The story of Zimbabwe’s land reform starts at the Lancaster House Conference, where in the name of reconciliation with the west and for Rhodesian sanctions to be removed, the Zimbabwean government agreed to a willing-buyer-willing-seller agreement to get back land stolen during colonialism.
By Rutendo Bereza Matinyarare
The agreement would see the Zimbabwean government and western powers agree to a 50/50 split, to buy back land that white farmers chose to sell voluntarily.
It was also agreed that for the west to release their share of funds, the Zimbabwean government needed to first get an offer from a farmer who wanted to sell land, then they had to raise 50% of the money in foreign currency and only when that money was available, would the west put up their share.
Funds Pledged By The West.
In the same agreement, western powers pledged funds to assist with the land reform as an indirect form of restitution to British settlers. The US government pledged $1 billion, while the EEC (EU) pledged $500 million and Britain £250 million.
Of all that was pledged, between 1980 and 1990, the British gave Zimbabwe £43 million, which indicates that the Zimbabwean government received land offers and then put up its share of the price in foreign currency as agreed, for the British to release their £43 million share.
The money was then used to buy 3.5 million hectares of land that white farmers did not want and that which had been left by other farmers and companies that left Zimbabwe at independence.
1988 Rural Resettlement Act.
To facilitate land reform, the Lancaster House Constitution was used, while the Rural Resettlement Act and Land Acquisition Act were amended accordingly.
Land was valued privately by white real estate agents and government was given first option to buy the land that whites wanted to sell at market value.
If the land was in line with government‘s resettlement strategy that sought to put black people in the same areas where they could access infrastructure and markets, then government would put up their half and get the rest from the UK & her western allies to buy the land.
The payment for vast tracts of land in foreign currency by government, led to a huge escalation in property prices, to a point where government could no longer afford to buy much more.
From the beginning of this willing-buyer-willing-seller land reform program in 1980, Sam Geza was appointed to resettle 161 000 families on 8.5mil hectares that the government had targeted to buy by 1990.
According to the UN Development Program report, by 1990, the Zimbabwean government had managed to resettle 71 000 families out of the 161 000, on 3.5 million hectares of land.
Many of these families were part of the 150 000 refugees that had been displaced into refugee camps in neighboring countries by the liberation war.
The above willing-buyer-willing-seller program was the first phase of land reform program, which resettled these 71 000 families on 3.5 million hectares of land acquired by the government of Zimbabwe by 1990. This lays to rest the myth that land reform started in 2000 because of the Svosve people.
1984-87 Black Resistance To Land Reform.
According to accounts by writer Fay Chung, Ndebele Chiefs were not happy with their servants who tended their cows, being given land because this stopped them from tending to the chiefs’ cattle. As a result, many of these chiefs erroneously supported dissidents, hoping they would stop land reform in its tracks.
• Between 1984 and 1990, the same account says many middle class Zimbabweans and some ZANU PF officials were also unhappy with Sam Geza (a senior party member) for resettling poor peasants of all political affiliations and not just strictly giving land to the middle class and ZANU PF supporters as many had expected.
1985 Land Acquisition Act Amendment.
Over the preceding years, property prices continued to escalate because of government purchasing land in foreign currency, while some farmers and real estate agents were deliberately manipulating land value to make it costly for government to buy back land.
• By 1988, the IMF had stopped giving Zimbabwe loans for reconstruction and development, as the government lost its budget surplus and struggled to pay its debts due to many onerous burdens that included: the lack of reparations for 90 years of colonialism, paying off $700 million ($2.8 billion today) of Rhodesian debts, buying back land from white farmers, rebuilding the country from war and colonial underdevelopment, and fighting a war in Matelebeland alongside another war in Mozambique, that was caused by apartheid South Africa and CIA backed RENAMO bandits trying to sabotage the Zimbabwean economy to stop its support for the fight against apartheid.
As a consequence, the IMF proposed that Zimbabwe take up ESAP (Economic Structural Adjustment Program) if it was to continue receiving further loans from multi-lateral lending institutions and the Paris Club.
1989 ANC Asks For ZANU PF To Halt Land Reform.
According to Thabo Mbeki’s memoirs, before the CODESSA negotiations began in South Africa, the ANC through a Nigerian mediator, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, asked Zimbabwe to delay its compulsory land acquisition in 1990 after the moratorium on willing-buyer-willing-seller ended.
This was to ensure that taking land in Zimbabwe would not discourage the boers in South Africa from negotiating with the ANC.
