The New Agrarian Structure

A full analysis of the new agrarian structure is not possible here.67 In what follows, we provide a condensed overview. Our data derives from various sources such as the Presidential Land Review Committee (PLRC), which reported, in July 2003, Government of Zimbabwe A2 Land Audit of 2006 and other data from the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement.68 The PLRC was appointed by the President, and the land audits were in response to continuing pressure from within the ruling party to establish the facts on the ground, including the status of farm workers and the misappropriation of land by elites. Table 12.1 provides the land acquisition and redistribution figures for the fast-track land reform from 2000 to 2010; the table is organized in terms of Zimbabwe’s land tenure regimes. Table 12.2 combines these figures with preexisting or remaining landholding patterns to provide the holistic picture of the agrarian structure today; this table is reorganized to capture, as much as possible, the emerging class structure, which is not well-grasped by reference to tenure type and farm size per se.

Repeasantization has been the dominant phenomenon under fast-track land reform: the new petty-commodity-producing establishments account for 86.3 percent of total new farming establishments, thus far on 56.8 percent of the land acquired. The large majority of the beneficiaries had their origin directly in the communal areas. This process has combined with a renewed “merchant path” of urban professionals, petty-bourgeois, and bureaucrats, amounting to 22,896 small, middle, and large farmLand Occupations and Land Reform in Zimbabwe 243

Table 12.1 Fast-track land reform (2000-2010): Land allocation pattern

Land Tenure



Farm Area Targeted


% Total


% Total

A1* (peasant)





A2* (capitalist)





Remaining white LSCF*





Total land allocated

(as of June 2010)



Land unallocated

(as of June 2010)








Source: Calculated from various sources by Moyo, 2011.

  • *A1 tenure (permissory): Consists of use rights to a family plot plus common grazing land; family plots are inheritable but nonmarketable *A2 tenure (leasehold): Consists of leasehold title with a proposed option to buy
  • *LSCF (large-scale commercial farming) tenure: Consists of individual freehold title ers, on 34.6 percent of the acquired land. Urbanites have also entered the A1 model, such that we may estimate that urban beneficiaries make up approximately 20 percent of the total. The land reform process has also proceeded to downsize and retain (as opposed to fully expropriate) 198 white large-scale commercial farms. We note also that, as of June 2010, a small amount of land (7.5 percent) had not yet been allocated and remains subject to the political process.

Further analysis of the figures69 shows that war veterans received less land than originally targeted and that women and farm workers were more severely prejudiced. War veterans received less than the 20 percent threshold set by government after the initial listing of farms in 1997. Tentative estimates suggest that a possible maximum of 25,000 war veterans, former detainees, and mujibhas (youth collaborators in the liberation struggle) received 10 percent of total land, the majority on A1 tenure and at a national average below 50 hectares per war veteran.

The patterns of the land redistribution in terms of women’s access to land plots in both A1 and A2 areas suggest a new dynamic in the gender relations in land access and tenure. Indeed, more women have been offered land in their individual right under the fast-track program than in the past; such women landholders do not seem to predominantly come from the “vulnerable” groups, such as widows and divorcees, as obtains in communal and older resettlement areas. A larger proportion of women (about 18 percent) now own land in their own right,70 compared to the 4 percent of white women who owned LSCF lands71 and the 5 percent of black women who owned land in previous resettlement and communal lands. Other studies suggest that women “beneficiaries in their own right” range between 10 percent and 28 percent of the total.72 Thus, women received titles of their own at a low national average rate of 16 percent; the false assumption here has been that heads of household are typically men, while women in need of land are married or otherwise access land through various family links.

