Sam Moyo, who died in car accident in India on 21 November, was a longstanding member and contributor to ROAPE and co-founder and Executive Director of the African Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS) in Harare. Here we post three tributes to Sam. A selection of his ROAPE articles can be found here.
Celebrating a Life
By Tendai Murisa
On Saturday night at approximately 11:45pm Beijing time I received a call from an old friend informing me that Prof Sam Moyo had been involved in a high impact accident in New Delhi and we should pray. I didn’t. For some reason I just felt powerless and all I could do was sing songs of praise but could not sleep, then within the same hour the message came. Sam is no more. Shattered! I did not want to believe it. My or rather our world had just turned upside down. For we have always considered ourselves a privileged lot- the students of Prof Sam Moyo. Zvoradza!
I met Prof Sam Moyo first through his work in the late 1990s and then face to face way back in 2005 when I had just returned home having completed an MA in Development Studies in the UK. I had been asked by Ray Bush to pass greetings to him and the conversation that followed led to me joining the Africa Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS) initially on a three months contract which was eventually extended until 2009. From the first day I realized that Prof Sam – sorry most of us at the institute at that time and even now I supposed were never able to refer to him just as Sam – was a special breed – an international traveller sought after by many others – he was just not our Professor but he literally belonged to the Global South and he took it in his stride and never once complained about travel no matter how difficult or hectic a schedule.
In this piece I will reflect in an eclectic manner on what Sam meant to me and the manner in which he influenced not only me but hopefully our generation of scholars/activists and practitioners. Let me just start off by stating the fact that he was an extra-ordinary scholar who had a larger than life presence who could not be restricted to a single subject or nation but was a global figure with local relevance. He was a giant of extra-ordinary energy and intellect that we all admired and wished to be like him at some point in our lives.
Prof Sam’s Contribution- beyond Just Land Reform
He was way ahead of his time in almost all his writings but let me state from the beginning that Prof’s lifetime of work cannot be adequately treated in these few paragraphs – all I am doing is providing highlights of what still stands out for me in his work (without referring to the texts). He did not see events or phenomena in isolation but instead saw connections with both the immediate past and also what other regions were experiencing. He recognised that the developing South was shaped mostly by policies and programs designed elsewhere and also continuation of the different forms of subjugation from land alienation to slave like labour regimes on commercial farms. As such he always remarked that Zimbabwe is mostly analysed in isolation from what has happening in other countries even her neighbours.
He made an important connection between economic policy and land reform. In his 2000 book Land Reform under Structural Adjustment he argued that ESAP in Zimbabwe had created incentives for large scale commercial farmers and also for diversification into other commercial land use patterns such as wildlife ranching, new export crops but had not adequately brought smallholders into these circuits of production and accumulation instead it had led to growing inequality. ESAP had also created a disincentive for land reform under the willing buyer willing seller model- given the fact that this was probably a period of boom for large scale agriculture thus there was no need to consider giving up land.
Whilst others were busy dismissing the land invasions as an isolated politically driven process he was the first to argue that there was a connection between the invasions of the 2000s and what we had experienced soon after independence all the way to the late 1990s – land invasions of differing intensity and he did not stop there he went to argue that there is a bigger connection between Zimbabwe’s land occupations with what was already happening in the Global South – it was indeed a moment of land occupations in places such as Brazil, India and even South Africa (see his Millennium 2001 article). His collaboration with Paris Yeros (2005) was seminal in many respects especially in bringing these connections to the fore. They also went a step further to demonstrate how the failure of the Structural Adjustment Project across the entire global South had yielded land occupations as the response of the marginalized peasantry. In fact their book on land occupations across the global South published in 2005 and the work of other peasant based movements such as the MST (Brazil), the LPM (South Africa) and war veterans + peasants (Zimbabwe) dramatically brought peasant politics back to the policy agenda. In the process Sam became one of the most sought after scholars in Global South capitals such as New Delhi, Sao Paulo, Mexico etc. and sadly he never received adequate attention in his own country- his work (and indeed that of the AIAS) only began to gain currency after Scoones et al had debunked the myths of collapse because of land reform – which Sam had raised earlier but no one had paid attention preferring instead to tag him as partisan. So sad.
