Chimusoro Sam Moyo (1954-2015)

The University of KwaZulu-Natal offers profound condolences to the family, loved ones and colleagues of Sam Moyo, a UKZN Centre for Civil Society (CCS) Honorary Professor who died in New Delhi, India early on Sunday. Moyo, 61, was at the peak of his career, having recently presided over the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (2008-11). He had built up the Harare-based African Institute for Agrarian Studies as a leading site for research and teaching.

Moyo was co-supervisor of two UKZN doctoral students studying Zimbabwe’s land reform, and was a regular participant in intellectual events in Durban. With CCS co-hosting, he was awarded for his contributions at the World Association for Political Economy in June, and was named a vice-chairperson of that association. Amongst his major innovations was deploying the most sophisticated Marxist analysis to what he termed rural Africa’s ‘trimodal’ agrarian structure.

Moyo passed away following a car accident on 20 November, when he was driven back to his hotel after a conference at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was in his element at that conference, entitled Labour in the South, with his closest collaborators nearby, and had just delivered papers on “Labour Questions in the African Periphery” and “Capitalism and Labour Reserves.”

Moyo earned his PhD in Rural Development and Environmental Management from the University of Northumbria, having received earlier degrees in geography from the Universities of Western Ontario and Sierra Leone. During the early 1980s he taught in Nigeria at the Universities of Port Harcourt and Calabar. He returned to Zimbabwe in 1983 and established a career focus on land and natural resources management, civil society organisations, capacity building and institutional development. His publications included 10 authored or co-authored books, 11 co-edited books and nearly 100 other chapters or academic articles, and he founded the academic journal Agrarian South. His most recent book, co-edited with Walter Chambati, was Land and Agrarian Reform in Zimbabwe (Codesria, 2013), and with Paris Yeros he co-authored a book chapter about African geopolitics for a collection co-edited by CCS Director Patrick Bond, BRICS (Jacana Press 2015), entitled ‘Scramble, resistance and a new non-alignment strategy.’

During the 1980s-90s he held leadership positions at the Southern Africa Regional Institute for Policy Studies and the University of Zimbabwe’s Institute of Development Studies and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. He was also a land consultant to the Government of Zimbabwe, and celebrated the post-2000 land reform while offering mixed reviews of implementation given its circumstances. He also consulted to the governments of Sierra Leone and South Africa. And he founded the Harare NGO ZERO: A Regional Environment Organisation, which he also chaired.

As University of Dar es Salaam Professor Emeritus IssaShivjiput it, “We have lost one of our great comrades: utterly committed, a most unassuming scholar and an absolutely decent human being.” Indeed Moyo captured the spirit of his times in Zimbabwe and ours in Durban: intellectual hunger, an insistence on theorising not just describing social relations, progressive aspirations for transformed power relations in a profoundly unequal rural landscape, a critical spirit that meant he was often on the wrong side of political elites, and an infinite generosity. His professional networks were also the sites for conviviality and nurturing of the next generation of progressive scholars. He worked with civil society and helped build social organisation wherever he could.

Admired by rural scholars across the world, Moyo was academically inspirational, as Zimbabwe’s most cited organic-turned-professional intellectual, and as a genuine Pan-African scholar. His memory will demand from his admirers a renewed commitment to combining intellectual rigour and the passion for social justice that he personified, all with the sense of humour and love of life that kept him surviving and thriving in Zimbabwe’s stressed conditions.