The Land Reform Programme is NOT Over
In the light of the recent statement by Stan Mudenge, the Minister of Foreign affairs, that "the land reform programme is over" and that it is now incumbent upon the British to pay compensation to those farmers who have been evicted, it is essential that we make some response. There is a danger of international perception accepting this proposition of a fait accompli, and attempting to make the best of a bad situation, rather than addressing the situation that still exists on the ground.
Despite Mudenge's statement, new section 5 and section 8 orders are being issued - some 54 new listings were published on the 1st of November, and 57 on the 8th of November. Interestingly, a large proportion of these listings were for the Insiza district, following last month's by-election held in the area. Furthermore, in the same week as Mudenge made his statement, at least five more farmers were evicted from their farms, in some cases regardless of their status with respect to the land acquisition act. Clearly there is no fait accompli as Mudenge would have us believe, but rather a continuation of the chaotic and unconstitutional "programme" that the government has been pursuing to date.
Furthermore, whilst many farmers have been forced to abandon their farming operations, some are still either on their farms or farming by remote control. Latest figures estimate less than 400 commercial farmers are fully engaged in farming operations, but although this number is still decreasing, the vast majority of displaced farmers are still desirous of returning. The repercussions of the farm evictions are being felt throughout the fabric of Zimbabwean society, as tens of thousands of displaced farm workers are forced to migrate to both cities and marginal areas in a desperate bid to feed themselves.
Furthermore, none of the settlers actually have been granted title to their farms - the government has been highly reticent in providing such for the recipients of the land. This is a critical point, because without title, there is no legal basis for anyone's claim to own land. There have already been cases where war veterans who have been allocated land have been kicked off in favour of some party bigwig, and there is nothing preventing this happening repeatedly whilst the ownership of the land is in doubt. Zanu PF has engineered a situation where anyone can lay claim to the land by direct action or through the land committee, regardless of the fact that the actual title is often still held by the original farmers.
This "might makes right" situation is anathema to the very concept of effective agriculture. Commercial farming is predicated on the ownership of the land, since it is used as surety for loans and development that is vital for the farming process and progress. Until the issue of title is addressed by the government, the land reform process is far from over, and any claims that "what's done is done" are mere bluster, and are highly irresponsible.
Mudenge's call has been taken up by South Africa's foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, requiring that Britain honour its obligation to pay compensation to the farmers. Whilst Britain did make a commitment to underwrite the land redistribution process within Zimbabwe in the terms of the Lancaster House agreement, the funding was allocated for a constitutional and structured process, and the British are not prepared to release the funds for Mugabe's "unfair and corrupt land reform programme". Dhlamini-Zuma has urged that the British overlook Mugabe's "mistakes", and go ahead and pay compensation to the farmers. Whilst compensation is an essential issue, we would urge rather that the issue of title as enshrined in the Zimbabwean constitution is clarified and upheld. Until this occurs, there is no chance that agriculture can recover in this country, and furthermore, compensation alone will not go very far towards preventing that bitterness in the farming communities to which Dhlamini-Zuma refers. As in the case of apartheid, there must be some realization and open admission that transgressions have been made against the rights of the individual, and some manner of restitution must be made available to the tens of thousands of families who have had their lives turned upside down by the unconstitutional and corrupt land reform programme. As Dhlamini-Zuma herself says: "No one can change yesterday, no one can change today, but we can change the future."