Nevertheless, there was a resurgence of such occupations, mainly by land-hungry peasants, in the 1990s. This was partly due to the slow-down in land reform (see Chapter 1), and partly to the intensified pressure on land in communal areas. One instance of peasants occupying commercial farmland was in the Svosve area near Marondera in Mashonaland East in 1998. After persuasion from senior politicians in the ZANU-PF party, they returned to their original homes to await the resettlement that was promised to them. Earlier attempts at land occupation had also been made in the Chihwiti and Gambuli areas in the Makonde district of Mashonaland West. It was reported:
… in 1992, a group of families from Hurungwe communal under the leadership of a spirit medium called Nyamuswa settled on the Zumba state land. They were joined by retrenchees and pensioners from the commercial farms and from the mining sector. In 1995, Government declared these people illegal settlers and a total of 476 families had their shacks torched and they were moved to Chinhoyi bus terminus. However, during the same year, the spirit medium was persuaded by his followers to return to Chihwiti . In 2000, another attempt to remove these settlers was abandoned after the intervention of the local member of parliament … (FCTZ, 2001)
Pressure on the land clearly intensified in most communal areas in the 1990s. Even state land was not immune from occupations, as the Chihwiti case illustrates. By the late 1990s, the social and political pressure for land reform could not be ignored for much longer. This gave impetus to the International Donors’ Conference on Land, organised by the government in September 1998. The conference reached an agreement on the principles of effective land reform, and on the beginning of a two-year funded Inception Phase. The government prepared an Inception-Phase Framework Plan for 24 months covering 1 million hectares. However, donors were not keen to finance the Inception Phase (UNDP, 2002). There was a lingering scepticism that the government could be trusted to implement a transparent land reform programme. Only the World Bank released some funding — some US$5 million for a pilot project.
With little prospect of large-scale donor-backed financing for land reform, and with the UK government viewed as dragging its feet, the Zimbabwean government had few options for how to proceed (Adams, 2003). Relations between the Zimbabwean government and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were strained, and the two institutions suspended disbursement of funds to Zimbabwe in 1999. Meanwhile, the political opposition received a boost with the founding of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999. To an increasingly beleaguered Mugabe government, the rejection of a new draft constitution in a referendum in February 2000 appeared to be the last straw. The prospects for the ZANU-PF government in the June 2000 election looked poor in the light of the referendum defeat. This is the wider context in which the first phase of jambanja should be assessed.