The politics of land occupations in Zimbabwe

March 2019
Zimbabweland (Ian Scoones)

Two new papers by Sandra Bhatasara and Kirk Helliker on land occupations in Shamva and Bindura Districts, Mashonaland Central, are analysed. They offer nuanced accounts of what happened. As previous studies have shown, the story is not straightforward. Includes history and memory, organising occupations, the occupiers, rise of the party-state, why does this history matter? Concludes that together these two papers shed important light on the land occupation period. The occupations were initially an anti-state/party protest, largely autonomous and decentralised, but the war veterans made strategic bargains – in exchange for police protection, transport, food and so on. The state in turn recognised the need to accommodate the invaders and find space for elite demand for land in the A2 schemes, and so shift tack around the ‘illegality’ of the invasions creating the ‘fast-track’ programme. While the result was certainly a dramtic shift in agrarian structure, the tentative period of radical challenge was quickly undermined.