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Spirits and Land Reforms: Conflicts About Land in Dande, Northern Zimbabwe

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Despite its present support for the invasion of (mainly white-owned) commercial farms and emphasis on 'fast-track resettlement', most interventions by the post-Independence government of Zimbabwe in agriculture aimed to confine African farmers to the Communal Areas. In Dande, northern Zimbabwe, a land reform programme was introduced in 1987 that sought to 'rationalise' local land use practices and render them more efficient. Such reforms were deemed necessary to reduce the pressure on commercial farms. This article describes how the reforms caused Mhondoro mediums in Dande to challenge the authority of the state over land, thereby referring to the role they and their spirits played in the struggle for Independence. Pressure on the mediums to revoke their criticism resulted in a complex process in which adherents challenged the reputation of mediums who were not steadfast in their resistance to the reforms.


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