THE RECOMMENDED FOCUS FOR FUTURE U.S. – ZIMBABWE RELATIONS The U.S. needs to focus o the current drive by Zimbabwe’s leaders to bring in investment and financial aid given that some of the extremely negative and counterproductive laws, policies and practices remain in place. The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (ZDERA), passed by the U.S. Congress in December 2001, stipulates that the restoration of the rule of law in Zimbabwe includes “respect for ownership and title to property.” [Section 4 (d)(1)] Restoration and expansion of property rights Commercial agriculture, underpinned by property rights, has always been the backbone of the economy. Prior to 2000, the year the farm invasions began, commercial agriculture with titled land accounted for approximately 30% of the land area of Zimbabwe.
This accounted for 20% of Zimbabwe’s GDP, which rose to 60% when agri-based industries, including services, came into the equation. It also accounted for over 40% of national export earnings. In addition, over 20 percent of the population lived and was employed on commercial farms, with commercial agriculture-related employment comprising a third of the formal labour force. The destruction of property rights and the nationalisation of the vast majority of titled land has been catastrophic for the economy. On that nationalised land, no dams have been built, nor any meaningful development undertaken since the date of nationalisation. In fact, the vast majority of irrigation schemes have fallen into disuse, thousands of hectares of valuable forex-earning orchards have died, and thorn trees have begun to take over in many of the agricultural fields.
There is no doubt that if property rights were restored and expanded, there could be a very quick recovery in the agricultural sector. This would bring massive employment, a huge inflow of desperately needed foreign currency, a return of skills lost through the mass exodus of skilled Zimbabweans, and a revival in the local downstream industries, 60% of which were primarily focused on agriculture.
Bankable, transferable and inheritable property rights now only exist on less than 10% of the total land area in Zimbabwe. As a result, virtually no development or meaningful production and employment is able to take place because no investment is secure and nobody can take a long-term view – something essential for agriculture. Former commercial farms have become as unproductive as – or even less productive than their communal neighbours. A system of feudal patronage has developed throughout the land where everyone lives in fear, insecurity and poverty for the purposes of being easily controlled.
Three steps need to be taken to free the land, unlock its potential and bring it to life so that the remarkable human capital that Zimbabwe has available at its disposal can get involved with development, production and employment on the land:
1. Property rights need to be re-established in the recently nationalised commercial land [approximately 11 million hectares].
2. Property rights need to be re-established in the formerly nationalised commercial land that was bought by government for resettlement but on which no formal bankable or transferable property rights were given [3.6 million hectares].
3. Property rights need to be established for the first time in the communal areas [17 million hectares].
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