The case of farm workers has presented analytical and empirical difficulties, given their dual “identity” as migrant workers (national and foreign) and communal area farmers. Prior to the fast track, the large-scale commercial farming sector (LSCF) employed 350,000 workers, of which 75 percent were of communal-area origin. If we were to add official fast-track figures of declared “farmworkers” and fieldwork estimates of farm workers applying for land as “landless peasants” via communal areas, it is probable that about 10 percent of the land beneficiaries were former farm workers, who were allocated A1 or A2 plots as farm workers qua farm workers, a few as “land occupiers” alongside war veterans,73 while others gained access to land as members of communal area structures.74 These data also mean, as recent studies have shown,75 that a large number of farm workers were stranded. Of the original total of 350,000, half of them were part-time/casual workers (largely consisting of women), the other half being permanent workers (mainly men). Of the permanent workers, over 50 percent (85,000) retained employment positions, largely in the agroindustrial estates (specializing in sugar, coffee, tea, and forest plantations) that were not expropriated, while the other half generally lost employment, with some providing labor to new farmers. Of the part-time and casual workers, approximately 80,000 continue to provide labor on the remaining LSCF farms. The general estimate is that about 90,000 farm workers were completely stranded, with women being most severely affected; the stranded workers have either remained on their residential plots on the farms, relocated to the communal areas, or formed new “informal settlements” under desperate conditions. This struggle for land between former farm workers and beneficiaries, due to the related policy deficiency and local contestations, is a potential threat to the tenure security of A2 beneficiaries.76 A related result is that employment conditions on new farms have deteriorated, with piecework and casualization on the rise.

The external financial punishments imposed on the Zimbabwean economy, combined with internal policy incoherence and ongoing repression, will continue to aggravate the living and working conditions of the urban and rural proletariat and semiproletariat. Persisting landlessness, unemployment, casual employment, poor working conditions and incomes, low peasant farm incomes, and food shortages will all remain pressing economic and political issues for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the new peasantry on A1 farms will itself maintain the dual semiproletarian income strategy of petty-commodity production and wage labor, especially as differentiation proceeds apace.

In Table 12.2, we seek to estimate the emerging agrarian class structure. This task is, by nature, imprecise, and more so in the absence of new census data and household surveys. But the task remains essential, and its objective is to capture the differential capabilities (and vulnerabilities) of capitalists in the accumulation process. The basic

Table 12.2 Emerging agrarian class structure


Farm Area


Land Tenure


% Total


% Total

Ave. (ha)

Proletariat in transition (employed,

Resident on farms




casuals, unemployed)

Relocated to CAs Stranded

Peasantry (semiproletariat,

CAs and A1






small capital) Small/middle capital







New A2












Large capital

Large A2






Black LSCF






White LSCF












Corporate capital































Land in transition









Source: Calculated from various sources by Moyo, 2011.

Peasants'. Land sizes range from 1 to 30 ha, depending on natural region, with family arable land ranging from 0.2 to 5.0 ha, plus common grazing land. Communal land and A1 are of the same tenure type; the former refers to preexisting lands, the latter to resettlement lands.

Small and middle capitalists: Comprise “old” farmers from the colonial period and “new” black farmers, including those with postindependence allocations on “small-scale commercial farms” (SSCF) and the fast-track beneficiaries. “Small capitalist” farms range between 30 and 100 ha, depending on natural region, while “middle capitalist” farms range between 40 and 150 ha, again depending on natural region.

Large capitalists: Farms range between 150 and 400 ha in NR l/ll to 1,500 ha in NR IV.


Corporate farms: Range from 1,000 to 1,500 ha, but few are near the lower hectarage mark. wi criterion is land size, which is then adjusted to account for tenure type, agroecological potential, and technical capacity. Tenure type becomes particularly significant in accounting for the disadvantages of communal and A1 tenure in the mobilization of resources. Agroecology varies in Zimbabwe between five Natural Regions (NR I-V), from the more fertile lands of relatively lesser hectarage per farm and intensive cropping, to the less fertile lands of larger farm sizes and extensive cropping (small grains) and livestock/wildlife management. The level and type of technology thus also differs across the natural regions.

Land reform had, by 2010, led to deep structural changes, through reconfiguring Zimbabwe’s landholding structure in terms of land sizes in relation to the agroecological potential of the landholdings (see Table 12.2) and the social character, including race, gender, and other demographic features,77 and through creating diverse farming societies.78 The preexisting landholding patterns represented a skewed agrarian structure, dominated by a “race-class structure,” analytically based on large-scale capitalist farms and estates. The main four classes of farmers were retained but their numbers changed substantially. The numbers of peasants and small- to medium-scale farmers increased, while reducing the number of large-scale farms and estates. The scale of state farmlands increased slightly. A broadly based agrarian capitalist class, built on former and new farming “elites,” has emerged, with a small segment of large-scale capitalist farmers and estates persisting, including both black and white farmers. Their landholdings have been substantially downsized to an average of 844 hectares, compared to the average of 2,000 hectares previously held by large-scale landowners, while over 75 percent of the new capitalist farmers have plots below 100 hectares, and these vary across agroecological regions. In area terms, however, the A2 and other larger-scale classes of farmers obtained a relatively higher proportion of the land area compared to their numbers. Altogether, about 20 percent of Zimbabwe’s entire agricultural land (including the communal areas and unacquired agricultural estates) is now held by small-, middle-, and large-scale farmers, while 70 percent is held by peasants, and 10 percent by large farms and estates compared to the pre-1980 situation.