According to Thabo Mbeki, this was also an illustration that ZANU and the ANC had very good relations, contrary to propaganda that says ZANU PF did not support the ANC and its liberation fighters to achieve independence.
1990 Land Appropriation With Compensation.
Mugabe [as ZANU PF leader] agreed not to proceed with the land question, while the ANC secured South African independence. Nevertheless, he continued negotiations with the John Major government for more money to buy the outstanding 5 million hectares to resettle the 90 000 families that were still to be resettled in line with the 1980 target.
1992 Land Meeting With Liberation War Veterans.
In 1992, Robert Mugabe [as the leader of the Zimbabwean government] had a meeting with liberation war veterans, who were getting restless after 12 years of taking back land on the very stringent terms of the Lancaster House Constitution, and now they wanted compulsory land acquisition on the government’s terms, as land was the major reason for having gone to war.
1992 Land Reform Phase 2.
By the end of the meeting of the government and the war veterans, the Land Acquisition Act Amendment was make to allow compulsory land acquisition.
In this amendment, the government earmarked the 5 million hectare shortfall, to hit its 8.5mil hectare target to resettle 161 000 black families.
This acquisition would have still left whites, who were 2% of the population, with 7.5mil hectares (43%) of prime land.
With that, a Land Commission was established to:
i) identify land and issue acquisition notices to farmers,
ii) determine a fair price for land (no longer a market related price determined by private estate agents),
iii) establish the fair compensation for developments on the land,
iv) ensure the disbursement of payments in local currency and
v) accelerate the resettlement of landless blacks.
From this point on, land was to be paid for in Zimbabwe dollars and not foreign currency as previously.
Western powers were not happy with the new amendments to the Land Acquisition Act because they had hoped that the Zimbabwean government paying for land in foreign currency and the continuing escalation of land value, would discourage land acquisition. But now that the Zimbabwean government had decided to pay for land in local currency, it meant that it could print the money for the acquisition of farm land.
• 1994, South Africa gets independence.
• In that same year, the British Queen knighted Robert Mugabe, hoping to buy his allegiance and to stop land reform. What she forgot was that Mugabe was just a representative of a system that was Zanu PF, war veterans from various political movements and a civil society that played a huge role in dislodging imperialism, and all wanted land returned to its owners.
• Come 1996, the South African Constitution is completed and released, and now Zimbabwe could go ahead with fulfilling its radical land reform.
Since the willing-buyer-willing-seller moratorium in1990, Mugabe had been negotiating with Britain’s John Major, for Britain to put up their share to compensate settler farmers who had received notices of acquisition, in line with the new Land Acquisition Act terms.
1997 Blair Government.
In May 1997, the Blair government come into power and Claire Short told Mugabe (as the government of Zimbabwe) that they will not give him money for land reform because their UK government consisted of people who also lost land to the British empire (Claire Short is of Irish descent) and more critically, they were not the Conservative government that made an agreement at Lancaster.
They then asked for a renegotiation of the Thatcher government Lancaster House terms.
• 1997, Mugabe rejected this call for renegotiation of Lancaster House land reform terms and announced that his government was going to take back the outstanding 5 million hectares of land, without compensation and that land would be redistributed to the youth, students of agriculture and desperate families living in crowded communal lands.
1998 Land Donor Conference.
The global community then asked for a Land Donor Conference, to see if they could solve the impasse between Zimbabwe, the west and in effect, the donors.
At the conference, the west persuaded Mugabe to hold off taking 5 million hectares of land, but to instead slow down and phase the land reform based on donations offered by donors. This was a clear departure from the Lancaster House Agreement which had stipulated that Zimbabwe could take land as it saw fit, in line with any new laws it would have enacted for the purpose of land reform after the moratorium.
The UN and other private players pledged $1 billion and proposed a number of programs to ensure sustainable land reform, training and further donations, but none would commit to putting up the money upfront.
With none of the funds promised by the British, US and EU at Lancaster forthcoming, the government of Zimbabwe felt this was just another tactic to stall land reform.
1998 Land Invasions.
In 1998, desperate, landless people in Svosve and war veterans in other parts of Zimbabwe, fed up of delays in land reform, began spontaneous land occupations (unilateral land sequestration) or what some have erroneously coined the Third Chimurenga (which should actually be called the fourth Chimurenga as the first Chimurenga was 1670-1690 in the war between the Portuguese against Mutapa and Changamire Dombo).
