It is interesting to look at the country where the land nationalisation ideology that has been used in Zimbabwe originally came from. A little over a century ago, the great Russian Prime Minister and courageous reformer, Stolypin, began reforming the communal lands of Russia to give individual ownership to over 6 million peasant households in a decade. This increased total agricultural production by 50% in that decade because with individual ownership came development on those farms. Stolypin was murdered.
When Lenin took over immediately afterwards, he began his “command economy” and the peasants who had ownership had their property rights taken away with the infamous “land decree”. With property rights destroyed, Russians starved by the million, despite having such a vast agricultural land area on which they could have fed the world.
Every land nationalisation program carried out around the world since Lenin’s land decree of 26 October 1917, has had equally disastrous effects.
It is interesting to note that in line with the Leninist nationalisation in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe has also instituted “command agriculture,” mirroring Lenin’s “command economy”. The State commands and controls farmers in terms of whether they can grow and what they grow, as well as where they must market their produce. Last year the State paid farmers double the world price for maize and sold it on for half what they bought it for. This helped lead to a good harvest; but a record loss by the Grain Marketing Board of over 200 million dollars. Such madcap schemes from a cash-strapped government and a cash-strapped people who have to pay for such schemes, are totally unsustainable.
One of the sons of the Zimbabwean soil, Allan Savory – a visionary and a man very influential in world agriculture, including in the U.S., once said: “Without agriculture it is not possible to have a city, stock market, banks, university, church or army. Agriculture is the foundation of civilisation and any stable economy.”
To be successful, agriculture has to be founded on secure, bankable and transferable property rights. The current 99-year leases with the clause that government can cancel them in 90 days, are simply perpetuating the problem of dead capital.
If we are able to marry the resurrection of currently dead land capital to the resurrection of effectively dead human capital, Zimbabwe would become the fastest growing economy in the world in a very short period of time.
The primary focus initially needs to be on Section 72 of the Zimbabwe Constitution (2013) which was struck down in its previous form (as Amendment 17 to the previous Constitution) by the Campbell Judgment in the SADC Tribunal. We need to ensure that this Judgment does not continue to be ignored. [Amendment 17 was added to Zimbabwe’s Constitution on September 14, 2005 to vest ownership of certain categories of land on the Zimbabwean government and to eliminate the courts’ jurisdiction to hear any challenge to the land acquisitions. Commercial farmer Mike Campbell initiated proceedings in court on May 15, 2006, challenging the validity of Amendment 17.]
Section 72 allows the Zimbabwe Government to acquire any right or interests in private land by notice in the Gazette after which that land vests in the State with full title. “No compensation is payable in respect of its acquisition…” [Section 72(3)(a)]. “The acquisition may not be challenged on the grounds that it was discriminatory…” Section 72(3)(c). “An act of Parliament may make it an offence for any person, without lawful authority to possess or occupy agricultural land…”
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