The Need for Security – Eddie Cross

via email 7 November 2013

We must understand that all progress is based on individuals feeling secure and knowing that what they create will not be taken from them on an arbitrary basis. You could link this to the rule of law and the need for everyone to feel that when needed they can turn to the institutions of their society that will deal with their problems and conflicts when they arise, in a just and equitable manner.

Take these elements away and all progress in innovation, economic activity and development suddenly become impossible. In Africa, I have long argued that one of our greatest shortcomings is our failure to give people security over the assets they create or use. Our cultures were created in an era when land was a free good and in abundant supply – people used simple technologies to clear land, exploit it for a few years until it was exhausted and then they simply moved to a new location and repeated the process.

Now that our populations have reached the point where this system can no longer be sustained, if we do not give our rural populations security of tenure there is little or no chance that our farmers will be able to develop their land and will be willing to invest in it on a long term basis. Only a small proportion of global land resources are held under secure, legal tenure but such land supplies the great majority of global food supplies. The majority of people living in rural areas where the land tenure is communal are locked into a system where the equity value of the land they are using is not available to them as collateral and where they have little or no security over any assets they create on the land in question. So these hundreds of millions of people in rural Africa are locked into a system that keeps them in poverty and as their populations grow, their conditions of poverty simply deepen.

During the colonial era in Africa, tracts of land were taken over by settlers and were then held under freehold title rights that were protected by both the Constitution and the legal system. These farmers were able to use these resources as collateral and in Zimbabwe the farmers were able to borrow many billions of dollars for both long term and short term investment. The result was the development of a farm system that became a leader in the world in terms of yields and technology. The country not only exported half of its production but maintained food supplies at the lowest cost of any regional State to its people while supplying 60 per cent of all raw materials used by industry.

Elsewhere these historical developments brought major international firms into the agricultural industry in Africa to exploit resources on an agri-business basis. The outcome was large plantations of timber, palm oil, coffee, tea, cocoa and sugar. Despite the turmoil that has gripped the continent in the past 30 years, these agribusiness enterprises have survived and in some cases expanded.

In Kenya, Angola and Mozambique and now in Zimbabwe, settler farms have been taken over by the State and attempts made to circumvent the legal restrictions on such transactions. As these countries have matured, they have started to reverse these early post Independence policies because of the subsequent collapse and failure to maintain the productivity of these farms. But the damage done has been enormous. In Zimbabwe the total cost of the farm invasions is impossible to quantify but it runs to billions of dollars. It is not farfetched to claim that the collapse of the wider economy after 2000 is directly attributable to the destruction of the commercial farm system.

What is often not appreciated is that the creation of a commercial farming system established linkages with the farmers living in the Communal Areas. When the commercial sector collapsed the subsequent decline in output in commercial farming districts (71 per cent) was tracked by an identical decline in Communal Farmer output (73 per cent). Subsequent attempts to support the Communal sector by international agencies and the State have totally failed to fill the gap created by the removal of 5000 commercial farmers.

Global warming is going to make these issues even more critical – it is going to take capital and technology to manage agricultural production under conditions where weather patterns are more unstable and unreliable.

But the issue of security goes far beyond the confines of rural land management systems. In urban areas we deny the absolute poor any security of tenure in their shanty towns. Drive down any street anywhere in the world and if you see properties that are run down and poorly developed or maintained, you will be looking at property that is not owner occupied. Any quick examination of the RDP housing in South Africa outside most cities and towns will show two things – no extensions or development and no trees or gardens. I do not need to ask if they own those properties, the facts and appearances speak for themselves, they are only available on a leasehold basis from the State.

A few years ago I visited India and while there I visited a community which had been living in plastic shelters for over 20 years on a green belt in a major City. The City had destroyed their homes several times in an attempt to get rid of them, to no avail. Then an Australian organisation arranged for the City to cede the land to the organisation and they then held discussions with the 2300 families in this squatter settlement. The outcome was a plan, the allocation of 500 square metres of land to each family and land reservations for commercial activities, retail enterprise and industry as well as schools and clinics.

The organisation then advanced $500 in cash to every family as a self build home loan. I was there just three years after this transformation had taken place and the changes were startling. I spoke to one young girl in her home about the change – she described what it was like to live in a plastic shack and in total insecurity. She then said that they now owned their own home and she was in school. I asked her what she wanted to do when she qualified; she said she wanted to be a doctor. The organisation told me that 98 per cent of the home loans had been repaid and ploughed back onto social services.

Transformation and empowerment for the majority is possible if we take this issue seriously and take steps to ensure that people have security of person and property. This does not need money – just the political will to ensure that people can hold assets securely and that markets are then allowed to function. These are choices for society – already made in many countries but which Africa still has to decide on for the future.

