Report on the fact-finding trip to Zimbabwe



Delegation of Elected Officials

New York City Council Member Charles Barron

New York City Council Member James Davis

New York State Assembly Member Adam Clayton Powell IV

Illinois State Senator Donne Trotter

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction                                                                                                      4

Historical Background                                                                          4         

Land Issue                                                                                                        6         

Politics and Democracy                                                                                    10

Human Rights                                                                                                   11

Economy                                                                                                          12

Conclusions                                                                                                        13

Recommendations                                                                                            14

REPORT ON FACT-FINDING TRIP TO ZIMBABWE

The following is a report of the facts collected by a delegation of elected officials on a recent fact-finding mission to the Republic of Zimbabwe from October 11, 2002 to October 23, 2002.

The elected officials include Council Member Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), Council Member James Davis (D-Brooklyn), Assembly Member Adam Clayton Powell IV (D-Harlem) and State Senator Donne Trotter (D-Chicago).

During the course of the trip the delegation met with several government officials including:

His Excellency President Robert Mugabe

Secretary of State Information and Publicity - George Charamba

Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs - Patrick Chinamasa

Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement - Joseph Made

Minister of Science and Technology - Olivia Muchena (former Deputy Minister of Agriculture)

Registrar General - Tobaiwa Mudede

In addition, the group met with war veterans, white farmers, resettled black peasant farmers as well as several opposition groups including:

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)                   Elias Mudzuri - Mayor of Harare

main political opposition party                                       Misheck Shoku - Mayor of Chitungwiza

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU)                               Colin Cloete - President

white commercial farmers union                                     David Hasluck - Director

The Daily News                                                            Jeoffrey Nyarota - Editor-in-Chief

main independent opposition newspaper

Amani Trust                                                                  Frances Lovemore - Director

medical human rights NGO

The delegation also met with the United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Joseph Sullivan and his senior staff.

N.B.  For reference purposes, throughout the report where hectares is used as a unit of land measurement, please note that 1 hectare is the equivalent of 2.5 acres.

Introduction

At the invitation of the Zimbabwean government, a delegation of elected officials and research staff visited Zimbabwe on a fact-finding trip from October 11, 2002 to October 23, 2002.  The trip was jointly organized by the Mission of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the United Nations and the Office of New York City Council Member Charles Barron.

Due to extremely negative Western media reports regarding land reform in Zimbabwe, the purpose of the fact-finding trip was to examine the land reform program in Zimbabwe and meet with all the stakeholders involved including government officials, members of the political opposition, landless peasants, war-veterans and white commercial farmers.  The delegation also planned to meet with officials from the MDC party and human rights organizations.

Momentum for the trip grew when New York City Council Member Charles Barron hosted a reception at City Hall for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe after he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in September.  On this historic occasion, President Mugabe was welcomed to City Hall by 18 City Council Members most of whom are members of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus.  During a press conference after the reception, President Mugabe, who is routinely vilified in the Western media, had a unique opportunity to address a crowded room full of Western journalists directly. He discussed the land redistribution program and the history leading up to it, including the fact that the British government had pulled out of its previous commitments to provide funding to compensate white farmers who had forcibly acquired land from Africans during the colonial period.  There was enormous media coverage of the event and for the first time, major Western news publications including the New York Times, reported on President Mugabe’s position on land reform after hearing it from him directly.

Before the trip Council Member Barron stated, “There has been a great deal of negative press from the Western media surrounding the issue of land reform.  This fact-finding trip will allow us to see for ourselves what is really happening there.  Our hope is to gain insight into the situation and present facts that would assist the United States in making decisions that will benefit all the people of Zimbabwe.”

Historical Background

The African country now known as Zimbabwe was colonized in the late 1880's by Cecil Rhodes, who claimed the land for the British Empire after fierce armed resistance by the Africans.  A British colony was then established and the area was known as Southern Rhodesia.  As the British colony grew and commercial farming became more widespread, white settlers claimed over 80% of the country’s most arable land even though they made up only 3% of the population.  The British government rewarded many of its ex-soldiers with free land in the colony.  The indigenous population were treated as tenants, forced to work on farms or simply displaced to native reserves.  These native reserves were called communal lands and located in arid, rocky areas that were unsuitable for any type of agriculture.  Under the apartheid government of Rhodesia, native Africans were subjected to brutal atrocities such as forced labor, murder, rape and execution by hanging.

