Tsvangirai's Government Deals Another Blow To White Farmers

Zimbabwean farmer Ben Freeth poses in court with injuries sustained from a beating he got at his farm for resisting the government's efforts to acquire it compulsorily

The Inclusive government of Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe has announced that farms protected by Bilateral Investment Protection Agreements are not immune to compulsory acquisition.

The announcement was made by the body that Tsvangirai said last week he had referred farmers' grievances to, JOMIC (Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee), which comprises officials from all three political parties in the Inclusive government.

I told you a few days back that the "referring to JOMIC" that Tsvangirai spoke of was simply a way to get a hot potato out of his hands. And this prove it.

Speaking in Victoria Falls, where the whole cabinet and Permanent Secretaries are living it up under the pretext of a "retreat" to strategise on the way forward for the economy, Professor Welshman Ncube, who is also minister of International Trade from the MDC-M and a member of JOMIC dropped this bombshell.

He told the media that there was a mistaken belief amongst farmers and the general population that farms protected by agreements between nations, such as the Danish-owned dairy farm I showed here on this blog a few days ago, can not be "compulsorily acquired"

They can be, he said. The only difference is that, unlike the other farms, government would have to pay full market value for them in foreign currency. For the other farmers not protected by BIPAs, government has been taking the farms without compensation, telling the owners to go and get their money from Britain, the former colonial master of Zimbabwe.

This latest announcement by the Inclusive Government effectively means that Tsvangirai and Mutambara have endorsed the way Mugabe has been acquiring land. What they still object to is the fact that he is keeping people who are not producing on these farms.

Mugabe says he agrees that non-producers should be kicked off the land.

You remember that donor nations a week and a half ago asked for an end to the compulsory acquisition of land before they could assist Zimbabwe with aid. Other conditions had to do with political prisoners, cleaning up the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe by putting in a "credible team" there (meaning firing the current governor) etc etc.

It does not look like Tsvangirai and Mugabe's new government is listening.

It beggars belief that they are doing this now, and making this announcement now, when they are readying themselves to go to the West and ask for aid for the lifting of "restrictive measures" against Zimbabwe so that the country can access not only loans from the IMF and World Bank, but also investments from Western (especially American) companies that are now forbidden from dealing with Zimbabwe.

I don't know whether they are just thick or perhaps it is just that they do not understand what they are doing.

By going after BIPA farms, protected by a word of honour as well as contracts given to foreign governments, Tsvangirai is basically adopting Mugabe's "I don't care" attitude.

It means we can forget about investments because this sends a message that no investment in Zimbabwe by foreigners is safe.

What if Tsvangirai also joins Mugabe tomorrow in going after companies, having finished with the farms?

This crisis of confidence is what has destroyed Zimbabwe. Do the two MDCs not understand this?

And please, do not try and make this about MDC Mutambara because it is Welshamn Ncube who made the announcement.


He is still just a minister who reports to Tsvangirai and can be censured by him if he speaks out of turn. His announcement was made with the full knowledge and support of the Prime Minister. You will not hear him condemn Ncube because this is his government's official policy now.

It is sad because it confirms that there is no help coming to Zimbabwe. I think the Norwegians and Swedish and Danes who had started moving towards Zimbabwe will also now recoil in horror.

This, I guess, is the change the MDC promised us. This is "A new Beginning, A New Zimbabwe" as their slogan during the campaign said?

Sounds like Mugabe all over again to me.


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  2. please keep writing. This blog deserves a worldwide audience. Great stuff. We here in America know about the struggle but it sometimes seems so far removed because we are here.

  3. Despite their lack of transparency on the MDC’s position coming into the government, I believe there are two groups of people to blame on this issue. (i) The white farmers who do not seem to understand anything despite being in the country for a century. (ii) The “politically correct” black Zimbabweans who keep trying to brush the issue away. Both these groups try to argue around technicalities. Land reform is more than technicalities, its emotional, its political, and its historical! You can’t shoot down emotions by throwing technicalities; you can’t shoot down history, by throwing technicalities, and you can’t shoot down politics by throwing technicalities! The British even had to deal with the issue politically through Lancaster talks.

    Over the past decade the MDC has hidden around the issue by pushing politically correct sound bites “we will carry out a land audit”, “we will make agriculture productive again”. Plus of course the land reform was being done by a dictator and his war veteran thugs. And now its SADC Tribunal Court and international aid? Its possible to remove the “unproductive” black farmers out there but people will be watching kuti “Unobvisa ani uchiisa ani”. Are you going to station soldiers around those farms once you put back those farmers back? Why would anyone stick to a SADC tribunal which even a kid knows is useless in Zimbabwe? Do we listen to a Tribunal or our own laws? Can the same tribunal rule that South Africa’s BEE also violates human rights? Would the same tribunal uphold the same property rights if say the Tangwena people took their case to court to have the title deeds nullified?

