Third Chimurenga

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The Third Chimurenga (Land Redistribution/Reform), in Zimbabwe was an extensive process of redistribution of land from white commercial farmers to local indigenous people. It was initiated by Zanu PF on 15 July 2000 under Robert Mugabe in order to repossess and redistribute land. The centrality of land at the heart of this scheme has resulted in the Third Chimurenga being intimately associated with the Fast Track Land Reform Programme.

Historical Background

The foundations of the Third Chimurenga are directly linked to the meaning of the word Chimurenga itself. Chimurenga is a Shona word which means a violent uprising or revolt. The word has also been translated to Umvukela in Ndebele language maintaining the same meaning of revolt and uprising.[1] The name Chimurenga is associated with Zimbabwe’s earliest indigenous societies’ coercive resistance to colonization by the British South Africa Company under Cecil John Rhodes. Both the Shona and Ndebele societies resorted to military confrontation of colonisation and this resistance has been referred to as the First Chimurenga. The failure of the First Chimurenga to avFert colonisation resulted in continued attempts to fight colonialism from the late 1950s in Zimbabwe by a new generation of Nationalists who included Joshua Nkomo and Josiah Chinamano. This resulted in the eventual formation of political parties such as the African National Congress (ANC) in 1958, National Democratic Party (NDP) in 1960 and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) in 1961.[2]

Historians generally refer to the Second Chimurenga as the continuation of resistance to colonialism which was started by the earlier leaders such as Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi. Thus the main rationale of the second phase of resistance (The Second Chimurenga) was to achieve political independence through the removal of the white dominated government which denied the local indigenes political liberty. This has often been referred to as the liberation struggle.[1] The Second Chimurenga resulted in the subsequent removal of the white dominated Rhodesian government in 1980 and Zimbabwe attained political independence and majority rule under the leadership of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu P.F) government.[1]

The independence period in Zimbabwe from April 1980 was pre-occupied with the ideal of addressing the colonial legacy in Zimbabwe. These included redistribution of natural resources such as mineral wealth and land. Land reform program in Zimbabwe started soon after independence through on Willing Buyer Willing Seller basis as part of the Lancaster House Conference agreement.[3]

Third Chimurenga and the Lancaster House Agreement

The Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 which brought independence in Zimbabwe stipulated that land was to remain in the hands on the minority white commercial farmers and the government would only acquire land through the Willing Buyer Willing Seller system which received funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).[3] These terms were included in the Lancaster Constitution and were meant to be reviewed after the first ten years. However, in 1990, serious disagreements emerged when the British government and Zimbabwe failed to reach a consensus with regards to the model which was to be deployed in the repossession of land.[3] These problems were kept under the carpet until 1998 when the local populace began to question the government’s reluctance towards land repossession. The fighters of the Second Chimurenga locally referred to as the war veterans were on the forefront in calling for land redistribution. In 1998, Chief Enock Zenda Gahadza Svosve of the Svosve area of Mashonaland East province invaded the nearby Desktop Farm and this signalled the beginning of the agrarian reform.[4] This resulted in the legalisation of land repossession by the Zimbabwean government in 2000 through the Fast Track Land Reform Programme which was dubbed the Third Chimurenga.

The Third Chimurenga; Fast Track Land Reform Programme

The basis of the Third Chimurenga was to repossess and redistribute large tracts of land from the minority white community into the hands of the black populace who had for long been overpopulated in the infertile and somewhat drought prone areas of the country. Hence the main rationale was to compliment the country’s political independence with social and economic independence through land redistribution. Under the leadership of the then Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made, the government crafted a number of frameworks and policies which governed land redistribution.[3] The Programme, which was launched on 15 July 2000, was designed to be undertaken in an accelerated manner and with reliance on domestic resources. The Programme was a fundamental departure from previous philosophy, practices and procedures of acquiring land and resettling people.

In 2000 the government of Zimbabwe embarked on Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP) amending the Land Acquisition Act to give the government effectively the power to expropriate land without compensation. The intention of the 2000 FTLRP was to reallocate Zimbabwe’s land more equitably. The government seized massive amounts of arable land from white Zimbabwean farmers, cancelled their title deeds, subdivided the pre-existing farms, and settled black Zimbabweans on the land. More than 14 million hectares were expropriated and distributed among more than 230,000 households.

Policy Framework

Consistent with previous policy pillars, the framework for the Fast Track was based on the compelling national economic and social imperatives, of poverty eradication and faster economic development. With agriculture as the cornerstone of the country’s economy, land was therefore viewed as the engine for economic growth, as per the popular slogan, “land is the economy, and the economy is the land”.[5]

The Fast Track Land Reform Programme was initially targeted at de-congesting communal lands. In the later stages it was extended to incorporate the creation of an indigenous commercial farming sector. Under the Fast Track Land Reform Programme from 2000, the government target the redistribution of not less than 500 million hectares of land. During this phase, land was acquired compulsory in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act (chapter 20:10) as amended.

One Man One Farm Policy

The Government adopted the one-man-one-farm policy at the inception of the land reform and resettlement programme and continues to uphold this policy. In the case of a single owned farm being acquired due to its being contiguous to a communal area, Government undertook to provide the affected farmer with another elsewhere around the country.

