As the current land occupations bring into sharp focus, relationships between farm workers and farmers in post-colonial Zimbabwe are still very much shaped by colonial divisions and by discourses about colonialism. With about 80% of the 4600 or so commercial farmers in Zimbabwe today being of European-descent, this group has been publicly castigated by ruling party politicians and state-controlled media as "settlers" since Independence in 1980 not only for having "stolen the land from Africans" but also for their mistreatment of African workers. In turn, the 300,000 or so farm workers are not only publicly viewed as being exploited by whites but also as being the dupes of the whites, as "sell-outs" for working for white farmers, and as "foreigners" who should be deported if they go against ZANU-PF. The latter evokes the colonial history of labour migration from neighbouring colonial states to European farms in Southern Rhodesia. Today, many farm workers are the descendants of these international migrant workers, of whom an estimated 20-30% were born outside of Zimbabwe. The aim of this paper is to sketch out some of the broad contours of the shifting interactions of public programs and labour relations on commercial farms since 1980. The aim is to help better situate some of the actions, discourses, and violence directed towards farm workers and farmers that has marked the twentieth anniversary of independence. By providing this broader context, it is hoped that the limitations of both of these widely-held interpretations of the current invasions and violence associated with it in regards to farm workers will be established. An appropriate place to start this discussion is the arrangements on European farms in colonial Zimbabwe.

Labour, Capital and Society
Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Rutherford, B. (2000). Racial politics and beyond in post-colonial Zimbabwe: Shifting public evaluations of class relationships on commercial farms Conséquences des politiques raciales dans le Zimbabwe post-colonial: Évolution de la perception publique des relations entre les classes dans les farmes commerciale. Labour, Capital and Society, 33(2), 192–214.