Soon after the UN Development Program initiated Abuja talks to resolve the impasse. At these talks, the Zimbabwean government indicated that its target had moved from 5mil hectares to 9mil hectares as the demands for land had increased due to a growing population.
• 1998, Mugabe’s knighthood was rescinded by the queen when she saw that he was not going to serve the empire by stalling land reform.
1999-2000 Broad Based Civic Alliance Against Constitution Amendment.
In 1999 a civil society alliance led by members of the ZCTU and what became MDC, was mobilized and began to campaign against the referendum to change the constitution which would pave way for appropriation of land without compensation.
In 2000, the referendum is held and after a very thorough campaign on the ground and in the media, the broad based civic alliance against the constitutional amendment won due to the people ignorantly rejecting a necessary amendment to the constitution.
UK Land, Development Compensation Clause Lost.
It is at this point that Zimbabweans threw away an opportunity to adopt a constitutional proposal by ZANU PF, to put the responsibility of compensating white farmers for land and developments, in Britain’s hands.
Many believe that the British, US, EU government, CFU (Commercial Farmers Union) and South African farmers, put in vast resources to sponsor MDC, ZCTU and civil society organizations, to stop the amendment of the constitution because they knew that the amendment put the onus of paying for land and improvements on the colonial power.
This was a precedence that the west could not afford because it would create a new legal precedence that would enjoin colonial powers to compensate their settlers for colonialism, in a manner that would not only impact the Dutch in South Africa but The United States with their American Indian colons, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and various South American countries that are still occupied by white colonial settlers.
The obvious ramifications would be the reversal of the Discovery Doctrine and reparations for colonization, which would bankrupt the western world.
Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative.
In a last ditch effort to stop Zimbabwe from taking the 9 million hectares of land earmarked for land reform, white commercial farmers came up with the Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative in which they offered up 521 farms. This was an offer of 20% of the 9mil hectares government needed.
With that, the Commercial Farmer‘s Union offered resettled small scale farmers:
• 1 hectare of land,
• farming support,
• revolving loans of up to Z$1.3bil for capital investment,
• three consultants per province to assist new farmers,
• donor funds from the international community and
• global publicity about the orderly land reform the government was undertaking, to garner more support for the program. It was the never realized Lancaster House pledges all over again in another form.
The Zimbabwean government agreed to this a week before signing the UN Development Organization Abuja Agreement with farmers and donors. Nevertheless, the agreement was met with skepticism by the government as the CFU and white farmers were duplicitously following a cooperation strategy, while also funding the creation of an opposition party resistant to land reform, hoping that ZANU PF would lose parliamentary elections to them.
With all the momentum garnered in urban areas for the referendum, MDC narrowly lost the 2000 parliamentary elections with 56 seats to ZANU PF’s 60 seats.
2001, US ZDERA sanctions are imposed to stop what was now dubbed the Fast Track Land Reform Program and to push out Mugabe in the 2002 Presidential elections as MDC had failed to win elections to stop the land reform.
• In 2002, despite losing the referendum to change the constitution, which would have forced the British to pay for land and developments, ZANU PF used its parliamentary majority to amend the Land Acquisition Act.
In that amendment, it removed the proposed constitutional amendment clause that Britain would have to pay for land and added a compromise clause that the Zimbabwean government would not pay for land but would compensate for improvements on the land in line with the 1992 Land Acquisition Act Amendment.
• In February 2002, after the EU’s overt bias towards the MDC, Mugabe expelled the EU’s head of observers, Pierre Schori, from Zimbabwe, and immediately the EU imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe.
This culminated in the blocking of $128 million of EU aid to Zimbabwe, together with the targeting of individuals, private companies and parastatals that they said were aligned to the Mugabe regime.
In March 2002, Mugabe won the Presidential elections and immediately continued with the Fast Track Land Reform Program.
2003 Executive Order Sanctions.
As a result of failing to dislodge Zanu PF and Mugabe, in 2003, George Bush declared a national emergency against Zimbabwe and then instituted the Executive Order 13288 sanctions to cripple land reform.
• When that didn’t discourage the land reform, in 2005, George Bush declared another national emergency upon Zimbabwe and upgraded his executive order sanctions to EO13391 that increased the targeted special designation nationals to 86 investors, financial institutions, companies, parastatals, farms and those who do business with them.
These set of sanctions were designed to punish Zimbabweans adequately to force them to vote out ZANU PF in the 2008 elections, to end the suffering brought by sanctions.