Resettlement Models

In the Fast Track phase, two resettlement models were used, Model A1 and Model A2. Model A1 was intended as decongesting communal lands. Model A2 was aimed at creating a cadre of black commercial farmers and was based on the concept of full cost recovery from the beneficiary.[5] Settler selection was made on the basis of applications submitted to the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement.

Third Chimurenga and Sanctions Embargo

It is a general feeling among citizens that the poor and alleged illegal repossession of land by the Zimbabwean government attracted the imposition of sanctions by the European Union. The European Union demonised the Third Chimurenga on the basis that it was done at the expense of Human Rights and individual liberty was compromised in the process.[6] This resulted in the imposition of travel bans on the bulk of the Mugabe led government. As part of the sanctions, Zimbabwe has also been suspended from financial assistance by the Brettonwood Institutions (IMF and World Bank).[6]

Companies and parastatals were also barred to conduct trade with American and European enterprises in order to cripple the local economy. The Zanu P.F government has churned popular rhetoric emphasising that the sanctions are illegal and they are meant to trigger regime change in the country. However the European Union and denied the illegal overtones of the sanctions and they have categorically described them as simply ‘restrictive’ measures.[7]

Controversies and Debates

The international media often particularly from Europe and the Americas has often exaggerated the violent nature of the Third Chimurenga. Zimbabwe attracted international attention on accusation of human rights and disregard of private property. Non Governmental Organisations joined the crusade in demonising the Third Chimurenga.[8] This was further exacerbated by the formation of an opposition party in 1999 the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai which led the campaign from within attacking viewing the Third Chimurenga as devastating in nature and barbaric in approach. These factors made the Third Chimurenga appear like an evil exercise which was detrimental to Zimbabwe’s political stability and economic prosperity. The Zanu PF government was also accused of paternalistic tendencies in the distribution of land through favouring the party loyalists at the expense of the moderates and opposition supporters. The violent nature of the Third Chimurenga resulted in some fatal instances on both parties. However, these encounters were deliberately exaggerated by the international media in order to give a gloomy picture of the whole exercise.[5] On the contrary, the Third Chimurenga managed to rescue thousands of households from famine and overpopulation in the rural areas. Ordinary peasants, civil servants, government officials, youths and women benefitted from the land reform program under the banner of the Third Chimurenga. Highly populated rural areas such as Mutoko, Buhera, Mt Darwin and Masvingo were relieved as most of the peasants relocated to the newly established communal areas under the Third Chimurenga.[9]

Effects of FTLRP

The subdivision of commercial farms and settling of new farmers substantially reduced agricultural output. Between 2000 and 2008 production of maize dropped 76%. Agricultural exports declined by 53% during the same period. Zimbabwe, which used to be a net food exporter to neighboring countries, turned into a country with severe food shortages, and a net importer, importing more than 20% of its food commodities from South Africa. The government of Zimbabwe has acknowledged that poorly conceived support policies and inadequate funding to the resettlement process, as well as inadequate skills among the newly resettled farmers as some of the main reasons for the decline in the country’s agricultural production.


From a historical perspective, the Third Chimurenga was more than a conflict of interests between the Zimbabwean government and the white farmers. It was in fact a war to control the economy. Land as a natural resource is vital in the development of every polity. For the white farmers, the Third Chimurenga was a loss of their autonomy, a loss of their means of production, a loss of their source of income and livelihoods, and above all, a loss of their fore fathers’ legacy which they had enjoyed for a whole century. For the autochthons and the Zanu P.F government, the Third Chimurenga was the process of fulfilling of addressing the imbalances and the legacy of the colonial period, it was an era of putting the nail on the coffin of colonialism, an epoch of complimenting political independence with economic independence. It was in fact the incarnation of the dream of the First and Second Chimurenga; economic freedom through land ownership by the indigenous populace. Whether the Third Chimurenga was a success or not remains a subjective debate which calls for vast empirical data, statistics and literature.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Bob Seerry, Zimbabwe’s Third Chimurenga by Bob Seery, "Strasser’s Blog", published:31 Jan 2010,retrived:19 Jun 2014"
  2. , National Democratic Party, retrived:19 Jun 2014"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 H. McCullum, The Third Chimurenga and Zimbabwe’s Crisis, "Kubatana", published:4 Sep 2006,retrived:19 Jun 2014"
  4. , Zanu PF Punishes Land Reform Pioneers, "publisher", retrived:19 Jun 2014"
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 L. White, Guerrilla Veterans and the Third Chimurenga, "Cambridge University Press", published:2003, retrived:19 Jun 2014"
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tinashe Mushakavanhu,Writing the Third Chimurenga, "Panorama Magazine", published:2013, retrived:19 June 2014"
  7. K. Gumboreshumba, Be Warned Chimurenga Revolution is an Organism, "The Herald", published:20 Aug 2013,retrived:19 Jun 2014"
  8. Jonathan Moyo, The Third Way; Zims’s Last Chimurenga, "NewZimbawe.Com", published:, 11 Dec 2009, retrived:18 Jun 2014"
  9. T. Chinyoka, Why we had to take back our Land, "The Herald", published:12 Jun 2014,retrived:19 Jun 2014"

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