New Review: Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities

Shifting the debate on land reform, poverty and inequality in Zimbabwe,
an engagement with Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities1


Blair Rutherford*
Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Canada


Zimbabwe’s land reform: myths and realities2 purports to overturn the western media and academy’s ‘myths’ of agrarian failure and cronyism in Zimbabwe’s fast-track land reform with a study rooted in the ‘reality’ of its outcomes in the Masvingo area. Yet the positivist picture painted by Scoones, Marongwe, Mavedzenge, Mahenehene, Murimbarimba, and Sukume is another position in portrayals of a complex process entangling many local material struggles including those seen as successful examples of the yeomanry admired by the authors with the equally important processes of authoritarian nationalism they side-line. ‘Myth making’ is not counter to ‘reality’, but positions particular claims within it. By concentrating on the ‘local’ and celebrating what they see as nontechnocratic successes, the authors ignore the context and politics of the state which they later invoke to develop adequate supportive policy and stability for the new farmers. Their reality ignores as much as the myths they try to challenge, and
thus fails to assist to develop the policies they would like.

Keywords: land reform; rural transformation; agrarian policy; Zimbabwe;
nationalism; developmental state

Since 2010, there has been a significant shift in the academic terrain concerning the
characterisation of the wide-scale transfer of land that has occurred in Zimbabwe
since 2000. Aside from the work of Sam Moyo and his co-authors which has been
generally supportive of what they call the ‘fast track land reform’ of the last 11 years
(e.g., Moyo 2001, Moyo 2011; Moyo and Yeros 2005a, b), until the last year or so
most academic analysts have been very critical of the process of this massive land
redistribution. The shift is that some of those who had condemned the identified and
widely reported violence, the chaos, the corruption and the economic disruptions
caused by the forcible transfer of land from many large-scale commercial farmers,
who were almost exclusively white, to black farmers have become less critical. They
have begun focusing instead on the more positive outcomes for the new farmers on
the transferred land (compare, e.g., Cousins 2006 and Cousins 2010). The work that
has been pivotal in this shift is the recently published book Zimbabwe’s Land Reform:
Myths and Realities written by Scoones et al. (2010).
Whereas Moyo’s work has often been challenged by many academics on the
grounds that it has been appraised, rightly or wrongly, as too sympathetic to the
ZANU (PF) regime, Scoones et al. (2010) has been much more positively received.
For instance, the following academics praise this book in its inside and outside
covers, reading like a list of a ‘who’s who’ of the leading scholars of the politics of
*Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Journal of Contemporary African Studies
Vol. 30, No. 1, January 2012, 147_157
ISSN 0258-9001 print/ISSN 1469-9397 online

