Land issues—including extreme racial disparities in land ownership, insecurity of land tenure and property rights, control over fertile land and mineral reserves, and insecurity of community land rights—have played a central role in Zimbabwe’s history which continues to this day. Located in Southern Africa, between South Africa and Zambia, Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) achieved independence from colonial rule in 1980. Though rich in mineral resources, the vast majority of Zimbabweans live in poverty. By January 2009, only 6% of the population worked in the formal sector.
Zimbabwe is moving forward with a process to compensate former farm owners whose land was taken from them because they were white during the country’s fast-track land reform program (FTLRP).
After a controversial land-reform program transferred many commercial farms from white to black ownership, some of the new farmers have struggled to prove that they own the land. But since the government has replaced title deeds with 99-year leases, uncertainty remains about what “ownership” really means.
Most of Zimbabwe’s economic challenges, including a ballooning budget deficit, a huge trade deficit and crippling foreign currency shortages, can be traced back to how the southern African country handled land reform, a leading economist has said.
Zimbabwe embarked on a land reform programme in 2000, but came under fire for the manner in which it was conducted.