An analysis of emerging forms of social organisation and agency in the aftermath of 'fast track' land reform in Zimbabwe

Murisa, Tendai (2010) An analysis of emerging forms of social organisation and agency in the aftermath of 'fast track' land reform in Zimbabwe. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.




The fast track land reform programme resulted in a fundamental reorganisation of rural relations in Zimbabwe, changing the landscape in an irreversible way with people from diverse backgrounds converging on former white-owned farms. This thesis tells the story of how the newly resettled land beneficiaries are organising themselves socially in response to various economic challenges. It makes a contribution towards understanding how redistributive land reforms and local government restructuring influence rural social organisation and agency. Furthermore the study examines local perceptions on the meanings of the „farm‟ and „land redistribution‟. An utterance by one war veteran “what used to be your farm is now our land and you are free to take your farm but leave our land” provides an alternative rendition to contestations of restitution versus a purely farm productionist discourse. The study, through an analysis of primary and secondary data, provides a fresh understanding of the social outcomes of fast track. It traces the evolution of land and agrarian reforms in post-independence Zimbabwe and the political and social economic context that led to „fast track‟. Through an analysis of field findings the thesis is able to define the dominant social groups that were resettled during fast track and the challenges they face in utilising the land. The findings show that the majority of the land beneficiaries were from the customary areas, with limited agricultural experiences. Local cooperation within informal networks and local farmer groups has been identified as one of the ways in which social reproduction is being organised. These groups are responsible for enhancing production capacity but they face a number of constraints. The study derives its theoretical foundation from the post 1980s debates on rural society dominated by Mafeje (1993, 2003), Rahmato (1991) and Mamdani (1996). The debates centred on how institutions of inclusion, authority and cooperation such as the lineage groups, local farmer groups and traditional authority remain relevant in the organisation of post-independent rural African society especially in a context of increased commoditisation of rural relations of production. Using theoretical insights derived from analysing the role of the lineage groups in the allocation of critical resources such as land and the influence of traditional authority (indirect rule) as a form of local government, the study examines how social organisation is emerging in areas where neither lineage nor traditional authority are not dominant. The thesis of rural cooperation through local groups as advanced by Rahmato (1991) and Moyo (2002) provides partial insights into the response mechanisms that land beneficiaries invoke in this instance. It is not necessarily an autonomous space of organisation but rather the state is actively involved through various functionaries including extension officers who invariably advance a very productionist approach. The state‟s monopoly through its local functionaries hides its political cooptation effect by emphasising organisation for production without questioning the manner in which that production is externally controlled through limited rights over land, the state‟s monopoly over inputs supply and markets for commodities. Whilst land reform has been driven by local participation through land occupations, local government reform has been technocratically determined through Ministerial directives. There is however little innovation in the form of local government that is being introduced. It expands the fusion of authority between elected Rural District Councils and unelected traditional authority functionaries. The forms of social organisation and agency that have emerged remain subordinated to the state with no links to other networks of rural producers‟ associations and urban civil society organisations. These developments form part of a longheld tradition within the Zimbabwean state where the legitimacy of local organisation and authority is usurped to service the interests of the state. Thus whilst land reform has to a certain extent accommodated the majority poor, the ensuing local government and agrarian reforms are more focused on limiting their participation in broader processes of political engagement around distribution and accumulation and their own governance.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Zimbabwe, Land reform, Property, Social change, Social conditions
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Sociology and Industrial Sociology
ID Code:2586
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:11 Apr 2012 06:58
Last Modified:11 Apr 2012 06:58
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