Review: Zimbabwe's Unfinished Business - Llyod Sachikonye

Review from The African Review of Books
Silence is not an option
Title: Writing Still: New Stories from Zimbabwe
Date: 2003
Edited by Irene Staunton, this site 23 contributors
Publisher: Weaver Press, patient Harare, Zimbabwe
Distributed in UK by The African Books Collective and USA by Michigan State University
Press
ISBN: 1779220189

To buy this book online through Amazon, click the cover.

Review by Richard Bartlett

Robert Mugabe is doing his best to silence all voices of dissent in Zimbabwe. His latest
assault on the freedom of speech is the closure of the country’s only independent daily
newspaper, the Daily News. This closure, together with all the other abuses of human rights
and suppression of voices who do not agree with him, is another sad episode in this country’s
recent history, yet the ultimate futility of these actions is highlighted in the other ways
Zimbabweans find to make their voices heard.
The title of this new anthology of 23 stories from Zimbabwe says it all: Writing Still. For a
country with such an acute record of censorship and oppression it is surprising, pleasantly so,
to see such a collection of myriad voices placing their lives, and that of their country, so
blatantly under scrutiny, and being given the space to do it.
But this collection is art, not journalism, and it is a contribution by 23 writers, different
voices, many of whom are still living in Zimbabwe. Thus this collection is not one narrative,
it is not the story of a country driven into the ground by one man; it is about the country’s
history, its people, its urban squalor, its class dynamics, its land, and its leader too, even if he
never makes a direct appearance. He doesn’t have to – that is the nature of art. And that is the
strength of this anthology.
There is no way one book can replace the loss of the many voices Mr Mugabe has attempted
to silence, but for a world hungry to see behind the silences of a dictatorship, to see not so
much what is happening, but more why it is happening, the historical background and the
contradictory nature of misguided revolution, and how it is happening in everyday life, then
this book takes us there.
The stories are arranged alphabetically, by author, so the journey one embarks on when
picking up this book is not linear, it allows no preconceptions of journey through Rhodesia to
Zimbabwe via revolution. Instead it is 23 snippets of life, beginning, and infused with, the
ordinariness, the mundanity of life that was made possible only because the revolution over
the racist Rhodesian state was victorious. Yet it is also the quotidian condensed such that the
absurdities of life pour out of the pages.
The collection begins with ‘Universal Remedy’, which tells of two women, one rich and one
poor, one urban and one rural, one black and one white, who come to share a life, and a
vegetable garden. The collection ends, coincidentally with a similar situation: white
Zimbabwean finding common ground with black as they adjust to the absurdities of life in Mr
Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, finding ways of resisting and speaking out. But where it begins with a
white departure, the collection ends with a white arrival, with an affirmation of shared
experience, shared idiosyncrasies and shared resistance.
Between the departure and the arrival there are many others. The airport arrivals hall where a
passionate kiss is the medium for diamond smuggling from the Congo, the husband who
arrives home and has to grapple with the trauma of revealing his affair because of fear of HIV/AIDS, the forgotten father whose arrival leads to a daughter’s departure, and the big
black car which carries the grim reaper in the garb of a president who comes for a sick girl.
One story which deals with the excesses of the Zimbabwean state is Charles Mungoshi's ‘The
Sins of the Fathers’. The scene is a funeral for the victims of a road accident, two girls and
their maternal grandfather. The tension is between the father of the two girls and his father, a
former minister of state security. The son has disgraced his father by marrying into another
ethnic group. The father has used his power to wreak revenge. Now a family mourns its
multiple losses, and its inability to confront its country’s heritage.
The collection brings together so many different ‘I’s which treat us to an experience of a
country which is not just misery and deprivation. Yes these are omnipresent, but so are
survival, resistance, comedy and even hope.
Seventh Street Alchemy’ tells of a prostitute who has slipped through the cracks of
bureaucracy and now needs to get a birth certificate so her daughter can get a passport. But
she can only do this if she can provide her parents’ birth certificates. She has an opportunity
to break out of this Catch 22, but only when she breaks the law and they realise they can’t
charge her because she doesn’t officially exist.
One of the more disturbing stories, especially with the benefit of hindsight, is ‘That Special
Place’ by Freedom Nyambaya. It tells of a young woman who leaves her final year of high
school to cross the border of Rhodesia into Mozambique to join the liberation struggle. She is
not welcomed as she expected; her education, especially in a woman, makes her a threat to the
camp commander, which means in the process of becoming a guerrilla she also becomes a
victim of torture. That special place is not one of pride but of escape.
This story is disturbing because it sheds light, intimate light, on how the revolution was
hijacked, how personal desires and aspirations were allowed to turn revolution into little more
than a changing of the guard, how small minds destroyed grand ideas.
At a different level the same idea, or revolution made little more than excuse, is given voice
in ‘Maria’s Interview’ by Julius Chingono. Maria has just been made redundant from her
position as a domestic worker and with reference letter clutched in hand she goes for an
interview at one of those large houses hidden behind fences and large gardens of Harare’s
northern suburbs. Her new prospective employer, Mrs Gahadzikwa, forces her to unpack her
entire life on the lounge floor. The colour bar has gone, but the roles of maid and madam
remain unchanged.
There are two issues which it would be improper to ignore when it comes to discussing
Zimbabwe: gay rights and land. Both are dealt with in a number of the stories. ‘The Ugly
Reflection in the Mirror’, by Alexander Kanengoni and first published in The Daily News,
pits white landowner against one of the newly landed ‘war veterans’. It is a meeting of equals,
but the price is high.
Two stories dealing with gay rights tell of love lost, or never grasped. ‘When Samora Died’,
by Annie Holmes, is more than a mere ‘gay rights’ story though. It is about the entrenched
prejudices of white Zimbabweans, not just against blacks and communists, but ‘homos’ too.
‘Mea Culpa’ by Rory Kilalea, tells of a gay university student beginning to understand, and
deny, his sexuality in a world of racism. He finds a voice to fight the racism and in doing so
has to deal with the so many other remnants hiding in his closet.
This collection can be read for all the right reasons: to understand Zimbabwe, to
hear what its people are saying, to see behind the barriers that Mr Mugabe has created, and
those he has failed to dismantle, and because these Zimbabweans are Writing Still. But it
should be read also because they [the writers] are able to write with beauty, with style that
transcends ordinariness, because they weave hope and threads of brilliance and despair and
survival into a multitude of narratives that turn Zimbabwe into more, much more, than one
man’s realm.


Richard Bartlett is the co-editor of the African Review of Books.

Amanda Hammar, sildenafil Brian Raftopoulos and Stig Jensen (eds.) Zimbabwe’s Unfinished
Business: Rethinking Land, State and Nation in the Context of Crisis
. Harare: Weaver
Press Ltd, 2003. xi + 316pp. £20.95 paperback.

