines of some of these
conflicts take the form of internal and external demands. Under globalization, where the
capital-labor relation is well entrenched, the state often takes on a facilitative role for
transnational forces, leading it to become a "courtesan state."95 However, absent draconian
repression, states depend on the consent of the governed for their continued functioning. As
Hibou notes:
The unending quest to satisfy the donors' financial requirements has particularly
pernicious consequences. Since the survival of the government depends increasingly on its
external resources, it is increasingly led to concern itself more with its exterior respectability
than its interior legitimacy.96
Thus, this occurs when the state displays negative autonomy from domestic social forces.
That is where the state appears autonomous from domestic social forces, but that autonomy is
the obverse of embeddedness with and dependence on transnational forces, and therefore
reflective of their priorities.97 Cutbacks in government spending and formal sector jobs loss
may result in a crisis of hegemony. The global extension of the law of value may thus conflict
with society's needs.98 The state must then adopt other strategies to attempt to ensure its own
Where the demands of globalization conflict drastically with the demands of the society in
which the state is embedded, the link between the external and the internal may be broken as
the state is forced to choose. In Zimbabwe state policy is subject to dramatic shifts in policy
depending on whether external constraints or the potential loss of power resulting from internal
socio-economic conditions are more pressing. The state can implement transformative projects,
such as ESAP (externally-driven) or land invasions (internally-driven), but these do not reflect
autonomous planning for social transformation in the way argued for by Rueschemeyer and
Evans (1985) and Evans (1995). Rather, the party-state moves with the tides of electoral and
economic pressures to maintain power. Given the diversification of Zimbabwe's economy, it
has had more latitude historically to pursue this than other states, though this latitude now is
clearly diminished.
In Zimbabwe, previous contributions which detailed the embourgeoisment of the state elite
did not draw the distinction between the convergence of interests of private and state elites and
their coincidence.100 When push-came-to-shove, as the avenues of productive accumulation
were closed off by ESAP, accumulation by the state elite came again to rest on access to state
power. Thus, contrary to Dashwood's (2000) claim, the state-based petty bourgeoisie had not
transformed itself into a fully fledged bourgeoisie in Zimbabwe.
Whereas the ideology of socialism once served to suppress accumulation within the state
elite, the adoption of ESAP loosened that constraint.101 As instability and insecurity grew in the

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62 I Carmody and Taylor

1990s, this elite is increasingly hasty to enrich itself, and the forms of accumulation have
consequently become mercantilist and non-productive.102


ZANU-PF's abandonment of the neoliberal model was not instantaneous. The long-
delayed second phase of ESAP, the Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social
Transformation (Zimprest) was announced in 1998.103 While it contained many of the elements
of ESAP, it also advocated policy reversals on issues like tariffs, pegging the exchange rate, and
selective price controls.104 The IMF refused to fund the program until tariffs on luxury goods
imports were reduced and price controls reversed. However, the provisions of the program
were soon violated, leading to a suspension of disbursements.
Foreign investment peaked in Zimbabwe in 1999, as maxi-devaluations of the currency
made labor cheaper. However, as the political situation deteriorated in 2000 foreign investment
inflows began to fall and many multi-national corporations, such as sugar producer Tate and
Lyle, have withdrawn.105
Despite the government's abandonment of ESAP, industrial production has flat-lined.106
Zimbabwe's industrial activities were hit multiple times: first by the deindustrializing effects of
ESAP, and second by the contraction in the agricultural sector, with which it is highly
articulated, which is estimated to have declined 12.2% in 2001.107 The commercial agricultural
sector has since been decimated by widespread designation of farms for seizure, land invasions
by the "War Vets," and threats to farmers and laborers alike. Moreover, political instability has
also resulted in plunging tourist receipts.108 In the wake of the widely condemned 2002
presidential election, Zimbabwe has become an international pariah and foreign exchange
shortages have become even more acute. Industrial inputs (already diminished by ESAP) and
fuel, for example, have been virtually impossible to secure in the current environment. Thus
the laws of motion of global capitalism result in its increasing "implosion" as they undercut the
basis for political order, necessary for capital's reproduction, in the periphery.109
The government's current economic policy bears some resemblance to the control regime
that was inherited from the pre-independence period. This statist shift in policy was formalized
in the Millennium Economic Recovery Programme issued by the government in 2000.
However, rather than being strategic and articulated, the government's policy implementation
has been largely ad-hoc.10It has been marked by attempts to transfer the costs of budgetary
financing to the private sector by forcing pension funds to hold government bonds at negative
real interest rates, thereby enabling the reduction of the budget deficit.111' Whereas successful
East Asian control regimes channeled finance to areas of the economy with high social rates of
return, financial controls in Zimbabwe, for the most part, merely prescribe exchange rate values
and interest rates. Even if it were desired, the state currently lacks the capacity to mobilize
resources to channel to domestic industry. Only industrial and mining concerns controlled by
the military and/or political elite continue to receive state benefits through illicit transactions
and rents generated in the DRC.112 The remainder of the industrial sector, however, is still
perceived as largely white, and therefore, in the current climate, "foreign."113

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Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political Economy I 63

International pressure which mounted after the March, 2002 presidential elections and
the accelerated removals of white farmers that followed has been largely ignored by the
government. However, regionally, South Africa could still "turn off the lights" (electricity
supply) as it could have for the Rhodesian regime. It has been reluctant to do this, however,
given the add-on effect of a politico-economic meltdown in Zimbabwe on South Africa, and
high levels of domestic support for the land invasions there. Given the extent of economic
contraction in Zimbabwe it is clear that international constraints cannot be ignored indefinitely.
However, the expectations of some observers that a standard IMF program would be
implemented in the second half of 2002 have proved false.114 Indeed, rather than turning to the
West, Mugabe's regime has deepened its relations with, and reliance on, states like Libya.115
Ironically, ZANU and the MDC have traded places over economic liberalization. The core
members of MDC, namely those from the ZCTU, initially were among the harshest critics of the
ESAP program.116 It was not until after the formation of MDC in 1999 that party supporters
embraced the neoliberal agenda. In so doing, MDC set itself apart from the now anti-SAP
ZANU-PF and attempted to cement a domestic class alliance and attract funding from white
capital and the "international community."117
At the current time, the MDC's prospects for governing seem remote, yet the party is the
only credible alternative to ZANU-PF in existence. Therefore, what might a future MDC
government do with its industrial and urban constituency? Would its policies reinvigorate the
urban industrial sector? MDC's origins lie in the labor movement, but the hardship imposed on
labor and industrialists alike by ESAP allowed these strange bedfellows to find common cause
beginning in the late 1990s. Business actors in developing countries are often loath to engage in
pro-democracy movements."118 However, in contexts where government capriciousness has
severely undercut business prospects, as in Zimbabwe, they appear to have little to lose.119
Commercial farmers began to support the opposition with the advent of land designations
and invasions. Thus the MDC is a cross-class counter movement against economic decline,
corruption, and violence, which have resulted from ESAP and the government's strategy to
deflect attention from economic failure. The locus of this counter-movement is focused on the
state, which is itself the site of social struggles by both domestic and transnational forces. This
may be cause for later division should MDC ever ascend to power.120
The MDC's economic policy program is largely orthodox in its content, despite the strong
labor presence in the party. Labor concerns would likely be subverted to economic orthodoxy if
the MDC were to come to power in the future, as they were in Zambia and South Africa, where
the Movement for Multi-party Democracy and the African National Congress, respectively, also
had substantial labor constituencies.121 The economic secretary of the MDC, Eddie Cross, was a
leading official of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, formerly one of the main
advocates for ESAP.122 Indeed, the MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai views the neoliberal
model as inevitable, noting "I still hate the World Bank and IMF, but I hate them like I hate my
The MDC's embrace of the neoliberal model and pledge to protect property rights (read:
white commercial farming and industrial interests) would likely be met enthusiastically by the
international community. However, it is unlikely that "market friendly" policies adopted by
MDC could resuscitate Zimbabwean manufacturing. Absent urban recovery -- marked by

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64 I Carmody and Taylor

industrial growth and substantial re-employment -- the capital-labor divisions within MDC's
ranks pose major challenges to the survival of the party in its present form.124 Its immediate
challenge is to survive in the wake of ZANU-PF's post-election effort to crush the MDC and its
In sum, the current policy alternatives in Zimbabwe range from continuation of Mugabe's
economically destructive radical populism, to embrace of the MDC's reconstituted
neoliberalism. Given Zimbabwe's experience with each, the prospects for industry under either
scenario are perhaps equally bleak. The challenge if further heightened by the looming famine,
partly brought on by drought.