The sustainability of the new agrarian structure has been questioned by some who allege the existence of widespread land disputes among the land beneficiaries, quite apart from the white land owner litigations. Research, however, shows that fewer than 20 percent of the A1 settlers report that they experience tenure insecurity, that their farming is limited by the current form of land tenure, or that they experience land conflicts.79

The “peasant” category refers to petty-commodity production on communal and A1 resettlement land; this now accounts for 97.6 percent of total farms, on 78.6 percent of total land. There is class differentiation within this category, which is not captured here, and which is driven inter alia by agroecological variation, off-farm incomes, and local political power. Whether under adverse or positive economic conditions, this differentiation is expected to continue, as is the operation of informal land markets under the aegis of traditional authority. It is notable that the institution of chiefdom has not been challenged in the process of mobilization for land reform.

While “small capitalists” historically comprise below 10 percent of the peasantry in communal areas and they employ substantial nonfamily labor from other peasants and the remaining landless there, we have not segmented them into the category due to insufficient data. We may only note here that they would be of great political significance, as they are likely to return to dominate the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union, together with the small capitalists on A2 land. What we have also done tentatively is merge the “small capitalist” category with that of “middle capitalists,” as there is much overlap across the natural regions. Generally, small capitalists range from 30 to 100 hectares, and middle capitalists from 40 to 150 hectares, and they employ substantially more hired labor than is provided by their own family. The important point to note is that there is likely to be ongoing reconfiguration of these two categories, as the two compete. Notably, middle capitalists have great advantage in the land bidding and accumulation process, by virtue of their better access to other means of production (credit and technology), to contacts and information, and to the policy-making process itself.

“Large capitalist” farms range from 150 to 1,500 hectares, depending on natural region, and enjoy even better access to economic and political resources. At present, middle and large capitalists are in political alliance under the banner of “indigenisa- tion,” seeking to appropriate the remaining land and also to tailor the agricultural policy framework to their needs. Their vision is of a differentiated agricultural sector, in which middle/large capitalists specialize in the production of high-value commodities for export (tobacco and hybrid beef) and peasants in the production of grains for domestic consumption. The contradictions between small and middle/large farmers and between internal/external orientation will thus accentuate as they bid over public and private resources (infrastructure, water, and credit) and policy instruments (interest rates policy and foreign exchange allocations). It is important, finally, to note that a significant process of reorganization of capital is underway across the economic sectors, by which the emerging agrarian bourgeoisie is joining forces, economically and politically, with the nascent indigenous bourgeoisie in transport and retail, and most importantly with finance, which has seen the emergence of a dozen new indigenous institutions. Together, they recognize the significance of agricultural production and distribution to their own reproduction.

Importantly, the entire range of these capitalist farmers pays wages, whether or not these are above the regulated minimum rates, which are well below the current poverty datum line.80 Such labor is procured from the retained and retrenched former LSCF workers, unemployed relatives from communal area households, and growing numbers of unemployed urban workers. There was a high variability in the wages and benefits paid to farm workers by new farmers, with some paying more than the official wages while others pay less. Wage levels seem to be better where high-value commodities (e.g., tobacco) and mechanization are established, as these require skilled operators.81 Some new farmers do not provide employment contracts, and the provision of social services to workers by employers has greatly diminished. It is reported that, in some newly resettled areas, arbitrary firing of workers, lack of protective clothing, lack of leave days, and lack of consideration for special needs of female workers prevail.82

The emerging picture, therefore, is of a significantly broadened home market, including a larger peasantry and a larger black capitalist class. Further research would need to examine three interrelated processes: agroindustrial reorganization and consolidation of the black capitalist class; differentiation within the peasantry, including the trajectories of rich (small capitalist) and poor (semiproletarians) peasants; and the labor process that underpins both of the above and that will continue to be characterized by functional dualism. This process will become more entrenched, the more that black capital, together with its downsized white counterpart, succeeds in reentrenching a disarticulated pattern of accumulation.

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