Writing books which seek seriously to explain Zimbabwe’s current terrifying travail
is both difficult and very necessary. Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business succeeds
triumphantly in this and it is therefore scandalous that it has failed to secure a British
or American co-publisher alongside the courageous and enterprising Weaver Press of
Zimbabwe. The book is however available in the UK through African Books
Collective and in North America through Michigan State University Press.
Unfinished Business is based on a conference held in Copenhagen in 2001, which
sought with some success to find neutral terrain for the exchange of highly conflicting
views. The introduction by Amanda Hammar and Brian Raftopoulos is the most
useful single source I have come across in terms of helping readers to understand the
manifold complexities of Zimbabwean society today, while the individual chapters
are almost uniformly strong.
Eric Worby writes on the end of modernity, Jocelyn Alexander on squatters, war
veterans and the state, Amanda Hammar on local government, Nelson Marongwe on
farm occupations and occupiers, Blair Rutherford on farm workers and farmers, Brian
Raftopoulos on authoritarian nationalism, Mandivamba Rukuni and Stig Jensen on
tenure reform and, lastly, Ben Cousins on the Zimbabwean crisis in the context of
Southern Africa. Virtually all the chapters engage with fast moving issues and seek
both to illustrate their complexity and to demonstrate the ways in which the Mugabe
regime has sought to simplify and polarise them. Editing collections of this nature is
often a thankless and frustrating task, but Hammar, Raftopoulos and Jensen have
created a volume which is well integrated, coherent and innovative.
The book focuses on three interlocked themes: the politics of land and resource
distribution, reconstructions of nation and citizenship, and the remaking of state and
modes of rule. The editors commendably ‘wish to open out the space in which the
crisis can be told or read so as to facilitate greater transparency and nurture critical
intellectual and political debate.’ (p.17). One early response, from Sam Moyo, was
hostile and dismissive, perhaps illustrating the theme described here of the Mugabe
regime’s ‘strategic narrowing of national identity and belonging’ and constructing
‘literal enemies out of so-called strangers and intruders’ (p.28). It seems impossible
now for the country’s organic intellectuals to debate issues in the ways they once did.
One of the bleakest comments in the book is Nelson Marongwe’s undoubtedly correct
assertion that ‘since independence in 1980, there has been no democratic participation
of communities in public land reform processes, whether in overall decision-making,
the choice of farms for acquisition, or the selection of beneficiaries.’ (p.187). Given
the obvious difficulties of research access, Marongwe’s chapter (and his other work)
on farm occupations is particularly valuable. He represents a younger generation of
scholars than most of the other, more academically established, authors represented
here, and one that is in real danger of extinction.
Unfinished Business as a whole effectively illustrates what Jocelyn Alexander calls
the ‘profound shifts in official and popular discourses over land, in the nature of social movements seeking to claim land, and in the consequences for and role of the
state.’ (p.83). Brian Raftopoulos stresses the ‘devastating rupture’ which has
developed in Zimbabwean political discourse between redistribution and rights issues
as a result of a particular articulation of ‘the land question’. (p.218). The editors are at
pains to unpick ‘the’ land question and to reveal ‘the persistence and intensification of
complex struggles over land and natural resources in a variety if contexts’ (p.20).
Their assertion that ‘there are increasingly complex layers of differentiation and
combinations of social classes with competing interests in ‘land’ per se’ (p.21) is
amply born out by the current situation in the former white-owned commercial farms,
now referred to as the new resettlement areas.
Even a relatively casual reading of the pro-regime Herald and Sunday Mirror reveals
a significant number of conflicts now raging between large and small farmers, with
the richer generally managing to evict the poorer, and between leading politicians
over land grabbing, multiple ownership and who should be the main beneficiaries of
Fast Track. There are also conflicts over control of labour and the rights (if any) of the
former farm workers; over ownership and tenure and who should pay for services
such as water, electricity and telephones; and over management of common property
resources, with reports of massive stripping of assets and environmental degradation,
including tree cutting, gold panning, the killing of wild life, the pollution of water
resources and silting up of rivers.
History will doubtless judge the success or otherwise of Mugabe’s controversial Fast
Track land reform programme. In the meantime, anyone interested in contemporary
Zimbabwe is strongly urged to read Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business.

Robin Palmer
Oxfam GB
Oxford

BOOK REVIEW
by Lloyd Sachikonye
A. Hammar, B. Raftopoulos and S.Jensen (eds.) (2003) Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business:
Rethinking Land, sildenafil State and Nation in a Context of Crisis, Harare :Weaver Press, 316pp
.

This important book had its origins in a conference held two and half years ago in Copenhagen.
As most of you recall, this was at the height of the ‘Third Chimurenga’ otherwise also known as
‘hondo yeminda’ or, more colourfully, ‘jambanja’! Participants at the conference set out to
examine the crisis of land, the economy and governance that had embroiled Zimbabwe – a crisis
that has grown more acute since then. As contributors to Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business argue,
the crisis is a multi-layered: it is not just about land or governance as some would have it. And it
remains ‘Zimbabwe’s unfinished business’.
Three interweaving analytical themes underly the crisis as outlined in the book:
• the politics surrounding the land question,
• the ideological and restrictive reconstruction of notions of ‘nation’ and ‘citizenship’, and
• the restructuring of the state and modes of its rule.
More generally, the contributors are concerned about developments over the past four years:
• the increased use of coercion and violent modes of rule,
• the deepening of authoritarianism, and
• the narrowing of democratic space and rights of citizenship.

2. THE LAND QUESTION
Of course, the entry point into analyses developed in the various chapters is the land issue. We
have been reminded again and again by politicians that the liberation struggle was about land.
Few would disagree but the struggle was also about basic freedoms, e.g. political freedoms and
human rights. It was not just about land, and hence the argument that gives priority to
redistribution over these rights is mistaken.
Even so, there is little need to remind you that the ‘fast track’ land reform was a chaotic process:
• with loss of life or limb by farm workers and farmers,
• use of land as an election campaign tool in 2000 and 2002,
• eviction of about 90 per cent of white commercial farmers from their land, • the expropriation of 11 million ha of for allocation to 127 000 small farmer households
under A1 model (well below the 300 000 figure bandied about for two years); and
allocation to 7 200 black emergent farmers ( a far cry from the 54 000 originally
expected). Even so, some 4 million ha or so still has not fully been redistributed or
utilised and accounted for, according to the 2003 Utete Report.
• loss of jobs by up to 200 000 farm workers and livelihoods by one million or so of their
dependents
• widely publicized land ‘grabbing’ by the ruling elite resulting in ownership of multiple
ownership, and about which little has been done about and
• a significant decline in agriculture resulting in a food deficit affecting 7, 5 million or
over 60 per cent of the national population.

3. INTEGRATING THE THREE GREAT QUESTIONS
But this book is not just about the land crisis. It relates the land question to two other major
questions: the ‘social question’ (a question about labour, employment, livelihoods and poverty
issues), and the political or ‘national question’ (about rights such as citizenship, about democracy
and nationalism) -
• some of the chapters (those by Hammar and Alexander) chronicle how local government
institutions in rural areas were reshaped by the new role of war veterans, the party youth
and local ZANU (PF) structures. And how judicial structures were disrupted and the rule
of law selectively applied or undermined in the process.
• the social question in the form of high unemployment partly explains why the youth and
other elements participated in land occupations, and in violent electioneering. The social
question is also about the fact the economy has little capacity to absorb the jobless, and to
fund and sustain good education and health services. The ‘Third Chimurenga’ was partly
aimed at diverting attention from this looming social crisis, a crisis that refuses to go
away even after land redistribution. As some analysts often say: ‘it is the economy
stupid’.
• the national question in the various chapters of the book is assessed in relation to issues
of citizenship, human rights, nationalism and democracy as the chapters by Raftopoulos
and Worby explore. Clearly, there has been a significant narrowing of space for
citizenship rights and for democracy. This is more so since Public Order and Security Act
(POSA) and the Access to Information Privacy and Protection Act (AIPPA) came into force two years ago. Nationalism has become more authoritarian and exclusive. Thus
some citizens are worthy more than others; some ‘belong’ to the nation, while others are
‘excluded’. For instance, political violence is a blunt instrument used against the
opposition and civic activists who are not recognized as full citizens but described either
as ‘enemies’ or ‘sell-outs’. This type of nationalism is not inclusive, but discriminatory,
and thus exclusive. In the 1970s, I remember that there used to be an aspiration to reach a
necessary ‘national democratic’ stage or revolution in our development. That has all been
forgotten even by those who espoused it in the nationalist movement.

