Article from ROAPE Volume 30 Number 98
New Politics/Livelihoods: Agrarian Change Zimbabwe
In the last four years Zimbabwe has featured prominently in headlines around the world. An ongoing radical land reform involving the seizure of largely white-owned commercial farmland has dramatically altered the physical landscape. Alongside this, a new political terrain has rapidly unfolded with new actors and new institutions. Tensions between authoritarian nationalism and ethnic politics, between a militarised, modernist order and 'traditional' religion and authority have created a complex political mosaic, made up of multiple and overlapping identities and positions. This is a confusing and dynamic landscape populated by actors as diverse as entrepreneurial war veteran 'security guards'-cum-protection racketeers, militant ZANU(PF) youth brigades, and marauding elephants possessed by chiefly spirits. Focusing on the farm occupations and 'fast-track' land reform around Sangwe communal area in Chiredzi district, southeastern Zimbabwe, this paper attempts to make sense of this seemingly chaotic landscape. It explores the new patterns of social differentiation and the emerging lines of political authority, and investigates the impact of these changing circumstances on people's livelihoods.