I enjoyed my research assistant work although it was not an easy job, given Sam’s high academic expectations. However, through it, Sam taught me hard work, discipline and persistence. Sam was a professional at heart, by experience, dedication, and commitment to land and agrarian issues.
The passing on of Professor Sam Moyo of the African Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS) touched me wholeheartedly because he plucked me from a navy undergraduate class of the Geography Department at the University of Zimbabwe in 1993.
I was to work with him until July 2003, when I left for Brown University on a fellowship on environment and development. Over the years, I have touched base with his work, and in 2014 we started working on a land project, until the time of his death in a freak accident in India. This was just after we had a meeting two weeks ago. I would say that I was perhaps the longest serving student and research assistant of Professor Sam Moyo, and many who know me, associate me with the family for good reasons as I literally had my foundational career at his house during weekdays and over weekends throughout the important peak years of his career with a growing family of Sibo, Sam, Zandi and Qondi. They became like sisters to me and I am glad to have been part of his journey.I first wrote my undergraduate project in 1993 supervised by Sam titled “Environmental Quality of Residential Areas: the Case of Chikonohono High Density Area in Chinhoyi”. As a young honours student, I did not even have a modicum of an idea that the man supervising my project was actually a land and agrarian reform “guru” then. I came up with a flying and an exemplary project in the Department of Geography. At that time, Sam had been involved with environmental related issues having coauthored several books: with Peter Robinson, Yemi Katerere, Stevenson and Davison Gumbo, “Zimbabwe’s Environmental Dilemma: Balancing Resources Inequities”, Published by ZERO, 1991; with Neil Middleton and Phil O’Keefe, “Tears of the Crocodile: from Rio to Reality in the developing World” (1993), followed by Moyo S, O’Keefe P, and Sill M, “The Southern African Environment: Profiles of SADC Countries”, London: Earthscan, 1993. These books shaped my decision to undertake my MSc research on land degradation in Zimbabwe through unearthing the dilemma of population pressure in Chiweshe communal areas in Mashonaland central, titled “The Active Policy Support Role of NonGovernmental Organisations in addressing Land Degradation” (Apparently Sam was also writing furiously on the role of NGOs in development with a book published with John Makumbe and others. The basic argument he proffered being that NGOs are weak, do patch work and are afraid to advocate addressing fundamental development questions that were colonially constructed through unequal land ownership).
Little did I know that in my conceptualisation and dictionary the language of Sam and the writing with his peers had began to dominate my own work. Yet, underneath the topics I chose, rhymed with Sam’s own work and deep intellectual engagement with the land question in Zimbabwe.Sam was pushy academically and highly demanding of his students, and worse for his research assistant. On completion of my MSc in 1995, I became a fulltime research assistant, and was thrust to colead a project on the impact of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) on agriculture. The environmental related issues that I was passionate about became secondary to land and agrarian studies. Yet, in reality Sam had been carefully nurturing me towards a subject that was the passion of his heart. After raising resources from the Ford Foundation for the project, he then left IDS for the former Southern Africa Regional Institute for Policy Studies (SARIPS) of the Southern Africa Political Economy Series (SAPES) Trust in 1995. By then, he had become an associate Professor in 1994, yet had not completed his Doctor of Philosophy. As a research assistant, I was given a huge file to read, and little did I know that this was the ground breaking work of Sam, as it was his draft PhD thesis which he later submitted to the University of Northumbria, in New Castle Upon Tyne. I remember literally doing a cut and paste job using glue and scissors at the back library/office at No. 96 A, Borrowdale Road, which had become my home. It is upon this thesis that the ground breaking “Zimbabwe’s land Question” was published by Sapes Trust in 1995, at the same time he obtained his PhD and moved to the SARIPS. He left his work happy that he had his research assistant to lead the ESAP research work in Shamva district in Mashonaland Central. I took responsibility for the project until 1997, when I then moved to join SARIPS as his research assistant.