# 2012 The Institute of Social and Economic Research
Downloaded by [] at 07:11 10 July 2012
land in Zimbabwe (and in Africa) over the last four decades: Bill Kinsey, Robin
Palmer, Sam Moyo, Henry Bernstein, Mandivamba Rukuni, Pauline Peters, Jocelyn
Alexander, JoAnn McGregor, Ben Cousins, Admos Chimhowu, Amanda Hammar,
and Joost Fontein, amongst others. Other than Moyo, none of these scholars have
been challenged in academic debate to the best of my knowledge as supporters of the
ZANU (PF) government and indeed a number of them have strongly challenged
some of the work by Moyo and his co-authors. Of course, these blurbs of praise for
the book do not indicate complete acceptance of its arguments and analysis. They
do, however, show that Zimbabwe’s Land Reform needs to be taken as a book that if
not building bridges between different scholars of rural Zimbabwe in the last 11
years is at the very least a defining part of a moment in which a rethinking of
analyses and interventions is occurring.
While some have used this book to laud the ZANU (PF) government actions and
to attack its critics (e.g., Freeman 2010), I am more interested in other positionings of
this book as a way to better critically assess its arguments and evidence. In so doing, I
seek to contribute to the ongoing re-assessment of the land redistribution and
conflicts in Zimbabwe.
Positionings is my touchstone in this paper. I use it loosely to explore some of the
discursive, material, and political practices through which this book engages with its
topic_how it positions its argument, its evidence, and its own intellectual, if not
political, project. This term allows me to try to tease out some of its insights, its
receptions, and its blind-spots.
Let me begin by briefly noting my own positioning in this scholarship. My own
research on Zimbabwean farm workers began in 1992 and included periods of field
research in 2000, 2002, and 2003, before I was forced by the politics in the
countryside to cross the Limpopo River and refocus my research on the growing
number of Zimbabweans working on the farms in northern South Africa. In my
writings concerning the changing situation of farm workers in the violent land
redistribution exercises in Zimbabwe, I have aimed, perhaps not always successfully,
to show the complicated politics shaping how they have been positioned and have
been positioning themselves in the changing agrarian landscape. I have sought to
attend to some of the ‘entanglements’ (Moore 2005) of wider national-scale actions
with more localised manoeuvres and conditions in particular farming areas through
a historically situated ethnographic analysis (Rutherford 2001, 2004, 2008, Rutherford
I find Zimbabwe’s Land Reform to be extremely rich in detail, insight and analysis
into some of the complicated social landscapes of the agrarian relations emerging in
Masvingo, south-eastern Zimbabwe. I am not surprised that it is making a significant
contribution to the academic analyses of rural Zimbabwe and likely will have
resonance in various policy-making and implementation practices of governmental,
donor and non-governmental actors. However, I will not dwell on, or profile, the
many strengths of this strong book. Instead, I want to concentrate on other elements
of the book which I find to be problematic and needing greater scrutiny and

As the subtitle of Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities suggests,
Scoones et al. (2010) seek to marshal scholarly evidence to challenge what they call
the dominant ‘myths’ concerning Zimbabwe’s land reform since 2000 found in the
media and made by other commentators. Drawing on field data from Masvingo
148 B. Rutherford
Downloaded by [] at 07:11 10 July 2012
province, they aim to undermine the following five claims, which they deem to be

Myth 1: Zimbabwean land reform has been a total failure
Myth 2: The beneficiaries of Zimbabwean land reform have been largely political
Myth 3: There is no investment in the new resettlements
Myth 4: Agriculture is in complete ruins, creating chronic food insecurity
Myth 5: The rural economy has collapsed (2010, 8).

