For years, Western journalists have castigated Zimbabwe’s land reform program. From afar, they pronounced land reform a failure for having brought about the total collapse of agriculture and plunging the nation into chronic food insecurity. Redistributed land, we are continually told, went to cronies with political connections, while ordinary people were almost entirely excluded from the process. Farmland went to ruin because of the incompetence of the new owners. These were simple messages, drilled into the minds of the Western public through repetition. For Western reporters, certain that they owned the truth, emotion substituted for evidence. Those of a more curious frame of mind, however, were left to wonder what conditions were like in the field, where no reporter bothered to venture.
Radio Interview with Gregory Elich, by host Brendan Stone on the Unusual Sources program, CFMU FM.
An Interview with Sam Moyo
Amid the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, the agricultural sector continues to struggle. Although the plunge in agricultural output over the last few years has often been commented on in the Western media, little or no attention is paid to the complex factors contributing to that decline. Instead, matters are reduced to a simple generalization. It is rare to be presented with information from someone with direct involvement with the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe. Sam Moyo has over 25 years of research experience in rural development issues, and his organization has conducted studies and analyses and provided policy recommendations on land policy. Highly respected in his profession, Moyo is uniquely positioned to offer an evidence-based overview of the situation.
Mr. Berman’s letter illustrates the point I made about selective concern in the opening paragraph of my article. His outrage is reserved for the case of Vincent Schultz, a white commercial farmer who owns a 1,400-acre farm. This is approximately 200 times the size of the average black owned farm, and is situated on land far more suitable for agriculture than the barren lands blacks were herded onto during the colonial era. The Schultz farm has been divided into several smaller farms, which will now support many farmers. Mr. Schultz, as well as other white Zimbabwean commercial farmers can continue to farm, but their new farms will be smaller. They will no longer possess gigantic tracts of land, much of it unused, while millions of people live in severely overcrowded conditions on barren land. They will have enough land to make a living, though. It is simply untenable that a few landowners hold more land than they can use while millions live in despair. There is room in Zimbabwe for both white and black farmers. What there is no longer room for in Zimbabwe is gross inequality.
As Zimbabwe descends into anarchy and chaos, land is irrationally seized from productive farmers, we are told. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is portrayed as a dictator bent on driving his nation into starvation and economic disaster while benevolent U.S. and British leaders call for democracy and human rights. These are the images presented by Western news reports, intended to persuade the public to support an interventionist policy. As always when the West targets a foreign leader for removal, news reports ignore complexity and context, while the real motivations for intervention remain hidden. Concern for democracy and human rights is selective and it is always the nation that displays too much independence that evokes concern, even in cases of a functioning multiparty system and wide ranging media.