4. TWO CONTENDING PERSPECTIVES ON THE THREE QUESTIONS
This book is rich in detail about the various dimensions of the three questions: the land, social
and national questions. The book chapters allude to, and engage two perspectives, perspectives
that reflect a wider national division of opinion on how to interpret and address the questions. For
want of a more precise term, we may generally summarise them as:
• first, a narrowly nationalistic perspective that is exclusive, if not chauvinistic, and one not
above using the race issue in politics. A perspective that castigates those ‘without totems’
or ‘mitupo’, and seeks to ‘instill fear into minorities and the opposition so that they
tremble’. A perspective that gives priority to redistribution over basic human and political
rights; one based on the notion that ‘the end justifies the means’; that says ‘you cannot
make omelet without breaking eggs’ which is to say there can be no big change in society
without some level of disruption and violence. In short, a perspective that belittles
democracy, and derides basic rights as empty liberal concepts. Finally, a position that
broadly supports how land reform has been implemented, and how politics is organised
under the present government. This perspective is explored in various ways in the
chapters by Alexander and Marongwe.
• secondly, there is the perspective that combines a broad nationalist outlook with an
uncompromising commitment to basic rights and freedoms, and democracy. One that sees no
dichotomy between historical redress, redistribution and democratic rights. A perspective that
is more inclusive, tolerant of pluralism, and shuns the use of the race card in politics. One that
is consistent in its criticism of intimidation and violence as political tools; and one that is as
much concerned with ‘the means as with the ends’, as much with the process as outcomes. A
perspective that remains critical of how land reform was conducted, and of how the social and national questions are being handled. These issues are explored sensitively in chapters by
Cousins, Rukuni and Jensen.
• These two perspectives broadly distinguish two ‘intellectual’ schools or tendencies that have
emerged in the country over the past five years or so. One ‘school’ or tendency that is largely
consists of state-aligned intellectuals, and includes spin doctors (or spin advisers) and
peddlers of ‘a narrowly defined patriotism’. And the other tendency that consists of
intellectuals aligned to civil society and movements seeking change. Thus while one tendency
argues for the status quo, the other presses for democratic space and change.
At some point, these two schools of thought will need to engage each other in debate. Indeed, in a
wider sense, these two perspectives and schools are also part of the ‘Unfinished Business’, are
part of a still ‘un-resolved debate’ on the land question, on the social question and on the national
question.
One is grateful to the editors and authors (and publishers) of this book for opening up this debate,
and thus providing space for different ideas to contend with each other. It is a fine contribution
made in a democratic spirit. The challenge of debate should be seriously taken up. It is our
‘Unfinished Business’ as well, whether we are simply nationalists or democrats, or better still,
democratic nationalists!

Lloyd Sachikonye
February 2004.

Review: Zimbabwe's Unfinished Business - Oxfam

Review from The African Review of Books
Silence is not an option
Title: Writing Still: New Stories from Zimbabwe
Date: 2003
Edited by Irene Staunton, this site 23 contributors
Publisher: Weaver Press, patient Harare, Zimbabwe
Distributed in UK by The African Books Collective and USA by Michigan State University
Press
ISBN: 1779220189

To buy this book online through Amazon, click the cover.

Review by Richard Bartlett

Robert Mugabe is doing his best to silence all voices of dissent in Zimbabwe. His latest
assault on the freedom of speech is the closure of the country’s only independent daily
newspaper, the Daily News. This closure, together with all the other abuses of human rights
and suppression of voices who do not agree with him, is another sad episode in this country’s
recent history, yet the ultimate futility of these actions is highlighted in the other ways
Zimbabweans find to make their voices heard.
The title of this new anthology of 23 stories from Zimbabwe says it all: Writing Still. For a
country with such an acute record of censorship and oppression it is surprising, pleasantly so,
to see such a collection of myriad voices placing their lives, and that of their country, so
blatantly under scrutiny, and being given the space to do it.
But this collection is art, not journalism, and it is a contribution by 23 writers, different
voices, many of whom are still living in Zimbabwe. Thus this collection is not one narrative,
it is not the story of a country driven into the ground by one man; it is about the country’s
history, its people, its urban squalor, its class dynamics, its land, and its leader too, even if he
never makes a direct appearance. He doesn’t have to – that is the nature of art. And that is the
strength of this anthology.
There is no way one book can replace the loss of the many voices Mr Mugabe has attempted
to silence, but for a world hungry to see behind the silences of a dictatorship, to see not so
much what is happening, but more why it is happening, the historical background and the
contradictory nature of misguided revolution, and how it is happening in everyday life, then
this book takes us there.
The stories are arranged alphabetically, by author, so the journey one embarks on when
picking up this book is not linear, it allows no preconceptions of journey through Rhodesia to
Zimbabwe via revolution. Instead it is 23 snippets of life, beginning, and infused with, the
ordinariness, the mundanity of life that was made possible only because the revolution over
the racist Rhodesian state was victorious. Yet it is also the quotidian condensed such that the
absurdities of life pour out of the pages.
The collection begins with ‘Universal Remedy’, which tells of two women, one rich and one
poor, one urban and one rural, one black and one white, who come to share a life, and a
vegetable garden. The collection ends, coincidentally with a similar situation: white
Zimbabwean finding common ground with black as they adjust to the absurdities of life in Mr
Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, finding ways of resisting and speaking out. But where it begins with a
white departure, the collection ends with a white arrival, with an affirmation of shared
experience, shared idiosyncrasies and shared resistance.
Between the departure and the arrival there are many others. The airport arrivals hall where a
passionate kiss is the medium for diamond smuggling from the Congo, the husband who
arrives home and has to grapple with the trauma of revealing his affair because of fear of HIV/AIDS, the forgotten father whose arrival leads to a daughter’s departure, and the big
black car which carries the grim reaper in the garb of a president who comes for a sick girl.
One story which deals with the excesses of the Zimbabwean state is Charles Mungoshi's ‘The
Sins of the Fathers’. The scene is a funeral for the victims of a road accident, two girls and
their maternal grandfather. The tension is between the father of the two girls and his father, a
former minister of state security. The son has disgraced his father by marrying into another
ethnic group. The father has used his power to wreak revenge. Now a family mourns its
multiple losses, and its inability to confront its country’s heritage.
The collection brings together so many different ‘I’s which treat us to an experience of a
country which is not just misery and deprivation. Yes these are omnipresent, but so are
survival, resistance, comedy and even hope.
Seventh Street Alchemy’ tells of a prostitute who has slipped through the cracks of
bureaucracy and now needs to get a birth certificate so her daughter can get a passport. But
she can only do this if she can provide her parents’ birth certificates. She has an opportunity
to break out of this Catch 22, but only when she breaks the law and they realise they can’t
charge her because she doesn’t officially exist.
One of the more disturbing stories, especially with the benefit of hindsight, is ‘That Special
Place’ by Freedom Nyambaya. It tells of a young woman who leaves her final year of high
school to cross the border of Rhodesia into Mozambique to join the liberation struggle. She is
not welcomed as she expected; her education, especially in a woman, makes her a threat to the
camp commander, which means in the process of becoming a guerrilla she also becomes a
victim of torture. That special place is not one of pride but of escape.
This story is disturbing because it sheds light, intimate light, on how the revolution was
hijacked, how personal desires and aspirations were allowed to turn revolution into little more
than a changing of the guard, how small minds destroyed grand ideas.
At a different level the same idea, or revolution made little more than excuse, is given voice
in ‘Maria’s Interview’ by Julius Chingono. Maria has just been made redundant from her
position as a domestic worker and with reference letter clutched in hand she goes for an
interview at one of those large houses hidden behind fences and large gardens of Harare’s
northern suburbs. Her new prospective employer, Mrs Gahadzikwa, forces her to unpack her
entire life on the lounge floor. The colour bar has gone, but the roles of maid and madam
remain unchanged.
There are two issues which it would be improper to ignore when it comes to discussing
Zimbabwe: gay rights and land. Both are dealt with in a number of the stories. ‘The Ugly
Reflection in the Mirror’, by Alexander Kanengoni and first published in The Daily News,
pits white landowner against one of the newly landed ‘war veterans’. It is a meeting of equals,
but the price is high.
Two stories dealing with gay rights tell of love lost, or never grasped. ‘When Samora Died’,
by Annie Holmes, is more than a mere ‘gay rights’ story though. It is about the entrenched
prejudices of white Zimbabweans, not just against blacks and communists, but ‘homos’ too.
‘Mea Culpa’ by Rory Kilalea, tells of a gay university student beginning to understand, and
deny, his sexuality in a world of racism. He finds a voice to fight the racism and in doing so
has to deal with the so many other remnants hiding in his closet.
This collection can be read for all the right reasons: to understand Zimbabwe, to
hear what its people are saying, to see behind the barriers that Mr Mugabe has created, and
those he has failed to dismantle, and because these Zimbabweans are Writing Still. But it
should be read also because they [the writers] are able to write with beauty, with style that
transcends ordinariness, because they weave hope and threads of brilliance and despair and
survival into a multitude of narratives that turn Zimbabwe into more, much more, than one
man’s realm.


