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Whites score big against blacks - land compensation

23 Apr 2019 at 15:37hrs | Views
Land is and was at the centre of all political developments for the indigenous black Zimbabwean population's pre and post independence movements. The liberation war against white minority rule's black political formations were all created on the principal of repossessing and redistributing land to the black indigenous population as their formation basis.

The main post liberation political formations, ZUM 1989 and MDC in 1999 were also formed on alternative plans on accruing and redistributing land to ordinary Zimbabweans. Henceforth the recently proposed program by the Zimbabwean government to compensate former white farmers is an indication of our former colonisers' ability of getting the better of us the black population at every turn due to their skilled abilities on playing the long game.   


In the Lancaster House conference of 1979, Land reform emerged as the most crucial issue during talks. Robert Mugabe (ZANU) and Joshua Nkomo (ZAPU) then still united as the Patriotic Front insisted on the redistribution of land by compulsory seizure without compensation as a pre-condition to a negotiated peace settlement. The British government that mediated the process proposed an alternative plan inserting constitutional clause section 16 aiming to prevent mass farm invasions thereby underscoring their desire on maintaining land ownership rights to white farmers.

The British proposed a willing buyer willing seller arrangement on both the land and improvements made on it. This clause was to be in place for the first 10 years in which the Lancaster House constitution was to be adopted by the new liberated Zimbabwean nation. After this 10 year period the Zimbabwean people were to decide on how to proceed with Land reform thereby drafting their own constitution.                 

It is important to note that Mugabe and Nkomo were against the idea of compensating white farmers in any regard. These leaders considered the liberation struggle they had waged as premised on reversing the in-just land seizures the indigenous population had been subjected to by the white colonial power in periods preceding this peace settlement. As a preclude to secure Mugabe and Nkomo's support for the peace settlement and constitutional agreement the British government through Lord Carrington announced that United Kingdom was to assist land resettlement technically and financially. The other decision point which brings the United States of America to the fold, are assurances they would likewise contribute capital for "a substantial amount for a process of land redistribution and would also encourage the British government to give similar assurances".  The American assurance came through Kingman Brewster their ambassador in London then.

The other decision points that led Mugabe and Nkomo to accept these terms were pressure from other frontier states most notably from Mozambican President Samora Machel. After Mozambique's liberation struggle from the Portuguese's, the indigenous blacks hastily seized all means of production chasing away their former colonisers to their own demise. During the Lancaster House conference period Mozambique's economy had gridded to a halt hence Machel warned our leaders on implications of taking similar actions. The ZANLA and ZIPRA fighting forces had also been stationed in Mozambique and Zambia whose economies were significantly funded by the British and American governments then. This economic assistance was at threat if their leaders were to fail in convincing Mugabe and Nkomo on terms tabled at the conference. These were the decision points that compelled Mugabe and Nkomo to accept the Lancaster House conference agreement.                           

Land Reform 1980 – 1989

In the first three years after independence land resettlement for the indigenous population happened rapidly. This was mainly abandoned land, war zone areas and land sold to the government from willing white sellers who had little confidence in the new administration and hence were leaving the country. Around 80% of the land purchased under the willing buyer willing seller arrangement in the first decade was undertaken between 1980 and 1983. The average agricultural land payment ratio was Z$ 1: Z$ 1.5 that is the Zimbabwe to British government support.

The process slowed after these three years as political stability increased due to the reconciliation policy implemented by Mugabe's administration. Going forward finding willing sellers became difficult and when found property prices had also gone up significantly. After these three years with it the drought of 1983, Zimbabwe could no longer sustain the land reform project focusing more on education as the budget deficit required tightening. The British government also set stiff conditions on meeting their payout portions. These terms were unattainable like the level of detailed planning requirement that needed surveying skills to which the country lacked at that stage.  

In the years to 1989 around 52 000 families had been resettled to which the local white farmer dominated Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) and British government assessed as being significant progress. Their assessment came before the willing buyer willing seller arrangement was scheduled to end in April 1990.

This assessment was divergent as on 20 December 1989 The Herald of Zimbabwe reported Robert Mugabe saying that for his government "the biggest single problem it is yet to resolve is that of land distribution". He went on to promise delegates at the first ZANU PF congress that with Lancaster House agreements soon coming to an end, his government must simply deal more effectively, speedily and decisively with the land question.                  