From 1991 to 1995, ESAP severely undermined Zimbabwe's industrial base. The corrupt
and capricious policies, wrapped in a radical populist guise, pursued by Mugabe and ZANU
after 1997 substantially finished the job. The industrial sector is now in shambles, as
innumerable factories across multiple sub-sectors have been permanently shuttered.
Investment has all but dried up. Unfortunately for the cause of Zimbabwean development, the
grip of ZANU-PF has tightened since the March 2002 presidential elections, and the president
and his supporters have become far more intractable, contrary to expectations.125 Nonetheless,
the alternative presented by the embattled MDC and its supporters appear no more likely to
restore industrial function and capacity in Zimbabwe, even in the unlikely event they were
given a public airing.
Writing in 2000, Patrick Bond noted that "a long period lies ahead in which damage done
to a once strong industrial base must be repaired."126 Bond could not have been aware that his
prediction would sound like a vast understatement only two years later. Although the
agricultural sector the country's principal source of export revenue is also in disarray, the
regeneration of the urban industrial sector is equally critical to Zimbabwe's future, both
economically and politically. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine industrial revitalization without
similar trends in agriculture, as the agricultural sector is an important source of inputs for the
country's industries. Thus, although the immediate crisis in Zimbabwe may not center around
land, a restructured agricultural sector will play an important role in any revitalization of
industrial production. The choice is thus what type of holistic development strategy Zimbabwe
should pursue.
These changes require first political solutions, which, at the moment at least, appear
extremely remote. Nonetheless, short of surrendering power to the generals, the leaders of the
Zimbabwean state must engender some degree of legitimacy among the population, or at a
minimum, key sections of it. The twin bases of sustainable state legitimacy come from
employment and livelihood creation, and social service provision. The challenge in Zimbabwe
is to renew and restructure the state and the market, with input from communities to achieve
these goals.
The range of possible political scenarios in Zimbabwe has grown nearly impossible to
predict. With that major caveat in mind, there are a number of possible strategy choices for
Zimbabwe's industrial future, and for the economic development of the country as a whole.

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Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political Economy I 65

Bond, for example, argues that Zimbabwe's economy grew fastest when it delinked in the
1930s and after UDI, and that this should be replicated and deepened through a reorientation to
investment to meet basic needs.127 He also argues that there is a core group of progressive social
forces, such as women's and church organizations and the ZCTU, which would attempt to keep
the MDC honest in terms of its social commitments if it were to come to power in the future.
However, the conditions under UDI were different from today, and in any event, Rhodesia was
only partially "delinked". According to Thompson, given the extent of British investment in
Rhodesia, the British government supported the white minority regime economically.128 Cheap
black labor made it an attractive destination for multi-national investment as well, with the
number of American subsidiaries there growing from 54 to 66 from 1970 to 1976. The
Rhodesian regime maintained "property rights" and a "stable investment environment," at least
until the latter part of the liberation war. The Rhodesian government was also supported with
loans from the South African apartheid regime.
Conditions are vastly different today.129 However, Bond supports his endorsement of
delinking by drawing on a United Nations Development Programme commissioned report
which argues that to overcome its current problems Zimbabwe must draw on the strong
internally-oriented economy inherited from UDI and the spirit of Chimurenga (liberation war).130
On the other hand, however, Brecher et al argue that:
A strong case can be made that delinking is tantamount to autarky.... under today's
conditions. Imagine a single country withdrawing from the WTO, refusing to service its debt,
and putting a full array of progressive requirements on foreign investment. Aside from the
obvious short-term consequences (e.g. inability to acquire parts, machinery or raw materials,
except by barter), it would be cut off in the long run from modern technology, the Internet and
everything else that is developed in the global economy. This is a formula for permanent
underdevelopment. 131
Rather they argue that global economic conditions must be changed to make national
development possible. Sandbrook also argues for global as well as domestic reform agendas.
However, substantive global reform in the current environment appears difficult to achieve,
despite movement by the international financial institutions towards accepting elements of the
"Post-Washington Consensus."132
Others contend that change must necessarily take place through nation states. Mediated
integration into the global market may still be possible.133 For example, Cuba can still attract
foreign direct investment with a regulated economy.134 However, this in turn is dependent on
the existence of a strong state, which neoliberalism has undermined.
Hettne 2001 argues that mediated integration is now only possible based on increased
regional cooperation, with the choice for Southern Africa being either "regionalization or
recolonization."135 Stoneman argues that it was Zimbabwe's neglect of the Southern African
Development Coordination Conference which enabled the World Bank to push through its
structural adjustment agenda. However, "new regionalism" is also problematic given the
small size of Southern Africa's economy and the mobility and structural power of international
finance capital. This power may mean that the forces of globalization may trump those of
regionalization unless there is a fundamental rethinking of the macro-economic policy regime
and current structures of production. Neoliberal inspired Spatial Development Initiatives

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66 I Carmody and Taylor

promoted by South Africa have not been successful in attracting the required scale of
investment to regenerate the regional political economy.136
In sum, there appear to be five possible choices of development strategy currently:

o Unmediated integration into the global market (the IMF/World Bank
o Mediated integration/new regionalism
o Delinking
o Neoliberalism in macroeconomics with grassroots empowerment or,
o Market socialism/ecological economics

Which of these is ultimately adopted in Zimbabwe will depend in no small part on the
outcome of the struggle for democracy, social justice, and livelihood currently enjoined by
Zimbabwe's people. Eventually, however, whichever macro-development path is pursued, it is
clear that the regeneration of the urban-industrial sector is a prerequisite for the reconstructionn
of a (counter) hegemony.137


1. Moore 2001a, p. 914.
2. International Monetary Fund 2000, p. 5.
3. EIU 2002a.
4. IMF. Cited in EIU 2002b.
5. This included kidnapping and beating opposition members of Parliament and the
charging of the opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvingarai with treason
("Claims of Political Violence in Zimbabwe", 2002).
6. Authoritarian tendencies were in evidence earlier in the suppression of dissent in
Matabeleland from 1982-85, and the attempt to move to a one party state in the late
7. See Moyo 1995, 2000a; Bowyer-Bower and Stoneman 2000.
8. McGregor 2001, p. 346. A more recent survey revealed that only six percent of
respondents identified land as the most pressing issue, despite the fact that the
government had made land its most prominent political issue at least since 1997. The
land question ranked sixth behind inflation, unemployment, the currency crisis, poverty
and AIDS (see Johnson 2000).
9. Raftopoulos 2001.
10. See Ndlela 1986.
11. Moore 2001a.
12. Moyo 2000b, p. 6.
13. For example, Herbst 1990; Skalnes 1995.
14. Skalnes 1995; Dashwood 1996; 2000.
15. Jenkins and Knight 2002.
16. See Riddell 1990; Stoneman 1992.

