Will Colonial Powers Stop Zimbabwe Reforms?

Tony Gosling tony at gaia.org
Fri Apr 7 09:20:43 BST 2000

1. US suspends Zimbabwe cash
2. Who owns the land?
>From the BBC site - which contains some fantastic pictures of the
courageous squatters - but the overall tone is still colonial and seems to
be Foreign Office driven.  What can we do for the squatters???  I tried to
get through to (Movement for Democratic Change) website linked from the BBC
site but the server was down.
Any thoughts on lobbying for the squatters from here in the UK???????  


Post to diggers email list, addresses at the end

US suspends Zimbabwe cash

 Mr Mugabe backs the farm occupations 
The United States has suspended assistance to Zimbabwe's land reform plan
because of the government's inaction against farm squatters. 
 State Department spokesman James Rubin said that both Zimbabwe's future
and reputation were being threatened by a display of political intolerance. 
 The American move follows the passing of legislation to allow the
Zimbabwean Government to seize land without payment. 
 The bill, passed by the bare minimum after only two-thirds of MPs turned
up for the vote, seeks to make the UK, as the former colonial power,
responsible for compensating landowners. But Britain has made it clear it
won't be bound by the bill. 
 The wording of the bill, which now requires only the approval of President
Robert Mugabe to become law, is identical to a clause in the draft
constitution which was recently rejected in a referendum. 

 Increased tensions 
 Political tensions have increased dramatically in Zimbabwe since
government supporters in favour of land reform began invading hundreds of
white-owned farms more than six weeks ago. 
 Much of Zimbabwe's best farm land is owned by whites, and President
Mugabe's government, which faces parliamentary elections in May, has been
accused by the opposition of using the issue to boost its flagging support. 
 Mr Rubin said the US supported "rational, sustainable and equitable land
reform in Zimbabwe," but was unable to continue funding "as long as
government-sponsored occupations continue." 
 "That programme has broken down in recent weeks as war veterans and their
supporters illegally occupied hundreds of commercial farms in clear
violation of Zimbabwean law," he said. 
 Mr Rubin said the US had so far committed more than $1m to the reform plan. 

 Correspondents say the passing of the amendment clears the way for the
dissolution of parliament and the calling of general elections, to be held
probably in mid-May. 
 Government ministers reaffirmed during the debate that if a whole farm is
compulsorily acquired then compensation would still need to be paid for any
buildings or infrastructure on the land. 
 Our correspondent said on average this would make up about two-thirds of
the value of any farm, so embarking on any large-scale land reform
programme would be extremely expensive. 

 Violent incidents 
 More than 500 farms are still occupied by government supporters. 
 In the latest violent incident on Thursday morning, another white farmer
was hospitalised after being beaten by squatters. 
 A policeman was shot dead on Tuesday at a farm at Marondera, 70km (45
miles) from Harare - apparently by squatters. 
 The previous day, the owner of the farm - a prominent opposition member -
was savagely beaten with sticks and pickaxe handles. 
 At the weekend, government supporters attacked a peaceful opposition march
in the capital, Harare, in full view of the police with apparent impunity. 

Who owns the land?
 The government is under pressure to provide good farming land  By Joseph
Winter in Harare
 About 4,500 white farmers own 11 million hectares of Zimbabwe's prime
agricultural land. 
 About one million blacks own 16 million hectares, often in drought-prone
 Where they do exist side by side, huge, modern, mechanised estates are
divided by a mere fence from subsistence farmers living in mud huts. 
 The situation was created in colonial times when blacks were forced off
their ancestral lands.  "The land question" was a major cause of the
guerrilla war which led to Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. 
 Twenty years later, little has changed. 

 Who pays? [The colonial power that stole the land of course!!! TG]
 Land reform and redistribution is expensive: farmers asked to give up some
of their property demand compensation; and infrastructure such as roads,
bore-holes, schools and clinics is needed for those who are given the land. 
 President Robert Mugabe says Britain should pay because it was in charge
when the problem was created. 
 He also points out that the colonialists did not compensate Africans when
they first took the land.  UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's government
responds that £30m has been provided for Zimbabwe's land reform since 1980,
and that much of the redistributed land has so far ended up in the hands of
cabinet ministers and other government officials. 
 Other donors agree and have refused to support further land reform unless
it is more transparent. 
 There is also concern that taking large, sophisticated farms and then
sub-dividing them into plots to give to people without the means to manage
them properly could spell disaster for Zimbabwe's agricultural economy. 
 Despite promises that the main targets for seizure would be under-utilised
farms, many of those on the so-called "hit-list" have been efficient
growers of tobacco - Zimbabwe's major export. 
 The white farmers themselves do not see why they should have to pay
because of what happened in the past. 
 Many also claim to have bought their farms at market rates since
Zimbabwe's independence and so reject the whole "colonial sins" argument. 
 Because no-one has put up the money, deadlock reigns.
 Waiting impatiently 
 In 1997, Mr Mugabe promised (or threatened, depending on your point of
view) to seize 1,500 farms. 
 But last year, just 50 were bought by the government; more than
half-a-million families are still waiting for their "promised land". 
 And they are becoming increasingly impatient. At a recent congress of the
ruling Zanu-PF party, they grilled Lands Minister, Kumbirai Kangai, in
particular asking him why the state was leasing farms to government
officials at cheap rents, while saying there was no land for the rural poor. 
 Another reason for the slow pace of reform is bureaucracy. 
 The Land Acquisition Act clearly lays out the procedure for compulsory
acquisition of farmland by the state. 
 Those responsible in both the civil service and Zanu-PF have completely
ignored these provisions and so the courts have ruled the white farmers
should keep their land. 

 Land grab 
 In the face of these setbacks, President Mugabe is now saying if there is
no money he will take the land anyway and will not pay any compensation, no
matter what the courts, or the constitution, say. 
 But some of his advisors say this would lead to Zimbabwe being cut off
from the global economy, with dire consequences for a country already
experiencing a shortage of foreign exchange. 
 The opposition says that it actually serves the president to keep the
existing pattern of land distribution. 
 Then, come election time, he can win rural votes by promising "land to the
 But if this is his policy, he runs the risk of people eventually refusing
to believe the promises any longer. 
 Mr Mugabe has denounced "the little men" of Tony Blair's government for
refusing to put right colonial wrongs and compensate what he calls
"Britain's children". 
 But a bit more diplomacy and transparency is likely to be a more effective
way of securing aid. 

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