In 1965, Ian Smith, who was then Rhodesia’s white Prime Minister, made a Unilateral Declaration of Independence after Britain refused to allow Rhodesia to decolonize as an independent white supremacist state.  Yet Britain also refused to intervene militarily, claiming they could not send military forces to confront their “kith and kin” in Rhodesia.  The British also did not support any strong sanctions against Rhodesia including an arms embargo as demanded by African nationalists in the country and leaders of independent African states.  That is one reason why the current sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe by the U.S. and other Western countries, after heavy international lobbying by Britain, is regarded as cynical and racist by the Mugabe government.  Smith had vowed that there would never be black majority rule “not even in a thousand years.”

By the mid-1960's, African nationalist guerillas had become better armed and their struggle to overthrow the white minority regime intensified.  In 1972, the two major guerilla armies, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) led by Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) led by Joshua Nkomo combined and became more effective in their war against the white supremacist regime of Ian Smith.  With support from neighboring African countries such as Zambia and Mozambique, the liberation forces prevailed and forced Smith’s government to the negotiating table at Lancaster House in England. 

In 1980, under the Lancaster House Agreement, Zimbabwe won its independence resulting in elections where Africans could vote for the first time.  Running against guerilla ally Joshua Nkomo, Robert Mugabe was elected the first President of Zimbabwe.  After waging a bitter struggle for liberation, President Mugabe, in his celebrated inaugural address advocated for reconciliation against their former enemies. He urged all citizens of Zimbabwe, both black and white, to work together to bring the country back on its feet.  It was along this vein of reconciliation that Ian Smith, who many considered a war criminal responsible for 60,000 lives lost during the liberation struggle, was allowed to remain in Zimbabwe rather than standing trial for war crimes.  Smith to this day resides in Zimbabwe and owns a farm that is 2,500 hectares which is roughly 6,250 acres.

The Lancaster House Agreement provided that there would be land redistribution but only on a “willing buyer, willing seller” basis.  The negotiations were deadlocked for 12 days and nearly collapsed because of the land issue.  It was only rescued after the British government agreed that they would compensate farmers for the land with some additional funding from the U.S., then under the Carter administration.  Andrew Young, the U.S. Ambassador to the Lancaster negotiations, was instrumental in breaking the deadlock.  The signatories also agreed that the terms of the Lancaster Agreement would not be amended for at least 10 years.  Thus, from 1980 to 1990, the Zimbabwean government honored Lancaster and land reform was extremely slow.  As it turned out, when commercial farmers were faced with the option of compensation versus keeping their land, they almost always chose to keep their land.  After having won political independence, Zimbabwe’s economic independence was thus compromised by a nation of “unwilling sellers.”

The situation worsened in 1997 when the Labor Party under Tony Blair took office.  Britain refused to honor the previous financial commitments that the Conservative Party had made on the land issue under Margaret Thatcher and John Major.  Prime Minister Blair essentially reneged on the Lancaster Agreement and refused to provide compensation for displaced commercial farmers claiming Britain did not have the money.  Furthermore, after several requests for renewed funding by the Zimbabwean government, a letter was sent by Claire Short, Britain’s Minister of International Development, stating that the current Labor administration of Britain did not acknowledge any colonial responsibilities of the former Conservative Party.

As economic tensions grew over the gross inequalities in land ownership (4,000 white farmers owned three-quarters of the arable land in a country of 13 million), the landless peasants and war-veterans grew increasingly frustrated and outraged.  Veterans of the liberation war were especially angry  since reclamation of the land was one of the primary reasons for the armed struggle.  Tensions finally spilled over in 1998 when groups of landless peasants and war-veterans began occupying the huge farms owned by commercial farmers as a statement of political protest.  Initially, the government attempted to halt the farm occupations and urged protestors to wait for proper funding to finance a land reform program.  Finally, faced with no other alternatives due to the endless stonewalling of Britain and an increasingly agitated populous, the government decided to act.  As Minister Chinamasa stated, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

In 1999, the Zimbabwean Government launched an agrarian revolution and implemented the Fast Track Land Program in order to finally reclaim the land and redistribute it equitably among the landless people of Zimbabwe.  The government policy underlying this program was “one person, one farm,” whereby any commercial farmer who had more than one farm, which was often the case, had to choose one that they could keep while relinquishing the remaining land for resettlement.  The government then  offered to pay commercial farmers compensation for the infrastructure on the land acquired, such as buildings and irrigation systems, but not  for the land itself.  In addition, the government amended the country’s Constitution to state that commercial farmers would be compensated for the land once Britain made the funds available.  It can be argued that the Fast Track Land program actually averted serious bloodshed.  Since the program was implemented, the farm occupations and accompanying violence also stopped.  Minister Muchena used an interesting analogy when she stated, “The land reform program was a revolution not a tea party; even at a tea party sometimes the tea spills and the linens are soiled.  I actually  feel we should be commended as a government for containing what could have been a bloodbath in the style of the Russian or French revolution.”