Noting that knowledge is always ‘socially and politically constructed’ and that
‘personal, institutional and political location’ of this construction ‘matters’, they
analyse ‘the creation of myths and their portrayal through policy narratives’ as ‘an
important first step in unpacking the complexity of Zimbabwe’s land reform story’
(2010, 7). Against such ‘biased lenses’ (2010, 8), the ontological anchor for their
work is what they call ‘empirical realities’, which entails their focus being more on the
consequences of the ‘land reform’ than the disputed social and political practices that
have been involved in it. As Scoones succinctly told a BBC reporter challenging their
book in a television interview in 2011, ‘We are looking at outcomes not processes’
(Royal African Society n.d.).
A discourse analysis, sensitive to what is often called post structural critique,
could of course show the sleight of hand at work, the professed attention to the
constructed-ness and the policy narratives of such ‘myths’ while somehow the
knowledge produced by Scoones et al. (2010) escape such located-ness. By
positioning their argument as an eschewal of allegiance to a singular theoretical
perspective (without reflecting or perhaps purposively downplaying their own
positionings), and adopting instead an ‘empirical stance’ (2010, 14), they seek to
locate their analysis outside a social and political construction of knowledge. In their
writing, their ‘empirical stance’ permits allegiance to ‘facts’ and the dismissal of
many other critical engagements with the agrarian politics as ‘myth’.
However, for me, rather than trying to simply deconstruct this constitutive other,
this disavowal of their own ‘policy narrative’_one that can be described as that of a
positivistic policy science given their proclaimed allegiance to empirical realities
against what they call bias_I seek to understand what this discursive positioning
enables, what it occludes, and what it limits in this otherwise very strong book.
What their discursive and analytical strategy enables is the very refined focus on
many of the material practices found in what now are the new resettlement areas. In
their words, they ‘focus on ground-level, field realities. Our aim is to chart a way
forward, and not dwell excessively on the interpretations of past events’. By
eschewing the ‘intense debates that have surrounded Zimbabwe’s land reform’ which
they dismissively reduce as ‘myths’, they argue their ‘book is intended as a modest
contributions to the rebuilding of Zimbabwe. Through solid evidence from the field,
we hope to illuminate some fairly basic questions: who got the land, what did people
do with it, and what are the implications for broader development options?’ (2010,
31). I suggest this modest aim, this explicit disavowal of the debates and the processes
Journal of Contemporary African Studies 149 of land reform, and the focus instead on ‘hard realities’ is both the strength and
ultimately their weakness when they start laying out the implications for ‘development
This book provides an incredible wealth of detail of the diverse economic
practices emerging from and intersecting with the social relations and environmental
conditions shaping the agrarian dynamics in Masvingo while attending to the
uncertain and disputed authority relations seeking to govern diverse farming areas.
For me, the exemplary strength of this book is that it shows in a refined analysis the
particular socio-political and class positionings of individuals and households and
some of the shifts over the last 10 years in their 13 case study sites across different
ecological and socio-geographical zones in Masvingo Province. They clearly show
that since 2000 rural Masvingo has experienced a range of economic activities where
new commodity chains have been forged and livelihood strategies expanded, yet with
class inequalities continuing.
Moreover, they argue that ‘accumulation from below’ is occurring in the new
resettlement areas, as a more extensive range of agricultural activities, including
significant investments, have been happening on what had largely been large-scale
white-owned cattle farms in Masvingo. They note this type of ‘green revolution’ is
‘one based on skill, effort and hard labour, and the benefits of new land’ rather than
driven by technocratic planning and significant donor or private sector investment in
agricultural intensification (2010, 124).
They thus position the reader in a wealth of information, of quantitative evidence
generated through surveys and summarised cases emerging through interviews. In
the pages of this book, one finds: investments in cattle, ox ploughs and other means
of production, trees planted, access to water, trends to draught power strategies,
fertiliser purchase, crop production figures, percentage sold, herd composition of
cattle, labour hiring, labour dynamics, schematics of commodity chains for key crops
and livestock, non-farm income, remittances, household migration patterns, to name
but a few. Through innumerable tables and their thoughtful analysis of the
information, Scoones et al. (2010) positions the reader into the fluid, material
terrain of the resettlement schemes. They show economic differentiation, impoverishment,
and productivity gains. They also attend to differentiated gains by women
in the new resettlement areas, potentially enabled by the contested authority relations
in these spaces that allow more women to acquire access to land compared to those
in the Communal Lands. By prioritising all this evidence, the book opens new vistas
into the differentiated lives of these new resettlement households.
By locating their analysis in the materiality of farming and showing the gains in
terms of access to the means of production and increased productivity for many of
the new resettlement farmers surveyed, the book achieves its goal of disputing
dominant ‘doomsday’ portrayals of rural Zimbabwe in the last 11 years_their ‘five
myths’_while providing many scholars and practitioners with new information and
much new insight into rural Zimbabwe. For example, against MYTH 1 (re: ‘land
reform has been a total failure), they show that there has been an incredible
redistribution of land on the national scale (145,000 A1 farms and 16,000
commercial A2 farms established in Zimbabwe),3 with about half of the 177 sampled
households in their research being on an ‘upward trajectory.’ There is economic
differentiation based in part on pre-existing access to assets, labour and capital
(2010, 125), with 35% of their sample households accumulating through agriculture
150 B. Rutherford (with only 1.4% doing so through patronage connections) and a further 21.4%
accumulating through combining farming with non-farm livelihood strategies (2010,
227). In contrast, 34% of the households are barely able to make ends meet and 10%
left the farms for various reasons.
Rather than viewing rural Zimbabwe as a site of chaos and economic stagnation,
their book provides a sense of dynamism. As they argue, ‘There are problems, for
sure, but there has been an unleashing of innovation, diversity and entrepreneurship,
with new market connections and governance arrangements being forged’ (2010,
164). In contrast to the conventional tale of complete ruination of rural Zimbabwe
common in many media stories found in the global North,4 such an argument and a
marshalling of evidence are exciting and can be persuasive. However, they can also
distract the reader from some of the displacement occurring in the book’s own
analytical arguments.

