Thursday, 20 March 2014

Mazowe District Farm Evictions: Demeaning the Legacy of Mbuya Nehanda in Pursuit of Elitist Land Reform

 By Takura Zhangazha

Central government, through the Mashonaland Central resident Minister, Martin Dinha, has been evicting settlers on newly resettled farmland that is in the Mazowe District. The latter district is now publicly known to be the home of two major projects linked to the First Family.  Media reports have also indicated that the First Lady, Mrs. Grace Mugabe has a vested interest in the establishment of a game park in the area where families are being evicted.

Even more importantly, it is also known that the spirit medium of our national heroine from the First Chimurenga, Mbuya Nehanda resided in the same area before being forcibly relocated to Rushinga.

There are therefore a number of striking contradictions in the actions of central government and their tragic result of homelessness  of over 300 families in the Mazowe District. 

In claiming to have led a successful land reform or in its more politicized term, Third Chimurenga, the three last Zanu Pf governments have given the impression that they are on course to a people centered and historically organic land revolution. 

This would have included not only reversing the land tenure system created by the infamous Land Apportionment Act of 1930 but also use the land as much to reflect our knowledge of our history (the first and second Chimurenga’s included). 

So the acquisition of land would have been intended to not only be the acquisition for the purposes of essentially copying the land practices of the Rhodesian settler state.  Either by way of repressive agricultural practices informed by the colonial myth that the natives were destructive to the environment (the lie of the land). Nor by way of arbitrary disenfranchisement of a majority population in the name of  ‘development’ and ‘modernisation’. 

I raise these points particularly because what is occurring in Mazowe unfortunately reflects the same colonial approach to both the land and the poor that live on it. 

The fact that central government has brazenly evicted citizens of this country from land without either adequate preparation of alternative land or at the beginning of the harvesting season is reflective of the traditions of the settler state and not a democratic one that claims to have led a successful land revolution. 

So for example, when Resident Minister Dinha refers to the spirit medium's relocation to Rushinga by saying
 I am sure she (Mary Kazunga) is now happily practising her traditional healing work back at her home in Rushinga,”  he essentially reflects more the arrogance of a colonial native administrator than one who serves a democratic and recently elected  government .  Both by way of the lack of sensitivity to a national icon but also by way of the typical forcible removal of people that would have been deemed to be an influential leader, in similar habit to the colonial state.

Furthermore, the reported plans to establish a game park in the same area reminds one of the numerous other ‘game reserves’ from which thousands of black families were removed to make way for ‘wildlife’ and settler ‘tourism’.  The central government’s priorities are therefore somewhat out of sync with the interests of the intended beneficiaries of land reform.  Their wholesale eviction defies the known government policy of CAMPFIRE where these now evicted families would have at least been guaranteed  of not only tenure but also becoming gradual beneficiaries of the envisioned tourism.

Because the same said area is close to small scale gold mines, the evictions can also be viewed as intended at displacement in order to establish mining monopolies.  Even though Mazowe has a reputation for illegal mining, evicting families living in the vicinity of the mines without public explanation and preparation is undemocratic. It is also exposes the evident hypocrisy of the governments indigenization and economic empowerment community share ownership programmes. This now evicted community has not been offered that sort of opportunities either as standalone or in the greater Chinamhora chieftaincy area.

In taking into account, once again, the specific eviction of the spirit medium of Mbuya Nehanda from Mazowe, we cannot forget the historical record that during the Second Chimurenga, she is said to have fought from the same hills against mercenaries of the British South Africa Company. It is the patent symbolism of her eviction today that makes the Third Chimurenga appear ironic. The evictions thereby  becomes not only a dismissal of the legend of one of most iconic images of our initial struggle for liberation but also the geographical area in which one of the bravest battles against colonialism was fought.

Finally, the tragic and arbitrary evictions of families from parts of Mazowe district reflects that central government in pursuing its land reform programme, has not embarked a departure from the actual land policies of the settler colonial state.  What these evictions demonstrate is that our new land elite are more interested in replacement land economics than a revolutionary understanding of land redistribution. 
Perhaps the spirit of Mbuya Nehanda will inform those in power that land belongs to all the people of Zimbabwe, and not in order to merely replace one elite race of landowners with another, but to ensure that its distribution does not reflect more our repressive past than a democratic  land ownership future.  And God forbid that Mbuya Nehanda should have to again say, ‘Mapfupa Angu Achamuka’.

 *Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capcity (