Richard Bartlett is the co-editor of the African Review of Books.

Amanda Hammar, sildenafil Brian Raftopoulos and Stig Jensen (eds.) Zimbabwe’s Unfinished
Business: Rethinking Land, State and Nation in the Context of Crisis
. Harare: Weaver
Press Ltd, 2003. xi + 316pp. £20.95 paperback.

Writing books which seek seriously to explain Zimbabwe’s current terrifying travail
is both difficult and very necessary. Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business succeeds
triumphantly in this and it is therefore scandalous that it has failed to secure a British
or American co-publisher alongside the courageous and enterprising Weaver Press of
Zimbabwe. The book is however available in the UK through African Books
Collective and in North America through Michigan State University Press.
Unfinished Business is based on a conference held in Copenhagen in 2001, which
sought with some success to find neutral terrain for the exchange of highly conflicting
views. The introduction by Amanda Hammar and Brian Raftopoulos is the most
useful single source I have come across in terms of helping readers to understand the
manifold complexities of Zimbabwean society today, while the individual chapters
are almost uniformly strong.
Eric Worby writes on the end of modernity, Jocelyn Alexander on squatters, war
veterans and the state, Amanda Hammar on local government, Nelson Marongwe on
farm occupations and occupiers, Blair Rutherford on farm workers and farmers, Brian
Raftopoulos on authoritarian nationalism, Mandivamba Rukuni and Stig Jensen on
tenure reform and, lastly, Ben Cousins on the Zimbabwean crisis in the context of
Southern Africa. Virtually all the chapters engage with fast moving issues and seek
both to illustrate their complexity and to demonstrate the ways in which the Mugabe
regime has sought to simplify and polarise them. Editing collections of this nature is
often a thankless and frustrating task, but Hammar, Raftopoulos and Jensen have
created a volume which is well integrated, coherent and innovative.
The book focuses on three interlocked themes: the politics of land and resource
distribution, reconstructions of nation and citizenship, and the remaking of state and
modes of rule. The editors commendably ‘wish to open out the space in which the
crisis can be told or read so as to facilitate greater transparency and nurture critical
intellectual and political debate.’ (p.17). One early response, from Sam Moyo, was
hostile and dismissive, perhaps illustrating the theme described here of the Mugabe
regime’s ‘strategic narrowing of national identity and belonging’ and constructing
‘literal enemies out of so-called strangers and intruders’ (p.28). It seems impossible
now for the country’s organic intellectuals to debate issues in the ways they once did.
One of the bleakest comments in the book is Nelson Marongwe’s undoubtedly correct
assertion that ‘since independence in 1980, there has been no democratic participation
of communities in public land reform processes, whether in overall decision-making,
the choice of farms for acquisition, or the selection of beneficiaries.’ (p.187). Given
the obvious difficulties of research access, Marongwe’s chapter (and his other work)
on farm occupations is particularly valuable. He represents a younger generation of
scholars than most of the other, more academically established, authors represented
here, and one that is in real danger of extinction.
Unfinished Business as a whole effectively illustrates what Jocelyn Alexander calls
the ‘profound shifts in official and popular discourses over land, in the nature of social movements seeking to claim land, and in the consequences for and role of the
state.’ (p.83). Brian Raftopoulos stresses the ‘devastating rupture’ which has
developed in Zimbabwean political discourse between redistribution and rights issues
as a result of a particular articulation of ‘the land question’. (p.218). The editors are at
pains to unpick ‘the’ land question and to reveal ‘the persistence and intensification of
complex struggles over land and natural resources in a variety if contexts’ (p.20).
Their assertion that ‘there are increasingly complex layers of differentiation and
combinations of social classes with competing interests in ‘land’ per se’ (p.21) is
amply born out by the current situation in the former white-owned commercial farms,
now referred to as the new resettlement areas.
Even a relatively casual reading of the pro-regime Herald and Sunday Mirror reveals
a significant number of conflicts now raging between large and small farmers, with
the richer generally managing to evict the poorer, and between leading politicians
over land grabbing, multiple ownership and who should be the main beneficiaries of
Fast Track. There are also conflicts over control of labour and the rights (if any) of the
former farm workers; over ownership and tenure and who should pay for services
such as water, electricity and telephones; and over management of common property
resources, with reports of massive stripping of assets and environmental degradation,
including tree cutting, gold panning, the killing of wild life, the pollution of water
resources and silting up of rivers.
History will doubtless judge the success or otherwise of Mugabe’s controversial Fast
Track land reform programme. In the meantime, anyone interested in contemporary
Zimbabwe is strongly urged to read Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business.

Robin Palmer
Oxfam GB
Oxford

Review of Zimbabwe's Unfinished Business - Review Notes

Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business: Rethinking Land, this web State and Nation in the Context of Crisis, by Amanda Hammar, Brian Raftopoulos and Stig Jensen, eds., 2003. Harare: Weaver Press. Pp xi+316.  £20.95 (pbk). ISBN 0779220111.

Reviewed by Ian Phimister, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN
for Agrarian Change.


The crisis that has gripped Zimbabwe for the past four years or so has hugely intensified poverty, driven as it has been by political violence and widespread human rights abuses. With inflation surging out of control at 600 per cent p.a., real wages are now well below the low levels characteristic of the last years of colonial rule. An estimated 7.2 million people are dependent on international food aid, and some two million Zimbabweans are infected with HIV. Intertwined with this unfolding disaster is the Harare government’s ‘fast track’ land reform programme which has seen thousands of white commercial farmers and almost a million black farm workers brutally displaced. Unemployment is rife in an economy that is thought to have contracted by 30 per cent or more over the same period.

Not surprisingly, these turbulent times have attracted considerable attention. But while journalistic coverage has been extensive, it has also been uneven. This has been particularly true of Britain, the former colonial power, where the tribulations of white farmers have received a disproportionate number of column inches. Nor did the first wave of books, some academic, some rather less so, do much to redress the balance. All of them were partial, in the sense that they examined some elements of the crisis to the exclusion of others, or attributed everything that had gone wrong to corruption and megalomania on the part of Zimbabwe’s political elite. Even the growing number of excellent scholarly articles and special journal issues (not least Agrarian Change itself in 2001) have all been concerned with aspects of the current situation rather than any attempt at an overview. Only the recent special edition of African Studies Quarterly    came close to providing a comprehensive account of Zimbabwe’s descent into chaos, but that has now largely been superceded with the publication a few months ago of Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business: Rethinking Land, State and Nation in the Context of Crisis. Here at last is a study that takes due account of the historical roots of the crisis, even as it focuses on the complex interplay of developments since the watershed constitutional referendum result in February 2000 when the electorate inflicted an unprecedented defeat on the ruling ZANU-PF party.





The product initially of a conference held in Copenhagen in September 2001 under the auspices of the Centre for Development Research (now the Danish Institute for International Studies), Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business actually brings its analysis right up to July of last year in explicit recognition of the ‘simultaneous, incomplete and competing projects of transformation, legitimation and resistance currently underway’. Five of the book’s nine chapters are likely to be of special interest to readers of this journal. These range from a particularly valuable chapter on “‘Squatters’, Veterans and the State’, by Jocelyn Alexander, which nicely specifies the qualitative difference between earlier and current struggles over land; through those on farm occupations, farm workers, and land tenure, respectively by Nelson Marongwe, Blair Rutherford, and Mandivamba Rukuni and Stig Jensen; to Ben Cousins’ analysis of politics of land in the context of the Southern African region as a whole. All of them are very good and some are absolutely first-rate. To take only two examples; Rutherford’s chapter succeeds in bringing the tragedy that has enveloped farm labourers to vivid life even as he analyses their wider plight, while Rukuni and Jensen’s work examines not only the obvious disruption caused to the project of agricultural modernisation by the ‘fast-track’ programme, but also the need for land tenure reform and the restoration of trust.

