“It definitely matters who owns the land. Land is not just an economic tool or entity. It is also a historical attachment. It is an identity of the people. It is potentially an empowerment of people’s outcomes in the future,” at Monash University Australia professor Felix Mavondo told CNBC Africa.
Land restitution and reform are a lengthy process in Africa, partly due to the numerous instances where land was forcefully taken from communities in the past.
In some cases, land is yet to be returned or equally and fairly distributed until today. There are nevertheless numerous instances where land reform has worked positively.
“The example of Zimbabwe is actually very interesting. What has tended to happen in the Western press is when things were bad, they report. When things turned out to be very good, that’s when Zimbabwe is off the radar,” Mavondo explained.
“There are so many positive things that have happened. We can see how much has actually been improved, how empowered certain people have been. There are people who owned nothing, who now own something that can be made economically viable.”
Mavondo added that the problem with the land question in Southern Africa is that it’s particularly different from other regions in the continent.
While Zimbabwe’s land reform example may not be perfect, and the process of land acquisition not having gone as planned, there are still lessons to be learnt from the entire process.
“Government cannot sit on the side lines and hope the land question is going to go away. It’s not going to go away because there are many historical and justice issues embedded in the land question,” said Mavondo.
“As far as I’m concerned, government must sit back and say ‘how can we avoid violence, plan, do what we can and expand as we get the experience’.”
Land acquisition and restitution is different for every country, but prolonging the process could result in countrymen seeking justice outside of the law.
“Government needs to do something to demonstrate it is aware of the limitations of the status quo, and try and show the people that they are sensitive to their needs. If good people don’t do the right thing, bad people will do them,” Mavondo added.