Their focus on the ‘outcomes’ of the land reform occludes their additional insightful
engagement with multiple and diverse historical processes informing the ‘solid
evidence from the field’ as well as their own political sympathies. Despite the
downplaying of process, they show the very different dynamics in the different
resettlement areas studied, noting this history informs the particular consequences in
each site: ‘There is no single story of the process of land reform across our sites. Each
was different. But understanding what happened when land was taken is critically
important for understanding what happened next’ (2010, 43). For me, this attention
to the history, to the process, is another strength of the monograph as they are able to
analyse the differential consequences of land redistribution on class, gender, and
productivity axes. It is an analytical tactic that provides insight into these rather fluid
and contested social territories of the new resettlement areas. But this attention to
the plurality of contingent histories of each resettlement site becomes a reason to
disavow wider-scale analysis, as they tellingly argue:
What prevailed in a particular place was highly contingent on circumstance and context,
and there was much blurring of boundaries and local contestation of authority and
legitimacy. The politics of land in this period was therefore not straightforward. Any
simple generalisation is almost certainly untrue for a range of particular settings. For
this reason, we start with the empirical particularities and avoid making any wider,
sweeping generalisations about political motivations and dynamics. It was the particular
circumstances prevailing on a particular farm that is important, for it is these that have
affected people’s livelihood pathways over the following decade. (2010, 45)
The authors thus seem to assume that their focus on the empirical particularities_
the dismissal of ‘sweeping generalisations’_permits them to show the reality of land
reform in Zimbabwe. But their empirical focus carries with it a particular political
story of its own, namely that of yeomen effort on the part of (many of) the
resettlement farmers, a story-line they regularly repeat. Their sympathy to the land
invaders, allocators and farmers comes through in their vignettes of how each
resettlement farm was acquired. For instance, the invaders were said to ‘encourage’
others to join them, be ‘charismatic’, while in contrast white commercial farmers
would ‘bribe’ or used ‘hired thugs’ against the invaders (2010, 48, 49) and thus clearly
Journal of Contemporary African Studies 151 are morally, if not politically suspect. Farm workers who resisted the invasion were
said to be ‘very loyal to their employers’ (2010, 49) and not, say, trying to grapple
with uncertain and ambiguous power relations and threats from all sides (e.g.,
Rutherford 2008). In short, the book positions itself in support of the resettled
farmers, those who can ‘accumulate from below’ despite the lack of government or
donor support, showing how some ‘have seriously invested in their new farms, and
despite all odds, have made a go of it, with great plans for the future’ (2010, 52). In
contrast to, perhaps, an analytical strategy seeking to engage with the contradictions
and inequalities emerging from the agrarian reform, while acknowledging the
empirical variation in the agricultural means of production of resettled households,
the book emphasises the durability and economic achievements of ‘the’ resettled
farmer. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with such a political positioning,
of lauding the massive land transfer since 2000 as some form of ‘land reform’
enabling an ‘accumulation from below’. However, it is a positioning, a stand, one not
explicitly stated, and which is occluded by their dichotomy of empirical realities and
biased myths.
The ability of this dichotomy of empirical realities and biased myths to gloss
over the ‘personal, institutional and political location’ of the construction of
knowledge also comes through in the Preface. They note in passing that three of the
co-authors, the men who led the research field team in Masvingo, have all gained
land through the resettlement process: Mavedezenge is an A1 resettlement farmer,
Murimbarimba is a fulltime A2 sugar cane farmer, and Mahenehene has a plot in
an ‘informal site’ (2010, xi). Some might suggest that greater discussion of this
material stake and personal benefit from these wider processes would follow their
own argument about the importance of the located-ness of knowledge production,
but it is not discussed further in the book.5 Instead in the following paragraph the
authors do note the divergent backgrounds and politics of members of the research
team but suggest that these were ultimately subsumed by their allegiance to
empirical reality:
We were always there to challenge each other’s assumptions and biases, but what held
the ground together was the commitment to explore the empirical realities on the
ground, and root our analysis and policy recommendations in such solid evidence.
(2010, xii)
Thus empirical realities trump (personal) bias once again, disavowing the authors
pronounced grounding in the social construction of knowledge positioning.
I thus suggest that the authors’ positioning of the book as a detached promotion
of the empirical realities contradicts their textured analyses of contested histories and
masks their own politics. This leads me to show how their immersion in the material
details also limits their book.