Prof Sam was also very careful to avoid notions of silver bullet prescriptions – with regards to land he argued (in a paper co-authored with Prosper Matondi) that land was a necessary but not sufficient condition for effective rural development – instead there is need for broader agrarian reforms. Land reform (entailing redistribution, tenure reforms and improved utilisation) was only the first set of policy actions to be embarked upon. One of my favourite readings of Prof Sam Moyo is a small monograph published by Sapes Trust back in the 1990s entitled ‘Land and Democracy’. The purpose of land reform had mostly been reduced to addressing livelihoods and in this article he demonstrated how the resolution of the land question would on the one hand break the monopoly power of large scale commercial agriculture, broaden participation in the agrarian economy and in it allow for bottom-up participation within the rural political spaces.
Beyond an analysis of the distribution of land he also devoted significant energy towards an understanding of rural mobilization, power relations and also the social relations of production. He tracked mobilizations for land in terms of the material demands, the class category of those making those demands and contrary to what others have argued he did not seek to romanticize the peasantry but rather engaged critically in an effort to understand their agency so much so that when the 2000 land occupations happened Sam was the only one who could say I saw this coming.
Furthermore Prof Sam (at times working with others) contributed significantly towards our understanding of civil society broadly and NGOs in particular in Zimbabwe. He was very critical of NGOs especially when it came to the manner in which they engaged with land reform policy – which he thought was at the centre of the national question. But to his credit he did not give up on these formations. He volunteered his time to engage in presentations, training and being part of NGO based networks in order to help them improve their positioning and contribution towards land reform.
Sam did not shy away from controversy – he took on many of the so called agrarian experts from the Global North especially when they had made the error of declaring that the Agrarian Question had been resolved. This project was to take up most of his time and led to the establishment of the Journal of the Agrarian South and also was a recurring theme in what has perhaps become the flagship of the AIAS – the Agrarian Summer Institute. I take pride in the fact that Prof entrusted me with the responsibility of organising the very first of these way back in 2009 and I am glad to note it has grown in stature and has become an important platform for agrarian scholars.
Initial Observations – The Diary/Calendar
One of the finest aspects (among many others) about Prof Sam Moyo was his availability to everyone who sought his opinion, journalists, students, peers, government officials and the like but it had to be in his diary. Each morning the diary for the day would be prepared and sent and circulated to the managers within AIAS. You did not want to keep Prof waiting. It was Chinese-like efficiency and fidelity to a system that has worked for him for years. If you were not on the diary – no matter who you are – forget it – no chance of meeting. By just looking at his diary you would understand the man’s mission on earth – it was great just to watch him work.
From 0 draft to 9th draft
Prof Sam was rigor personified. In my five years at the Institute I do not remember a document that did not go from 0 draft up to the 9th draft with him involved at every stage. I was initially infuriated at the pace at which we were producing our writings but eventually I also caught on. Many of us who were doing our PhD under his guidance (at times he would just volunteer to go through your thesis) benefitted a lot from this approach and he also used that time to reflect more on his work and some of the debates that were coming out.
His presentations were another matter altogether – there were days when we could literally leave the office very late preparing his slides only for him to change the order or the entire presentation! His was a quick mind and you had to learn to follow as a student. He believed in over preparation there was no platform too small for him.
Not only a Leader but a Developer of Leaders
There was no funding partner too big or too small for Prof and we all had to follow his example of professional courtesy, precise reporting, over delivery and also continuous engagement. Within the institute we were all students I observed Prof Moyo teach experts such as Finance Managers and Accountants how to do their jobs. He understood figures and made it easy even for us non-finance people to follow. I quickly came to the realization that working under Sam is an apprenticeship for bigger assignments to come. On his CV he stated that his mission was to train the next generation of scholars. There are many of us who passed through Sam’s hands that are now leading institutions and I am sure my colleagues at TrustAfrica are tired of me always making reference to how I was taught this and that by Prof Moyo. I was taught by the best.
A Man of Integrity and Selfless at all Times
Prof lived by his word. He went beyond the call of duty. I remember at the height of inflation when we were losing several thousands of dollars because we were using the official rate of exchange Prof insisted that we had to abide by the law even if it hurts. Some of us had already devised a number of schemes to beat the system but Prof would have none of it. Whenever we had challenges with financial resources Prof was always the first to volunteer that we do not pay his salary which was already too low compared to his peers working elsewhere. To him it was not about money – if it was he would have secured another job just like that but this was deeper – it was a calling.
