Land Reform in Zimbabwe: a Balance of Political Expediency and Economic Inevitability?


Lyubov Prokopenko


The article considers the political aspect of land reform in the Republic of Zimbabwe. The problem of land reform has been one of the crucial ones in the history of this African country, which celebrated 40 years of independence on April 18, 2020. In recent decades, it has been constantly in the spotlight of political and electoral processes. The land issue was one of the key points of the political program from the very beginning of Robert Mugabe’s reign in 1980. The political aspect of land reform began to manifest itself clearly with the growth of the opposition movement in the late 1990s.

In 2000–2002 the country implemented the Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP), the essence of which was the compulsory acquisition of land from white owners without compensation. The expropriation of white farmers’ lands in the 2000s led to a serious reconfiguration of land ownership, which helped to maintain in power the ruling party, the African National Union of Zimbabwe – Patriotic Front (ZANU – PF). The government was carrying out its land reform in the context of a sharp confrontation with the opposition, especially with the Party for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by trade union leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The land issue was on the agenda of all the election campaigns (including the elections in July 2018); this fact denotes its politicization, hence the timeliness of this article. The economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe in the 2000–2010s was the most noticeable phenomenon in the South African region. The analysis of foreign and domestic sources allows us to conclude that the accelerated land reform served as one of its main triggers.

The practical steps of the new Zimbabwean president, Mr. Emmerson Mnangagwa, indicate that he is aware of the importance of resolving land reform-related issues for further economic recovery. At the beginning of March 2020, the government adopted new regulations defining the conditions for compensation to farmers. On April 18, 2020, speaking on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the independence of Zimbabwe, Mr. E. Mnangagwa stated that the land reform program remains the cornerstone of the country’s independence and sovereignty.


land issue, land reform, ZANU – PF, land redistribution, opposition, crisis, sanctions, droughts, Mr. E. Mnangagwa, compensation




1. Abramova I.O., Fituni L.L. Tendencii ekonomicheskogo razvitiya i inflyacionnye processy v stranah Afriki yuzhnee Sahary (Economic development trends and inflationary processes in Sub-Saharan Africa). Problemy sovremennoj ekonomiki. 2016. № 4 (60). pp. 159–165. ISSN 1818-3395.
2. Abramova I.O., Fituni L.L., Sapuncov A.L. «Voznikayushchie» i «nesostoyavshiesya» gosudarstva v mirovoj ekonomike i politike (“Emerging” and “failed” states in global economy and politics). Moscow, Institute for African Studies RAS. 2007. 197 с. ISBN 978-5-91298-020-6.
3. Bond P. Zimbabve: politika v stile Mugabe (Zimbabwe: Politics, Mugabe Style). columns/analysis/2019/03/19/mugabe-style (accessed 20.04.2020)
4. Chida P. Covid-19: Chamisa chides government. (accessed 19.04.2020)
5. Chilunjika A., Uwizeyimana D.E. Shifts in the Zimbabwean Land Reform Discourse from 1980 to the present. African Journal of Public Affairs. 2015. vol. 8, issue 3, pp. 131–144. https://pdfs. (accessed 18.04.2020)
6. Cole B. Zimbabwe’s compensation promise to white farmers causes fury. za/sunday-tribune/news/zimbabwes-compensation-promise-to-white-farmers-causes-fury-21114654 (accessed 18.04.2020)