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Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political Economy I 67

17. Robinson 2001
18. Thompson 2000.
19. See Gibbon 1995
20. For example, Mabugu 2001.
21. See Carmody 2001.
22. Bjurek and Durevall 2000, p. 466. The government anticipated manufacturing benefits
(see Government of Zimbabwe 1991).
23. Bjurek and Durevall 2001, p. 470.
24. Bjurek and Durevall 2001, p. 477.
25. CSO 1996.
26. See, for example, Sachikonye 1999; Carmody, 2001; Gunning and Oostendorp 2002.
27. Chipika et al. 2000, p. 56.
28. Mumbengegwi and Mabugu 2001.
29. Cited in Kanyenze 1995, cited in Knight 2001.
30. Fifty seven firms responded to this question (Carmody survey 1996).
31. Gunning and Oostendorp 2002a.
32. Bjurek and Durevall 2000.
33. Gunning and Oostendorp 2002a.
34. Ratts and Torvik 1998.
35. Bond, 2000, p. 175.
36. Jenkins 1997.
37. Carmody, 2001.
38. Gunning and Oostendorp 2002b.
39. For example, World Bank 1995; Jenkins 1997.
40. See Bond, 1998. The World Bank resident representative admitted that "the reforms
under ESAP could certainly not be regarded as a roaring success" (Allen 1999, cited in
Yeros 2001, p. 73).
41. Gibbon 1996.
42. Robinson 2001.
43. Ibid.
44. Gibbon, 1996
45. Robinson 2001: 41
46. Robinson 2001. See also Meredith 2002. Meredith claims that by the end of the 1990s the
government was spending on Z $6 per child on education per child enrolled in school (
p. 161).
47. World Bank 1995b, cited in Bond and Manyanya 2002, p. 37. ESAP was designed with
input from the World Bank. "Ownership" of reforms is very much in vogue with the
international financial institutions, partly perhaps as a way of deflecting criticism onto
governments. The theoretical case for "ownership" is laid out in Killick 1998.
48. Sachikonye 1995.
49. Ranchod-Nilsson 1998; Taylor 1999.
50. Harvey 1994.

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68 I Carmody and Taylor

51. In the decade prior to ESAP, Zimbabwe experienced positive economic growth, except
for the recession years 1982 and 1987 (CSO, Harare. Quarterly Digest of Statistics, 3/96)
52. Sachikone 1993; 1996.
53. Robinson (2001) argues that the IMF may have suspended support prematurely, based
on technicalities and Mugabe's anti-IMF rhetoric. Another explanation might be that
given that the international financial institutions hoped Zimbabwe would be a
successful adjuster, they were determined not to allow any program slippage.
54. The victory of independent candidate for parliament, Margaret Dongo, in 1995 was
perhaps was the first indicator. A series of demonstrations organized by Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) in 1999 also cemented this view. More recently, the
electoral performance of the MDC in urban centers far outstripped ZANU-PF in the 2000
parliamentary elections, and in 2001, MDC gained further advantage by beating the
ruling party in key urban centers: Masvingo, Gweru, Bulawayo.
55. Kriger 1992.
56. Taylor 1999.
57. The Indigenous Business Development Centre had previously complained that "the
current finance schemes set aside by Government, which have provided only up to
$400,000 for each project is inadequate for entry into any serious venture that requires an
average of $2.5million" (IBDC, 1997: 2 quoted in Dashwood 1999, p. 583. See also
Taylor, 2002.
58. Andersson 2002.
59. This is not unlike the situation Reno (1998) describes for Zaire in the twilight of
Mobutu's reign.
60. Following the deepened intervention in the DRC, the military became another actor with
substantial influence over the ruling party and the president. Anonymous, "The New
Scramble for Africa," Unpublished working paper, Washington, DC, September 2000.
See also, Report to the UN Security Council (11/19/01), cited in EIU 2001, p. 20, and Nest
61. Sachikonye 1995.
62. Dashwood, 1999; 2000.
63. There was discontent in the army given the effects of inflation on their member and that
"only 5 percent of its vehicles were in working order, monthly pilot training had been
abandoned, and 70 percent of troops in one brigade had been off duty for a year or
more, on forced leave in order to save money" (Herbst, 2000: 19). According to
Dashwood (1999: 585) Mugabe was "clearly responding to the threat of a potential revolt
within the ranks of the army and police".
64. Moore 2001b.
65. Dashwood 1999
66. Bond 2000.
67. Grabel 1997.
68. Gordon 2001.

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Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political Economy I 69

69. The only force capable of uniting Zimbabwe's disparate and unfocused urban
"constituency" was an urban-based movement. The MDC was established with key
support from labor leaders, many of whom gained leadership positions in the party.
70. Sithole 2000.
71. EIU 2001.
72. Moore 2001b
73. Quoted in McGregor 2002.
74. Sachikonye 1996.
75. Dashwood 2000, p. 110.
76. Alexander 2000.
77. Mhone and Bond 2001, p. 19.
78. The February 2000 constitutional referendum asked voters to approve constitutional
amendments that would, among other things, increase presidential power, and give the
government free reign to seize white- owned farms. Although its defeat marked a
setback for the government, President Mugabe has since proceeded without regard to
legal sanctions.
79. According to the Suzman Foundation and others this election was stolen; see Johnson,
80. Moore 2001b. "Squatting" had been increasing across all tenure categories in
Mashonaland according to Moyo 2000 (cited in McGregor 2001). Interestingly, the
Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform, a breakaway group of war veterans, decried the
government's tactics of land invasion (Moore 2000).
81. GoZ 1997 cited in Dashwood 1999.
82. Declining rural support for ZANU-PF is well-chronicled in Johnson, October 2000 and
International Crisis Group 2002.
83. Reno 2000.
84. Quoted in Nest 2001, p. 476.
85. Weinstein, 1999; Anonymous 2000.
86. Zimbabwe Defense Forces Commander Vitalis Zvinavashe quoted in Bond 2002, p.1.
This was widely interpreted as a warning to former union leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the
MDC candidate, and his followers.
87. Bond 2002.
88. Jafari 2002.
89. EIU 2002, p. 1; McGregor 2002.
90. See for example, Rotberg 2000; Meredith 2002.
91. Abrahamson 2000, p. 147.
92. See Chabal and Daloz 1999.
93. Moore 2001, p. 256.
94. Strange 1996.
95. Mittelmann 2000.
96. Hibou 1999, p. 97.
97. See Carmody 2002.
98. Ake 1996.