Major Issues 1990 – 1997

From my title, I characterise this opinion article as us the blacks against whites. The war ceased from being direct and visible to a covert and technical battle all being fought towards the control of resources.

One thing that you have to know about our opponents is that they are good at identifying weaknesses and exploiting these to their advantage. Towards the end of the first decade of Independence corruption had surfaced as a major problem in the ZANU PF led government. Scandals like Willogate involving top senior government officials had been widely covered across the continent and world. The corruption conviction pardons by the government then were for one reason, I observed in our current highly divisive political party struggles for power that is of comradeship not scrupulousness. The fact that political party members have struggled together for a long time and know each other would make it convenient to overlook ill deeds of fellow comrades for political party domination and stability.

Seeing these glaring weaknesses the Americans and British governments planned for the end of the Lancaster House agreement and constitution by enticing Zimbabwe to the IMF Economic Structural Development Programme (ESAP). As I have previously said in my book The Next Zimbabwe, this policy was made to look like a locally driven programme similar to the measures being placed on the country to rejoin the IMF recently. At that time Zimbabwe was really in need of creating more employment for the growing educated population coming through the well funded education systems. The country was enticed to acquire these international loans thereby forced to eliminate inefficiencies by cutting its subsidy programs, removing tariffs that protected local industry and cutting on the civil services. The gamble was towards investing in the productive sector thereby enlarging export revenue required in repaying these loans. The first downfall for this plan was that no concrete investments in productive industries and modern machinery that was supposed to create these production synergies towards peers were made. The fact that these agreements tied the country to certain obligations like supplying maize to other countries even in the drought period of 1993 created more economical ills. Zimbabwe had to make foreign currency repayments from a depleted productive sector which was now also open to imports as tariffs had been removed by the IMF ESAP programme. This American and British IMF backed strategy technically killed all hopes of the continued adherence to the willing buyer willing seller arrangement as land resettlement funds dried up. This technically cured for the land question in Zimbabwe for the period from 1990 to 1997.

Most of the loan agreements the country acquired were also significantly unsustainable. The Santana vehicle deal technically meant that money just moved from one account in the UK to the next without giving the government the productive capacity required in paying back this loan.  

The other weakness the IMF exploited was our government officials who they knew for corruption and lavish lifestyles. Our opponents knew very well that our government was to make no meaningful investments geared in paying back these loans. For these IMF founders the bet was that Zimbabwe would over time payback the principal and also technically payback for whatever they themselves had contributed in the previous decade on land resettlement through default interest.                                    

Major issues 1997 -2001

I will start with the economic challenges that were now present in the country at the beginning of 1997 where they were rising food prices, fuel shortages, rising levels of unemployment and discontent in the population shown by the rise of civil disobedience through countrywide strikes.

The critical bones of contentions came from the war veterans who felt greatly excluded from economic activity and a feeling of betrayal by the then government on the land reform issue. The government had moved at a slow pace under the willing buyer willing seller arrangement of the then Constitution. Another critical issue was of the abuse of funds under the War Victims Compensation Act of 1993 where the Chidyausiku Commission report of August 1997 pointed to major payouts going to senior Zanu PF officials.

The stage was set for a major confrontation between Zanu PF and the War Veterans Association, thus the then President had to act. In September 1997, all veterans were given a payout of Z$50 000 in an attempt to silence them but two critical trends emerged from there. The economic trend of the country worsened since these funds were not economically backed in any form, thus the inflation rate spiralled. The second critical trend was the empowerment of the War Veterans' Association that resulted in it strongly affecting government policy up to today.

If self reflection had taken place following the Chidyausiku report, a reform process would have helped to stamp out corruption in Zanu PF and government, realign the economic trajectory of the country and most importantly produce reforms that would have expedited land reform. However a reactionary, quick but dangerous solution was applied that protected the party and war veterans' interests at the expense of the nation.

In the same 1997, civil society groups organised themselves along the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) demanding economic, social and political reforms including advocating for a new Constitution. Despite all these domestic pressures, in June 1998 the government sent the first group of 11 000 soldiers to the Democratic Republic of Congo to prop up President Laurent Kabila to fight off rebels in his country.
In 1999, the MDC was formed presenting a challenge to the Zanu PF-led government promising national renewal on the economic, political and social front with that also promising on land reform. The party promised a people-driven process that aimed to acquire 6 to 7 million (hectares) of land through acquiring underutilised, derelict and multiple-owned land for redistribution to ordinary landless Zimbabweans.