By then I was the longest serving research assistant. For many years, colleagues of his at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Zimbabwe, jokingly used to make fun of me, by saying “when I grow up, I want to be Sam Moyo’s Research Assistant”. Yet in leading a major project with eminent scholars at IDS showed the depth to which Sam trusted me by thrusting me among his colleagues. I believe what I delivered for the ESAP project was outstanding in terms of its depth as I spent 3 years on the ground in Shamva with many students who came in, as I sought additional research assistance. Some of these are today outstanding academics in their own right including Dr Petronella Chaminuka at the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa, Prof. Edward Mabaya at Cornell, Dr Nelson Marongwe a good friend of mine who then was seconded by Sam to ZERO where Sam was the Chairperson of the board. I badly wanted a permanent job then, and thought Sam would second me there as well. Apparently, he had already made up his mind that I had to join him at SARIPS as a research assistant. When I did in 1997, Sam’s eldest daughter, Sibo and friends had just completed at Africa University in Mutare. Sam badly wanted Sibo to follow his path, but she had other ideas and did not, which meant I remained as the research assistant. Yet, Sam also felt sympathetic towards me and encouraged that I develop further my education based on topics of my choice and not his own areas of work. Sam had outstanding individual books by then, and Nelson Marongwe, Edward Mabaya and myself contributed immensely to the book on “Land Reform and Structural Adjustment”, published in 2000. This was a master class, and I am pleased to have contributed to the collection of the data at his guidance, as an addition to the data collected during my three years at IDS.
I began to slowly pick areas of my interest surrounding water resources (horticulture) in relation to land reform, of which I wrote several proposals that Sam tore apart and said “At PhD level, this is not worth my time to read”. I was never deterred, because with the condemned proposals, I was able to secure PhD places at New Castle University and University of West Virginia. The breakthrough came when I was selected as candidate to join the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, Sweden. In between, there were life-changing experiences for me, a rural boy, when for the first time, Sam recommended me for a three months visit to the United States of America (USA) in 1996. I flew the beloved Air Zimbabwe for the first time, through Cyprus, to Washington, Chicago and Salt Lake City taking close to 2 days in planes. This opened me to new people, cultures, environments, when visiting the Indian reservations in Arizona, bureaucrats in Utah, the boat ride in Lake Powell, engagements on agriculture and environment issues in Kentucky in USA, and visiting small farms, coal mining areas, and a visit to the citadel of federal policy making in Washington DC. The visit that I contextualised in my Zimbabwe environment was personally defining and brought me to terms with policy making, land planning, environmental issues and why to me the land question was fundamental in Zimbabwe’s context. I felt more strongly that inequities in land ownership shaped by race were something that needed to be extinguished, and these were also Sam’s beliefs. But more importantly, he believed that this could be achieved through peaceful means, but also underpinned by radicalism in civil society and in Zimbabwean politics. In the Indian reservations, I got to understand better that the right to land from a cultural and developmental standpoint was sacrosanct. I realised that the world over land was a defining resource for ordinary people, and therefore Zimbabwe was no different. Of course, Sam’s idea was not just talking by allowing me as a research assistant to see and talk to others. Yes, I did see and for sure this shaped my PhD training, after Sam had connected me to one of his best friends, Professor Kjell Havnevik, who was to become my primary supervisor.The mentorship I received from Sam made me a different person, the education also attributed to Kjell, who became a friend for almost 15 years, has shaped who I am, how I relate to others at my work place, nationally and internationally.
My decision to establish Ruzivo Trust in 2009 was clearly marked by a variety of events and processes, as well as my never die attitude in wanting to have good knowledge and “science with sensibility” with rigor. In addition, the foundation that Sam created in me, was to continue with a new agrarian and now development Professor and activist Mandivamba Rukuni who came into my life in 2005. I must admit, I was deeply stretched to levels never expected. It is almost 10 years of working on land related matters, which means that I have had a combined 35 years of deep mentorship that has created who I am, that have made me an “icon” in the minds of others in understanding the Zimbabwe land, livelihoods and general rural development issues. I have had the ins at outsides, from a local, national and international perspective on these questions thanks to Sam.I missed the land donor conference in 1998, as I was in Sweden for my PhD and Sam would regularly bounce reports for me to review as he was central to the land reform programme.