On His Independence
Prof Sam was a thinker and even without him saying it he cherished the freedom to write as he liked without the constraints of pleasing any form of authority. He was not anyone’s man. Many will recollect that he spurned the government’s offer of a cabinet position and even the offer of a farm at the height of land reform – although some of us tried to convince him to take it as part of the sustainability plans of AIAS – he would not budge. The famous statement was: ‘I am a scholar and not a politician or even a farmer’. When he left the Southern Africa Regional Institute for Policy Studies (SARIPS) he received many offers to lead regional offices of donor institutions but again he insisted on his being a scholar preferring instead to pour his savings into establishing the AIAS. His writings were non-partisan but instead driven by a deep sense of nationalism which was not subordinated to any political party. Although there were moments where his views seemed to agree with those of a political party he remained critical and carefully watching out for elite capture – he was his own man.
Prof Sam worked like he knew that his life on earth will be cut short. In terms of research outputs I do not know of anyone who can match his productivity. When we were preparing our individual annual reports Prof’s one always looked like a little booklets – listing his publications, conference papers he prepared and presented, students he mentored, interviews he gave. He always insisted that we all produce these individual annual reports to make sense of the rush of the previous year and plan better for the next year but we always ended up a bit embarrassed when we presented our 2-3 pagers compared to his 15-20 page reports. He never shied away from assignments and was always prepared to put in more hours than all of us. Anyone who worked with him knows fully well that hitting the midnight oil was part of the routine and not the exception.
Prof Sam Moyo was one of Zimbabwe’s greatest ambassadors. I have had the privilege of travelling with Prof countless times into different cities and sharing platforms with him and he was never intimidated or retreated from his line on the need to understand Zimbabwe in a better way- i.e. the need to understand colonial redress, the need to guard against hyperbole when describing the crisis and stay focused on the real data and yes – he called out the sanctions as harming the economy. But he was realistic enough to note even earlier than others that Zimbabwe needed to normalize her relations with the international community. He was not as others claim an apologetic for the state – he was a nationalist at heart and was more objective in analysing Zimbabwe (even the violence) but within a framework that was embedded in understanding the evolution of colonialism to neo-colonialism, the impact of centre-periphery relations and also the role of international economic development policies on developing countries such as Zimbabwe.
He did not only represent Zimbabwe – he also represented Africa (especially the community of scholars) and excelled at this on the international global stage. A sure ticket of being treated well in places like CLASCO, Third World Forum etc. was to name drop that you worked with Prof Sam!
Working at AIAS was fun! We were a small family of committed and upcoming scholars – I am sure nothing has changed there. Hardly two months would pass without Prof Sam finding a reason for all of us to gather together with his immediate family for a celebration of sorts. Oh he loved life! His favourite dish was pepper soup and most of the times he would prepare it and insist that everyone at least taste it.
More importantly for me Prof adored his daughters. I personally saw how his two young girls Qondi and Zandi were the only ones who could easily interrupt his schedule. On a recent trip where we travelled together (and sadly the last one) I asked about the girls he was proud that Sibongile is doing very well in the banking sector but maybe because he knew that I started working with him when Qondi and Zandi where in High School – he started telling me about their academic exploits and I had never seen him so proud.
Prof Sam’s generosity knew no boundaries. Ever smiling – in that mischievous but also very disarming way. I can’t remember a time when he ever said no when we asked him for a consultation, to help us complete a task or when others came requesting technical support even without a budget for it. One of his assets which had taken a lifetime to accumulate has always been his friends from all over the world. They were not just people who he had met at a conference but these were his friends. He had a way of connecting and keeping in touch for life. Some of us got the opportunity to meet some of Prof’s close friends – Fred Hendricks, Lungisile, Issa Shivji, Adebayo Olukoshi, Dzodzi Tsikata, Mercia Andrews and the list goes on. He also had his own heroes and you could only beam with admiration as he spoke so glowingly of Archie Mafeje, Thandika Mkandawire, Issa Shivji and I suspect his best friend Praveen Jha. When I heard that he had been involved in an accident it struck me that his best protégé to date – Paris Yeros – would be with him and for sure – the two had become like brothers – in one light moment I called them Marx and Engels. Prof and Paris’ collaboration led to a number of important interventions which have significantly shaped the broad discourse on land and agrarian reform in the global South.
