guest column Paidamoyo Muzulu

WHEN it staged the November 2017 coup, the military was very candid in its statement that the grave action was an effort to “restore Robert Mugabe’s legacy”, a heritage that over time had been reversed by flagging economic conditions.

However, in addition to near universal education and health services, land reform, though brought to the fore through a rather disastrous modus operandi in
2000, is the shining beacon in Mugabe’s presidency.
The noble legacy is, however, about to be destroyed.

Mugabe, under pressure from liberation war veterans in 1997, started the fast-track land reform that changed the face of commercial farming, with over 140 000
black farmers getting resettled.

Mugabe’s government went on to constitutionalise that all agricultural land was now owned by the State, making the land acquisitions final and permanent in the

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The country paid heavily for land reform when Western governments imposed economic and travel sanctions on the leadership under the guise of promoting human
rights and democracy.

To his credit, Mugabe started the ambitious farm mechanisation programme as a means to capacitate the new farmers and improve production.

It came at a cost, the State was left saddled with a debt of US$1,2 billion which it assumed from the central bank that had birthed it.

The nationalisation of land seems to be coming to an end, if Agriculture minister retired Air-Marshall Perrance Shiri’s comments (Financial Gazette 26/6/2019)
on allowing resettled farmers to sub-lease their land.

“On sub-leasing of farms; if you have a farm and you have proper documentation, that is an offer letter or a 99-year lease, you can go ahead. What we are
interested in as government is to make sure that the land is fully utilised, it is being productive,” Shiri said.

“As to the arrangement on the farm of who exactly is tilling the land, that is not much of our business. Previously, we used to discourage sub-letting of
farms, but with the new dispensation, we have said farming is a business. Let the farmers make business decisions. If they want to till the land with partners,
if they want joint ventures, it is up to them, but we encourage farmers to have whatever agreements they enter into endorsed by the ministry to ensure that the
interests of both parties are adequately protected,” he added.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been touted in the media as pro-capital, but few would have anticipated that he would reverse the land reform programme to
appease capital or take the country back to feudalism, with the resettled farmers as new landlords.

More than ever before, the A2 farmers have all of a sudden become landlords, nay absent landlords who can sweat their land (State-land) for profit through

These same farmers have been struggling or deliberately not paying any land unit taxes to the central government and local authorities.

Mnangagwa has, overnight, created feudal lords (land owning class) using State-capital for private gain. Was this Mugabe’s plan from the onset? I doubt.

Mugabe could have been many things, but he genuinely believed that blacks should be proud farmers not absentee landlords who survive on lease fees.

In the past weeks, we have seen and heard Zanu PF youths and Mnangagwa calling out former First Lady Grace Mugabe as having 16 farms.

Mugabe could have grabbed 16 farms, which should be regularised as so many other political honchos.

It is now more important than ever that the farm audit report has to be made public so that we get to know who were the beneficiaries of A2 land programme?

In the same vein, the list of beneficiaries of farm mechanisation should also be tabled in Parliament for scrutiny.

Why should Zimbabweans continue to carry the can for the few politically-connected who benefitted from both A2 farms and farm mechanisation projects?

Is it not time that we should know who is going to be getting money from leasing the farms? Is it not just that they should pay for the developments and farm
mechanisation debts?

It can be argued that Mnangagwa is busy working on creating a bourgeoisie class that survives on drinking the blood of the poor, through taxes and burdening
them with debts and obligations accrued by the greedy capitalists.

Could this be the reason why Mnangagwa has kept insisting that Zimbabwe is open for business and that government will always follow capital?

Without doubt, Mnangagwa has started to dismantle farm nationalisation that Mugabe steered for the benefit of his cronies.

The Mugabe land legacy is simply fading and soon would be totally erased from the body politic.

Probably more than ever before Zimbabweans have to raise their political consciousness and come up with an alternative to the feudal, neoliberal politics of
this regime.

Operation Restore Legacy could after all have been a ruse just as argued in Two Weeks in November, written by Douglas Rogers.

The operation was more about personal glory and empire building by a regime stalking State capital.