Such political sympathies are not what concerns me in themselves, although they
undermine their assumed positivist stance. What is problematic to me is that the
constitutive contrast between myths and reality leads them to associate analyses of
state-abetted violence with the former, juxtaposing this in contrast to their own
‘realist’ analysis of ‘outcomes’. I suggest this analytical positioning prevents them
from addressing the wider-scale politics and power relations which have been so
crucial for these micro-dynamics into which they provide much insight. This, I would
suggest, leads them to make some questionable analyses and prognoses.
In their case studies, they do note in passing the political violence and lack
of enforcement of laws. But they characterise the Zimbabwean state from 2000
to 2008 as creating ‘policy distortions’ (2010, 94) rather than, say, being intensely
politicised by the ZANU (PF) regime. The following passage, discussing the
dynamic between national-scale state actions and the particularities of land
redistribution sites is apt:
For the most part, the post-2000 resettlement did not suffer from top-down technocratic
intervention; indeed the absence of almost any external support was a feature of it. The
outcome resulted from a complex trade-off between local conditions, particular histories
and contingent circumstances and the structuring forces of nationalist politics,
technocratic planning models and local institutional arrangements, mediated by diverse
forms of ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ political authority, gender dynamics and social
relations.With the state and other actors now re-engaging, we must ask what else should
be done. (2010, 237)
‘Nationalist politics’ is what others have called a regime deploying violence to try
to eliminate the opposition MDC. How that played out was definitely contingent but
‘trade-off’ gives a sense of collective deliberation rather than hierarchical deployment
of threats, violence, and counter-violence, at times with direct support of
sections of the security apparatuses of the state (see, e.g., Moore 2004; Hellum and
Derman 2004; Bond and Saunders 2005; Kriger 2006; Raftopoulos 2006; Scarnecchia
2006; Hammar 2008; Sachikonye 2011). Yet Zimbabwe’s Land Reform
consistently steers away from squarely examining such national-scale politics on
setting the contours and ongoing status of the massive land redistribution, even when
mentioning its influence. Take the following passage, for example:
The heightened political tensions around the 2008 elections, and the prospect of an
inclusive government that might end land-based patronage, resulted in a range of
speculative land claims by politically-connected elites. While there remains debate about
the origins and motivations of the land occupations in 2000, there was little doubt about
the politically-motivated origins of this new ‘land grab’. (2010, 199)

