Conflicts over land, a major theme in Zimbabwe's rural history, are widely recognized as 'most serious' in the densely populated Communal Areas. Pressure on land in these areas is considerable because of population growth and the segregationist policies of the colonial government that concentrated Africans on marginal lands. Land scarcity in the Communal Areas does not, however, mean that conflicts over land are always economically motivated. As the agricultural potential of land is often limited in Communal Areas, land cases may often be better understood as socially induced. This article on land disputes in the Murambinda area of Save Communal Land aims to elucidate the different meanings attached to land. It presents a situational analysis of a single case of land dispute and argues that land conflicts in the area are predominantly political power struggles. The litigation of land cases is dominated by village leaders (vanasabhuku) and largely takes place outside the state's legal arena. Consequently, local state institutions responsible for land issues have a limited understanding of, and exercise little control over land issues. The findings of this study thus provide a different view in the ongoing debate on the need for tenurial reform in Zimbabwe's Communal Areas, for they challenge the state's administrative capacity to enforce such reform.
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