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70 I Carmody and Taylor

99. This is in contrast to Van de Walle's (2001) argument that adjustment continues to fail
because of its selective implementation, which nonetheless allows governments to
continue to gain access to multi-lateral funding.
100. Notably, Dashwood 1996.
101. Robinson, 2001.
102. See Hibou 1999; Moore 2001b.
103. Despite the World Bank's new emphasis on "participation,", civil society groups
were excluded from the drafting of ZIMPREST (Dorman 2002).
104. Bond 2000.
105. "Canadian Firm Trims Investment in Zim," 2/7/02. Conversely, some South
African companies, such as Impala Platinum Holdings, take a longer-term view and
continue to invest (Swarns 2002).
106. EIU 2001.
107. Ibid.
108. "Tourism Receipts Plunge 42%," 2/7/02.
109. Hoogvelt 1997. See also, Evans 1997. The political consequences of global
capitalism were not as big an issue when there were colonial states. This could be
thought of as a fourth contradiction of capitalism in addition for the periodic tendency
for the rate of profit to fall, the development of the working class and the tendency to
undercut its own ecological basis. Mining capital has found ways around this (see Reno
110. In order to pay for essential imports in 2001 the government conducted trade
deals with Malaysia, Nigeria, Thailand and Vietnam and import finance from the Arab
Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank, Afreximbank,
the African Preferential Trade Area and the People's Republic of China (Bond 2002).
111. EIU 2002a.
112. Anonymous 2000.
113. A survey conducted in the early 1990s revealed a substantial white ownership
and senior management presence among manufacturers, however, recent data are not
available. See Bonyongwe 1991.
114. The prospect was advanced in EIU 2001.
115. Bond 2002.
116. See ZCTU, Beyond ESAP 1996.
117. Yeros 2001.
118. Rueschmeyer, Stephens and Stephens, 1992; Bratton and van de Walle 1997
119. A point raised in Latin America by Conaghan 1992.
120. Raftopolous 2001.
121. The MDC may attempt to cement this alliance through enforcing higher than
market determined wages rates (Eddie Cross, cited in Bond 2001) as the ANC has done
in South Africa.
122. Skalnes 1995.
123. Quoted in Bond 2001, p. 10. However Tsvangirai did go on to explain that what
was important was for Zimbabwe to gradually work itself out of the IMF and World

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Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe's Political Economy I 71

Bank's grip. Whether embracing neoliberalism is the way to achieve this is open to
124. The Insider, October 31, 2001.
125. See EIU 2001.
126. Bond 2000, p. 185.
127. See also Beza 2000.
128. Thompson 1985, p. 144.
129. For example, life expectancy may fall as low as 30 as a result of HIV/AIDS
(Gregson et al. 1998 and Logie 1999, cited in Gordon 2001). This will discourage foreign
investment. The looming famine in southern Africa also threatens future stability and
social and political infrastructure.
130. UNDP/PRF/IDS 2000, quoted in Bond 2000, p. 186. ZANU-PF's slogan for the
March 2002 elections suggested a "third chimurenga" was underway.
131. Brecher, et al. 2000, p. 135.
132. Stiglitz 1998; Fine et al 2001; see also Taylor and Nel 2002.
133. Mohan et al. 2000.
134. Monreal 1999.
135. Hettne, 2001. See also an excellent discussion by Tsie 2001.
136. See Crush and Rogerson 2001.
137. See Bourke 1996.


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Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article: Carmody,
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African Studies Quarterly 7, no.2&3:[online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v7/v7i2a3.htm

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Narratives on Land: State-Peasant Relations Over Fast Track

Land Reform in Zimbabwe


Abstract: In the last few years, slogans have become more elaborate and fervent with
regards to promises of delivering land to peasants in Zimbabwean communal areas.
Conditions in communal areas suggest that peasants should be highly receptive to the
slogans and the narratives from which they are drawn. But empirical data from a densely
settled communal area challenges the universality of the slogans and exposes their
irrelevance in the context of the realities of household assets, social processes, and
production systems. We suggest political relations over land between peasants and
political elites in the state have resulted in disengagement by the peasants.


The government treats us like dogs. You know how a hunter treats his dogs? When the
dogs catch the prey, the hunter chases the dogs away. Then he skins the animal, places the
animal skin beyond the reach of the dogs lest the dogs eat it. After cooking the meat the dogs
are not given anything. If there is left over meat or soup, the women are told to lock it in the
kitchen so that the children can have it the following day. The hunter makes sure that the dogs
do not get anything, even left over soup. He says if the dogs taste the meat, they will not hunt,
instead they will steal. When the meat is finished, the hunter throws a piece of maize-meal
porridge at the dogs and takes the dogs for another hunting episode. That is how the
government treats us. During the war we were promised that we would live happily after
attaining independence but tell me, is this good life? Where is the good life? I cannot buy any of
its programmes. 1
The current narratives by the state suggests that the government acts in the interest of the
peasants and speaks for them, but this metaphor of the hunter and the dog is one of many told
by peasants they illustrate the peasant view of current state narratives. Narratives have been
described in the literature as a way of developing meaning and organizing experiences.2 But

Bevlyne Sithole is a research associate at the Centre for Agrarian Research (SHANDUKO) in Zimbabwe and works
on institutions, power relations and conflict surrounding natural resource management. Her work has taken her to all
corners of Zimbabwean communal areas. Bruce Campbell is the Director of the Forests and Livelihoods program at
the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), based in Indonesia. He has undertaken research in southern
Africa for 20 years, with recent work on issues at the interface of economics, sociology and ecology. Dale Dore is the
Director of Shanduko. He is an agricultural economist with a particular interest in land reform. He has spent more
than 20 years working in Zimbabwean communal areas. He provided substantial input into the land tenure
commission and his PhD focused on land holdings in communal areas. Witness Kozanayi is an agricultural
graduate working with CIFOR and the University of Zimbabwe. He has extensive field experience in Zimbabwe
working on agricultural issues, household livelihoods and institutional arrangements. He has been particularly active
using participatory rural appraisal and participatory action research.

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
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ISSN: 2152-2448

82 I Sithole, Campbell, Dor6, and Kozanayi

these experiences are constantly being rethought and repositioned depending on who is
narrating it. Narratives are powerful: they validate action, mobilise action, and define
alternatives. 3 We use this metaphor as a starting point to explore the multiple dimensions of
state-peasant relations over land in Zimbabwe.
We explore state-peasant relations by examining slogans, rhetoric in the media, and events
leading up to and following the spontaneous invasions of commercial farms near Svoswe and
Nyamandhlovhu. We also present data collected between September 2001 and February 2002
from key interviews and focus group discussions in two study areas within a densely populated
communal area in Southern Zimbabwe to explore in more detail how state narratives on land
are being interpreted.4 Peasants who have experienced fast track land reform challenge the state
narratives. We suggest that peasants from the study areas are disengaging from the state.


Research has suggested that political relations can be understood using the concepts of
engagement and disengagement. Four forms are recognized.5 The first is state-sponsored
engagement, where state elites try to regulate behaviour through authoritative means. The
second is state-sponsored disengagement, referring to retrenchment of state elites who
encounter limits to the reach of public authority. The third form is society-sponsored
engagement, which refers to collective action by citizens, in this case by peasants attempting to
gain control of state power. Finally, society-sponsored disengagement refers to actions by
ordinary citizens to withdraw from the realms of state authority. The choice to engage or
disengage in political action is conditioned by the actor's access to power. 6 Citizens question
their relations with the state and experience a sense of disenfranchisement under three
conditions: when citizens believe the government is using its power against them or not helping
them; when citizens find policies to be ineffective, inefficient or otherwise problematic; and
when citizens do not feel part of government, feel ignored, or feel misunderstood by
government. 7
Many post-colonial states are weak, as they do not command legitimacy in the eyes of the
population.8 In many countries, the state has yet to engage peasants in mutually advantageous
situations.9 This has resulted in wholesale peasant disengagement from the state.10 For most
part, the interactions between state and peasants have amounted to reciprocal disengagement
rather than joint engagement. Often state-peasant relations are an ongoing struggle with many
dimensions and which have a long-term historical origin. 11However, state-peasant relations
should not be viewed in overly combative terms because quite often either side seeks and finds
ways of accommodation. Often, the state may dominate with willing acquiescence from the
peasants. Similarly, peasants may assert their claims by staking non-negotiable demands and
sticking to them. 12
Land reform remains a central issue in the politics of Zimbabwe and a critical defining
factor of relations between the state and the peasants. Communal areas have long been
acknowledged as the stronghold of the ruling political party. However, recent events (e.g. the
constitutional referendum, presidential and parliamentary elections) have reflected a growing
withdrawal of peasants' support for the state. Peasants have become weary of politicians, and

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Narratives on Land I 83

have taken various actions to make their dissatisfaction known. We focus our analysis in this
section on the rise in dissatisfaction over the land reform program and explore how relations
between the state and peasants play out in the farm invasions.
Many communal areas are located in highly marginal areas of low agricultural
productivity. These areas tend to be highly sensitive to fluctuations in environmental
conditions. For example, cropping and livestock systems are highly susceptible to drought.
Some communal areas have experienced successive crop failures, decline in livestock
population, and lack of cash to purchase inputs. Generally, one can describe peasants as
resource poor with limited opportunities to intensify production. These characteristics would
suggest a communal population ready and to accept state narratives on land and to clamour for
more productive land. Empirical results from the two study areas suggest otherwise.


