Academic journal article ARIEL

The Flip Side: Re-Visioning Zimbabwe's Third Chimurenga Land Discourse in Lawrence Hoba's Short Stories

Academic journal article ARIEL

The Flip Side: Re-Visioning Zimbabwe's Third Chimurenga Land Discourse in Lawrence Hoba's Short Stories

Article excerpt

Abstract: During Zimbabwe's past decade, which has been characterised by the state's (re)configuration of black land ownership as the ultimate sign of liberation, creative literature has emerged as a fruitful site on which to encounter various discourses, versions, and subversions of the meaning of land. While several authors have explored the land and its significance to contemporary political and economic urgencies in terms of the state's nativist narrative, the turn of the century saw the emergence of Zimbabwean writers who sought to chart alternative imaginings of land and its political, economic, and spiritual significance to the ordinary citizen. This article contends that the short stories in Lawrence Hoba's collection The Trek and Other Stories epitomises this strand of narrative aesthetic in their critical engagement with the state's narrative of land. It explores the short stories' treatment of the land question, particularly their depiction of the ironic ambivalence of black beneficiaries of the government's land resettlement programme. Finally, the article discusses Hoba's symbolic characterisation and manipulation of the sincerity and clear-sightedness of the child narrator in constructions of ambiguity in the politics of land and decolonisation.

Keywords: Third Chimurenga, land reform, liberation, child narrator, nationalism

I. Introduction: The Post-2000 Controversy of Land as a "National Interest" in Zimbabwe

The unprecedented political and ideological polarity that characterises the post-2000 period in Zimbabwe complicates any delineation of what constitutes (or what is in) the "national interest." The question of national interest raises the problem of definition--not simply what is (or is in the) national interest but more importantly, what, in the post-2000 period, informs economic and political policies suitable for the nation's sustainable development. The post-2000 Zimbabwean political sphere is cluttered with hegemonic and counter-hegemonic attempts to redefine and reconfigure notions of nationhood in relation to emergent land politics and the general economic crisis. (1) In post-2000 Zimbabwe, the land question has emerged as the main focus of state-inspired modes of understanding the nation and its interests. It is therefore imperative to explore cultural responses to and renditions of this approach to the problematics of imagining the nation during this period.

This study focuses on how Lawrence Hoba's short stories engage with the problematics of the national interest as it relates to the Third Chimurenga (2) land reforms. Hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourses of land and national identity in post-2000 Zimbabwe define contrasting notions of the national interest. In focusing on the short stories' relationship to the state's Third Chimurenga land discourse, I explore perspectives on political and social significance attached to land that are manifested in the stories' systems of signification and discern the contours of their social and hegemonic engagement.

The eleventh chapter of Robert Mugabe's book Inside the Third Chimurenga, entitled "Addressing the Land Question on the Ground," announces the resolution of the land question as the most urgent national interest and, adjunct to that, the attendant struggle to defeat local and international opposition to the reforms. The chapter highlights the official conceptualisation of the land question and its relationship to the broader political urgencies of the post-2000 period in Zimbabwe:

The land issue remains the central national question claiming all our energies and attention in order to secure its genuine and lasting solution. In my countless addresses to you, I have emphasised that the national question enjoys a Siamese closeness to the question of our National Independence and Sovereignty.... [I]ndeed we know it to be the core issue and imperative of the Third Chimurenga which you and me are fighting. …

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