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Value of Property Rights Now Seen by One Who Seized Land



(p. 4) MAZOWE, Zimbabwe -- The police first came early one morning five years ago, catching villagers by surprise as they worked in their fields. As hundreds of anti-riot police officers jumped down from their vehicles, their commander issued the villagers an order.

"He said that mother and daughter Grace Mugabe wanted this place," recalled a village leader, Denboy Chaparadza. "So you better move away."

The villagers understood right away: Grace Mugabe, the wife of Robert Mugabe, who was ousted from power in November after 37 years as Zimbabwe's leader, and their daughter, Bona, coveted the villagers' land. The Mugabes already owned property and businesses in Mazowe, about 25 miles north of Harare, the capital, and they were eager to expand.

Before the villagers could object, the police, armed with sticks and iron bars, demolished their modest houses. "Every house," Mr. Chaparadza said. "They left us out in the open. We felt betrayed."


. . .


One reason the 146 families who lived in Mazowe felt betrayed by their leader was that they themselves had seized the land from a white farmer in 2000, under Mr. Mugabe's fast-track land reform program. Now, they risked losing everything to his wife and daughter: 3,100 acres of prime land for farming and cattle ranching that abuts a lake and gold mines.


. . .


Determining who owns the land is a necessary step to development and democratization in Zimbabwe. Nearly all Zimbabweans who benefited from Mr. Mugabe's land reform policy lack titles, or legal ownership of their property -- leaving them at the mercy of the politically powerful.


. . .

Land also remains a tool of political control, one that Mr. Mnangagwa and other leaders of the governing ZANU-PF party have never shown a willingness to relinquish.


. . .


In recent years, as fighting over succession intensified inside ZANU-PF, land was used to punish and to keep people in line.

High-ranking officials expelled from the party had their land seized, or suffered repeated incursions into their properties by party youths. The threat of losing their farms led some officials to stay in ZANU-PF, instead of decamping to new opposition parties.


. . .


Mr. Chaparadza, the village leader, said that as part of any resolution of the land issue, the new government should compensate white farmers.

"Even if they come back, that's fine as long as they give us another place," he said. "We won't deny them. What we need is only some land where we can survive -- and title to the land.''



For the full story, see:

NORIMITSU ONISHI. "Land Issue Stands in Zimbabwe's Path." The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, January 21, 2018): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 20, 2018, and has the title "Resolving Who Owns What Land Lies at Heart of Zimbabwe's Future.")






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