State Power, Land-use Planning, and Local Responses in Northwestern Zimbabwe, 1980s-1990s
by Pius S. Nyambara
The paper seeks to understand the rationale behind the introduction of the villagization program in post-independence rural Zimbabwe between the 1980s and the 1990s with a particular focus on the Gokwe South District. This is particularly interesting in that similar programs in the colonial era generated resentment and faced resistance among the rural population and were eventually abandoned. Given that the history of Africa is replete with examples of such programs that failed dismally, the most representative being the ujamaa experiment in post-colonial Tanzania, one wonders why a post-independence government would still have faith in such unpopular programs. The paper is based on fieldwork conducted between 1996 and 1997, and again in 2002-3 and more recently in 2011 in selected areas of Gokwe South District. The research made use of minutes of meetings of the Gokwe South Rural District Council, especially those of the Council’s Natural Resources Board and Resettlement Committee; national and local newspapers; interviews conducted with Village Development Committees (VIDCOs), chiefs, village heads, ward councilors, Council and Agritex officials, the district administration and ordinary villagers. Largely in response to the influx of immigrants into the district, among other factors, state officials in Gokwe constructed a land degradation narrative to justify the program. Research work revealed that the program was not adequately explained to Gokwe rural communities. However, the program was eventually overtaken by the land occupations of commercial farms that began around 1997 and dominated the Zimbambwean political landscape for much of the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Pius S Nyambara is Senior Lecturer and Head, Department of Economic History, University of Zimbabwe and has also taught in the Department of History and Philosophy, Jackson State University. He has published several articles and book chapters on the economic history of Zimbabwe.