Land Issue

The Western media have made many allegations against the Zimbabwean government’s land reform program.  In our meetings with various stakeholders affected by the program, we find that these claims are largely unsubstantiated and are actually exaggerations or distortions of what is actually happening there.

The projected famine that threatens not only Zimbabwe but all of Southern Africa cannot be substantially attributed to the land reform program as previous media reports have charged.  Drought has devastated the region for two years and prior to that were devastating floods.  These appear to be the main causes of the decrease in agricultural output in the nation.  The declining production has directly resulted in a profound food shortage of major staple crops such as wheat and maize by which the country feeds itself.  The role of commercial farmers in staple food production has been exaggerated by Western media reports.  In fact, even white commercial farmers we met with confirmed that 70% of the country’s maize crop is produced by peasant farmers on communal lands.  It can in fact be argued that with fertile lands now allocated to peasant farmers and with a good rain season, food crop production will increase substantially.  Moreover, most white commercial farmers had long since abandoned crop farming and instead turned to other more lucrative industries such as horticulture, tobacco, paprika, citrus, game ranching and safari services.  We visited white commercial farmer, Stephen Wilkenson, in Masvingo Province who had given up half his land for resettlement this year and still owns 2,500 hectares (6,250 acres).  He rears ostrich, grows citrus and has a tourist lodge.

Because of white commercial farmers’ shift away from food crop farming, 80%-90% of the country’s prime land is underutilized or laying fallow which remarkably never appears in Western media accounts.  For these reasons cited above, there appears to be no direct link between land redistribution and the current food shortage.

During our meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Joseph Sullivan, he stated that the main social crisis in Zimbabwe was AIDS, which is their primary focus in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control and a $14 million U.S. commitment.  He also stated that the threat of famine was imminent if there failed to be normal rainfall this season.  He said food assistance from external donor commitments, with $50 million from the U.S., would make up for the production deficit until next March, after which additional pledges were required if normal output did not resume.  William Weissman, an American economist at the embassy, stated that the main problem was price control of certain crops by a government struggling to adhere to outdated forms of socialism.  Neither Ambassador Sullivan nor his staff could state that the land reform program directly caused the food shortage.  In fact, since our return, the Zimbabwean government has announced sweeping new price controls over a wide range of products in an effort to control hyperinflation.

We had a meeting with the President and Director of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), Colin Cloete and David Hasluck respectively, which in hindsight turned out to be very critical and significant.  Hasluck acknowledged that the British government, under Prime Minister Tony Blair, has ignored the history and colonial legacy of the land question.  The British government’s rejection of any compensation also led to the current stalemate with the Zimbabwean government.  Government officials including President Mugabe later informed the delegation that had the CFU adopted a joint policy with the government the likelihood of success in securing British compensation would have vastly increased.  Within days of the statement by the CFU leadership, Lord Carrington, who had presided over the Lancaster negotiations, made a speech in the British Parliament urging Tony Blair to compensate white farmers.  In the 22 year period since Zimbabwe’s independence, the British government provided 35 million pounds sterling for land acquisition in Zimbabwe.  In contrast to this, Kenya, which became independent in 1963 and also had a white minority population controlling most of the land received 532 million pounds in just 10 years.

We also found that despite a steady flow of Western media reports of a lawless, free-for-all land grab of commercial farms, this is not the case at all.  There is in fact, a very systematic organized program in place.  Minister Joseph Made, who is imminently qualified with a Master’s degree and PhD in agriculture from the University of Wisconsin, one of the world’s leading agricultural institutions, gave the delegation a very detailed presentation about the specifics of the land reform program.  The two main objectives of the program were decongestion of communal areas and decentralization of the commercial farm areas from the white minority to the people of Zimbabwe. 