Here they seem to suggest that the violence unleashed by the ZANU (PF)
government and its allies after March 2008_coded as ‘heightened political tensions’
which euphemises significant terror, violence, and murder (Human Rights Watch
2011)_led to politically connected expropriation of land. Yet in so doing, they note it
was inspired by fear of the cessation of already existing ‘land-based patronage’
connected to the fast-track land resettlement starting in 2000.
Another example of downplaying the importance of national-scale politics comes
when they use the wide-scale urban evictions that displaced 100,000s of people in 2005
(called Operation Murambatsvina) as away to comment on the ‘ambiguous character’
of the state: ‘at one time backing the land invasions and the new resettlements and at
the next moment invoking draconian planning laws to undermine development efforts
on the ground’ (2010, 211). Given that they refuse to engage in discussions of the
Journal of Contemporary African Studies 153
Downloaded by [] at 07:11 10 July 2012
politics of the process of land redistribution, they simply view the forced urban
removals as an example of some excessive technocratic impulse of an otherwise
supportive state and not, say, as a regime seeking to bolster its survival through
violence and power (Vambe 2008).
I suggest this analytical limit results from their stated intention to provide policy
prescriptions based on evidence_the ‘realities’ of their subtitle_for ‘a fundamental
rethinking of the future for rural Zimbabwe’ (2010, 232). Their positioning within
the minutia of material practices is equated with empirical realities for better
interventions: ‘the aim of challenging myths with data on complex realities is not to
create new myths. Our aim, instead, is a more dispassionate, evidence-based
assessment rooted in careful sampling and analysis’ (2010, 238). Even though they
observe in passing that land has become a key source of political patronage and
violence, intimidation and ‘abuse of the rule of law’ which ‘has undermined the land
reform programme’s credibility and legitimacy both nationally and internationally’,
they plead this should not prevent one from looking at the ‘wider story which this
book has tried to tell’ (2010, 252).
They even call for a more ‘solid, coherent political consensus. . . . [A] more
effective, longer-term political settlement is clearly required, rooted in more widely
accepted forms of public authority’ (2010, 236). But as they have not analysed the
politicisation of state practices and structures_even if in passing they note that
politics ‘has been so fraught’ and any association with the ‘opposition MDC, has
become an invitation to retribution and trouble’ (2010, 251)_they instead seem to
suggest that a proper developmental state will emerge after serious consideration of
the importance of supporting the welfare and accumulation strategies of its rural
citizens. As they opine,
Reconstruction must take account of what has gone before: the disruptions, forms of
violence, as well the innovations in institutions and processes. Future development must
therefore sensitively, carefully and strategically intervene in ways that allow a functional,responsive and accountable state to emerge. (2010, 189)

How so, one may ask?

And it is here where one sees the wider politics of this book. By eschewing a
critical analysis of partisan state practices_relegating those largely to the realm of
myth-making and distracting debates over process_Scoones et al. (2010) present
their thoughtful policy suggestions as if there is a policy community in and
outside of Zimbabwe keen to listen and having apolitical policy apparatuses, the
civil service, and administrative capacities at the ready to implement them. As
they conclude:
The first decade has been difficult, and many important lessons have been learned. The
next decade, given the right support and policy environment, combined with political
and economic stability, must be the moment when the real benefits of redistributive land
reform and a reconfigured agricultural economy can be shown. . . . If the myths continue
to trump the realities, however, misguided policy and inappropriate support will be the
result. If the reverse is true, there are real prospects for a bright future for rural
livelihoods in the new resettlements in Zimbabwe. (2010, 253, 256)

Concluding thoughts
In conclusion, I think that Zimbabwe’s Land Reform has played an important role in
convincing more scholars to rethink some of the results of the last 11 years in rural
Zimbabwe, while perhaps also influencing others in the donor community who have
been keen to try to re-engage with Zimbabwe since the government of national unity
began in February 2009. I think the authors should be praised for prompting readers,
including critical academics, into more publicly recognising what should be an
obvious point: ‘for those who have remained [on the distributed land] there is near
universal recognition that gaining access to land has improved people’s lot’
(2010, 76).
One could also suggest that their disavowal of analysing the politics of land
redistribution and its relationship to wider state practices may well be an explicitly
strategic way to try to gain a sympathetic hearing of those officials in Zimbabwean
authority structures and the donor community. However, one could also think of it
as a constructed policy narrative that will have difficulty leading to their
recommended interventions, as the national-scale politics are deeply entangled
with the contingent realities they intimately discuss (and which at times they, perhaps
inadvertently, show).
An alternative for Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities might have
been to argue that transformations of rural Zimbabwe resulting in more households
able to accumulate in part or whole through farming took place because of an
authoritarian regime that does not hesitate in using violence to try to destroy its
political opposition. However, such a policy narrative would require a more explicitly
critical analysis of the national-scale actions and their entanglement in the politics of
diverse localised sites (e.g., Fontein 2009; Zamchiya forthcoming) if one wants to
advocate for the building of some sort of accountable, developmental state. I would
garner, however, that this type of narrative would not necessarily build bridges
amongst the existing diversity of scholars and likely be less useful for generating
resources and support for resettlement farmers amongst donors and the government
of Zimbabwe. To me, this suggests that ‘myth making’ is not counter to ‘reality’.
Rather it positions particular claims within it.