Yet it would be a pity if these were the only chapters that were read. This is one of those rare collections where chapters build on one another. As individual contributors recognise, and as two of the editors explain with great subtlety in the introductory overview, the Zimbabwe crisis is by no means simply a land crisis. It is best understood as ‘a complex set of historically specific, inter-related and mutually reinforcing crises that need to be unpacked and analysed in relation to one another’.  They argue in short for the ‘analytic inseparability of questions of land, state, nation and citizenship…[in a context where]… new configurations of alliance and animosity are emerging that simultaneously disrupt old essentialisms and construct new ones’. It is in this sense that the chapters on land raise wider questions, and the chapters on broader issues inform debates on land. Notably fine essays by Amanda Hammar, and by Brian Raftopoulos exemplify this point.   For both authors, the pervasive violence of the state underpins an authoritarian nationalism whose self-serving answers to the land question are designed to reward some and punish others. ‘ZANU(PF)’s current vision of redistribution and authentic African government’, Hammar concludes, ‘is radically partisan and partial, and rests on dramatically altered and narrowing boundaries of national citizenship and belonging’.

But for all this stimulating book’s hard-headed understanding of the ruthless dynamics of struggle in the countryside and in the urban areas of present-day Zimbabwe, it displays a marked reluctance to see the Second Chimurenga, that is, the Shona term for the liberation war of the 1970s, so called after the first chimurenga / umvukela or risings against the settlers in 1896-7, in anything but the most positive light. Few contributors are prepared let go of the brave new world which the liberation war appeared to herald at the start of 1980, and some cling very tightly indeed to this founding myth. The possibility that present politics are deeply rooted in past practices is not entertained as seriously as it might be. One route to a democratic future not explored by the authors may lie in reassessing the content and trajectory of the hegemonic nationalism of the 1960s and 1970s. More than 20 years ago, Lionel Cliffe identified what he termed  ‘ a simultaneity of struggle’ in the last phase of the liberation war during which ordinary men and women advanced their own interests independently of a leadership issuing instructions from Maputo and Lusaka. Much of what was progressive and has since been lost may well be found beyond purview of mainstream nationalism. Nonetheless, when all is criticised and done, this remains by far the best book on the current crisis. Excellently produced inside Zimbabwe itself by Murray McCartney and Irene Staunton’s splendid Weaver Press, a publishing house which has done more in its short life to nurture critical debate within the sub-continent than most of its long-established rivals, Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business deserves the widest possible audience in Africa and elsewhere.

ZIMBABWE’S UNFINISHED BUSINESS: REVIEW NOTES


Iam honoured to have been invited to say a few remarks about the book being launched today by Brian Raftopoulos and his colleagues. This book entitled ‘Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business’ was actually published last year but the message it carries is as fresh as ever. I was also requested to do a review of the book for a publication. So rather than just say a few words, sildenafil I will actually share with you the review I have put together.

This important book had its origins in a conference held 2 and half years ago in Copenhagen. As most of you recall, that was at the height of the ‘Third Chimurenga’ otherwise also known as ‘’hondo yeminda’’ or more colourfully as ‘’jambanja’’! The book sets out to examine the crisis that Zimbabwe was embroiled in then, a crisis that has deepened further since. This crisis was and is about land, the economy and governance. As the book argues, it is a multi-layered crisis but not just about land or governance as some have posited. This crisis remains ‘Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business’.

This crisis is analysed in an innovative fashion in the book. It identifies three interweaving analytical themes underlying the crisis:
•    the politics surrounding the land question,
•    the ideological and restrictive reconstruction of notions of ‘nation’ and ‘citizenship’ and
•    the restructuring of the state and modes of rule.
More generally, the authors of book chapters are much concerned about a number of developments of the past 4 years:
•    the increased use of coercion and violent modes of rule,
•    the deepening of authoritarianism and
•    the narrowing of spaces and rights of citizenship.

2. THE LAND QUESTION
Of course, the entry point into analyses developed in the various chapters is the land issue. We have been reminded again and again by politicians that the liberation struggle was about land. Few would disagree but the struggle was also about basic freedoms, eg. political freedoms and human rights. It was not just about land, and hence the argument that gives priority to redistribution over these rights is mistaken. 

Even so, there is little need to remind you that the ‘fast track’ land reform was a chaotic process:
•    with loss of life or limb by farm workers and farmers,
•    use of land as an election campaign tool in 2000 and 2002,
•    eviction of about 90 per cent of white commercial farmers from their land,
•    the expropriation of 11 million ha of for allocation to 127 000 small farmer households under A1 model (well below the 300 000 figure bandied about for 2 years); and allocation to 7 200 black emergent farmers, a far cry from the 54 000 originally expected. Even then, some 4 million ha or so still has not fully been redistributed or utilised, according to the Utete Report.
•    loss of jobs and livelihoods by up to 200 000 farm workers and the 1 million or so of their dependents
•    widely publicized land ‘grabbing’ by the ruling elite resulting in ownership of multiple ownership, and about which little has been done about and
•    a significant decline in agriculture resulting in a food deficit affecting 7, 5 million or over 60 per cent of the national population.

3. INTEGRATING THE THREE GREAT QUESTIONS

But this book is not just about the land crisis. It relates the land question to two other major questions: the ‘social question’ (a question about labour, employment, livelihoods and poverty issues), and the political or ‘national question’ (about rights such as citizenship, about democracy and nationalism). 
•    some of the chapters chronicle how local government structures in rural areas were reshaped by the new role of war veterans, the party youth and local Zanu-PF structures. And how judicial structures were disrupted and the rule of law selectively applied or undermined in the process.
•    the social question in the form of high unemployment partly explains why the youth and other elements participated in land occupations, and in violent electioneering. The social question is also about the fact the economy has little capacity to absorb the jobless, and to fund and sustain good education and health services. The ‘Third Chimurenga’ was partly aimed at diverting attention from this looming social crisis, a crisis that refuses to go away even after land redistribution. As some analysts often say: ‘’it is the economy stupid’’.
•    the national question in the various chapters of the book is assessed in relation to issues of citizenship, human rights, nationalism and democracy. There has been a significant narrowing of space for citizenship rights and for democracy. This is more so since POSA and AIPPA came into force two years ago. Nationalism has become authoritarian and exclusive. Thus some citizens are worthy more than others; some ‘belong’ to the nation, while others do not. For instance, political violence is a blunt instrument used against the opposition and civic activists who are not recognized as full citizens but either as ‘’enemies’’ or ‘’sell-outs’’. This type of nationalism is not inclusive, but discriminatory and thus exclusive. In the 1970s, I remember that there used to be talk of reaching a necessary ’national democratic’ stage or revolution in our development. That has all been forgotten even by those who espoused it.    

4. TWO CONTENDING PERSPECTIVES ON THE THREE QUESTIONS

This book is rich in detail about the various dimensions of the three questions: the land, social and national questions. The book chapters allude to, and engage two perspectives , perspectives that reflect a wider national division of opinion on how to interpret and address the questions. For want of a more precise term, we may generally summarize them as:    
•    first, a narrowly nationalistic perspective that is exclusive , if not chauvinistic, and one not above using the race issue in politics. A perspective that castigates those ‘’without totems’’ or ‘’mitupo’’, and seeks to ‘’instill fear into minorities and the opposition so that they tremble’’. A perspective that gives priority to redistribution over basic human and political rights; one based on the notion that ‘’ the end justifies the means’’; that says you cannot make omelet without breaking eggs; which is to say there can be no big change in society without some level of disruption and violence. In short, a perspective that belittles democracy, and derides basic rights as empty liberal concepts. Finally, a position that broadly supports how land reform has been implemented, and how politics is organized under the present government.