When the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme Phase II was successfully produced amidst the land occupations in the Svosve area, with government controlling them, I had hope. Sam then joined a team commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to draft a land policy for Zimbabwe. Professor Issa Shivji, Professor Welshman Ncube and Dr Dereck Gunby were central in producing an outstanding report. Based on this report, I joined the team on my return for my PhD field work, and was involved under Sam’s leadership in the drafting of the Inception Phase Framework Plan (IPFP) that we widely consulted on in 1999. The constitution making exercise, the political pressure from Civil Society Organisations led by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) that yielded the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was a breaking point. Sam ran around across the interest groups, and hardly did we sleep. He wrote a paper for War Veterans who had organised their own conference, which he titled “Over promise and under delivery” which showed what government and Zimbabwe had not adequately done for them. At the same time, the constitutional dialogue series commenced at the Cresta Jameson Hotel, and Sam was one of the first presenters on the “land question” to which Dr Pearson Nherera at the Law School, University of Zimbabwe asked “Is there a land question or questions? And what is the land question answer!”, which pointed out that land issues were no longer just land issues but needed to be examined in a multifaceted way and in political terms.
Sam was methodological I must admit. While I always refer my students to the classical work of, “Zimbabwe’s land question” (1995), there are other attributes of his style that made me want to work with him. His ability to take data and analyse was the finest I experienced. If I may trace back: the Fast Track is historical, no doubt. Yet, when the Land Acquisition Act was enacted in the early 1990s, and gazetting of farms introduced, Sam took the list and analysed in different dimensions (what land was gazetted, where it was located, how it was used, what were the production trends etc); again with the allocations and noise of the Commercial Farm Settlement Scheme (CFSS), we also had the list and analysed methodologically. Such was Sam that when the list of 1471 farms was published in 1997 for gazetting, we got busy and Sam wrote an outstanding monograph “The Land Acquisition Process in Zimbabwe 1997/8: SocioEconomic and Political Impacts’. This became his style of analysis that went beyond emotions to show the trends and implications of the actions of government. I inherited this trait in the subsequent books that I have written and published, and was defining in my PhD thesis he cosupervised “The Struggle for Access to Land and Water Resources in Zimbabwe: The Case of Shamva District”, Doctoral Thesis, Department of Rural Development Studies, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.Land reform negotiations at SARIPS were a spectacle for me, because I was the note taker for the Fast Track internal negotiations. For the first time, I came into contact with the ‘who is who’ of land issues. Ranging from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, principally then Permanent Secretary, Dr Vincent Hungwe, and the Agricultural Rural Development firebrand then, Dr Joseph Made, negotiating with a team of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) led by Dr David Hasluck, while several ministerial officials were part of the several meetings in 2000.
While I was struggling with my PhD data collection, I had to be involved in these negotiations according to Sam for historical record. Yet, Dr Hungwe seeing me, just as a youngman, would at times take me for lunch at the Portugal Restaurant, the Pointe, to get away from the shouting and singing during the negotiations on the Fast Track Land Reform Programme. However, a decision to break ranks of the chiefs negotiators was clear to me, despite spirited attempts by Sam to get the parties to negotiate and allow for consideration of the interests of all parties. We wrote a summary of the outcomes in a paper that over years we called between ourselves “the Mbeki paper on land reform” that summarised the differences between the executive, large scale farmers and views of black farmers (as represented by their unions).
The trips to London led by the Foreign Affairs Minister Mudenge then and with the late John Landa Nkomo, to me was a lost cause, because on the ground Fast Track was spreading like veld fire, while politics was juggled much to the disappointment of Sam. When I left for Sweden, my last assignment was to help formulate the Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative (ZIJIRI), as the last chance that Sam saw as a necessity to get concessions from the CFU and government, but it was too late as Fast Track had become a reality.When I go back again to my history with Sam, I clearly am left speechless, because at SARIPS I had to endure in and out, and I had to witness friends (Sam and Ibbo) working together and fighting friendship battles.