Land pegged for redistribution was targeted according to the following criteria: derelict or underutilized land, land under multiple ownership, foreign-owned land (land owned by foreigners for holiday or speculative purposes), and land adjacent to highly congested communal areas.  For the time being, the government has exempted coffee, tea, sugarcane and timbre plantation farms until a plan is in place that would not disrupt these industries.  Farms belonging to church organizations, missions and wildlife conservancies are also exempt as are lands under bilateral agreements with investors.  The program, including redistribution of land, resettlement and support services would cost $1 billion U.S.

There is a system in place where anybody who wants land must formally apply for it.  The level of financial means available to a particular applicant determines whether they are placed in the Agriculture 1 (A1) model, which is geared towards landless peasants, or the Agriculture 2 (A2) model, which is geared towards applicants who have the financial means and skills to maintain agricultural productivity on a commercial farm.  These are essentially the commercial farmer hopefuls.  Under the A1 model, peasant farmers are given 6 hectares for cropping and 12 hectares for communal cattle grazing for an average of 15-20 hectares per family.  Under the A2 model, prospective commercial farmers who can prove that they have their own economic means and skills to maintain a commercial farm may receive up to 2,000 hectares depending on the arability of the land.  Generally, the more arable the land, the less land is allotted; the less arable the land, the more land is allotted since these presumably require more expenditure for irrigation.

It is important to note that the program was structured with principles of fairness in mind.  For example, since commercial farmland adjacent to communal areas was a top priority, in those rare cases where a white commercial farmer only had a single farm that was adjacent to a communal area, the government would acquire the farm but in return, the owner was invited to choose any other property that the government had already acquired and the owner could relocate there at the government’s expense.

There is a widespread misconception that peasant farmers with absolutely no farming knowledge or farming skills are plopped down on pieces of land and then left to their own devices.  This is not the case.  Peasant farmers who are resettled under the A1 model, in most cases, have experience as farm workers on commercial farms or have experience from working their own communal farms.  The government provides them with inputs such as seeds and fertilizer as well as agricultural education; they are expected to repay the government for these inputs once they generate surpluses.  They are also assigned an agricultural officer who monitors their progress and provides ongoing advice and expertise.  We visited resettled peasant farms in the Masvingo Province and were able to confirm this firsthand during our interviews with resettled peasant farmers some of whom laughed when we asked about reports that the departure of white farmers placed them at risk.  Invariably, the peasant farmers said they did not know of any Africans who do not know how to farm.

To date, 310,000 families under A1 and 54,000 families under A2, have been resettled since the land reform program began in 2000.  In light of that fact, we find the charge that President Mugabe only gives land to his “cronies” to be not credible.  We are hard pressed to believe that anyone could have that many “cronies.”

We also found that nobody disagrees with the justice of land reform in Zimbabwe.  Everyone we met with, including white farmers and officials of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supports land redistribution.  There are more than 1,500 white Zimbabwean farmers who continue to actively farm their land in peace even after having part of their land acquired for resettlement.  The charges of a brutal “ethnic cleansing,” as alleged by the Australian government for example, is a gross distortion of what is actually happening.  We can only assume that such charges are politically motivated.  Commercial farmers are not being forced out of their homes and onto the streets with nowhere to go.  They are simply being asked to choose which farm they would like to keep and they are then compensated for the infrastructure on the remaining land acquired by the government.  Oftentimes, the cost of compensation for complicated infrastructure systems far exceeded the cost of the land alone.

As with the issue of drought and impending famine, we also now know that the land reform issue is a regional problem that also affects South Africa and Namibia.  In both countries, due to their similar colonial legacy, the white minority commercial farmers own 80% of the land.  In South Africa, for example, up to 700 white farmers are killed on an annual basis because of tension over land, yet there has been no critical media coverage of it.  In contrast, a total of 11 white farmers lost their lives in Zimbabwe during the Fast Track Land program.  It has been argued that the hostility by the British government towards the Fast Track program is designed to intimidate the governments of South Africa and Namibia from instituting similar drastic land reforms.  Land reform in Namibia is currently tied up since it also adopted a “willing buyer, willing seller” policy.  In South Africa, white right-wing terrorist groups who have initiated bombing campaigns against black civilians, have openly stated that they want to pre-empt a Mugabe-type land reform.  Indeed, it is no surprise that the governments of South Africa and Namibia supported Zimbabwe’s land reform program.  Also, there is clearly global support for it.  During the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development last summer in Johannesburg, President Mugabe received a standing ovation by other world leaders while Secretary of State Colin Powell was jeered especially when he attacked the Zimbabwe government.


