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Racial Rhetoric and Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe, 2000 to 2001

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This paper explores the interactions between racial rhetoric and the land reform programme in Zimbabwe. It highlights two missing elements of existing historiography on the subject: how Zimbabweans regard the motivations behind the violent land reform programme that was launched in February 2000, and the impact of racially charged rhetoric on attitudes to land reform in Zimbabwe. Utilising interviews conducted with a wide range of Zimbabweans, this paper challenges the narrative provided in Zimbabwean and international media that the land reform programme was inherently racist. Instead, it proposes that race was a tool used by Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party to disguise the true intentions of land reform. The rapid rise of the Movement for Democratic Change as an opposition party and the overwhelming support provided by black farm workers on white commercial farms to the opposition are instead presented as alternative motivations. The impact of racial rhetoric is also challenged through the voices of those behind and affected by such statements. Race is shown to be a much more complicated and personal element of land reform than is typically believed.

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