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.