Politics and Democracy

The media has depicted the political climate in Zimbabwe in such a way that the widely held perception is that Zimbabwe had elections in 1980 and never again until the Parliamentary elections of 2000.  Contrary to this misrepresentation, Zimbabwe has had consistent Parliamentary elections every 5 years and Presidential elections every 6 years since independence in 1980.  As Minister Muchena aptly pointed out, this is certainly a far cry from the situation in the former country of Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the brutal despot Mobutu Sese Seko reigned for 33 years without a single election; yet he was one of the staunchest U.S. allies in Africa and was received several times at the White House.  Democracy was never questioned during Mobutu’s regime and he had the unqualified support of the United States and other Western nations until his eventual overthrow by the late Laurent Kabila.  The Minister also pointed out that another “Western darling” is Uganda, governed under a one-party system and racked by civil war.  These are the type of double standards that raise questions about the true motives of the concerted attack against the Mugabe government.

It has also been widely reported that the press are routinely suppressed, however, we found a reasonably vibrant free press in the country.  There are several other independent newspapers besides the Daily News which are openly critical of the government.  These include The Daily Mirror, The Standard and The Financial Gazette.  They appeared to be able to go about their daily business without interruption and we were able to obtain these newspapers everyday with relatively little effort.  In fact, at the newsstand in the Sheraton Hotel where we stayed while in Harare, the Daily News was often sold out before 8:30 AM. 

It is true that the printing press of the Daily News was bombed earlier this year as widely reported and we did observe windows that had been presumably broken by bricks when we visited their main offices to meet with the Editor-in-Chief, Jeoffrey Nyarota.  While we condemn these violent acts, it is certainly not surprising that these incidents occur in light of the polarized political climate of a developing nation.

In our meetings with opposition groups, we found that there is political violence around elections from both the ruling ZANU-PF party and the MDC.  Opposition groups reported to us that the preponderance of the violence stems from militant ZANU-PF supporters while ZANU-PF maintains that just the opposite is true, and the MDC is actually responsible for initiating the violence.

While ZANU-PF has most of its support in the rural areas where 70% of the population live, the MDC holds strong support in the urban areas.  In the 2000 Parliamentary elections, MDC won 57 seats while ZANU-PF won 62.  The Constitution permits the President to appoint 12 Parliamentarians, hence the government’s extra majority.  Three major cities Harare, Bulawayo and Masvingo all have Mayors who are MDC members.  The government acknowledged that wage earners in urban areas were dissatisfied as hyperinflation eroded their income and thus voted for the MDC.  “We have accepted their victories,” President Mugabe stated in the meeting with the delegation, “while they have failed to accept ours.”  He noted that the MDC continues to petition the Courts to annul ZANU-PF victories.

We met with the Mayors of Harare and outlying suburb Chitungwiza at the MDC headquarters. Although government officials stated that the MDC wanted land to be returned to white farmers, the MDC asserted that they do strongly support the land reform program.  However, they charged that land program applicant lists were being screened in such a way that only ZANU-PF members are given land.  They also charged that due to the large number of MDC seats won in urban areas, the number of polling sites in these areas were being deliberately reduced.  Registrar-General Mudede, who presides over elections, confirmed that the number of polling sites were being reduced.  His reasoning was that in cities, polling stations are in close proximity of each other while in rural areas people had to walk as far as 20 km in order to vote.  The polling stations removed from urban areas were moved to rural areas in order to make them more accessible to rural voters.

In response to allegations of election fraud by the MDC, Registrar-General Mudede stated that there were autonomous bodies that serve as checks and balances in such a way that election fraud is not possible.  He did concede that those appointed to these bodies which include the Election Directorate and the Election Supervisory Commission are government officials.  Registrar-General Mudede confirmed that people from other parties are never appointed to these commissions.  He stressed to the delegation that if the government party was engaged in vote rigging why, then, would they have allowed themselves to lose 57 seats in the 2000 Parliamentary elections.