This paper was first given at the Canadian Association of African Studies annual meeting at
York University, Toronto, Canada, 7 May 2011. I thank those attending and the other
presenters on the panel for the constructive feedback. I also thank Amanda Hammar, Jocelyn
Alexander, and Norma Kriger for their helpful, critical comments. Responsibility for the final
paper, of course, is mine alone.

1. Paper first presented at the Canadian Association of African Studies annual meeting at
York University, Toronto, Canada, 7 May 2011.
2. Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities by Ian Scoones, Nelson Marongwe, Blasio
Mavedzenge, Jacob Mahenehene, Felix Murimbarimba and Crispen Sukume, Woodbridge,
Suffolk, James Currey, 2010, 304 pp., ISBN 9781847010247.
3. A1 and A2 are the designations for different type of land resettlement schemes, which they
define as ‘A1, small-scale farming, either in villagised arrangements or as self-contained
Journal of Contemporary African Studies 155
Downloaded by [] at 07:11 10 July 2012
plots and A2, small- and medium-scale commercial farms’ (2010, 3_5).It should be noted
that other scholars, including those who raise more critical questions about the land reform
since 2000, also have noted this incredible transfer of land (e.g., Alexander 2006;
Waeterloos and Rutherford 2004).
4. As I write, for example, The Economist just published an article excoriating the
implementation of an indigenisation law in Zimbabwe, starting it off with these frightening
words, ‘A DECADE ago Robert Mugabe’s regime seized most of Zimbabwe’s white-owned
commercial farms. The president promised to give the land to the landless, but instead gave
much of it to his wealthy cronies. The country’s largest industry was wrecked, creating
deadly food shortages (see picture)’. The ‘picture’ is a photo of two relatively nice-looking
wrought-iron gates ajar, surrounded by one- to two-metre high grass marked with the
alarmist caption ‘This is what happened to the farms. The mines may be next’.
(The Economist 2011). For a sharp analysis of the polarised media reporting on Zimbabwe
concerning land redistribution after 2000, see Willems 2004).
5. Indeed two reviewers of my article kindly pointed out to me this located positioning of
some of the co-authors of the book, suggesting it requires at least mentioning, if not

