In the first decade of the twenty-first century southern Africa has seen a new urgency in what is often referred to as the land ‘question’, ‘problem’ or ‘issue’. This mainly refers to the continued exclusion from land of the African majority population by a white settler minority and foreign investors.1 In Zimbabwe since 2000 land has emerged as ‘the pre-eminent political subject’, with repercussions for the whole region.2 Zimbabwe’s Land Acquisition Act 2000 removed the requirement that land redistribution should only take place through the market (the often-quoted principle of ‘willing buyer, willing seller’), and empowered the state to seize land for fast-track resettlement, following which a programme of eviction (the so-called third chimurenga or revolution) has reduced the number of white farmers from four thousand to a few hundred, transferring a quarter of the land area for the government’s accelerated land programme. The underlying paradox is that southern Africa should have enough land to support its fastgrowing population, yet in reality lack of access to land for basic shelter and livelihood remains a major cause of poverty. Inequalities created by colonialism (particularly the apartheid system) during the 20th century are seen as the main cause. Of the European colonial powers in southern Africa (British, Dutch, German

and Portuguese) it was the British who contributed the dominant ideologies of colonial rule, such as indirect rule and the dual mandate. It was Britain’s larger and older imperial possession, India, that supplied not only immigrant workers (through the indenture labour scheme that brought 150,000 Indians to Natal), but also generated techniques and expertise for colonial management, such as township regulations (based upon those for the Indian military cantonments), labour regulations, worker housing, land surveying and railways.3