This disappointed me, yet I remained committed to my work, with SARIPS of Sapes Trust (one in two) being uniquely outstanding institutions in southern Africa, with Sam producing outstanding policy analysis. Throughout my PhD training in Sweden, I was connected to Sam’s work at SARIPS and I was heartbroken when Sam left after acrimonious circumstances that were vague to me. I graduated on 26 November 2001, and packed my bags for Harare the same week. In announcing my presence, I met Sam at his house and could see a sparkle, new energy and drive. The first task, now as a doctor, was to arrange Sam’s papers and books that were all over in his house. This was my professor and mentor, and who was I but just a child that Sam still saw in me to refuse! I reorganised all the books and papers in the “office” (One bedroom turned to a library, we facilitated the hiring of a carpenter to do shelving, and we got old desks from Blessing Musariri, daughter to famous Musariri farmer of Chegutu district), cabin and garage. In January of 2002, we were to start serious work, and of course I had no job then and knew I had reverted back to my research assistant job again, now as a PhD holder.Yet, Sam now gave me more responsibilities to reorganise his professional life, while he continued writing. We appealed to friends in Zimbabwe and beyond for work to do for them, at a payment of course – what you may read as consultancies! It worked, because the National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF) through the co-chairs, Drs Robbie Mupawose and Misheck Sibanda now Chief Secretary to Cabinet asked us to work on an expert database. Later, we had the Ford Foundation once again coming on board with small grants, as well as the National Land Committee of South Africa when land reforms in South Africa were almost taking up the Zimbabwe style. Sam wanted to form an institution that would be responsive, and on many occasions we had different names. He had his mind on a “Global Land Reform Institute”, and in 2002, I went to a seminar in Washington DC under this name. When I came back, I said it does not work best for us, and we had to rethink. Our good friend at Ford Foundation, Dr James Murombedzi concurred, and we then had to Africanise the institution we were to form. Yet, we were not in a hurry because the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) consumed our time, and I had to organise a parallel land reform workshop that was highly successful, least because Zimbabwe’s land reform and its international dimension was at its peak then. We had scored our first success, and all was due to Sam’s foresight, and my humble actioning of that foresight through practical delivery.When we returned to Harare, we had made up our minds that we were to call the new outfit, the African Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS). I had to tinker around the making of the logos to truly reflect our thinking then, and the colors that rhymed with Sam and me, of simplicity and modesty. Yet, at that stage we were very ambitious, because we still wanted to reach to all of Africa. We sat down together to think about how best to run and institutionalise the project in Africa. Naturally we registered under the Companies Act in South Africa. We identified focal persons in West Africa (Kojo Amanor at the University of Ghana) and in Kenya (Michael Odhiambo who was involved with the land alliance). We created a database of African scholars (Dr Karuti Kanyinga in Kenya, Issa Shivji, Adebayo Olukoshi, Paris Yeros, Thandika Mkandawire, and so many others). I lived in a world of Sam’s marxist scholarship, that I searched furiously for his Master’s thesis which was agricultural innovation and adaptation. Yet the man breathed Marxism through and through. I was accustomed to scholarship of class and agrarian accumulation, labour, etc. yet, when I listened to a deep exchange between Archie Mafeje and Sam, I was left confused. Archie disagreed with Sam's views on generic agrarian questions in parts of Africa. An example being that countries such as South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe as former settler colonies had 'a land question' than 'agrarian' one. Yet others such as Zambia had more of agrarian question because Archie claimed they had enough land, but suffered lack of agricultural support.In 2002, Sam and myself helped in the technical work of the “Buka audit”, which was not published. This was followed by the Utete Committee, and we were asked to provide technical backup. This we did with utmost responsibility for our country, and also Sam still believing that land negotiations were still possible. I also believed the same, and we did put our minds on any task that we felt strongly was essential for our country. Still I could read Sam when he wrote in 2005 “…..the political signals for outright reengagement have not been issued by either the ‘west’ or the Zimbabwe state, given that the challenge of resolving the outstanding differences over ‘governance’ issues remains. Recent economic lapses, inflation and shortages of key goods also heightened a dirigiste intervention by the GoZ to establish economic order and state authority over social and economic actors, leading to negative social effects. This undermines normalisation” (Sam Moyo, Zimbabwe’s crisis and normalization, AIAS, unpublished paper, 2005).