Prof enriched our lives in an immeasurable way. We have lost a caring father, a leader, a mentor, a friend and above all a fine human being.
Prof Sam Moyo- Gone Too Soon- Kamba Hahle. Lala ngoxolo.
Tendai Murisi was an AIAS Research Fellow-Policy Dialogues & Training (2005-2009) and he is currently Executive Director of TrustAfrica.
Remembering a comrade and friend
By Mahmood Mamdani
I no longer recall when exactly I met Sam. Maybe it was in the late 1970s at CODESRIA, or in the early 1980s at the Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies. The late 1990s, though, was the time we truly got to work together, closely and intensely. The two of us were at the helm of CODESRIA’s leadership, as President and Vice President. The next two years were a time of deep and sharp differences in policy, and it often seemed as if there was no end in sight.
I remember a particularly difficult episode a year down the line. We had an emergency meeting in Dakar but Sam said he could not be there because he was to have a delicate operation in a few days. I explained what was at stake and asked if he could postpone the operation by a week. He warned me that he would not be able to sit for long in his current state. But the next day, he was in Dakar. During the meeting, he kept on shifting the weight of his body from one side to the other, now leaning on one buttock, then on another. He was obviously in great pain, but it never showed on his smiling face.
That was Sam, selfless, committed to a fault, totally reliable. He was the person you would want by your side if you expected hard times ahead. But no matter how difficult the times, as during those years, I never saw him turn vindictive against anyone. Later, we would look back on that period as something of a crossroads in the history of CODESRIA. Then, however, it was hard and painful. It was the kind of ordeal that can forge enduring friendships. Sam was that kind of a friend.
In those years, I also learnt that Sam was a mathematical genius. As soon as we would land in Dakar, he would head for the Accounts office, take charge of all the books, and go through them meticulously. No matter how long it took, 12 or 24 hours, Sam would work until he would have a report ready for discussion between the two of us. Soon, word went around that it would be foolhardy for anyone to try and pull a fast one on Sam.
Students and scholars came to CODESRIA for different reasons, some for the thrill of travel, others to be part of a Pan-African conversation on issues of the day, and yet others to access otherwise scarce resources for research. Sam shared all those motives but, above all, he was among the few who unfailingly gave more than he received. When it came to facing temptation or intimidation, his was a towering presence. Sam stood for integrity and steadfastness, a calm intelligence and a cool deliberation, a level head in a crisis situation, and a free spirit in a party that was sure to follow every difficult episode.
Sam was one of the few who presented a seamless blend of this capacity for sobriety, integrity and joy that marked the CODESRIA crowd – all with a cigarette in one hand no matter the time of day, and a glass of beer at the end of the day. The ground on which this companionship was nurtured was the city of Dakar. We came to it from different corners of the continent, all marginal in one way or another, all looking for freedom, most of all the freedom of expression, as if gasping for oxygen. Out of that common endeavour were born close associations and lasting comrades.
Sam’s major scholarship was in the field of agrarian studies. Always unassuming, he seldom talked of his own scholarly work unless someone raised it first. For me that occasion came in 2008 when the London Review of Books invited me to write a piece on Zimbabwe. The land reform was the big issue at the time. I pulled together whatever studies on the subject I could lay my hands on. Three sources stood above all others as original and reliable: one from the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex, another from the University of Western Cape and then Sam’s work at the African Institute of Agrarian Studies in Harare. As I read these sources, and the press reports on their findings, I learnt something about the politics of knowledge production and its recognition in the public sphere. Two facts were crystal clear to me: one, that Sam had been several steps ahead of the others; and, two, that his work was the last to be recognized. It was almost as if the press went by a rule of thumb: when it came to ideas, the chain had to originate in a Western university, and the link go through a South African institution, before it came to an African researcher.
