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Remaking Mutirikwi

Remaking Mutirikwi: Landscape, Water & Belonging in Southern Zimbabwe

Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 365
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  • Book Info
    Remaking Mutirikwi
    Book Description:

    The Mutirikwi river was dammed in the early 1960s to make Zimbabwe's second largest lake. This was a key moment in the Europeanisation of Mutirikwi's landscapes, which had begun with colonial land appropriations in the 1890s. But African landscapes were not obliterated by the dam. They remained active and affective. At independence in 1980, local clans reasserted ancestral land claims in a wave of squatting around Lake Mutirikwi. They were soon evicted as the new government asserted control over the remaking of Mutirikwi's landscapes. Amid fast-track land reform in the 2000s, the same people returned again to reclaim the land. Many returned to the graves and ruins of past lives forged in the very substance of the soil, and even incoming war veterans and new farmers appealed to autochthonous knowledge to make safe their resettlements. This book explores those reoccupations and the complex contests over landscape, water and belonging they provoked. The 2000s may have heralded a long-delayed re-Africanisation of Lake Mutirikwi, but just as African presence had survived the dam, so white presence remains active and affective through Rhodesian-era discourses, place-names and the materialities of ruined farms, contour ridging and old irrigation schemes. Through lenses focused on the political materialities of water and land, this book reveals how the remaking of Mutirikwi's landscapes has always been deeply entangled with changing strategies of colonial and postcolonial statecraft. It highlights how the traces of different pasts intertwine in contemporary politics through the active, enduring yet emergent, forms and substances of landscape. Joost Fontein is Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa and Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. Published in association with the British Institute in Eastern Africa.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-524-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. Note on Fieldwork, Notes & Sources
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Glossary
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. Acronyms & Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  8. Chronology
    (pp. xix-xx)
  9. [Map]
    (pp. xxiv-xxiv)
  10. Remaking Mutirikwi: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    The Mutirikwi river was dammed in the early 1960s to make Zimbabwe’s second largest lake. This was a key moment in the ‘Europeanisation’ of Mutirikwi’s landscapes, which had begun with colonial land appropriations in the 1890s. But African landscapes were not obliterated by what became known as the Kyle dam. They remained active and affective. At independence in 1980, local clans re-asserted ancestral land claims in a wave of squatting around Mutirikwi. But they were soon evicted as the new government asserted its control over the remaking of Mutirikwi’s landscapes. Amid fast-track land reform in the 2000s, the same people...

  11. PART ONE: Remaking Mutirikwi in the 2000s

    • 1 New Farmers, Old Claims
      (pp. 26-51)

      Gore rino ndinoda kusadza GMB nechibage changu!

      [This year I want to fill up the Grain Marketing Board with my own maize!]

      (New farmer, 19/12/05, Masvingo District)²

      But in terms of the broader vision, I have to stress that I think this land reform programme is one of the most wonderful programmes for a third world country to embark upon.

      JF: So you are actually very optimistic?

      Yes I am optimistic. I think it is a great thing for a third world country, it really is.

      (Chief Lands Officer, 5/06/06, Masvingo Province)³

      You asked me … what were the major...

    • 2 Graves, Ruins and Belonging
      (pp. 52-77)

      This chapter has three purposes. First, I discuss contestations over autochthony and belonging taking place in the context of fast-track land reform around Mutirikwi in the 2000s, in order to contribute to a growing body of work² exploring how land reform is part of an ongoing remaking of the (postcolonial) state. Second, I consider this micro-politics of belonging in relation to recent, diverse (but often complementary) approaches to ‘materiality’, which have sought to decentre the agency of human subjects by exploring the agency, affordances and affective qualities of things, materials and landscapes (Miller 2005; Gell 1998; Latour 1999; Ingold 1992...

    • 3 Rain, Power and Sovereignty
      (pp. 78-111)

      In November 2010 a senior government meteorologist revealed that for much of the previous decade Zimbabwe’s weather forecast had been censored on a daily basis by the President’s Office. The admission came in response to journalists’ questions about ‘why the meteorological service department (MET) had over the years denied possible droughts’ that were later experienced despite predictions that ‘the country was expecting above average rainfall every year’. Also blaming ‘obsolete weather equipment’ and the loss of experienced personnel for the ‘inaccurate weather forecasting’, Washington Zhakata ‘admitted that there is heavy political interference and censorship of the weather forecasts in Zimbabwe...