Yet Sam truly believed that there must be a congregation of thinking on land and agrarian reform issues and its global understanding. To this effect, Sam was adept in his networking, and I marvelled at how it was easy for him to make friends in the academic community.Sam knew that he was destined to build the “SAM MOYO” global brand, by reaching out to Latin America with CLACSO, Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in the Hague, North America, and Asia. Hardly did he talk of the Middle East in our conversations, and I am sure he had friends there too. What was remarkable was his ability to also forge African and Africanist scholars towards a subject dear to him. When he became President of CODESRIA, I was not surprised, because he had wide continental support in the academic community. At the same time, Sam had charisma and style to persuade, and command audiences with such a powerful voice backed by well argued papers.The work of AIAS had taken roots, and funding partners such as the WK Kellogg Foundation, the Norwegians, Canadians were all coming on board. I recruited the first staff members of AIAS, assisted ably by Mrs Sithembile Chiromo who had left Sapes then. My first recruit was Lydia Nyagura as secretary supported by late David Chibanda, who was Sam’s and the children’s driver for many years. Mai Meyi was outstanding in the kitchen with preparations of Ghananian food that she had learnt from Dede. Many more staff members came in, such as Godfrey Mandinde in Finance, Blessing Musariri as an assistant, and students such as Nyasha Tirivayi, Ndabezihle Nyoni, Walter Chambati. I saw Dr Tendai Murisa now and then, who was to join later the AIAS and now heads TrustAfrica in Senegal. This was in addition to technical backstopping provided by external experts such as Dr Chrispen Sukume, Dr Innocent Matshe, Ishmael Sunga, Elizabeth Gwata, Langton Mukwereza, Dr Emmanuel Manzungu, Reneth Mano, Dr Lovemore Rugube, Dr Johannes M. Makadho and Walter Chambati. I even had forgotten that in 2002, when we started, Sam could not pay me and my wife laughed when after six months of no pay, Sam paid me with his Landrover Discovery. We cried at home with joy at how Sam was modest to part with a car he loved, yet to him material things mattered very little. Nonetheless, I had to pay back and one day he asked me to replace the car! With his own money of course, but I was to undertake a journey to Johannesburg to buy a Landcruiser for him. Mrs Chiromo drove me to Beitbridge, and I hitchhiked to Polokwane and was picked by Sam’s cousin Themba Maluleke. The first question he asked “But I told Sam to wait, and why would he make you hitchhike?” We drove to Johannesburg and a new friendship was created. What I did not realise, which Sam did not know, was that Themba had not done much in looking for his car. I stayed for two weeks, and I brought the car home to Sam. I was happy to do this for my mentor, without prejudice.With all this history on the 31 July 2003, I made a painful decision borne of the realisation that I had done much for Sam. The AIAS had acquired a rented office, that Patricia Kasiyamhuru had helped search for and I decided that I would not be in that office. I said goodbye to Sam in a painful way to him and myself. I knew that at the bottom of my heart AIAS was now standing with a home and good salaries for staff. Yet to me, I was not going to occupy the office, because I had decided on personal development. I didn’t have a job to go to, and I went under the knife, surgery at West End clinic for removal of tonsils on the 31 July after submitting, rather cowardly writing a 15-page letter than directly telling him. I left the 15-page resignation letter on Sam’s other favourite dining room table because I knew I could not stand up to say so in his face, I feared him. I had the surgery, and who showed up first as a visitor? Of course Sam. This shocked me because I thought what I had done was improper, for I did not even tell my wife. The question in my warped mind was that “ooh! Perhaps I will not wake up, but I was gone away from Sam”. We tried to negotiate over some months, and I explained my decision that all my life had been with him and I needed to test my capabilities alone in the world.