I discussed this with Sam. He smiled, as if to say, what’s new? At home, his critics were at pains to paint him as partisan. If he showed that the land reform had improved the lot of a large number of the landless, those in the opposition discounted it as the claim of someone with the regime. But if he refused to give blanket support to the regime, those with it said he must have hidden links to the opposition. When it came to public policy, Sam took the cue from his research, always fearless, unafraid, and hopeful. He was a voice listened to by all, especially when he was the target of criticism. Whatever their disagreement, all knew that Sam was not susceptible to corruption, and that he would not offer an opinion unless it was informed by deep research.
The last time I saw Sam was at the CODESRIA General Assembly in Dakar in June. Only two months before, we had been together in the city of Hangzhou in China at a conference organized by the Inter-Asia School to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Bandung. The hospitality was overwhelming. Every meal was like a banquet; every plate on the table was renewed before it could be empty; wine and drinks flowed. Sam was relaxed, as he reminisced of our efforts to build CODESRIA over the past decades, and reflected about future plans for the African Institute of Agrarian Studies. I recall this as if it was yesterday: Sam smiling, trusting, reassuring, strong, purposeful, and thoughtful, yet again doing what he was best at, charting a road none had travelled before, but at the same time taking you along.
This is one journey, dear Sam, that you take alone. You leave this world as you came into it, alone, but this world is a better place, and we are better off, because we had the privilege of being part of your world. The loss is great and the heart is heavy, and it is hard and painful to say good-bye. As we grieve for our loss, we also celebrate your life.
Farewell, dear friend, brother, and comrade.
Sam Moyo’s Influence
By Chambi Chachage
Sam Moyo is gone. A terrible car accident in India has robbed Africa of one of its finest sons. From Dakar to Dar es Salaam we are mourning the loss of such a profound professor and personality.
As tributes pour from Cape to Cairo, I am moved to share my brief, albeit, profound encounter with someone whose being combined a great sense of African brotherhood/sisterhood and intellectual rigor.
His name must have crossed my mind prior to our first meeting at the Julius Nyerere Intellectual Festival Week at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM). As a colleague of the later Professor Seithy Chachage at the Council for the Development of Social Science Research (CODESRIA), his name had to be familiar. It was splashed across publications and papers in our home’s library.
To Chachage, Moyo was such an important voice. When the land crisis began to unravel in Zimbabwe, I was still an undergraduate student at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The situation was so mind-boggling especially when I got the chance to debate it with my schoolmates who hailed from there. My decision to travel by bus from South Africa to Tanzania via Zimbabwe did not help me much to make sense of what was happening especially when I was almost left at the border because of being asked for a bribe.
Hence one of the papers that I tried to skim through to make sense of what was going on in what Mwalimu Nyerere once referred to as the Jewel of Africa was Chachage’s ‘Zimbabwe’s Current Land Crisis: Some Reflections on Its History’. Unknown to the skimmer in me then was that it drew heavily from Sam’s work on the ground. He wrote it 2000 way before many scholars started to acknowledge, even if reluctantly, Sam’s profound insights on ‘land matters’.
Citing Sam Moyo’s (1995) seminal book on ‘The Land Question in Zimbabwe’, Chachage concluded his paper in a ‘prophetic tone’:
‘One thing that is clear, as far as the Zimbabwe crisis is concerned, is the fact that land reform is necessary. Even the opposition party that campaigned against the constitutional change proposals concedes to this fact. More important, as the history outlined above demonstrates, is the fact that a government that abandons the policies of social provisioning and land reforms as a means to redress the historical imbalances is bound to land in the same problems that Zimbabwe is currently facing. Productivist positions and the Darwinist cynicism of the cult of the winner are dangerous in the face of naked inequalities. These forget that even broader economic perspectives suggest that land reform, as it happened in South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, for example, ‘lead to an income distribution structure and rural employment benefits conducive for a growing industrial sector.’ It is clear that without the resolution of the land question (which includes the national question in the case of Zimbabwe), the crisis will continue.”
But it was only after I came to know Sam personally later on that I really got to appreciate his vast knowledge and willingness to share with those who thirst for it. If there is someone who has shaped my understanding of ‘land problems’ in Southern Africa then it is him.