•    secondly, there is the perspective that combines a broad nationalist outlook with an uncompromising commitment to basic rights and freedoms, and democracy. One that sees no dichotomy between historical redress, redistribution and democratic rights. A perspective that is more inclusive, tolerant of pluralism, and shuns the use of the race card in politics. One that is consistent in its criticism of intimidation and violence as political tools; and one that is as much concerned with ‘’the means as with the ends’’, as much with the process as outcomes. A perspective that remains critical of how land reform was conducted, and of how the social and national questions are being handled. 

•    These two perspectives broadly distinguish two ‘intellectual’ schools or tendencies that have emerged in the country over the past 5 years or so. One ‘school’ or tendency that is largely consists of state-aligned intellectuals, and includes spin doctors (or spin advisers) and peddlers of ‘’a narrowly defined patriotism’’. And the other tendency that consists of intellectuals aligned to civil society and movements seeking change. Thus while one tendency argues for the status quo, the other presses for democratic space and change.    

At some point, these two schools of thought will need to engage each other in debate. Indeed, in a wider sense, these two perspectives and schools are also part of the ‘’Unfinished Business’’, are part of a still ‘’un-resolved debate’’ on the land question, on the social question and on the national question.

In conclusion, we are grateful to the editors and authors of this book for opening up this debate, and thus providing space for different ideas to contend with each other. It is a fine contribution made in a democratic spirit. The challenge of debate should be seriously taken up. It is our ‘’Unfinished Business’’ as well, whether we are simply nationalists or democrats, or better still, democratic nationalists !

Review of Zimbabwe's Unfinished Business - Ian Phimister

Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business: Rethinking Land, this web State and Nation in the Context of Crisis, by Amanda Hammar, Brian Raftopoulos and Stig Jensen, eds., 2003. Harare: Weaver Press. Pp xi+316.  £20.95 (pbk). ISBN 0779220111.

Reviewed by Ian Phimister, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN
for Agrarian Change.


The crisis that has gripped Zimbabwe for the past four years or so has hugely intensified poverty, driven as it has been by political violence and widespread human rights abuses. With inflation surging out of control at 600 per cent p.a., real wages are now well below the low levels characteristic of the last years of colonial rule. An estimated 7.2 million people are dependent on international food aid, and some two million Zimbabweans are infected with HIV. Intertwined with this unfolding disaster is the Harare government’s ‘fast track’ land reform programme which has seen thousands of white commercial farmers and almost a million black farm workers brutally displaced. Unemployment is rife in an economy that is thought to have contracted by 30 per cent or more over the same period.

Not surprisingly, these turbulent times have attracted considerable attention. But while journalistic coverage has been extensive, it has also been uneven. This has been particularly true of Britain, the former colonial power, where the tribulations of white farmers have received a disproportionate number of column inches. Nor did the first wave of books, some academic, some rather less so, do much to redress the balance. All of them were partial, in the sense that they examined some elements of the crisis to the exclusion of others, or attributed everything that had gone wrong to corruption and megalomania on the part of Zimbabwe’s political elite. Even the growing number of excellent scholarly articles and special journal issues (not least Agrarian Change itself in 2001) have all been concerned with aspects of the current situation rather than any attempt at an overview. Only the recent special edition of African Studies Quarterly    came close to providing a comprehensive account of Zimbabwe’s descent into chaos, but that has now largely been superceded with the publication a few months ago of Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business: Rethinking Land, State and Nation in the Context of Crisis. Here at last is a study that takes due account of the historical roots of the crisis, even as it focuses on the complex interplay of developments since the watershed constitutional referendum result in February 2000 when the electorate inflicted an unprecedented defeat on the ruling ZANU-PF party.





The product initially of a conference held in Copenhagen in September 2001 under the auspices of the Centre for Development Research (now the Danish Institute for International Studies), Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business actually brings its analysis right up to July of last year in explicit recognition of the ‘simultaneous, incomplete and competing projects of transformation, legitimation and resistance currently underway’. Five of the book’s nine chapters are likely to be of special interest to readers of this journal. These range from a particularly valuable chapter on “‘Squatters’, Veterans and the State’, by Jocelyn Alexander, which nicely specifies the qualitative difference between earlier and current struggles over land; through those on farm occupations, farm workers, and land tenure, respectively by Nelson Marongwe, Blair Rutherford, and Mandivamba Rukuni and Stig Jensen; to Ben Cousins’ analysis of politics of land in the context of the Southern African region as a whole. All of them are very good and some are absolutely first-rate. To take only two examples; Rutherford’s chapter succeeds in bringing the tragedy that has enveloped farm labourers to vivid life even as he analyses their wider plight, while Rukuni and Jensen’s work examines not only the obvious disruption caused to the project of agricultural modernisation by the ‘fast-track’ programme, but also the need for land tenure reform and the restoration of trust.

Yet it would be a pity if these were the only chapters that were read. This is one of those rare collections where chapters build on one another. As individual contributors recognise, and as two of the editors explain with great subtlety in the introductory overview, the Zimbabwe crisis is by no means simply a land crisis. It is best understood as ‘a complex set of historically specific, inter-related and mutually reinforcing crises that need to be unpacked and analysed in relation to one another’.  They argue in short for the ‘analytic inseparability of questions of land, state, nation and citizenship…[in a context where]… new configurations of alliance and animosity are emerging that simultaneously disrupt old essentialisms and construct new ones’. It is in this sense that the chapters on land raise wider questions, and the chapters on broader issues inform debates on land. Notably fine essays by Amanda Hammar, and by Brian Raftopoulos exemplify this point.   For both authors, the pervasive violence of the state underpins an authoritarian nationalism whose self-serving answers to the land question are designed to reward some and punish others. ‘ZANU(PF)’s current vision of redistribution and authentic African government’, Hammar concludes, ‘is radically partisan and partial, and rests on dramatically altered and narrowing boundaries of national citizenship and belonging’.

But for all this stimulating book’s hard-headed understanding of the ruthless dynamics of struggle in the countryside and in the urban areas of present-day Zimbabwe, it displays a marked reluctance to see the Second Chimurenga, that is, the Shona term for the liberation war of the 1970s, so called after the first chimurenga / umvukela or risings against the settlers in 1896-7, in anything but the most positive light. Few contributors are prepared let go of the brave new world which the liberation war appeared to herald at the start of 1980, and some cling very tightly indeed to this founding myth. The possibility that present politics are deeply rooted in past practices is not entertained as seriously as it might be. One route to a democratic future not explored by the authors may lie in reassessing the content and trajectory of the hegemonic nationalism of the 1960s and 1970s. More than 20 years ago, Lionel Cliffe identified what he termed  ‘ a simultaneity of struggle’ in the last phase of the liberation war during which ordinary men and women advanced their own interests independently of a leadership issuing instructions from Maputo and Lusaka. Much of what was progressive and has since been lost may well be found beyond purview of mainstream nationalism. Nonetheless, when all is criticised and done, this remains by far the best book on the current crisis. Excellently produced inside Zimbabwe itself by Murray McCartney and Irene Staunton’s splendid Weaver Press, a publishing house which has done more in its short life to nurture critical debate within the sub-continent than most of its long-established rivals, Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business deserves the widest possible audience in Africa and elsewhere.

Review of Zimbabwe's Unfinished Business - Dr James Muzondidya

Review - Amanda Hammar, find Brian Raftopoulos & Stig Jensen, what is ed eds., no rx Zimbabwe’s Unfinished Business: Rethinking Land, State and Nation in the Context of Crisis (Weaver Press, Harare, 2003) 316 pages.

by  Dr James Muzondidya
Reviewed for the Sunday Independent in South Africa on Sunday, 16th May


The ‘Zimbabwe Crisis’ has become the subject of intense debate both inside and outside Zimbabwe, and explanations for its origins, forms and outcomes have been many and varied.  What is, however, disappointing is that despite their multiplicity, these explanations have done little to improve our understanding of the complexity of the problems confronting the country.  The main problem being that many of these explanations have not only been parochial and partisan but also imagined; seeking to interpret the present problems out of history and context.

