Home » General » Zimbabwe – the Case That Never Was a Basket

THE fast track land reform programme has reduced Zimbabwe from the breadbasket to the basket-case of Africa. That is the red herring fallacy from a mercenary minority engineered out of an inherent inclination to preserve and protect a deliberately skewed status quo to continually consign the historically dispossessed and deprived indigenous majority to the margins of the country’s economic nucleus. The basket-case argument is callously and carelessly thrust to the green as grass local without acknowledging why the land reform was inevitable and necessary to redress the ruthless land tenure laws drafted by a crafty colonial system. Zimbabwe has no case to answer for the malicious basket-case charge.

The Land Apportionment Act of 1930 was probably one of the most repressive pieces of legislation by the Rhodesians as it deliberately entailed that over half of all the land in Zimbabwe was exclusively reserved for the white settlers. The settler population accounted for only two percent of the total population of Zimbabwe and the other 98% of the indigenous population was deliberately dotted on the borderlines of the country’s commercial core. That you still find indigenous Zimbabweans who today continue to glorify Rhodesia as a safe, comfortable and fair haven for the black indigene is mindboggling.

The Land Apportionment Act of 1930 effectively nullified Article 83 of the 1898 Order in Council which had previously guaranteed Africans the right to purchase land anywhere in the country. The Morris-Brown Commission fraudulently and underhandedlyargued that indigenous blacks who were able to buy land were too inferior to possibly compete with European land-owners and as such argued for the creation of a special category of land specifically for purchase by Africans. Now let us put this into perspective these brutal laws were being drafted by the very same sellers who forcibly removed the black indigene and declassed them to second class citizenry right in his own backyard.

The basket-case myth stems from the spent assertion that before the land reform in Zimbabwe, highly diversified production in large-scale commercial farms dominated agricultural production. The large-scale commercial production was characterised by high-value crops such as tobacco which accounted for around 51% of the total large-scale commercial production, intensive use of capital which accounted for 34% of output and 42% of input use communal farms were characterised by more labour intensive production which accounted for 52% of total production and minimal use of inputs accounted for only 18%.

The smallholder production was mainly dominated by maize and cattle which together accounted for more than half of the smallholder agricultural production and this was mainly directed for home consumption. Although smallholder maize production accounted for 63% of total maize output it contributed only 40% of the marketed supply. Large-scale commercial farm maize production accounted for only 4% of total maize production yet it contributed 60% of the total that was sold. This is a very important point to counter the basket-case baloney. The smallholder black indigenes fed themselves and their beautiful off-spring from the dust-patches they were coerced onto and confined to by an unforgiving settler population.

Large-scale commercial tobacco accounted for 51% of total agriculture production and contributed 100% of total marketed tobacco production. This was exclusively an all-white affair. Today this figure is distributed evenly throughout the country and no longer just a preserve of the whites. Cattle accounted for 9% total agriculture production in the white commercial farms and 26% of total agriculture production in the smallholder farms and contributed 64% and 36% of total marketed production respectively.

Maize accounted for 1.1% of gross national output and contributed 1.5% towards the Gross Domestic Product. Tobacco accounted for 5.49 % of gross national economy and contributed 6.6% towards the GDP. These figures are from the Zimbabwe National Account from 1991and they serve to remind us that cereal production on the settler farms was far less than on the smallholder agriculture sector which was manned by the black indigene.

The blacks in Zimbabwe were not allowed to own land in the native reserves which they unfortunately and illegally found themselves sardine-packed in. The 1930 Land Apportionment Act, took away the right of indigenous black people to purchase land anywhere in the country. The Act replaced that right with an opportunity to purchase land in the specially and racially designated Native Purchase Areas. The Native Purchase areas were in areas that were considered unsuitable for intensive agriculture and more than a third of the allocated land was in areas considered to be unsuitable for any agriculture other than livestock rearing.

The fact of the matter is that over 50% of the land allocated for purchase by blacks was in areas on the margins of productive agricultural development. We are talking about rocks and sand here. The over-crowded sand dunes and rocky terrain only served to remind the black indigenous population of the curse that befell them when the first settler set foot on the continent. During this period the blacks were denied access to loans and credit in order to purchase the land, to buy inputs for agriculture such as fertilisers, pesticides and seeds, plant and equipment, livestock and finance to develop farm infrastructure.

The Rhodesian Government then set up a Land Bank and an Agricultural Finance Company to provide low interest loans for European settlers who wanted to become farmers. These facilities such as credit and subsidies were exclusively reserved for the European settlers. The Rhodesian government invested significantly in the development of all-weather road networks in the European settler areas and no development at all in the remote rural areas reserved entirely for indigenous black Africans and within the Native Purchase Areas.

The Rhodesian government drafted and passed several acts which discriminated and deliberately favoured the European settler farming communities. The Maize Control Act of 1934 stated that African-grown grain was not to be sold on the open market and set up two different prices for maize. The European farmers were paid a governmental guaranteed price for their maize while black farmers were not eligible for this price support. The price they received was set by the open market which was way below the government support price paid European farmers.

The Cattle Levy Act placed a special tax on each head of cattle sold by African farmers and European farmers were exempt from this tax. The effect of these two government programs was to increase support for European farmers while purposefully discriminating against African farmers. The Native Land Husbandry Act of 1951 which entailed the mandatory destocking of African cattle serve to only remind us of the great colonial heist.

Now fast-forward to just under 15 years after the fast track land reform. Tobacco earnings have been hitting over US$1.5bn per marketing season and rising each season. These staggering figures have from figures now nearing 200million kg of tobacco being sold per season. This is no longer only a preserve of a few settlers but more evenly distributed to the resettled farmers. The whole agriculture sector has been on the rebound and most likely to provide the platform for the country’s economic transformation.

Bernard Bwoni can be contacted at bernardbwn@aol.combernardbwoni.blogspot.com

Source : New Zimbabwe