The Land Crisis in Zimbabwe
A Case of Religious Intolerance?
Keywords:Spriit Medium, land seizures, Zimbabwe, Shona uprising
Earlier this year, I received a small grant from the Edinburgh University Development Trust Fund to determine the feasibility of formulating a major research project exploring the religious dimensions within the recent land resettlement programme in Zimbabwe. Since spirit mediums had played such an important role in the first Shona uprising in 1896–97 against colonial occu¬pation (the so-called First Chimurenga) (Parsons, 1985: 50-51) and again in the war of liberation between 1972 and 1979 (the Second Chimurenga) (Lan, 1985), I suspected that these central points of contact between the spirit world and the living communities would be affecting the sometimes militant invasions of white commercial farms that began sporadically in 1998, but became systematic after the constitutional referendum of February 2000. Under the terms of the grant, I went with my colleague, Tabona Shoko of the University of Zimbabwe, in July and August 2004, to two regions of Zimbabwe: Mount Darwin in the northeast, where recent activities by war veterans and spirit mediums had been reported, and to the Mberengwa District, where land resettlement programmes have been widespread. This article reports on my preliminary findings in Mount Darwin, where I sought to determine if evidence could be found to link the role of Traditional Religion, particularly through spirit mediums, to the current land redistribution programme, and, if so, whether increasing levels of political intolerance within Zimbabwean society could be blamed, in part at least, on these customary beliefs and practices
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