    Zimbabwe is not the first country to go through such a history and financiers are smarter than we think. Our problem is we do not want to deal with OUR OWN issues and that is what scares investors! The question is what is the problem and what is the best way to deal with the problem? So far none of us have ever tried to answer that! Problem is 2 years from now, the problem comes back again! Had we dealt with this in 1990, this would be past us, and if we do not deal with it comprehensively this will continue to dog us for another decade. There are 300-400 farmers left, so are we going to have another problem of dual tenure system of leases and title deeds? Going forward a white farm with title deed will be more risky than an offer letter so why are we not offering alternative advice to the white farmers instead of sticking to the same old “politically correct” stuff.

    We still need to find a common objective and then we see how to get there. We can’t continue to hide behind aid and SADC tribunal because those are technical reasons and we are dealing with emotional, historical and political issues here.

  4. Very correct, you are Nyatsimba Mutota, this issue of land has to be dealt with conclusively.For Mr Freeth and his team to keep on fighting on and on will not help, and I do not see them winning, nomatter how many times they may seek recourse from SADC tribunal. The issue is historical and political, and very very hot which can easily degenerate into an unimaginable arnachy. Mr Freeth and team must climb down and give up those farms, then ask to be allocated some farming land, I am almost certain that the majority of their bunch will get them.
    Whoever knows President Mugabe well will not have much problems dealing with him, "He said long back on an interview, that "the good ones will stay, and we have quite a lot good ones, but the bad ones must go and they will go". I do not see him changing from this stance.
    Nyatsimba Mutota you said Had we dealt with this in 1990, this would be past us, but I remember then that Zimbabwe wanted to start its massive compulsory Land reform programme, but was discouraged against the idea by OAU Secretary general, I think it was Boutros Boutros Ghali or was it Salim Ackmed Salim you can correct me there, I always mix up the two.The reason was that it will make the whites in South Africa take a hardened and difficult position and may delay the prospects of independence for South Africa.
    When a government is too full of lawyers, they look at every issue with a legal microscope, Prof Welshman Ncube is giving the true legal position of farms protected under BIPA, he speaks with the law on his side, and can argue that if you want me to speak against the law, amend the law first.That is the same problem that the Land reform programme faced at the beginning, High Court judges were making judgements against the resettled farmers, because that was the law, until Zanu Pf won a majority in parliament and included in the constitution the law that saw judgements made infavour of the resettled farmers.
    Lawyers always want to stay legalistic, in England there was a time when they wanted to have a law that will require Doctors, hospitals, medical institutions to verify the residence status of patients before they treat them, this was meant for immigrants, if they were found to be in the country illegally then treatment was supposed to be denied.
    Doctors protested against this, saying, that undermines the objectives and ethics of their profession,Their job is to save life, and they said they will continue to do that regardless of a patient's status. They are not Immigration Officials. It was a hot debate.Lawyers may see it differently.
    The MDC were not clear at the beginning on their position about Land reforms, resulting in Fidelis Mhashu saying clearly on BBC hard talk that should they get into gvt, the MDC will return back the farms to their previous white owners, that was good politics abroad, but the opposite within ZIM.They (MDC) had to say so because that is what all the funding they were getting was for, saying otherwise would have been tantamount to biting the same hand that feeds you.
    The inter-party talks and subsequent agreement came about because all parties had to agree on the irreversibility of the Land reforms as a condition set by Zanu Pf, and they mean what they say.
    The way forward is to make sure the Land is used productively by whoever was allocated one, failure to demonstrate such ability, then they should move off the land and pave way for those who can.The country needs a land audity as a priority (Not the animal called Truth and whatever healing or reconcilliation commission, perpetrators of crimes should be prosecuted and made to reform, and deter like minded people, victims should be restituted).
    The land issue is exactly as stated by Nyatsimba Mutota, emotional, historical and political, and Ben Freeth and team should know that.From within Zim their sympathisers are waning, they used to get sympathy from the MDC as pay back for their cheques that Mr Morgan Tsvangirai received in Banket, but now the MDC is standing side by side with Zanu Pf over the issues of land, the game plan has changed. Obama said on his European tour, Historical grievances that are not resolved can be a very heavy weight.


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