December 19, 2003

Survey on land reform meets different interpretations / Inflation hits record

A local research organisation, the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) has released the results of its recent survey on land reform, titled „Zimbabwe's Land Reform. An Audit of the Public Perception“. The survey was funded by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and was compiled between August and last month with input from over 1 400 people across the country; 907 were drawn from the rural areas and 538 from urban centres.

Regarding the survey’s findings however, interpretation between the two main political camps in Zimbabwe differed markedly. On the one hand, the official government newspaper, the Herald, highlighted that according to the MPOI report, the majority of Zimbabweans were behind the programme. "There is general consensus that land reform was and is necessary in Zimbabwe," the Herald stated. However, the government paper admitted, certain issues like the lack of agricultural inputs and tillage facilities affected the effectiveness of the land reform programme, and there was also need for adequate funding in respect of equipment and inputs and the provision of training, as expressed by the people surveyed.

On the other hand, the oppositional Zimbabwe Independent reported that according to the survey, most Zimbabweans still viewed President Robert Mugabe's land reform programme as a vote-buying exercise which has failed to gain credibility among members of the public. Although awareness of the land reform was very high, this was not matched by access to land itself. More than 96% of those interviewed said they were aware of the land reform programme, but only 14% had access to land which was monopolised by Zanu PF followers. "Considering that one of the objectives of land reform was to decongest the rural areas, it is important to note that the people who benefited from the land allocations are the elite or people with political connections to the ruling party," said the report according to the Zimbabwe Independent. According to this interpretation, the survey also established that there were fears of worsening food shortages due to the instability and uncertainty brought about by the land programme. It emerged through the survey that less than 65% of households allocated land had occupied it, with even fewer engaged in any meaningful production. "One of the strongest criticism of the land reform process is its negative effect on production.”

It has in the meantime also been revealed that Zimbabwe's inflation rate has rocketed to record levels, driven by increases in the cost of food and fuel. According to government statistics, the prices have risen year-on-year by 619.5% in November, up from 525.8% the previous month. The actual rate of inflation may be even higher, economists say, as the official figures do not take into account black market prices. The central bank said it would announce measures aimed at averting an economic crisis. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Zimbabwe's economy has shrunk by about 40% in the past four years. About two thirds of the population face food shortages, and the country suffers from one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in the world. (The Herald, Harare / Zimbabwe Independent, Harare / IRIN)


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