Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Zimbabwe: The land issue revisited

The issue of the over 4 500 farms seized without compensation is turning out to be a pertinent matter in Zimbabwe's re-engagement efforts with Western countries after a 12-year political standoff.

Diplomatic sources with knowledge of two meetings held in Harare between Mugabe and two senior United States officials in recent week's stated that Mugabe had said Zimbabwe was willing to reopen talks about compensation but money promised by the British and Americans in 1979 was critical to any settlement.

In recent weeks, Harare has hosted two prominent American black civil-rights leaders, Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson. The sources said the men, who both held closed-door meetings with Mugabe, discussed land and other issues.

Young, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, was in the country two weeks ago as a special envoy of the US state department. During a discussion hosted by a local political and economic institute, the Sapes Trust, Young spoke of the need to "find ways of re-engaging with Zimbabwe".

Negotiations 
Ibbo Mandaza, an academic and director of the Sapes Trust, hinted that there were ongoing negotiations about compensation for white farmers. Mandaza said the issue of compensation was "very much alive" and that they "are engaged in these efforts to see to it some of these issues are addressed and resolved".

Mandaza, who was one of the negotiators during the 1979 Lancaster House negotiations that helped to broker a land-reform compensation deal, said the US had pledged $750-million at the time and the British government $1-billion, to be paid in tranches over 10 years.

"The commitment was never put on paper but it's contained in the minutes of the negotiations. It was taken for granted that they will pay but this was never followed up after independence. Takavarairwa [we relaxed]," he said.

Young said his greatest concern was why Britain and the US government "reneged on funding the land issue. When nothing was done, Zimbabwe did what it could under the circumstances", but there was still an opportunity to "forgive each other".

The president of the Commercial Farmers' Union, Charles Taffs, also confirmed that negotiations were under way about compensation. He said his organisation was currently engaged in talks with the government and Western capitals over compensation issues for former farmers.

"We have been in touch with every­one and we want to see all the disputes resolved because [they] keep this conflict going on forever," Taffs said.

"If the British government and the American government pledged to pay compensations for land reforms, surely they should honour their obligations," he said.

"The country needs to move forward, we can't keep wasting time. The country has been held back for too long."

Taffs estimated that the compensation figure would now be about $6-billion, up from $1.75-billion taking into consideration interest accrued over the years.

Jesse Jackson meets Mugabe
This week Jackson held a two-hour meeting with Mugabe. After the meeting, Jackson spoke of the need to remove sanctions and emphasised that the land issue was a source of tension. "Some focus on land was not honoured and [this has] been a source of struggle," he said.

The American embassy in Harare did not respond to questions from the M&G and the Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo could not be reached by the time of going to press.

Jameson Timba, the secretary for international relations of the Movement for Democratic Change, said, although Young's visit was "critical in Zimbabwe's re-engagement efforts" and compensation was a necessity, there was also a need to "address the current challenges that the country is facing.

"We need to deal with the issue of security of tenure, productivity and multiple farm ownership," Timba said.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

South Africa’s mothballed ‘supermall-ification’ sets strip malls up for success

Analysts agree that the country has enough malls and that, post-Covid, the convenience of local centres lure customers

Mabuza’s Russian jaunts and the slippery consequences of medical tourism

For more than five years the deputy president has remained steadfast in his right to travel abroad to receive medical treatment

More top stories

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell dies aged 84

The 84-year-old died as a result of complications from Covid-19

Kunming Declaration on biodiversity: A show of political will that...

More than 100 countries pledged to better protect nature at UN biodiversity talks last week

Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine turned down over HIV concerns

The vaccine might increase the risk of vaccinated males getting HIV, says SA’s health products regulatory authority

New electronic waste management regulations will take effect in November

Producers and importers of electronic goods will be legally responsible for end-of-life management of their products from 5 November
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×