Almost 40 years after its independence, land reform remains at the heart of Zimbabwe’s political and economic challenges. But perhaps more than any other issue in Zimbabwe, it has historically been met with inertia from government and the international community.
Governments throughout the world have found difficulty devising economically successful land tenure models that incorporate landless populations meaningfully into food and cash crop production. Zimbabwe is no exception.
In Southern Rhodesia, the development of the settler agricultural economy was based on the widespread expropriation of land and the forced removal of native populations to reserves. Settler populations maintained access to the best land in the colony, where land holdings were based on colour and ethnicity.
Southern Rhodesia’s Land Apportionment Act of 1930 reserved 50% of the land in the country for white settlers, 30% for Africans, and 20% for commercial companies and the colonial government. This set the stage for future President Robert Mugabe’s childhood and the second Chimurenga.
The end of settler colonialism and the coming of majority rule in Zimbabwe did not change skewed land ownership patterns. This was despite the fact that Mugabe came to power largely on the promise