In our meeting with President Mugabe, he stated that there were several delegations of election observers from the African Union, the OAU’s successor body, including 3 groups from South Africa, who observed the Presidential elections and found them to be extremely meticulous.  He stated that the MDC wants to remove the government through violence thus “to include them in our midst is to have chaos in the party.”  He challenged Prime Minister Tony Blair to “teach by example” by appointing Conservative Party members to his Cabinet.  When questioned about how the government will jump start the economy, President Mugabe responded, “An enlightened society will always find its way into the future.”  He outlined several programs, including one to vastly increase the production of wheat as well as to increase the utilization of the cotton crop by using portions for textiles rather than relying mostly on export of the raw product.

Human Rights

The delegation met with Dr. Frances Lovemore, the Director of Amani Trust, a medical human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides support services and medical care to victims of violence and torture.

Dr. Lovemore was reported to be the source of the account about “rape camps” that appeared in London’s Daily Telegraph.  It is important to note that such an account has never appeared in a major newspaper such as The New York Times, which has nonetheless published many articles critical of the government.  No one we met with including MDC officials spoke of such a camp.  Indeed, it is hard to believe that a newspaper such as The New York Times would not have published an article about the existence of such camps by now.  Moreover, Dr. Lovemore informed the delegation that Amani Trust only comments on cases it sees in their offices.  Dr. Lovemore herself was arrested several months ago for making false accusations against the government.  Her case is currently pending.

Though Dr. Lovemore maintains that at least 10 patients treated were victims of politically motivated rape, she stated that there was no evidence or documentation to corroborate stories that groups of women were being raped for political reasons in military-style camps.  She did state that most of these rapes were gang rapes perpetrated by an out of control youth militia who engage in systematic detainments and beatings.  Government officials have denied these reports.

Dr. Lovemore reported that the violence they see appears to be organized political violence which comes from both political parties, however, she stated that over 92% is perpetrated by ZANU-PF.  During the elections, the violence is more targeted and there is an upswing in patients treated each time there is an election or by-election.

The government has always questioned the independence and neutrality of Amani Trust.  Indeed, after Amani Trust had steadfastly denied that one of its major sources of funding is the British government, the country most hostile to the land reform program, The Herald, the government-controlled newspaper, published a copy of a check drawn from the British High Commission in  Harare for a substantial amount.  Dr. Lovemore acknowledged the check’s authenticity.

In response to the government accusation that Amani Trust is a political instrument of Britain, Dr. Lovemore stated that though they are funded by a number of international donors including Britain, the U.S., Sweden and Norway they have no agenda except treating victims of violence and preventing long term effects of injury.  She stated that any countries who provide funding have no influence over Amani’s activities in any way.  In fact, their long term goal is to be financially independent no longer having to rely on international donor funding.

The Western media have also leveled many charges against the government of homophobia and persecution of people believed to be homosexuals.  In all of our meetings, not one group, government or opposition, could state that people were being persecuted or jailed purely based on their sexual orientation.  The issue of homosexuality is viewed by Zimbabweans as a sensitive cultural issue and that homosexuals are tolerated so long as they keep their private lives in private, similar to the former U.S. military policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  As Minister Olivia Muchena stated, “We are a nation of contradictions.”  “We are revolutionary politically, but conservative and traditional culturally.”

Economy

While Zimbabwe is primarily an agricultural-based economy, it has a significant industrial base contributing to about 25% of its Gross Domestic Product, which is significant in Africa as most countries there rely more than 90% on agriculture.

However, while we saw numerous factories in Harare’s industrial area – and there are others spread across the country – this sector has been adversely impacted by fuel shortage and lack of other imported inputs, which require convertible currency such as U.S. dollars. The foreign currency shortage has caused significant economic contraction and in the most recent budget the government announced that the economy is projected to shrink by more than 10%. Zimbabwe had alleviated some of its oil shortage by negotiating a preferential purchase agreement – in exchange for agricultural land – with the Libyan government. However, it has been reported that this arrangement may have recently been scrapped. A local Zimbabwe newspaper, The Mirror, reports that the British government sent a high-level delegation to urge Libya to abandon the deal. If these reports are accurate, it now seems that the British government has launched a vicious and personalized campaign to bring down the Zimbabwe government. As a result of the fuel and foreign exchange shortage, we expect inflation to accelerate, leading to more suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans.

Moreover, Zimbabwe has not had access to funding from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for six years now, government officials pointed out. Very few African countries would have survived such a freeze on short-term and development capital access.