Eddie Cross

Bulawayo, 2nd November 2013


  • comment-avatar

    Security is a national problem and also involves MDC.
    We need the money they have looted from public funds.
    The Harare municipal medical aid was looted amongst others.
    Zesa, economic sabotage to brinmg zimbasbewe to its knees and win thev ekection at any cost.
    All power stations were closed down close factories and leaving many unemployed – lets get these thieves and freeze their assets so that the unemployed can claim from them personally.
    Raffamoyo, former CEO of ZESA said Zimbabwe doesntv need power stations – he kept ataff on the payroll and increased the tarrifs to accommodate paying the staff tom ptroduce nothing.
    The thev illegal prepaid meters – Tsvangerai’s son was given 50 million to import them – zesa boast cutting the outstanding accounts wont affect them because those with prepaid meters will cover it – that’s us paying 600 million extra.
    Currently under investigastion by serious crime in Harare and the AG, there is no legislation and it is not compulsory to have them installed.
    They are not free either, the cost of the meter and the installation is attached to your bill as an unpaid bill.
    The police officer commented this can only happen in Zimbabwe.
    zesa say they have no power we have power cuts and now people pay in advance for nothing save to put money into private crooks hands.
    the director of energy now agrees their is no legislation and three senior executives have already made statements to the police.
    lets get money back into society – lets deal with these thieves

  • comment-avatar
    farai 10 years ago

    Interesting idea Eddy, in such a free market how would you ensure that there is no accumulation of land into the hands of a few shacks using illegal foreign funds? Government has a responsibility to protect the people otherwise we end up with a problem of land dispositions. The one thing our people have mastered from capitalism
    is greed and corruption.

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    Tiger Shona 10 years ago

    Farai, It is obvious that you support systems that keep the masses poor, so that you fat cats can manipulate them, AND stay in Control.

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    Tjingababili 10 years ago


  • comment-avatar
    farai 10 years ago

    And how Mr Tiger do you arrive at that deeply thought out, well researched academic conclusion?

    • comment-avatar
      Tiger Shona 10 years ago

      If you could not understand that statement, then there is no point in explaining it.

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    Sekuru Mapenga 10 years ago

    Zimbabwe desperately needs far sighted people with ideas and a vision of the future so that we stop running this country by crisis management. There are many such people in Zimbabwe, and Eddie Cross is one of them. Sadly our government won’t listen to such people because their views imply criticism of our leadership.

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      I as a consultant have already been given audience with three ministers.
      Of course those who can only think anti government and have nothing of interest or of value to the nation like you may not get an appointment.

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    Sorry missed the point on Eddie Cross and here there is a need to examine his credentials.
    Is he really an experienced ecponomist or just says he is?
    To my knowledge only one qualified economist has researched Zimbabwe, now research economist to the UN and she doesn’t agree with Cross at all.
    What you have to consider is who pays Cross and are they simply anti government in which case you ignore him as most of us want a better life as opposed to destroying what we have, which will happen if you believe him with his limited expertise.

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    I am a focused and unchangeable supporter of the President but what Eddie Cross contributed is fairly TRUE. We should be a people of positive language, actions and destiny. I stand with a man when he is factual and correct. Thats a fact. Murambatsvina operation is bad and satanic. Farm Invasions was a good project but was hijacked by satanic elements and the masses of Zimbabwe never benefitted. Security is good for all ZANU PF, MDCs and All supporters but my beloved president is sleeping on that one. THINK GUYS OF LAND INVASIONS WHICH MADE FEW INDIVIDUALS TO GRAB VAST ACRES AND HECTARES OF LAND AT THE LOSS OF ALL. THINK OF A POOR ZIMBABWEAN TRYING TO A FEW HUNDREDS SQUARE METRES FOR HIMSELF AND A DESTRUCTIVE MINISTER SUGGESTS MURAMBATSVINA, THATS A DEVIL IN FLESH GUYS!!! ANY SYSTEM THAT MAKES US POOR IS BAD. EDDIE CROSS FOR THIS ONE HE IS RIGHT, LIKE HIM OR HATE HIM HE HAS A POINT FOR ALL ZIMBABWEANS WHO ARE UNDER THE CURRENT RULE OF MY PARTY ZANU PF!!

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      VaMugaVe Ndizvo What we need is the truth – fairly true smacks of exaggeration and is of little interest.

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    msizeni silwelani 10 years ago

    Security of belonging is all what we want. As it is, we are defined by our triabal grouping or political association. A bad scenario for self development, our past tells us.