Land and Violence

In all the confusion over what is at issue in the current Zimbabwe crisis, a few points seem to have been missed entirely. They seem to have been wholly missed by the SADC Presidents in Dar-es Salaam recently when they unwisely endorsed Zanu(PF)’s “land reform” process.

Firstly, a number of public opinion surveys in the past 7 years have shown that land is not a concern for the ordinary Zimbabwean. In the two surveys conducted by the Afrobarometer, in 1999 and 2004, less than 1% in 1999 and only 4% in 2004 said it was an issue of importance. Clearly land is not the issue for ordinary Zimbabweans that Zanu(PF) claims it is.

The land acquisition and re-distribution matters have dominated the political, economic, and legal affairs of Zimbabwe since February 2000. During the period, the country witnessed gross, widespread, and systematic human rights violations, a decline in the country’s commitment to the observance of the rule of law, human rights, and democratic value, a cataclysmic collapse of the economy, serious challenges to the judicial independence and the effectiveness of the administration of justice. These developments have caused untold suffering to Zimbabwe and resulted in large numbers of people finding it impossible to live and work in their country of birth. Indeed, the country has been turned into a tragedy of immense proportions. No Zimbabwean can dispute the importance of an equitable system of land ownership and utilization. However, it is indisputable that the manner in which the land issue was dealt with in Zimbabwe is a classical example of what ought to be avoided to ensure equity, prosperity, and adherence to the values of modern, democratic, and prosperous nation.


This report presents the findings of preliminary quantitative and qualitative surveys of workers on commercial farms in the wake of the catastrophic “Land Reform” policy in Zimbabwe. Whilst the companion reports produced from this series of projects have received some attention, this report is the first to deal solely with data gathered from the farm workers themselves. It represents the views of only a small section of the 1.8 million people that lived and worked on Zimbabwe’s commercial farms. However, the continued gathering of
data means that in time we will be able to paint a detailed picture of the lives of farm workers across the country, as they struggled over the last nine years with State-sponsored invasions, torture, violent assaults, murders, rapes, evictions and other violations of the law and their rights. For the moment, though, the data presented here makes no claim to be statistically representative.
Nevertheless, what emerges makes sobering reading. The prevalence of human rights violations recorded by the sample in this survey is disturbing. The data also shows that earlier estimates by farmers of the violations experienced by their workers appear to be largely consistent with estimates made by the workers themselves. This lends further credibility to extremely high figures of violation prevalence. The fact, for example, that 1 in 10 of the present respondents report at least one murder amongst fellow farm workers, and that 38% of
respondents report that children on the farms were forced to watch public beatings or torture, shows the extent to which Robert Mugabe’s regime is responsible for an extensive series of crimes that were both widespread and systematic: the very definition of crimes against humanity.