Accepted paper:

Zimbabwean land reform: the negotiation of sympathy and recognition in farmworkers claims to belong


Leila Sinclair-Bright (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on a disputed land claim made by farmworkers, this paper investigates appeals to moral entitlement and the negotiation of sympathy between new farmers, farmworkers and traditional and local government authorities in a new resettlement area in Zimbabwe.

Paper long abstract:

During the Zimbabwean land reform programme the majority of white owned commercial farm land was redistributed by the Zimbabwean government amongst indigenous black Zimbabweans. Land reform was largely framed in terms of land restitution, belonging and entitlement. While indigenous Zimbabweans from across the country were allocated plots of land, the former employees of white farmers were largely excluded. Commonly referred to as farmworkers, many of these people continued to live in farm compounds on these lands. New farmers and institutions supporting them attempt to distinguish themselves from farmworkers in terms of material and moral substance. Yet many new farmers simultaneously extend sympathy towards landless farmworkers in part because of their shared, albeit different, experiences of land reform and the friendships and working relationships established since. Some farmworkers managed to retain small plots allotted to them by white farmers before land reform but in the Zimbabwean governments' ongoing attempt to administer and adjudicate these areas, farmworkers use of such lands is increasingly visible and disputed. Focusing one such dispute brought to a local customary law court this paper investigates the contested field of moral entitlements as emergent from divergent discourses about true claims to belonging and ownership and the negotiation of moral sentiment in such areas. Recognising their claim to belong would not be recognised, farmworkers instead appealed to notions of humane social interaction leaving individual new farmers split between their sympathy for farmworkers and their standing amongst authorities. Fieldwork was conducted in Mazowe District between 2011 and 2013.

panel P66
Community, belonging and moral sentiment: is to belong to be a moral person?