Land expropriation is a great project which we must safeguard

Pippa van Rechteren and her twins Catherine and Elizabeth watch farm invaders sing revolutionary songs outside the electric fence of her homestead on Chiripiro farm, north of Harare. South Africa can learn how not to approach land expropriation from the Zimbabweans, says the writer.
Pippa van Rechteren and her twins Catherine and Elizabeth watch farm invaders sing revolutionary songs outside the electric fence of her homestead on Chiripiro farm, north of Harare. South Africa can learn how not to approach land expropriation from the Zimbabweans, says the writer.
Image: REUTERS

Some of us are over the moon that a resolution was passed in parliament for the expropriation of land without compensation.

It would be remembered that those of us affiliated to Azapo and the PAC have been consistent on the land restoration question all along, while others were lukewarm.

We have been saying there is no possibility of building a just society without attending to the land issue.

At times, it felt like we were forlorn voices in the wilderness.

Although it is not clear that those who passed the resolution did so out of conviction and not political opportunism, it is a step in the right direction.

After taking that step, it is now time for us to marry our euphoria and positive sentiment with sober and serious planning.

We would be stupendously stupid not to learn from the mistakes of our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe.

They did the right thing the wrong way and they are continuing to pay the price. There is no need to break the law when you are in power.

Zimbabweans waged a heroic struggle to reconquer their land and then did nothing meaningful to restore it until the pressure from society became too much.

They then started invading land and seizing it from the settlers in a chaotic and unplanned manner. The result was anarchy and economic meltdown that saw literally millions of Zimbabweans descending into poverty. That explains in great part why so many Zimbabweans fled their country.

The estimated three million Zimbabweans living rough in our country provides a lesson that would only escape us if we were incredibly dim.

It is great that after several decades, the Emmerson Mnangagwa administration is trying to correct things, but after how much suffering?

There are issues that are bigger than party political affiliation. Land is one of them. We should come together and plot the road ahead in as far as land reform is concerned.

Among other things, we should kill the phenomenon of black people invading land. It impacts negatively on our dignity.

The images of our people carrying rudimentary tools and building materials trying to occupy land and being chased around by the police must come to an end.

Instead, we should provide land to our people in an orderly and dignified way.

In urban areas, we should have properly planned settlements with roads, water and electricity supply, schools, clinics, places of worship and recreational facilities.

The unplanned settlements that are mikhukhu must be relegated to the past.

For large-scale agriculture, we should identify black people who would like to farm.

After allocating them land, we should give them all the support they need to succeed, including finance, inputs, farming tools and professional services. That's what many governments do all over the world.

People in villages, who have access to land, should be helped to produce food on their land and be assisted with marketing.

Considering that colonialism has deliberately alienated black people from the land, we should aggressively train agronomists, veterinary surgeons and agricultural extension officers to assist both our large-scale and small-scale farmers.

In this way, we would be able to produce enough food for ourselves and export to the outside world. We would establish agro-processing industries to further add value to our agricultural endeavours.

In the past 10 to 15 years, we have messed up so many things. We have messed up our education system, health provision and so on.

Look at our destruction of Eskom, Prasa, the Post Office, SAA, SABC and other state-owned enterprises. We have allowed corruption to overwhelm every aspect of our public life.

We dare not mess up the land restoration project. It is too important an issue for that. But above all, it is a finite and irreplaceable heritage for future generations.

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