Note on contributor
Blair Rutherford is professor of Anthropology and director of the Institute of African Studies
at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He has published widely on the cultural politics of
land, labour, and citizenship in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Alexander, J. 2006. The unsettled land: State-making & the politics of land in Zimbabwe,
1893-2003. Oxford: James Currey.
Bond, P., and R. Saunders. 2005. Labor, the state, and the struggle for a democratic
Zimbabwe. Monthly Review 57, no. 7: 42_55.
Cousins, B. 2006. Debating the politics of land occupations. Journal of Agrarian Change 6, no.
4: 584_97.
Cousins, B. 2010. Time to ditch the ‘disaster’ scenarios. Mail & Guardian, May 21. http://mg. (accessed September 2, 2011).
The Economist. 2011. A new plan to wreck one of Africa’s unluckiest countries. The
Economist, September 3. (accessed September 4,
Fontein, J. 2009. ‘We want to belong to our roots and we want to be modern people’: New
farmers, old claims around Lake Mutirikwi, Southern Zimbabwe. African Studies Quarterly
10, no. 4: 1_35.
Freeman, N. 2010. Zimbabwe’s road to vindication. Race and History, December 15. http:// (accessed September 2, 2011).
Hammar, A. 2008. In the name of sovereignty: Displacement and state making in postindependence
Zimbabwe. Journal of Contemporary African Studies 26, no. 4: 417_34.
Hellum, A., and B. Derman. 2004. Land reform and human rights in contemporary
Zimbabwe: Balancing individual and social justice through an integrated human rights
framework. World Development 32, no. 10: 1785_805.
Human Rights Watch. 2011. Perpetual fear: Impunity and cycles of violence in Zimbabwe. New
York: Human Rights Watch.
Kriger, N. 2006. From patriotic memories to ‘‘patriotic history’’ in Zimbabwe, 1990-2005.
Third World Quarterly 27, no. 6: 1151_69.
Moore, D. 2004. Marxism and Marxist intellectuals in schizophrenic Zimbabwe: How many
rights for Zimbabwe’s left? A comment. Historical Materialism 21, no. 4: 405_25.
Moore, D.S. 2005. Suffering for territory: Race, place, and power in Zimbabwe. Durham, NC:
Duke University Press.
156 B. Rutherford
Downloaded by [] at 07:11 10 July 2012
Moyo, S. 2001. The land occupation movement and democratisation in Zimbabwe:
Contradictions of neoliberalism. Millennium 30, no. 2: 311_30.
Moyo, S. 2011. Land concentration and accumulation after redistributive reform in post settler
Zimbabwe. Review of African Political Economy 38, no. 128: 257_76.
Moyo, S., and P. Yeros. 2005a. Land occupations and land reform in Zimbabwe: Towards the
national democratic revolution. In: Reclaiming the land: The resurgence of rural movements
in Africa, Asia and Latin America. ed. S. Moyo and P. Yeros, 165_205. London: Zed Books.
Moyo, S., and P. Yeros, ed., 2005b. Reclaiming the land: The resurgence of rural movements in
Africa, Asia and Latin America. London: Zed Books.
Raftopoulos, B. 2006. The Zimbabwean crisis and the challenges for the left. Journal of
Southern African Studies 32, no. 2: 203_17.
Royal African Society. n.d. Zimbabwe’s land reform: Challenging the myths. http://www. (accessed September 2, 2011).
Rutherford, B. 2001. Working on the margins: Black workers, white farmers in postcolonial
Zimbabwe. London: Zed Books and Harare: Weaver Books.
Rutherford, B. 2004. Desired publics, domestic government, and entangled fears: On the
anthropology of civil society, farm workers, and white farmers in Zimbabwe. Cultural
Anthropology 19, no. 1: 122_53.
Rutherford, B. 2008. Conditional belonging: Farm workers and the cultural politics of
recognition in Zimbabwe. Development and Change 39, no. 1: 73_99.
Rutherford, B. 2011. On the promise and perils of citizenship: Heuristic concepts,
Zimbabwean example. Citizenship Studies 15, nos. 3_4: 499_512.
Sachikonye, L. 2011. When a state turns on its citizens: 60 years of institutionalized violence in
Zimbabwe. Johannesburg: Jacana.
Scarnecchia, T. 2006. The ‘Fascist Cycle’ in Zimbabwe, 2000-2005. Journal of Southern African
Studies 32, no. 2: 221_37.
Scoones, I., N. Marongwe, B. Mavedzenge, J. Mahenehene, F. Murimbarimba, and C.
Sukume. 2010. Zimbabwe’s land reform: Myths & realities. Oxford: James Currey.
Vambe, M., ed. 2008. The hidden dimensions of Operation Murambatsvina in Zimbabwe.
Harare: Weaver Press.
Waeterloos, E., and B. Rutherford. 2004. Land reform in Zimbabwe: Challenges and
opportunities for poverty reduction among commercial farm workers. World Development
32, no. 3: 537_53.
Willems, W. 2004. Peasant demonstrators, violence invaders: Representations of land in the
Zimbabwean press. World Development 32, no. 10: 1767_83.
Zamchiya, P. Forthcoming. A synopsis of land and agrarian change in Chipinge district,
Zimbabwe. Journal of Peasant Studies.