    • 4 Hippos, Fishing and Irrigation
      (pp. 112-138)

      If the politics of rain discussed in the previous chapter illustrate how water can index the contested play of sovereignty and legitimacy in ongoing reconfigurations of traditionalist rule, then a similar argument can be made for other, more technocratic regimes related to water around Mutirikwi. Continuing official insistence upon the prevention of soil erosion and dam siltation is an example I have already discussed, which too involves performances of sovereignty alongside more productive mechanisms of power shaping political subjectivities and regimented landscapes amid appeals to developmentalism and governmental legitimacy. Such technocratic regimes exist in close proximity to and intertwine with...

    • 5 Genealogical Geographies
      (pp. 139-168)

      After 2000, land occupations around Mutirikwi meant disputes between rival chiefs and clans over boundaries, people and ‘ancestral territories’ re-emerged with new immediacy. These related directly to re-imagined and re-membered pre-colonial landscapes, involving contested ‘history-scapes’ (Fontein 2006a:19) and what I shall call ‘genealogical geographies’. In 2005/06 such disputes were particularly prominent on occupied state lands bordering the lake’s southern shores, which had been subject to squatting, and in some places formal resettlement, in the 1980s. But they also took place on farms to the north being resettled for the first time, as well as to the east around Zano, which...

  12. PART TWO: Damming Mutirikwi 1940s–1990s

    • 6 New White Futures, New Rhodesian Settlers and Large-scale Irrigation, 1940s–1950s
      (pp. 170-196)

      The building of the Mutirikwi or Kyle dam was completed in December 1960. It was formally opened in early 1961, culminating a period of increasingly ambitious irrigation and water planning across Southern Rhodesia. This chapter examines how dam building and irrigation planning, at Mutirikwi and elsewhere, between the late 1940s and 1960s – around the decade of the Central African Federation (1953–63) – was closely bound up with new contested, imagined futures for Southern Rhodesia, the Federation, and more generally European presence and belonging in the region, at a time of both ‘high-modernist’ optimism and growing momentum for decolonisation...

    • 7 Remaking Fort Victoria’s Landscapes, 1950s–1960s
      (pp. 197-229)

      This chapter begins by focusing on the debates of the 1950s about which dams (Popotekwe, Kyle or Bangala) to build on the Mutirikwi river system. Engaging with Ingold’s efforts to close the gap between imagining and perceiving landscape – what I term the materialities of imagination – it explores how minute material engagements with the affordances of soil, topography and hydrology were caught up in the divergent demands of Victoria residents and the lowveld sugar industries. Although the grandiose imagined futures of irrigation planning were important for what happened – that the long-muted Popotekwe dam was never built and Mutirikwi’s...

    • 8 War and Danger in the Wake of the Dam, 1970s
      (pp. 230-255)

      This chapter and the next are about what happened after the dam and after the war that followed, taking us back to the remaking of Mutirikwi’s landscapes in the 2000s with which the book began. It is a story about the re-assertion of African pasts and presence that the dam and everything that came with it failed to obliterate. It is also about African futures frustrated in the wake of war, in which the perceived ruptures of history – the dam, war, independence, eviction and return – diminish in context of material and imaginative endurances, co-existences and proximities. Both the...

    • 9 Promising Returns and Frustrated Futures in the Wake of War, 1980s–1990s
      (pp. 256-287)

      Although the residents of Victoria set about building their ‘playground’ with great gusto after the dam’s completion, and the lowveld sugar industries expanded rapidly once water became available, African nationalism and war had brought danger and insecurity to Mutirikwi. White futures looked more precarious as African futures were increasingly full of promise. While the dangers accompanying war threatened everyone in different ways, for many cultural nationalism anticipated new African futures offering diverse promises of ‘return’. African pasts had not been obliterated by the dam and its remaking of Mutirikwi’s landscapes. This chapter focuses on what happened around Mutirikwi after the...

  13. Epilogue: Remaking Mutirikwi in the late 2000s & early 2010s
    (pp. 288-309)

    Given all the disappointed returns and frustrated futures around Mutirikwi in the 1980s, it is hardly surprising that the land invasions of 2000 began in Masvingo, soon after the constitutional referendum of February that year (Sadomba 2011:170; Alexander 2006:186).¹ Commentators within and without Zimbabwe quickly identified this as a critical moment, marking a rupture in Zimbabwe’s postcolonial history. While others argued the ‘war veteran-led land revolution’ had begun in Svosve in 1998 (Sadomba 2011:119–49), the stories recounted in this book suggest that much longer and more complex histories and historiographies are at play. The ongoing remaking of Mutirikwi’s landscapes,...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 310-328)
  15. Index
    (pp. 329-340)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 341-342)