Tribute to Prof. Sam Moyo, a Great Intellectual, and a Man of Integrity

The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) deeply regrets and mourns the passing away of its former president, Professor Sam Moyo. Professor Moyo was in New Delhi, India, where he was attending a conference on “Labour Questions in the Global South”. The vehicle in which he was travelling was involved in a serious accident in the evening of Friday, 20 November, and Professor Moyo died in the early hours of Sunday, 22 November 2015.

Sam had been an active member of CODESRIA since the 1970s. He coordinated a number of CODESRIA working groups and research networks, and was a tireless and inexhaustible resource that CODESRIA heavily relied upon. Several of his most important ideas were first carried in CODESRIA publications. In 1998, he was elected Vice-President of CODESRIA. During the 12th General Assembly held in Yaoundé, Cameroon in December 2008, Sam was elected President of CODESRIA, a position he held until December 2011. He continued to play a vital role in the life and work of CODESRIA, attending general assemblies, representing CODESRIA at many events, hosting activities in Harare, advising on research programmes, contributing to the deepening and broadening of intellectual exchanges across the Global South and providing wise counsel to the leadership.

Sam was Africa’s leading intellectual voice on land and agrarian transformation. Over long periods when there was little policy interest in land reforms, he and a few other scholars kept the issues alive through rigorous empirical research and theorizing about Africa’s land and agrarian questions in the context of globalization. Throughout an intellectual career that spanned decades and produced a massive body of work, he consistently championed the rights of Africa’s smallholders as well as its landless and dispossessed communities and chronicled the struggles of agrarian social movements for equitable land rights. He followed up his research with engagements with policy makers, civil society organisations, research networks on agrarian issues as well as social movements. He was much in demand in Africa and beyond as a policy advisor on land and agrarian issues.

Sam showed great courage in his robust engagement with Zimbabwe’s land reforms. He charted a course of independent research which eschewed sensationalism and illuminated the scale and significance of land redistribution represented by the Fast Track Land Reform Programme which saw over two hundred thousand Zimbabwean households acquiring land for their livelihoods. In spite of the fact that this was for a long time a very lonely undertaking, which incurred the disapproval of the different sides of the debates on Zimbabwe’s land reforms, he was much respected and admired not only within CODESRIA, but in the wider community of progressive intellectuals within the global south for his consistency and the quality of the evidence he produced to back his positions. The growing acceptance of Sam’s positions in the wider land and agrarian studies community sadly failed to give him full credit for his pivotal role in changing the debate about Zimbabwe’s land reforms.

Sam was full of life and lived life to the full. He was warm, kind hearted, humble and respectful of every member of staff at CODESRIA. So was he with the countless numbers of younger scholars and colleagues he mentored over the years. We will miss a man of integrity, a committed pan Africanist, a loyal friend, and a great leader.

Ending his short but extremely productive journey in this world in India speaks volumes of Sam’s commitment to scholarship and to the cause of the peoples of the Global South. This commitment was much in evidence in his leadership of the Agrarian South Network, a tri-continental research network on agrarian issues he co-founded with colleagues from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

On behalf of the Executive and Scientific Committees, and the staff of CODESRIA, we would like to offer our sincere condolences to Sam’s partner Beatrice, his mother Madam Mavis Moyo, his daughters and his wider family and friends, to the staff of the Harare based Africa Institute of Agrarian Studies that he founded and led for many years, and to the entire CODESRIA community, which was his extended family.

Hamba Kahle, Sam. Go well.

Professor Dzodzi Tsikata, President 
Dr. Ebrima Sall, Executive Secretary
CODESRIA
23 November 2015

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