We start our analysis of changing state-peasant relations over land with the spontaneous
invasions of white commercial farms by impatient peasants around the country. We focus on
the Svoswe and Nyamandhlovhu farm invasions. Media reports from July to September 1998
flag these invasions as 'landmark events' that accelerated or enhanced processes of
disengagement between the state and the peasants. These invasions expose the growing rift
between the state and the peasants, as illustrated by media statements cited below. Other
invasions that followed the initial Svoswe/Nyamandhlovhu invasions indicate widespread
disenchantment with the state and political elites.
Villagers from Svoswe communal land who forcibly occupied four commercial farms last
week, yesterday demanded a written undertaking from government promising them
resettlement on the farms in question before they can vacate the properties 13
Unfulfilled promises by Zimbabwe's political leadership are beginning to backfire as some
landless peasants forcibly occupy white owned commercial farms, threatening to plunge the
long delayed resettlement programme into further disarray... firing the latest salvo on the
government 's resettlement policy are communal farmers in Nyamandhlovhu in Matebeleland
North and those in Svoswe in Mashonaland East who have made clear that they have had
enough of empty rhetoric about land redistribution 14
It has taken us 18 years to be given land, the primary factor which forced us to go to (the
independence) war... We have decided we will camp here until the government gives us land
because we are tired of their empty promises 15
Sixty Nyazura villagers disgruntled by what they perceive as the slow pace of land
acquisition excise have followed in the footsteps of the Svoswe clan and resettled themselves at
Beestkraal farm in Odzi. This is the fourth mass exodus by land hungry villagers who have
taken the land resettlement programme into their own lands... They accused the government of
letting them down twice... 16
Impatient peasants, clearly tired of promises from the government have been moving onto
commercial farms will-nilly in the past two months to try to force the government to act,
particularly now that the next season is only two months away 17

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

84 I Sithole, Campbell, Dor6, and Kozanayi

Initial comments made by key politicians were uncompromising and called for the state to
'reassert control' over the peasants:
People who have forcibly occupied commercial farms in Svoswe in Mashonaland east
Province and in Nyamandhlovhu in Matebeleland North province must vacate the farms
immediately... all these people are now squatters they must be removed forthwith18
They will be treated like any other people. If we allowed this kind of behaviour it will
spread like veldt fire. The law will take its course if irregular settlers refuse to move back to
their villages. Policy cannot be compromised 19
President Mugabe yesterday re-emphasised the need for orderly land resettlement and
warned that action will be taken against villagers who continued to invade farms. Comrade
Mugabe said although the Government was committed to the resettlement programme it did
not condone the invasion of farms. 'Government will be forced to take action against such
people. We admit we have been slow in implementing the programme but I must tell you
resettlement of the land hungry people is forthcoming'20
There is no point in rushing the programme through. If we do so the country will go down
and end up with sand and patches of grass here and there21
I am aware of some political leaders from this province who are actually encouraging
people from the communal areas to invade commercial farms, This is very disturbing, because
the government is still in the process of resettling people. These politicians must desist from
doing so22
However, faced with declining popularity, question about the allocation of multiple farms
to the political elite, and a lack of financial reserves to implement the land reform program,
political elites had no choice but to recast their statements in support of the farm invasions. 23
The statements supporting farm invasions showed a growing militancy, especially after events
like the loss of the referendum on the proposed new constitution (February, 2000). The new elite
narrative suggested that the peasants had a longstanding grievance against inequitable
distribution of land between peasants and white farmers, not that there was widespread
dissatisfaction with the resettlement programme or lack of transparency in disposal of acquired
land. Thus, we find in the current state rhetoric by the state a new interpretation of the purpose
for the original invasions.
To sustain the new narratives, the state had to invent peasants who would chant the
slogans they were now creating. The peasants of the earlier invasions were chanting different
slogans and blaming the state and political elites for failed promises. Thus in the later invasions,
we see a gradual replacement of genuine peasants by 'manufactured' peasants comprising state
and party-financed militias (unemployed youths, war veterans, displaced farm workers and
party supporters) in order to promote systematic invasions throughout the country. The
peaceful and spontaneous peasant invasions were transformed into violent and systematic
"drive in and set up camp" invasions. 24 Thus media and other reports labelled these later
invasions as "the war veterans' invasions" rather than as peasant invasions. The rhetoric in
support of the 'new' invasions were now being described in one study thus:
As the government increasingly sloughs off its inclusionary/reconciliatory approach and
adopts the militant 'radical chic' persona of the liberation group it was 20 years ago, the

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Narratives on Land I 85

situation has become increasingly polarised. The ruling party's current gangster chic rhetoric
plays to populist sentiments but at the national expense 25
While the involvement of war veterans was necessary for legitimating the slogans drawn
from the liberation war of two decades previous, the assumed good relations between war
veterans and peasants were in question, just as during the independence struggle. 26


Some statements from respondents in the two study areas demonstrate a peasant wariness
of promises and talk of fast track land reform. As in many communal lands, some people in
these two study areas have applied for resettlement. Some have been waiting since 2000, when
the government invited applications for land under the fast track resettlement 'program', while
others claim that they have been waiting for the land since independence in 1980. None of the
applicants have been resettled.
Some statements made below in the village discussions reflect the growing impatience with
the pace of resettlement:
Why are they 'fast-tracking now? What has happened? Do they want to give each other
more land before they retire? It is for the election. They think we don't know. We have seen this
before. After the election they forget about us and we will be back to square one. I think they
may then come and bulldoze people from the farms. I have seen it happen. Then they will start
with yes sir, yes sir again and drink tea in the big houses (referring to the big houses on the
commercial farms) while we suffer 27

The land issue is a smokescreen only, there is no land question there, and they are not serious
about it 28
The conversation overheard among people attending a funeral ceremony in the study area
also reveals the pessimism prevalent among the peasants:
Speaker 1. We must change the government gentlemen, 22 years of unfulfilled promises.
Even if you are given the land now, you are already too old, what do you do with the land. We
will not be able to work it because we are all old.
Speaker 2: But old man did you not get land? Don't say the government is bad and that it is
not sensitive to your needs.
Speaker 1. Who said I was given land by the government? It never allocated me land. What I
did was to forcibly occupy part of a commercial farm after waiting in vain for 22 solid years.
(Discussion, 20-02-2001).
In general, most peasants do not believe that the majority of the farm invaders are genuine
peasants. One respondent in the study site who actually participated in the invasions observed
that these militias were not peasants.
Look at us here do you see anyone missing, you know all of us, even the war veterans are
here, so tell me who is there, who are they calling the peasant. Ah that war was finished a long
time ago, now we must fight our children because they have not honoured their promises, they
want to keep making us fight their battles for them, while they get all the rewards29

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

86 I Sithole, Campbell, Dor6, and Kozanayi

In general, the peasants ridicule the new attempts by the state to deliver on unfulfilled
promises. Some respondents stated that people are tired of lies and observe that, even if the
government were to be serious in its intentions, there has been such a history of broken
promises that local people would still doubt the narratives. One respondent described all the
slogans as 'fiction for those that are well fed."30 The general observation made was that
narratives full of promises could not be sustained easily, especially where hope has been
replaced by mistrust.