Even though we both knew that we are not entirely in the same ‘school of thought’, he was patient, ‘tolerant’ and ‘open-minded’ enough to interact with me without necessarily imposing his ‘old Marxist’ perspective on me. As I go through our exchanges I can almost sense the dilemma and zeal to uphold the principle of academic ‘freedom’ while maintaining the urge for ‘recruiting’.
When I asked ‘Why are Marxists/Leftists obsessed with Class Analysis at the expense of Cultural Analysis?’ he thus responded:
‘As a self-proclaimed Marxist too, I have no problems with analysing culture; but I would think that one has to examine the dynamic structural and social conditions under which culture (which is not static) is produced or evolves. Moreover, many aspects of culture have an ideological value or purpose, and they can become commodified, and these tendencies make ‘culture’ amenable to various hegemonic projects, including the dominance of neoliberal imperialist agendas. But I admit many Marxists understudy culture, and even ignore its existence and purpose, when dealing with class analysis!’
Little wonder when I had to choose between two universities in the US to pursue my PhD studies in 2011, he tried to convince me to go to the one where a couple of his ‘lifelong Marxist’ colleagues were teaching. In a humorous way, he pointed out that the other one is simply basking in its old glory like those folks who invoke their successful past as a cover-up for their present fall from grace. Yet after I had made a decision to go there anyway, he wished me luck after asking: ‘When do you go to the fountain of knowledge?’
Nevertheless that fountain did not really quench the thirst for the knowledge that Sam was busily disseminating in the ‘Global South.’ No wonder we were both so glad when I took a short course on ‘The Political Economy of Natural Resources’ in June 2015 at the Nyerere Resource Center (NRC/KAVAZI) in Dar. Little did I know that will be the last time I see him face-to-face and hear him give a lecture ‘live’. Taken by his take on the ‘Theory of Rent’, I jotted the following comments on top of my head in an online public debate:
‘Someone – I think, Sam Moyo – has attempted to define financial outflows in terms of the rent theory’s dichotomy of ‘ground’ and ‘differential’ rents. By doing so, one realises that there is a thin line between the ‘licit’ and the ‘illicit’ or the ‘legal’ and the ‘illegal’. To put it simply, in the context of the debate below, the TNCs/FDIs are ‘licitly/legally authorised’ to even collect (large) part/share of the (absolute) ‘ground’ rent from the land and natural resources that belong to the people/places they are ‘investing’ their ‘capital’ in. In this regard, I agree that this is not simply semantics. Preoccupation with the ‘illicit’ masks the ‘licit’. Both are draining Africa(ns).’
After his ‘heavy’ lecturers all I wanted was to rush home to cool my brain. But he insisted that I join them for a drink and snack. It was our ‘last supper’. Afterwards, I forwarded to all an article that we only passingly discussed in the course but which was not in the reader. His response to my email was brief but now so memorable:
‘Thanks comrade Chambi. It was good to see you after so long!’
Ever reading and learning, Sam asked me to email him copies of some of the articles in the course reader that he did not have in his collections. I promised to do so. But the procrastinator in me kept getting on my way. Feeling guilty, I sent him a quick email to let him know I will do so asap. Alas, his “Thanks” was the last email I got from him. For five months I travelled across three continents with the scrap paper below that I had jotted down names of the authors of those articles. While I was finally feeling like fulfilling the promise I had made, unknowingly to me, he was laying in a hospital bed fighting for the life yet in him and breathing his last.
Under such a skewed political economy of knowledge production and recognition, it is high time that we acknowledge our African scholars and their ground-breaking works. It is so refreshing to read, the tributes that Bella Matambanadzo, Alex Magaisa and Godfrey Massay have written to their mentor and friend, Sam. It is a testament to his profound intellectual nurturing and sharing.
Deservingly, in memory of his role the African Institute of Agrarian Studies (AIAS) that he co-founded is now considering renaming the annual summer school that it holds in collaboration with institutions like the Land Rights Research and Resources Institute, the Sam Moyo Annual Agrarian Summer School. May his fiery Pan-African legacy live on and on.
Farewell Comrade Sam. We will keep the torch burning. Amen.
Chambi Chachage is the editor, together with Annar Cassam, of Africa’s Liberation: The Legacy of Nyerere. He contributes to Pambazuka News and co-moderates Wanazuoni: Tanzania’s Intellectuals. He is completing his PhD at Harvard.