The MDC's proposals were a major challenge to the Zanu PF-led government's land reform programme that had moved at a slow pace especially at a time were its relationship with international donors had collapsed with the government being blamed for donor fund mismanagement and disregarding guidelines agreed under The International Donors' Conference on Land Reform and Resettlement of September 1998 held in Harare. The reasons cited by donors were the governments' lack of transparency and abuse of donor funds with major benefits going to senior government and party officials at the expense of the common man.

Major issues 2000 to now

In 2000 June, the country was to have parliamentary elections thus the war veterans and Zanu PF government reacted to this MDC threat by accelerating the land reform. This was the start of the reactionary fast-paced land reform programme where for the first time the army started involving itself in the internal affairs of the country.

Reflecting on the outcomes of the land reform programme to the present day; what I can say is that the land is now in the hands of the black population. The country might have delayed the pains that had been highlighted at Lancaster by Mozambican president Machel that radically implementing land reform then would have lead to an economic downturn. Over that period to now many myths like only the whites are technically capable of growing tobacco and no black person can efficiently run a thriving farm have all now been demystified.

As the land compensation debate is on in the country, reactions from most of the country's youths have been against the compensation meaning that they now know the value of land although at the beginning they might had been against this rapid land reform programme. That's why I call it true leadership that Mugabe had. To me leadership is the art of taking people were they themselves would not choose due to the pains of changing course. Leaving the comforts of being an ordinary employed individual to be a master of one's destiny is a big deal. Former president Robert Mugabe pressed on despite the international condemnation and economic decline the country faced for he knew it was not the approval of the lead he needed then for they had been comfortable with the status quo. To do what is right sometimes does not feel good but Mugabe knew in the end we were going to appreciate his leadership.

Changing course is a big deal and we don't always have to ask for the Whiteman's approval for they are certainly not our friends we have to know that. They don't really want us to be shapers of our own destinies and will fight tooth and nail to have this idea of non dependency on then to fail.      

The areas of alarming concern currently are on our policy formulation and implementation processes. Due to the political tensions that are now ever-present from having these two strong political parties in ZANU PF and MDC our policy formulation and implementation processes being turned to a constant mode of being reactionary. From my own observation, the system is that when one political party proposes a good policy programme due to this tension the other will react in some ways that might amount to sabotage, thus removing the rational element needed to move the country forward.

Constitutional Issues

The constitution of 2013 surely possesses clauses in which compensation can be made for the improvements made on agricultural land by former white farmers under chapter 16. This compensation is only limited to improvements not agricultural land. For agricultural land I will refer to section 72 clauses 7 and 8 below;

7. In regard to the compulsory acquisition of agricultural land for the resettlement of people in accordance with a programme of land reform, the following factors must be regarded as of ultimate and overriding importance

(a) Under colonial domination the people of Zimbabwe were unjustifiably dispossessed of their land and other resources without compensation;

(b) The people consequently took up arms in order to regain their land and political sovereignty, and this ultimately resulted in the Independence of Zimbabwe in 1980; c. the people of Zimbabwe must be enabled to re-assert their rights and regain ownership of their land; and accordingly;

 i. The former colonial power has an obligation to pay compensation for agricultural land compulsorily acquired for resettlement, through an adequate fund established for the purpose; and

ii. If the former colonial power fails to pay compensation through such a fund, the Government of Zimbabwe has no obligation to pay compensation for agricultural land compulsorily acquired for resettlement.

8. This section applies without prejudice to the obligation of the former colonial power to pay compensation for land referred to in this section that has been acquired for resettlement purposes.   

South Africa and its own Land Reform

South African politicians have been in arms over the decision made by the Zimbabwean government to compensate former white farmers at a time when our countries economy is barely making it. I believe an attack on Zimbabwe's land reform program is an attack on the proposed South African land reform programme too.

As South Africa wonders how this has happened let me explain to them why this has happened. Zimbabwe has for a long time lived in international isolation for radically taking back its land during the year 2000 and from then starved of any meaningful investment capital inflows. The administration of Emmerson Mnangagwa came in promising on a reengagement policy with the international community.