Moving away from the tradition of narrow and partisan explanations which currently abound on the topic, this study, bringing together expertise from various scholars, policy analysts, development practitioners and activists who have all researched and written on Zimbabwe for years, analytically examines the crisis through its complexities and contradictions while also trying to suggest solutions to it.  This book’s central thesis is that the current “crisis is multi-layered, and is rooted in the complex relationship between contestations over land, processes of rule and state making, and constructions of nation and citizenship.”  It consists of nine chapters which all address three interwoven themes in Zimbabwe’s current history: the question of justice and equity- land and resource ownership and redistribution; the restructuring and reconfiguration of the state; and nationhood and citizenship in the postcolonial state.

The opening chapter by the two editors of the book, Amanda Hammar and Brian Raftopoulos, introduces the main themes addressed by the study as a whole and lays out the leading arguments of each chapter.  The second chapter by Eric Worby focuses on the current regime’s obsession with the twin questions of sovereignty and regime security which has not only led to the sidelining of many other important issues of national development but has also resulted in the exclusion of other groups from their citizenship rights.  As Worby shows, President Mugabe has successfully used the question of national sovereignty to legitimise his authoritarian, unaccountable and often violent exercise of power.  Yet, this sovereignty, Worby further informs us, is not much about the threat posed by “racially grounded imperialism in the guise of Western, neo-liberal orthodoxy.”  It is more about regime security and control of power and its exercise by a much weakened and beleaguered state.

Jocelyn Alexander’s third chapter examines the changing relationships between contestations over land and land use, processes of state-making, definitions of nationalism and constructions of citizenship throughout the post-independence period.  She specifically compares and contrasts the current phase of violent and forceful land occupation begun in 2000 with the earlier occupations of the 1980s and 1990s.  Apart from observing that the earlier and current phases of land occupation differed, Alexander notes that there have been profound shifts in official and public discourses over land and land occupations, in the nature and scope of social movements seeking to claim land and the role of the state in the management of land occupation.  The changes, as she further argues, denote the “critical shifts in the stakes, terms and alliances marking Zimbabwe’s unfolding politics of land.”

Focusing on local government and its continued violent disruption by supporters of ZANU PF who include war veterans, youth militia, party politicians and some government bureaucrats, the fourth chapter of the book by Amanda Hammar is yet again another rich contribution to the debate about the current crisis.  Noting that the sphere of local government has long been characterised by contradictions, conflicts and contestations, Hammar argues that the scale, terms and intensity of the present disruptions aimed at asserting both the state and ruling party’s control over resources and populations is unprecedented and has radically altered the formal practices of both politics and government.  Reflecting on consequences of the ongoing crisis and disorder Hammar argues that it has produced specific forms of governance in which the use of irregular and unregulated power by certain groups has come to be regarded as normal and the system of local government itself has been reconfigured in terms of the structures of power and the modalities of its exercise.

Blair Rutherford’s and Brian Raftopoulos both focus on the issue of nationhood and citizenship and the shape it has taken in Zimbabwe’s current crisis.  Rutherford’s chapter, focusing on farm workers, shows how this group, comprising mainly Malawian, Zambian and Mozambican immigrants and their descendants, has been marginalized in the dominant politics of belonging and citizenship in the postcolonial state.  He argues that the moral consciousness and political behaviour as well as civic and legal rights of farm workers and their descendants has always been defined through a process of historical imagination which anchored their identity in their location on the farms and their presumed relationship with white farmers.  In terms of belonging, since independence farm workers have not easily fit into the postcolonial nation and as such have been largely excluded from the national project of development and its associated institutional arrangement.  This has had devastating consequences for farm workers in the context of the present crisis, during which they have been, in large numbers and often violently, displaced by and excluded from the land resettlement process.  Rutherford argues for a different kind of imagination of farm workers and discourse of citizenship and nationality which allows for their full incorporation into the postcolonial nation state and increases their access to jobs, education, land and other resources.

Brian Raftopoulos’ chapter, on the other hand, focuses on the ways in which the ruling ZANU PF government has sought to define nationhood and citizenship in the current crisis.  He argues that the party has resorted to an increasingly authoritarian nationalism and selective interpretation of the past to define nationhood in a way that not only shuts down the space for alternative perspectives, but also marginalises other groups.  In this grand ZANU PF strategy aimed at re-asserting the party’s political dominance, nationalism has been redefined from the top down and all those with alternative views and not subscribing to government political discourse have been subjected to violence and oppression.   Raftopoulos’ chapter also suggests that a central part of this process and politics has been a growing exclusivity around the concept of citizenship, reformulated not only around essentialised categories of race and ethnicity but also through the ruling party’s increasing attacks on foreign residents and their descendants, mainly farm workers.  This strategy, formulated against the backdrop of mounting pressure from impoverished workers and peasants, protesting students and a disgruntled bourgeoisie, has also been adopted at a time when there is a serious breakdown of national consensus on the discourse and politics of the liberation struggle, the discourse of political rights on the one hand and economic redistribution on the other.

The seventh chapter by Nelson Marongwe, focusing on conflicts over land and natural resources across state lands, communal and resettlement areas, and large-scale commercial farms, provides a solid analysis of the land occupations that illustrates their historical, social, political and economic contexts.  It bases its analysis on fieldwork conducted on the post-February 2000 land occupations of white commercial farms.  The chapter highlights important dimension to the occupations, including the motives of the occupiers, the influence of outside interests, forms of mobilisation and types and scales of occupations.  Of particular interest in this chapter is its analysis of the complexity of the occupations, especially with regard to the respective roles and influences of the war veterans, the ruling party and local factors in the occupations.  Marongwe’s analysis in this section presents a complex picture of the occupations which shows that although the state encouraged and supported the occupations for its own political project the process had its own internal dynamics over which both the state and war veterans sometimes had no control.

Mandivamba Rukuni and Stig Jensen’s chapter addresses the long term effects of the land occupations and the ‘fast-track’ resettlement programme and tries to suggest measures needed to redress the current problems.  They argue that the current “fast-track” has not only been chaotic but also destructive to the economy and that a successful land reform programme is dependent on establishing political stability, a sound economic base, relations of trust and sufficient institutional capacity to undertake the reforms.  Contending that tenure security, in terms of individual and group rights to land, is the very basis of political and social power, the chapter also suggests fundamental changes in land tenure needed to guide the process of land reform.

The final chapter of the book, by Ben Cousins, examines the significance and effects of Zimbabwe’s crisis in the broader context of post-colonial reform and social transformation in the region.  The central thesis of the chapter is that the post-liberation governments of Southern have dismally failed to address the structural, social and political legacies colonial and apartheid rule, especially when it comes to introducing meaningful social transformation and addressing the imbalances in the distribution and ownership of land, a deeply contested economic and political resource in the region.  Drawing on the experiences of both land reform and democratisation in the region, he argues that the process has been stalled largely because of the shortcomings in the current approaches and the polarisation of positions on the subject.  This polarisation has seen, on the one hand, the emphasising of the “protection of private property under the rubric of good governance and effective neo-liberal economic management”, and on the other, the invocation of identity politics and authoritarian nationalism to call for radical land redistribution, but often masking corrupt and exclusionary practices.  Neither of these polarised positions, Cousins further argues, has the capacity to provide solutions to the current crisis in “developmental democracy” facing the region, thus making the search for alternative approaches focusing on reducing poverty and undermining the foundations of structural inequality while simultaneously deepening democracy imperative.