I got a fellowship of 6 months at Brown University, in Rhode Island, which gave me a fresh impetus to restart a new life and completed outstanding reports for Sam.I then disengaged, because I could not proceed coherently in my new life while engaging with Sam and his work. Each time I saw him, there was understandable disappointment. Yet, from 2004 I picked the pieces, worked on land reform from home, joined Dr Mabel Hungwe to form the Centre for Rural Development (CRD) at the University of Zimbabwe in 2005, and broadened my rural development work. I was an able academic in many ways, attracting new networks, people, friends and communities. I started enjoying working in rural communities, in communal areas, resettlement areas across the country and showing leadership to other young people.
While I continued my land research work, I put more effort in knowing Zimbabwean people and their vision of a country, and explored different models of rural development until 2008. The CRD closed, and I formed Ruzivo Trust, and I thank Sam for giving me the confidence to be a founder of an organisation. When I reflect, its formation was long overdue because we got the confidence of society (donors, government, young and old scholars) and local communities accepted us on the ground where we work. I then met Sam in 2009, as part of a team constituted to help the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement for a retreat. This was a nice reengagement and the retreat of the officials led by former Minister Herbert Murerwa and Permanent Secretary, Sohpia Tsvakwi, was frank in Kariba. The retreat shaped my continued involvement with government and interest groups. Yet, my inclination towards livelihoods work continued.Coming back to his writing style, Sam never used “I” or “we” selectively. He did not personalise issues that he wrote on, and remained focused on making academic sense and for readers to have comfort in what he wrote. This was no mean task, because the urge to say “I” on land issues that draws emotions was very high. This to me reflected Sam’s humility. Just a couple of months ago, I gatecrashed Sam’s AIAS workshop at the Crown Plaza organised jointly with the Archie Mafeje Institute at UNISA. Thanks to Sabelo Ndlovu Ngatsheni for alerting me. As a serial workshop gatecrusher, I was asked to present a keynote address because one of the presenters was not there. I recited my relationship with Sam and Archie Mafeje in brief, a history that many of the participants were not aware of. Later that week, I went to the office verandah at 96B Borrowdale to meet Sam and ask pertinent questions on Zimbabwe’s future and what we could do to make this great nation a better place. An expected one hour interview ended up taking four hours, because it became more of retracing our history. Sam felt that he was not acknowledged enough and I knew this personal view for many years. Yes indeed, I agreed with him, given that he had perhaps played a significant role than anyone else in pushing for the land agenda in Zimbabwe, tried to facilitate negotiation for its resolution. I know that we perhaps underestimated his contributions and he died disappointed that land should have delivered more joy and happiness than fracturing society. He always consistently said that we have to move beyond the acrimonious history and find each other without emotions of victims and victors. At the AIAS Crown Plaza workshop during tea time, I told young academics that we have to write to honour our great academics, my thinking then was on Sam and Mandivamba Rukuni. These are great minds that have contributed to academia, to Zimbabwe’s agrarian development and were global scholars of the highest order.Now, we have to reflect without one of them – Sam. It hurts. Nevertheless, we still have a job to do, and I for one am going to fight for a book in his honour. Other books must follow of living legends Mandi, Yemi Katerere, Ibbo Mandaza, and others who may not be recognised easily in the public domain. I enjoyed my research assistant work although it was not an easy job, given Sam’s high academic expectations. However, through it, Sam taught me hard work, discipline and persistence. Today I conduct myself and strive to practice at the highest level of academic engagement, as Sam would have expected from me. To me Sam was a professional at heart, by experience, dedication, and commitment to land and agrarian issues. You were a fountain of knowledge and a man of academic brilliance who contributed immensely to Zimbabwe’s land question. The Zimbabwean academic community, especially those he interacted with and the many he mentored, particularly myself, feel robbed and saddened by the death of a man who contributed so much to the academic world. I feel for Sam’s daughters, DedeEsi AmanorWilks, Beatrice Mutetwa and other family members who have lost a most loved one.
They not only have lost a father and a friend, but also a social builder with ease and simplicity. His passing has left a deep vacuum on the Zimbabwean and international community. Professor Moyo may have physically departed but his legacy shall live on.
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