The truth of the matter is that Mnangagwa has not been given any chance to prove himself for just after assuming power 7 months from there he had an election to contend with. This election battle was fierce to the extent that he created more internal enemies. His election victory was relatively slim, contested and marred by post election violence and killings of 6 civilians. The election opponents then are yet to move on from these events and possess significant support mainly with the urban population were most policy changes are made. Mnangagwa over this entire period has faced constant pressure on delivering internal stability to which in my opinion this will be unattainable considering our highly polarised politically environment. The efforts he has made to reconcile with him fellow powerful younger countryman have been snubbed by the main opposition. This environment has made it very difficult for anyone to invest in Zimbabwe currently. They are also reports that our white opponents are behind this dire internecine politically environment as they were implicated in the January 2019 stay away planning actions.

These internal tensions and the economic collapse have isolated Mnangagwa in his desperate position towards finding financial relief. The South African government in December 2018 was approached by his administration for a credit facility to relive some of these financial pressures. In Zimbabwe currently the main foreign currency earner is tobacco but this crop has seasonal revenue. The plans then were on creating currency stability, preparing for the coming tobacco season and covering on other major import bills like wheat and fuel but the loan failed to come through hence the economic collapse of January 2019.

 All these factors have now forced Mnangagwa to resort to his last option that is the American backed IMF. The IMF already has reengagement terms highlighted in the ZIDERA sanction bills to which the Act was mainly enacted to derailing the success of the land reform programme. This is the desperate position in which our president finds himself and yes South African politicians can talk and claim what they want but talk is cheap for when the countries assistance was requested it decide against expediting it.

As I have said before an attack of Zimbabwe's land reform programme is an attack on South Africa's proposed programme. This is the reason I say in the title whites always win against us the blacks. How the IMF is penalising Zimbabwe for carrying out rapid land reform is an example being given to South Africa's current land reform question. As blacks we always fail for we play the short game and fail to see the long term consequences and now these are the implications of the denied loan.

It is technically deplorable and devilish for the IMF to impose such stiff measures on Zimbabwe's readmission such as requiring the country to compensate former white farmers at a time when the country's economy is in a mess, having recently experienced a natural disaster and facing a drought in the same year.

 All weapons internally and externally have been formed against President Mnangagwa and now he has given in to one of the international community's terms. We now just wonder what will  be their next demand for now the whites have us exactly where they wants, my guess will be the next demand will be on gay rights.

Conclusions and Solutions    

The fact that as people of colour our internal political and foreign policy decisions always take the short term view based on the attaining of political power through constant elections enables our white opponents to always win against us. The American government has had successive administrations in George Bush's who enacted ZIDERA to Barrack Obama and now Donald Trump all maintaining their countries position and policy consistently. This policy also contained several covert programs to cause the current disability in the country in the name of human rights. While we are busy with short game on who's supposed to be the president, fighting on and on to the extent of destroying our economy the Americans through the IMF have now moved in with their terms. The next step for the IMF is an economic programme just like ESAP in which Zimbabwe will be extended financial support in a mortgage type of arrangement against our resources. If we are not financial disciplined like in the 1990's we risk losing everything now.

I have also said it before that I don't really care who between Chamisa or Mnangagwa should be president for that's not the national priority at the moment. The priority is on improving accountability in our governance structures and decisive currency reforms were both leaders have significant roles to play. A unity government can partially help remove tensions in the political arena but alone without removing clauses like section 129 K will not get rid of comradeship and short term thinking.

In my first published opinion article titled ‘Mugabe there is victory in losing' I highlighted to short-term thinking and political party manoeuvring as major problems of the GNU arrangement's ending from 2012 to 2013 when elections were to be held. Decisions made in this period were again mainly on furthering political party interest not national interest. Zanu Pf came in with the indigenisation policy which was too radical then and both parties refused the ban on the importation of second hand vehicles due to fears of losing voters in the coming election. The effects of not creating laws that would have fostered local production as opposed to foreign currency leakages through importations are now being felt today as the country now faces these foreign currency shortages.

Stay Blessed

Terence Simbi  

Twitter @terencesimbiFacebook – THE NEXT ZIMBABWEYoutube Channel – Terence Simbi           

Source - Terence Simbi
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