• On the 29th of March 2008, Zimbabwe conducted harmonized elections in which Morgan Tsvangirai won by 47% of the vote but failed to get the 50% plus one, to be the outright Presidential candidate of Zimbabwe.
The parliamentary elections were not in dispute, thus that year June 27, there were run-off elections in which Morgan Tsvangirai lost after pulling out of the elections, five days before the run-off elections.
• 28th of July 2008, George Bush called a third national emergency upon Zimbabwe and amended the executive order sanctions to EO13469, to target 144 parastatals, government companies, private companies, national government, municipalities, non governmental and government financial institutions, investors and those who do business with them without license from the US President.
• 13 February 2009, according to Gideon Gono, under the threat of a western invasion, plus the recent veto of UN sanctions by Russia and China; as a solution to the stalemate, ZANU PF and MDC formed a Unity Government and began to work collectively on a new constitution.
2013 Zimbabwe’s Fraudulent Constitution.
For this purpose, in the same year, COPAC (Constitutional Parliamentary Committee) is formed with the assistance and influence of the UN, the so called “The Elders” (Koffi Annan, Garcia Machel, Mandela etc), South African constitutional law experts, western paid lawyers/activists like Alex Magaisa and various western donors who influenced the constitutional making process to ensure that white farmer compensation was included in the new constitution to create legal custom that would influence South Africa’s and other future African land reform programs in favor of white settlers.
As chief negotiators from the parties, were Paul Mangwana for ZANU PF, Douglous Mwonzora MDCT and Edward Mkhosi for MDC among others, who pushed through white farmer compensation and other clauses deemed favorable to the west, on the pretext that this would end sanctions.
As highlighted above, the west had a vested interest in pushing the white farmer compensation clause into the Zimbabwean constitution because Zimbabwe’s law was forming international legal custom on native restitution that would have ramifications on international legal custom going forward.
The result of this process, was a schizophrenic constitution that contravenes the principles of restitutio in integrum, as it focuses on compensating white farmers for improvements done on stolen land and attempts to protect BIPPA farms and commercially viable large scale estates that were also established on this same stolen land, without ever compensating those who were dispossessed of the same land.
The basic precedence set by the Zimbabwean constitution being that decolonization and restitution, will come at a high cost and no reparations for natives.
• In 2013, Zimbabweans unaware of the compensation clause, had a referendum which approved the new constitution which included the compensation of white farmers for improvements on land.
Today, many Zimbabweans and Africans are disgruntled by the Zimbabwean government taking loans to compensate white farmers, illustrating that there was never consensus ad idem on compensating white farmers among Zimbabweans.
It is from this constitution that was greatly coerced by sanctions, the threat of a western invasion and Zimbabweans being tricked to refuse a constitutional amendment that would have made compensation the prerogative of the British colonial government in 2000, that our nation is currently facing the prospect of borrowing $3.5 billion to compensate white farmers for improvements on stolen land.
What is more concerning is there are still BIPPA farmers and the farmers who went to the SADC tribunal who are still claiming separate compensation to the $3.5 billion that government has committed to.
This means that the full compensation Zimbabwe has to pay white farmers, might escalate to an estimated $10 billion by the time all farmers are compensated and interest is paid.
In conclusion, as Zimbabweans, we stand the risk of losing the gains of independence by incurring a huge debt from paying reparations (compensating whites for improvements on land and BIPPA farmers) for ending colonization as happened with Haiti, instead of receiving reparations for 90 years of colonialism.
All this is due to the ignorance of the Zimbabwean people, who were manipulated by MDC, coerced by the suffering brought about by sanctions and let down by a ZANU PF guilty of not countering the propaganda campaign of the MDC led broad based civic alliance, that focused on claiming that the constitutional amendment of 2000 was about giving Robert Mugabe more presidential powers, yet it was actually really about land.
ZANU PF and its alliance of war vets also failed to educate Zimbabweans on the importance of the British compensating their settler farmers for land and improvements on stolen land, to avoid Zimbabwean tax payers carrying the burden.
The Zimbabwean government itself is also culpable for not curating patriotism and national interest in Zimbabweans to make them understand the relevance of the constitutional amendment in 2000 and how it was meant to give life to our independence.
Today, we see the same negligence in the government not educating Zimbabweans on the national security threat of sanctions and how they have been in the back ground coercing the creation of our laws and constitution, which makes the 2013 constitution voidable.