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Bloch Was Right On Land Reform

CHIDO Makunike’s  article (Zimbabwe Independent 12 2008) –– in which he bitterly criticised Eric Bloch’s article of the previous week on land reform cannot go unchallenged.

Admittedly both Shona and Ndebele people suffered injustices at the hands of the white settlers, to whom an empty space was just an empty space and who probably did not have an understanding of the nature of indigenous land “ownership”.

Does Makunike suppose that the settlers should have given the local chief a tap on the shoulder and asked if it would be OK if they were to establish a permanent farm to grow wheat, maize and tobacco, and institute a scientific long-term cattle breeding programme?

Things however do not work like that, and in the history of mankind very few major advances in technology or civilisation occurred without much pain and suffering, and this applies as much to Africa as to the rest of the  world.

Makunike should read up on the horrendous experiences of the workforce in the foul industrial slums of early Victorian Britain  which were infinitely worse than anything endured by the Shona as a result of the white settlement of what is now Zimbabwe.

Bloch was right when he said the land reform programme needs to be reformed, all it has achieved so far is the senseless destruction of the engine which drove the economy and thus has reduced the jewel to a slag heap.

After we have had a change of government and adopted a new constitution which guarantees property rights and independence of a non-partisan judiciary, we must do our utmost to restore large scale commercial agriculture to its former productivity by whatever means are necessary.

In today’s disaster-prone, recession-struck world with a burgeoning population, we cannot continue to scrounge for food from Western donors (and our cholera pills from China) forever, nor can we afford to pass  up the opportunity to earn as much desperately needed foreign currency by export of our beef, tobacco and other agricultural products to the huge and growing market.

For too long now we have allowed our emotions over the land issue to run away with our brains. It is time we stopped looking over our shoulder at the rights and wrongs of the past and got down to the serious business of working harmoniously together to repair the damage caused by 10 years of rampant corruption, gross incompetence and unbridled greed.The past is past and cannot be changed; now we must build wisely for the future.

MA Mason,

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