Land governance and displacement in Zimbabwe: The case of Chilonga Communal Area, Chiredzi District

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Malvern Kudakwashe Marewo
Senzeni Ncube
Horman Chitonge


This article investigates the effect on rural livelihoods of the displacement of people in Chilonga communal area in Zimbabwe. Various studies in Africa, including Zimbabwe, have shown that land displacements happen where the political elite, in collusion with multinational companies and powerful individuals, take advantage of weak land governance systems particularly in communal areas to displace people. Lack of title over land, which is mostly vested in the state, makes communal areas most vulnerable to displacement. This is evident in the current case study of Chilonga, where various statutory instruments have been enforced to evict people. The Chilonga displacement, enforced by the state to accommodate large-scale lucerne farming, ignores that land is a source of livelihoods and identity for communal area dwellers. It has also shown that people from communal areas have limited freedom to resist displacement that curtails access and use of land. We argue that the Chilonga case study illustrates our contention that, where African land governance is weak, political elites and their connections use it to achieve narrow interests regardless of the impact on communal area dwellers through displacement and loss of livelihoods.

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Marewo, M. K., Ncube, S., & Chitonge, H. (2021). Land governance and displacement in Zimbabwe: The case of Chilonga Communal Area, Chiredzi District. The Africa Governance Papers, 1(1). Retrieved from
Research Articles
Author Biographies

Malvern Kudakwashe Marewo, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town

Dr Malvern Kudakwashe Marewo (PhD in African Studies) comes from a development studies background. Currently, he is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town, South Africa. His areas of research and publication include land reform, belonging and translocation, agrarian labour and livelihoods, land governance and displacement.

Senzeni Ncube, Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town

Dr Senzeni Ncube is a Postdoctoral Fellow under the Land and Democracy National Research Foundation (NRF) Chair at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town. Her research interests include land and agrarian reform in Africa, land displacement and livelihoods and food security.

Horman Chitonge, African Studies at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town

Horman Chitonge is a professor of African Studies at the Centre for African Studies, University of Cape Town (UCT). He is a visiting research fellow in the Global Justice Programme, Yale University, a research associate at PRISM, School of Economics (UCT), and a visiting fellow at the African Studies Centre, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. His research interests include agrarian political economy, hydro-politics, and alternative strategies for economic growth in Africa. His most recent books include: Industrial Policy and the Transforming the Colonial Economy in Africa: The Zambian Experience (Routledge, 2021). Industrialising Africa: Unlocking the Economic Potential of the Continent (Peter Lang, 2019); Social Welfare Policy in South Africa: From the Poor White Problem to a Digitised Social Contract (Peter Lang, 2018); Economic Growth and Development in Africa: Understanding Trends and Prospects (Routledge, 2015).


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