The state narrative is fashioned on the argument that landlessness exists in communal
areas, that people are eager to move to new lands, and that productivity will improve after
resettlement. Data presented from key interviews and focus group discussions questions these
notions. There is no doubt that in both study areas people are keenly aware of the land
question. Land is a popular subject in everyday interactions and negotiations.
Notion 1. That there is acute landlessness in communal areas that will be eased by
According to our data, 6.5% of the households in one study area lease out land but none do
so in the second site. There is evidence of many arrangements over land between households,
where exchanges, loans and even cash sales of land occur. This pattern is characteristic of other
communal areas where there was similarly a high prevalence among households of land
transactions. This suggests that the land shortage as perceived by the peasants needs to be
conceptualised in relation to a diverse range of factors. 31 While some households are land-
hungry others have excess land. The land transactions are part of a complex of reciprocal
relations or social capital, upon which many people.
Our interviews suggest that landlessness may indeed be a phenomenon of the younger
generation (young adults in the 18-30 year age bracket) but given the opportunity, they are
more interested in employment in industry and urban areas than being resettled for farming
(see below).
Notion 2. Peasants are eager for land reform and will relocate to new areas
Evidence suggests that many peasants are not that interested in relocation because:

8 they are no longer attached to the lands of their forefathers

8 the potential new lands are of a similar productivity level to those that they presently

8 chaos prevails in the fast-tracked lands

8 they fear losing social networks or power bases

8 young people do not desire a farming livelihood

8 household pressures preclude any major disturbances, such as a shift to a new locality.

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Narratives on Land I 87

The idea that peasants are prepared to relocate is therefore a problematic aspect of the state
narrative. In most communal areas, as in the two study areas, the peasants have some
experience of relocation. The two study areas are relatively new settlements, most people
having arrived from Midlands in the early 1950s. But none of the respondents described the
land question as requiring the appropriation or acquisition of the so-called 'lands of the
forefathers'. Only 8% of individuals in the study areas are over 55 years and likely to remember
their former areas. Furthermore, most acquired farms that are close to the two study areas are in
marginal ecological zones with low agricultural potential.
Yes we want land but some of the land being given to people is not suitable; some of the
farms are malaria areas, far off such that if one falls ill, no one will afford to visit them and some
of the farms are not suitable for crop production32
The manner in which land is being acquired under fast track land reform has made some
peasants wary of the process. As the 'program' is fast-tracked, people believe there is no plan
about who goes where. A respondent who claims to have visited the fast-tracked farms
described the landscape as chaotic and unplanned (key interview 10-9-2001). Some of the
comments indicate that the degree of lawlessness and chaos on some of the fast-tracked farms is
so bad then could be described as squatter camps. There appear to be many doubts about
whether people that already occupy fast-tracked lands will be given title to that land or whether
there will be any security of tenure over claims already in place. Peasants refer to new settlers
on fast-tracked lands as squatters because of the temporary nature of the settlement and land
use around the settlements. In the past, squatters in communal areas other lands have been
reviled and expelled.
Who wants to be called a squatter when you have a perfectly good home here? I have
enough land that I am failing to cultivate. Why would I go? Let them go, but I won't go back to
sleeping in caves and under plastics 33
Already there are cases (see next section) of people who have been expelled from settled
areas, making potential settlers nervous about the long-term prospects of remaining on fast-
tracked land.
Local traditional leaders relate stories of alien people being settled on their forefather's
lands simply because they are war veterans. Even if it were possible unravel the complexity of
who should move to where, this process would take much time and affect fast tracking. There
is no indication that whole communities can be settled together, suggesting that resettled
people would lose their current social networks, an important facet of survival in communal
areas. Most respondents felt that if the people had to move to the new areas, entire villages
should move together. One traditional leader states,
If the government says it will resettle us in Midlands where we came from (in 1952), we
may consider moving out, only if people say they want to34
However, for the moment reallocation on fast-tracked lands is controlled by war veterans.
Relocation therefore implies a loss of control by existing leaders and disrespect for 'traditional'
norms, rules and values. In general, there is still much respect for traditional leaders in the
study areas. Given the above, traditional leaders are not sure they would remain in control if
moved to the land of their forefathers, and would prefer to stay in their current locations.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

88 I Sithole, Campbell, Dor6, and Kozanayi

Though there is support for resettling young people, many youth indicate that they would
prefer jobs to farming. The general view was that the state should create jobs and opportunities
outside of communal areas. One respondent stated during a group discussion,
If we wanted our children to become farmers like us why would we bother sending them
to 0 or A level? To become a farmer like me do you have to have 0 levels?35
Both study areas experience large outflow of young people from agriculture into
handicraft, seasonal migration to South Africa, gold panning, etc. Local people argue that the
limited availability of other options force them to stay in agriculture. Given a choice, most
would pursue non-farm options whilst still maintaining some links to their communal area.
Both study areas have experienced high mortality to HIV/AIDS. In most cases, the active
labour group is being affected, leaving orphaned children under the care of relations. In a
number of cases these children are being left in the care of old people. As well as loss of labour,
households have spent family income and assets for healthcare, leaving little capital for
agricultural inputs. Some households have become destitute. Some respondents indicate that
due to HIV/AIDS, they have also lost remitters and this has severely affected their agricultural
activities. With these deaths, some land has been freed up for use and the extent of landlessness
has declined. Most of the elderly we interviewed are reluctant to move to new lands. They say
that they are too old. Further, many households have lost all their resources in supporting
family members and relations and have no means to make agriculture viable in a new place.
These factors lead us to question who is likely to go to the fast-tracked areas, as many of the
intended beneficiaries remain unwilling.
Generally, peasants were hesitant about relocating to fast-tracked farms. The few who went
(see next section) left their families, homes and other assets intact in the communal areas. Some
families wanted to maintain two homesteads and felt no desire to give up their rights in
communal lands. In some cases, people who have gone to the fast-tracked lands only did so to
exploit the resources (wildlife and firewood) before moving back to the communal area.
Notion 3. Productivity will improve with moves to new lands
Most households in the study areas rely on income (cash and subsistence) from a diversity
of sources, including dryland crop production (all households), gardening (84% of households),
livestock production (78%), woodland activities (100%), wage or home industries (82%) and
remittances/gifts (91%). Some of the wealthy households suggested, that agriculture in
communal areas is rarely viable so one must be versatile and rely on other options. Yet in the
current state narrative, there are implicit assumptions that peasants are farmers and wish to
remain so. Past peasant experiences with resettlement indicate that resettlement on productive
land is undeniably an option but is only feasible when associated with an adequate policy and
technological environment to make the enterprise viable. Often, peasants who move to
resettlement areas have found themselves isolated from the social networks that guarantee
them the labour or technological resources needed to make production viable. Therefore, true
poverty alleviation (e.g. lifting people above US$1 a day) is not simply a matter of access to
Respondents also suggest that land quality is not the only issue. They refer to the
experience of some peasants on irrigation schemes in the same district. For example, one
respondent observed that if land quality were the main issue, people in these communal areas

