Masthead header

Overview of Research on Farm Seizures in Zimbabwe

A key purpose of this website is to disseminate unpublished data from a large-scale doctoral research project undertaken by Charles Laurie at the University of Oxford on the violent seizure of commercial farms in Zimbabwe, beginning in year 2000 and largely ending in 2008; it is this research that is the subject of Charles’ book The Land Reform Deception, available in 2016. These large-scale and extra-legal seizures targeted unarmed workers and farmers on all of the 4,300 commercial farms in Zimbabwe, in one of the most violent and transformative events since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

What motivated the Zimbabwean state to target the nation’s dominant industry? Charles’ doctoral research examined this key issue as well as the following secondary questions:

  • How did the farm seizures begin in year 2000?
  • Were the wave of farm seizures planned in advance by the government?
  • Did the farm seizure campaign spiral out of control?
  • To what extent did President Mugabe support the farm seizures?
  • Were the farm seizures primarily a land redistribution or a political event?
  • What were the true objectives of agents who targeted commercial farms: land, or saleable assets?
  • Why was such extensive violence used against largely unarmed workers and farmers?
  • How did chronic or acute vulnerability affect farmer decision-making?
  • How did the violence experienced by farmers compared to that faced by farm workers?
  • What were the dynamics behind eight types of violence: Abduction/Unlawful Arrest; Assault; Murder; Attempted Murder; Rape; Torture; Intimidation/Verbal Threat; Property Damage/Theft?

Charles’ research relied upon three unique data sets:

First, he coded 21,491 incidents of violence and intimidation across Zimbabwe from 2000 to 2008. He then depicted these incidents month-by-month on 92 geographical maps, forming a a unique quantitative mapping data set that gives insights into the proliferation of longitudinal violence.

Second, he personally conducted 111 interviews with farm workers, farmers, and state agents, including senior politicians and state security agents.

Third, he conducted a survey of 1,442 farmers — this  represents 34% of farmers operating in Zimbabwe in the year 2000.