Journos playing Mugabe’s game

The only way to claim Zim land “reform” success is to ignore facts, says Roy Bennett.

There is a new fashion developing among some white journalists and academics: they have joined with Zanu-PF in presenting ‘land reform’ as a success. It began with English academic Ian Scoones, and it’s now being repeated by others – the latest version being a book entitled “Zimbabwe takes back its land”.

These people are reacting to what they say is the simplistic picture of “land reform” as a disaster. But their revisionist line strikes me as being more than a little simplistic itself. These studies focus on very small samples and then make sweeping generalisations that cast Zanu-PF and “land reform” in a positive light. In turn, journalists pick up on these generalisations and simplify them yet again, coming out with sound bites that are grossly and blatantly inaccurate.

Knowingly or unknowingly, these people have become victims of Zanu-PF propaganda. The well-known South African journalist, Max du Preez, is one.
A couple of days ago he wrote that “agricultural production is presently on levels comparable with the time before the [land reforms] started”.  Even the Zimbabwe government’s own statistics show this to be an absurd statement.

Tobacco production, the greatest “success” story since the land invasions, currently stands at around 145 million kilograms, between 50 and 100 million kilograms short of the figures from 1995 to 2000. (Ironically, it is also true that after a dismal few years during which Gono and others claimed to be trying to stimulate production, the rebound in tobacco has occurred via the involvement of crooked Western companies that are providing inputs to peasant farmers and to many white farm managers who are working on behalf of chefs.)

In the twenty years from 1980, there were three years of national food deficit coinciding with drought in the early 1980s and early 1990s. Since 2000, there have been 13 consecutive years of food deficit and the United Nations has recently appealed for more than $100 million dollars to feed 1.7 million Zimbabweans in 2013. Zimbabweans are again dependent for survival on the generosity of the international community, including the so-called ‘regime change’ neo-imperialist power, Britain.

– A former Zimbabwean MP, Bennett is treasurer of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.