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Narratives on Land I 89

would have moved out in large numbers when the government established nearby irrigation
schemes in the late 1980s. The only two people to be resettled on the scheme maintained their
homesteads in the study area and eventually abandoned the irrigation schemes. Accounts from
people who have returned from irrigation schemes and other resettlement areas suggest that
there is very little government support (e.g. infrastructure, inputs, credit) to start operations on
new land. Further, people suspect that the government may pretend to offer them land for free
but will eventually charge them, as happened in some irrigation schemes.
Some people are crying for virgin lands but they have failed to work on the land we
allocated them here. Do you think they will be able to perform miracles if they are given land
on the commercial farms? Yes for sure, soil fertility in the area has gone down, but it is due to
continued cultivation over the years. It is the same story on the commercial farms. Without
fertilizer you cannot harvest anything on those farms 36


Out of about two hundred households in the two study sites, only six people went to the
fast-tracked lands. Firstly, such a low level of relocation will do nothing to ease landlessness.
Secondly, most of the experiences with relocation were negative. The following cases are
documented from those who left to resettle in the fast-tracked areas.
Case 1. An elderly farmer, who is considered to have sufficient land (he has more than 10
acres), joined the occupants and settled on a former game ranch about 100 km away from the
study site. There he teamed up with others and started a lucrative enterprise selling poached
game meat. They trapped the animals using snares and he sold the meat to his village at give-
away prices (US$ 1.5 per kg of roasted meat). He also sold fish poached from earth dams in the
commercial farms. Meanwhile, his family remained in the study site, continuing with life as
usual. Towards the end of 2001 the government chased away all the occupants of that farm
because the farm had been de-listed, and he returned to the study site.
Case 2. A teacher at a nearby school, living in one of the villages in the study site, also went
to the fast-tracked lands. His wife is an active member of the ruling party who was recently
allocated a farm about 70 km away from the study site. The wife had applied for the land
through party structures. When his wife got the land, the teacher thought of resigning from
teaching so that he could venture into farming full-time. However, quick counselling from
relatives saved the situation. His relatives told him that farming was very risky and at his age
(in his forties) it would not be prudent to quit a job that had a constant cash income. The advice
came after the teacher had already dismantled some of his houses and sent some of his property
to the new farm in Triangle. He hired some young men to work on the new farm. He only went
to the farm during weekends to supervise. Meanwhile, the teacher has applied for resettlement
in his own name and has already been approved (though this is not certain). It had been going
well at the farm in Triangle until a group of war veterans descended on the plot, stating that
they suspected that the young men the teacher hired were supporters of the opposition party.
They interrogated the young men about their relation to the plot owner, their political affiliation
and that of the plot owners. When the war veterans heard that the husband of the plot owner
was a teacher, they claimed that he was a member of the opposition who could not get land in

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

90 I Sithole, Campbell, Dor6, and Kozanayi

that part of the country. The war veterans then severely beat up the young men, after which
they burnt all the belongings of the teacher's family, including clothes, chairs, blankets, pots and
farming equipment. This happened even though the teacher's wife holds a key position in the
women's league of the ruling party.
Case 3. A war veteran, from one of the study sites also went to occupy commercial
farmland. He farms about 12 acres of land in the study area, slightly above average. In 2000, at
the height of the farm invasions, he went to occupy a portion of a fertile farm in a nearby
district, about 200 km away. He and other war veterans forced the farm owner off the farm. For
a year, the war veteran stayed at the farm where he says he was made the base commander. He
claimed that a pistol, given by the government, went with his appointment. When the cropping
season came (2000/2001), he grew maize and cotton, which consumed more than US$ 125 for
inputs. The average cash income per household per year in the study site is about US$300, so
the input costs were sizeable. Meanwhile his entire family remained at his communal home
where they continued to crop as usual. Rumour was rife that the war veteran had taken a
second wife to assist him on the new farm. Before the crops were ripe, a political heavyweight
in the district, also a businessman, evicted the war veterans from the farm. The businessman
owns a farm adjacent to the invaded farm and claimed that he was leasing the farm to the
former commercial farmer stating that if the land occupiers kept squatting on his farm it went
against the government's black empowerment policy. In disgrace, the war veteran and others
left the farm and returned home to join others in the familiar lands. "My brother, there we were
tricked. I lost a lot of money. This is politics there is nothing we can do about it". Up to now, the
war veteran has not talked about going to the farms again.
Case 4. The case of three brothers illustrate that getting land depends on whom you know.
The brothers do not have enough land for farming in the study site. Both have families, but
have less than two acres each even though their father was one of the early settlers in the area.
The land of their late father was subdivided amongst the many brothers. One of their elder
brothers works for the government as a Central Intelligence Officer far from the study site. In
2001, the CIO-employed brother invited the other two brothers to take up land that he had
secured for them in a prime farming area. The two brothers rushed for the land, but left behind
their families to keep the homesteads in the communal areas going. They are planning to bring
the families after they have security of tenure and when they will not disrupt their children's
school calendar. The brothers obviously got the farm as a result of political connections.
However, the brothers' stay in the fast-tracked farm was recently dealt a heavy blow. The
youngest brother in the family, meant to be heir to the lands in the study area passed away. This
means that to keep the land in the family, one of the two brothers who went to the fast-tracked
farms must come back to the study area.
Case 5. One of the farmers in the study area does not have land of his own and is forced
each cropping season to lease land from other farmers in the area. He is married and about 40
years old. His parents, also living in the area, do have land but it is not enough to subdivide. In
2000, the farmer was encouraged, like many others, to occupy land on commercial farms. The
process of applying for the land was costly, as he had to make several trips to the district capital
to get application forms, get technical advice, get cash flow budget forms, and then submit the
forms. He assumed that approval would be fast-tracked, as proclaimed by the government. This

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Narratives on Land I 91

was not to be the case. So in 2001, he travelled about 200 km to where some war veterans were
'legally' allocating land to landless peasants. He was allocated a piece of land on a commercial
farm that had been 'acquired' by the government. He built some brick and thatch houses. He
spent a couple of months on the fast-tracked land establishing his new homestead. In 2001, his
wife went to a teaching college. There was now no one staying at the family's homestead in the
communal land and the farmer started to look for a buyer for the homestead. But before he
could find a buyer, the Government chased the farmers away from their new plots because they
had not followed proper procedure in acquiring that land. The farmer came back home and
started to renovate his dilapidated houses. Instead of waiting any longer, he has gone to the city
in search of employment.
Case 6. This farmer has about three acres of land. He used to work in the sugar estates in
Triangle, but returned to the study site after being retrenched during the drought of 1992. When
he came home, he could not get a big piece of land. When people started invading commercial
farms in 2000, this farmer joined and went to settle in the grazing area of another scheme
established by Government in the late 1980s. The invaders claimed that the grazing area of the
scheme was under-utilised. Some war veterans co-ordinated the occupation, charging each
applicant US$10. In 2001, the government sent riot police to chase away the invaders. This
farmer has now gone to Bulawayo, looking for employment.
These stories challenge the state narrative on land. Some of the peasants whose stories are
cited here argue that they (the peasants) should and must tell their own stories about land. They
declare that the state narrative on land is a hoax and this was proven at their expense. Their
reasons for returning to communal areas varied. These cases suggest that there will not be a
surplus of farming land in the communal area, as the population outflow due to relocation is
very limited.