This is a well researched and excellently written book which I have read that provides a nuanced and balanced analysis on the contemporary crisis in Zimbabwe.  Unlike most texts on the crisis which are mainly informed by, and also reflect, the deep polarisation that exists in the country today, this book neither reproduces the narrowly nationalist rhetoric of Zanu PF nor adopts uncritically the liberalist counter-position.  It rather provides some provocative insights on the major issues and forces at play and argues for the analytic inseparability of questions of land, state, nation and citizenship.  This book is a good recommendation to anyone interested in understanding the complexities of the Zimbabwe crisis.

Review of Zimbabwe's Unfinished Business - African Sociological Review

African Sociological Review (forthcoming)



Zimbabwe‚s Unfinished Business- Rethinking Land, this State and Nation in the Context of Crisis, Amanda Hammar, Brian Raftopoulos and Stig Jensen (editors), Weaver Press, Harare, 2003



Kirk Helliker

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




Zimbabwe‚s Unfinished Business is an excellent collection of topical papers delivered at a conference in Copenhagen in September 2001 that focus on Œrethinking land, state and citizenship through the Zimbabwean crisis‚. Individual chapters deal with matters such as Œsquatters‚, war veterans and the state; farm workers, farmers and citizenship; tenure reform and governance; and the making and unmaking of local government. Like all collections of diverse though related topics, there is a certain incoherence and unevenness about the volume.  For instance, a couple of papers are largely descriptive while others are more theoretical if not over-theorised.  Yet, tracking, recording and describing events are not easy tasks for researchers in Zimbabwe today, particularly when it comes to land issues, and Marongwe‚s work for instance on the recent farm Œoccupations‚ (chapter 5) is commendable in this regard.  On the other hand, the more theoretical chapters by for example Worby (chapter 2) on modernity, citizenship and sovereignty clearly strive to be at the cutting edge of analytical thinking on issues pertinent to social and political theory. In themselves, then, each chapter has something to offer the reader interested in trying to come to terms with the complexities of modern-day Zimbabwe. The concluding chapter (chapter 9) by Cousins though at first sight seems an odd addition as it focuses more generally on Southern Africa and particularly on South Africa.  But for many it may be the most enlightening as it deals directly with agrarian and land questions in the context of prospects for development and democracy in the sub-region, and it thus challenges us to think and act regionally.  It is left up to Hammar and Raftopoulos, in a stimulating introductory chapter (chapter 1), to explore the terrain and trajectories of the current social crisis and thereby to set the thematic tones for the eight thought-provoking chapters that follow.



Hammar and Raftopoulos identify and analyse what they see as the dominant political discourses in Zimbabwe today, specifically an increasingly exclusive authoritarian nationalism propagated by the ruling party and state, and the more neo-liberal discourse that emanates from within opposition forces, notably the Movement for Democratic Change and a range of civil society groupings. This discursive division is in part „ founded on competing narratives of Zimbabwe‚s national liberation history‰. (p.17)  In fact, it would appear that the notion of the national democratic revolution has now been torn asunder in post-independence Zimbabwe, with the former discourse focusing on questions of self-determination and sovereignty and the latter discourse emphasising democratic and human rights. Intriguingly, though, Rutherford in his chapter (chapter 6) on farmers and farm workers shows that underpinning both discourses is the same tradition „summarised by the phrase Œbelonging to the farm(er)‚‰.  More specifically, the „moral consciousness, political predispositions, and civil and legal rights‰ of farm workers have been defined „through their location on the farm and presumed relationship with the white farmer‰. (p. 192)  Therefore, and more generally speaking, it is pertinent to ask whether these two discourses are somehow variants of a common theme;  do they perhaps reflect a struggle for political hegemony within a Œpower bloc‚ in Zimbabwe?  Regrettably, the volume does not pursue this line of thought.  Rather, the main focus throughout the book is on the hegemonic discourse of the ruling party and its varying political strategies, and contributions by Alexander (chapter 3) and Hammar (chapter 4) in particular ably show how this discourse in the context of contemporary land dynamics is embedded in processes of restructuring and even informalising of the state, notably local government, as well as redefining and narrowing the parameters of citizenship and the nation.



Both discourses are said to articulate incomplete conceptions of the current crisis; the nationalist discourse speaks of Œa land crisis‚ and the liberal discourse refers to Œa governance crisis‚.  Hammar and Raftopoulos claim that „[b]y any measure, Zimbabwe is in crisis‰ (p.3, their emphasis) and they go on to explore the shifting politics and practices of this multi-layered crisis in terms of land, nation and citizenship, and the state.  In a separate chapter (chapter 7), Raftopoulos examines the historical emergence of this crisis post-independence, and the other writers to varying degrees highlight their specific concerns with constant reference to Œthe‚ or Œa‚ crisis or crises.  In fact, it is now common currency for analysts to speak about a crisis in contemporary Zimbabwe.  Yet claiming, as Hammar and Raftopoulos do, that the current crisis entails „an interruption in the reproduction‰ (p.3) of economic, social and political life seems to be a weak and inadequate formulation that requires to be fleshed out if their general arguments are to be more convincing.  Theorists like Moore (elsewhere) are even dabbling with the notion of an Œorganic‚ crisis in Zimbabwe, using this Gramscian notion much like for instance Saul and Gelb did, and perhaps more aptly, in reference to South Africa in the years preceding the end of apartheid. (1) Analytically, the problem is the claim that by any measure Zimbabwe is in crisis.  The term Œcrisis‚ has become so devoid of meaning that its analytical power has been severely weakened.



The volume clearly sees the crisis as not simply conjunctural but more long-term and structural.  It is a regime crisis, or at least the crisis in its various manifestations is largely conceptualised from the perspective of the political regime ˆ state and party sometimes conflated  - and its prospects for Œreproduction‚.  But what remains largely unclear or mainly implicit is the theoretical discourse of the contributors and how they, broadly speaking, conceptualise the wider social system that constitutes modern-day Zimbabwe.  Despite the seeming distaste by the contributors for the two main discourses, there is for instance an aversion to class analysis.  At times, reference is made to bureaucratic, administrative and business elites. (p. 227, footnote)  Also, Cousins stresses the importance of the „politics of identity‰ and then refers specifically to race, ethnicity and nationality: „Social identity underpins and frames claims to citizenship, land and developmental resources, and often provides greater potential for political mobilisation ?than does class‰. (p. 266-67)  Presently, this is undoubtedly true.  But there are two concerns.  First of all, certain forms of social identity such as gender are often marginalised on agrarian questions and may not dominate political discourses or political mobilisation.  Are these forms to be ignored or deemed less important because of this?  There is a deafening but not complete silence in this volume about land and gender.  Secondly, class relations may not be dominant but they may still be determinant if only in an Althusserian Œlast instance‚ sense, as Cousins himself acknowledges when it comes to explaining persistent rural poverty in the region. The political alternative - to the prevailing discourses - that is at times raised in this volume is a popular or radical democracy (pp. 40, 300), although at least one of the contributions, by Rukuni and Jensen (chapter 8), falls within a more liberal democratic discourse. This kind of post-modernist politics is no doubt informed by a theoretical discourse that fails to tackle class issues in a more forceful manner.



Finally, the title of the book, „unfinished business‰, refers to the various ongoing and incomplete political „projects‰ or strategies initiated particularly by the ruling party, and these include land reform, moulding of the nation and citizenship, and state-making.  Interestingly, the ruling party itself claims that the current land redistribution exercise marks the unfinished business of the national democratic revolution.  However, this business in the form of the Third Chimurenga is now said by the ruling party to be complete; the only thing left is mopping up operations so to speak.  This notion of the Œend of history‚ (the Third and presumably Final Chimurenga) is a stance that this volume would clearly dispute (p. 30, footnote).  The various contributions stress and show, in the specific context of land and agrarian issues in contemporary Zimbabwe, how the state, the nation and citizenship are not static and a-historical entities but are constantly changing, adapting and under formation.  They are ongoing processes that are never Œfinished‚.  This point alone, but many more besides it, makes this volume indispensable reading for those interested in social and political theory.