Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Zimbabwe is slowly recovering from a decade of economic and political chaos in the wake of President Robert G. Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms under the guise of land reform.
Before these seizures, whites owned the vast majority of prime agricultural land, and dominated the production of the most profitable cash crops. Members of Mr. Mugabe’s political party, ZANU-PF, took some of the best pieces of land for themselves and never actually farmed them. Agricultural production collapsed, runaway inflation wiped out people’s savings and many starved.
There is no question that Mr. Mugabe’s actions in Zimbabwe caused great turmoil. But scholars and analysts are now reconsidering the legacy of Mr. Mugabe’s land redistribution. I wrote an article about the rebounding tobacco industry in Zimbabwe, finding that the wealth generated by Zimbabwe’s cash crop — about $400 million last year — is now being shared among 60,000 mostly black farmers, rather than fewer than 2,000 white ones.
The story raises tough questions about the fundamental fairness of land ownership patterns in many post-colonial societies, and whether the state can ever be justified in seizing land without compensation. What is the best way to overcome deep imbalances in a society like Zimbabwe? And what does the legacy of land reform in Zimbabwe portend for other countries, like neighboring South Africa, that are grappling with the same issue?
I will be taking questions about these issues this week, and reaction and responses to a select number of questions — chosen for their relevance or insight — will be posted on Monday. Your questions can be submitted in the comments section below and you can also post questions or reactions on Twitter by including the hashtag #NYTWorldChat.R Soft Web Hosting