In our introduction, we suggested that the state narrative on land does not truly articulate
the stories of the peasants. Any narrative on land must have the concrete backing of a definite
class. To push for land reform without a political class base is to initiate a vague process which
will have no backing should vested interests resist the program. 37 While the early 'spontaneous'
invasions by peasants were hailed as the unfolding of a genuinely people-centred story on land
reform, the later invasions by war veterans were a politically-motivated story crafted by the
Peasants are now beginning to challenge this telling of their story by political elites and to
describe state narratives as 'slogans of people who are well fed'. Relations of power are often
interwoven with other kinds of relations.38 There is a layering of relations between peasants,
war veterans, business elites, political, elites and even commercial farmers who appeared at first
glance to be the target of the invasions. Reactions by the state at various points expose
relationships in transition. In the end, at the national level we see the replacement of peasants
by the 'manufactured' peasants or war veterans, suggesting that the state has disengaged from
the peasants. Peasants, by withdrawing from the invasions, have also substantially disengaged
from the events and the discussions on the land issue. At the study sites, we saw the return of

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

92 I Sithole, Campbell, Dor6, and Kozanayi

the six households that got some fast-tracked land. Such withdrawal, if common to other
communal areas, is likely to have far reaching implications for overall state-peasant relations
and the legitimation of the state's narrative on land.39 Thus, it is possible to speak of what some
studies have termed reciprocal or mutual disengagement. 40
Data from the study sites challenges the universality of implicit assumptions made about
land and the reform process with regards to peasants. There is probably more local debate now
than before about what constitutes the 'land question'. All indications suggest that peasants
want the land question refocused. They challenge the key parameters underpinning the state's
narrative on land. For example, landlessness may not be easily defined, and many households
are unwilling or reluctant to move elsewhere. 41 We found no peasant who has left the
communal areas behind completely: the old don't want to leave, the young are finding other
options, and those that left for the fast-tracked lands have returned. Why are so few people
willing to go to the fast-tracked lands and leave the communal areas? We suggest that they have
found out at their own cost that state slogans and narratives on land are just "fiction created by
the political elites who are not hungry".
Actors weave innumerable relationships among themselves. These relationships have
qualitative differences and can be grouped into special categories. Most importantly, they are
experienced in daily life. 42 There is still a need to challenge the notion that elites monopolise
power. Scott, for example, presents a list of what he calls evidence for everyday forms of
resistance. 43 These forms require little or no coordination and by making use of implicit
understandings and informal networks, they typically avoid any form of direct confrontation
with authority or elite norms. However, in the data presented here, although the peasant
invasions conform to the type of unplanned, spontaneous events described as weapons of the
weak, they in fact represent a confrontation with the state. The withdrawal of peasants from the
invasions, while suggesting disengagement, highlights a deepening crisis of confidence towards
the state. Thus, we suggest that peasants withdraw from the invasions because they are
suddenly unsure of the extent of their 'room for manoeuvre' or the likely reaction of the state,
which has in the past used systematic violence stop dissent. But as suggested in some literature,
political action is not entirely voluntaristic.44 The choice to engage or disengage in political
action is conditioned by the actor's perception of power. The key challenge today is to
determine just how much political autonomy peasants have in Zimbabwe.
In the metaphor cited at the start, it is tempting to believe that the dog is powerless and
passive. Peasants are not weak, nor passive, they are able to define their room for manoeuvre
when necessary and challenge the monopolization of power by political elites. 45 Thus, some
would argue that if peasants decide to organise, power can be aggregated beyond the reach of
the state and be used as a counterbalance to excessive political centralisation. 46 The weak have
weapons with which they challenge elites, define their own spaces for manoeuvre, and mould
authority within the limits of their abilities.47 In the Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe, there are
many accounts of resistance to the state by the Tangwena people. 48 Recent literature suggests
that state-peasant relations over the last few years, and even during the liberation struggle,
were far from harmonious. 49 Since independence, the state has wielded tremendous power over
the peasants and monopolised the creation of narratives. To some degree, it has also
perpetuated the myth that the state speaks with peasant voices. The wholesale resuscitation of

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

Narratives on Land I 93

the liberation war narrative on land and its slogans forces us to reassess its meaning and
interpretation by peasants in communal areas in Zimbabwe. Thus, we challenge the universality
of these slogans and expose their irrelevance in the context of the realities of household assets,
social processes and production systems in smallholder systems. We suggest that the
indications of peasant disengagement with the state highlighted here will intensify as land
reform progresses.
Our story of the hunter and the dog at the beginning of this paper seems at first glance to
appropriately describe the relationship between peasants and the state. The state may tell the
story about peasants and land, but they don't live it. Peasants tell their stories better.

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank the people of the two study areas for
openly discussing their views and concerns. The authors are solely responsible for all opinions
expressed in this paper.


1. Interview 21-2-2002.
2. Roe 1991.
3. Roe 1991.
4. Due to the high sensitivity of discussing land issue, many of these interviews were held
in private and we promised anonymity to our respondents. Names of the study area and
the district have been withheld to honour confidentiality agreements, especially given
the current state-sponsored violence in the country.
5. Bratton 1994.
6. Bratton 1994.
7. King and Stivers 1998.
8. Healy and Robinson 1994.
9. Bratton 1994.
10. Bratton 1994; Moore 1998.
11. Moore 1998.
12. Bratton 1994.
13. Staff Reporter, The Herald, 24-06-1998. The Herald is a state run newspaper.
14. The Financial Gazette, 25-06-1998. The Financial Gazette is a privately owned newspaper.
15. Ibid.
16. Crime Reporter, The Herald, 01-07-1998.
17. Staff Reporter, The Financial Gazette, 02-09-1998.
18. Minister of Agriculture in an interview with The Herald, 19-06-1998.
19. Minister John Nkomo cited by Nyandima in The Herald 23-06-1998.
20. Agricultural Reporter, The Herald, 20-09-1998.
21. Ibid.
22. Governor Chanetsa cited by Staff Reporter, The Herald, 31-09-1998.
23. Moyo 1998.
24. Sibanda 2000; Chitiyo 2000.

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94 I Sithole, Campbell, Dor6, and Kozanayi

25. Chitiyo 2000:2.
26. Ranger 1985; Krieger 1992.
27. Interview 19-02-2001.
28. Ibid.
29. Interview 10-09-2001.
30. "slogan i politics dzevakaguta".
31. Sithole 1999; Woomer and Scoones 2000.
32. Interview 02-01-2000.
33. Ibid. The label squatter has unfavourable connotations in communal areas where social
groups and land use are relatively well defined.
34. Interview 07-02-2001.
35. Village Meeting, 01-2002.
36. Interview 19-02-2002.
37. Ranger 1993.
38. Villareal 1992.
39. In other studies conducted in the study area, researchers have argued that the study area
is typical of large portions of communal areas in Zimbabwe.
40. Bratton 1994.
41. See also Sithole (1999), Dore (1994) and Woomer and Scoones (2002) on landlessness and
land transactions.
42. Marquet, 1971.
43. Scott 1985.
44. Bratton 1994.
45. Scott 1995.
46. Bratton 1994.
47. Scott 1995; Villareal 1992.
48. Moore 1998.
49. Krieger 1992; Ranger 1993.


Bratton, M. "Peasant state relations in post colonial Africa: patterns of engagement and
disengagement." Midgal, J.S., Kohli, A. and Shue, V., eds. State power and social forces:
Domination and transformation in the third world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1994):

Chitiyo, T. K. Land violence and compensation: Re-conceptualising Zimbabwe's land and war veterans'
debate. Harare: Center for Conflict Resolution (2000).

Dor6, D. Land tenure and the economics of rural transformation: A study of strategies to relieve land
pressure and poverty in communal areas of Zimbabwe. D.Phil Thesis. Oxford: University of Oxford

Healey, J. and Robinson, M. Democracy governance and economic p.'licy. Sub Saharan Africa in
comparative perspective. London: Overseas Development Institute (1994).

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 7, Issues 2 & 3 I Fall 2003

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