We are convinced that increased agricultural production, with the newly acquired lands by new farmers, will in the long run lead to economic growth in Zimbabwe. As the Justice Minister Chinamasa pointed out, previously 13 million Zimbabweans were dependent on 4,000 white farmers; now the more than 300,000 families are working on their new lands.

Conclusions

We found that Fast Track is now not reversible and that the British government, the country most hostile to the program, should reassess its strategy of dealing with the Zimbabwe government. Indeed, even if it preferred an MDC government, the previous status quo in terms of the inequitable land ownership, will never return. Even MDC and white farmers acknowledged the need for land reform.

We found the media accounts to be exaggerated in many respects when dealing with the modalities of the land reform program, freedom of the press and human rights conditions. In fact, despite its current financial difficulties through a combination of drought and external sanctions, Zimbabwe remains one of the most stable countries in Africa. Its economy also is still the largest on the continent after South Africa’s.

We found government officials to be open and frank in all our discussions, responding to tough questions about allegations of human rights abuse and land reform mismanagement. We were impressed by the access we were permitted to meet with individuals and organizations of our choice.

We found a country where all sides agree that land reform is an idea whose time has come yesterday. The main disagreement is over the modality. No individual or group could state that the status quo, with whites who make up a minuscule minority owning more than three-quarters of fertile agricultural land, was acceptable.

We found that Zimbabwe, whose economy also depends on exports for foreign exchange earnings, has a serious shortage of convertible currency through a combination of diminished production of export crops such as tobacco – the government has made the hard choice of settling the simmering land issue and this has affected some export crop productions – as well as a decline in imports of Zimbabwe’s products from industrial countries due to the sanctions. This has resulted in a high demand for foreign currency and resulted in a parallel market where foreign exchange fetches as much as 20 times more than the official rate.

We found that the food shortage could worsen if sanctions continue and if the normal rain pattern does not resume; however, as already noted, the food crises affects the entire Southern Africa region and Zimbabwe certainly should not be singled out or scapegoated for its land reform policy.

We see no moral or strategic justification for sanctions considering that Western countries refused to impose comprehensive sanctions against Ian Smith’s racist regime – and thus prolonged apartheid in Zimbabwe – or against the South African government during apartheid. Sanctions kill, and affect the poor people the most. In the words of Albert Mugari, a high school student we met in the low-income district of Mbare, in Harare: “We are not in favor of sanctions. The ordinary people suffer the most. The higher classes don’t suffer. They have passports and can get out of the country.”

We found that the new peasant farmers are very grateful to the government to have been provided with land and that they have begun to work the land.

We found that there certainly is still a role for white farmers in Zimbabwe who have accepted the new dispensation and who are willing to accept the policy of “one farmer, one farm.”

We found that there is a strong opposition; in fact, given the 57 seats in Parliament the MDC is probably the largest functioning opposition party in Africa. Of course we would like to see dialogue between the government and opposition in order to decrease political tension and pave the way to economic development.

We found that there is definitely a double standard when Western countries, primarily Britain and the United States, talk about “democracy” and “human rights” in Africa and the government is justified in questioning the motives behind some of the attacks from Western countries and their imposition of sanctions. We can list several African countries that have very cozy relations with  the United States despite their abysmal human rights record and lack of tolerance for democratic opposition.

Recommendations

[] We urge the British government to reconsider its position and agree to compensate white farmers for their land. In the process, it should also discuss compensation for the expropriation of the land from the original African population.

[] We vigorously oppose imposition of new sanctions and urge for the removal of all existing sanctions.

[] We call for the immediate lifting of travel restrictions on Zimbabwean officials. How can the U.S. have dialogue with North Korea and Iraq, in the interest of peace, while preventing Zimbabwe officials from traveling to articulate their position?

[] We call upon the United States government to develop its own independent policy to deal with Zimbabwe rather than blindly following the British. As the former colonial rulers with vested commercial interests we cannot expect the British to have a neutral position on the land issue. Indeed, it was U.S. neutrality in 1979 that broke the stalemate at Lancaster. Without an independent U.S. position it will be difficult to act as an honest broker. Some of the parties are eager for independent facilitators to be involved – we believe that we played that role when the leaders of the white commercial farmers voiced their disappointment toward the British government, knowing that it would be widely reported and create pressure for compensation.

[] We call for the increase in AIDS medication and assistance in combating the epidemic.

[] We call for the increase in emergency food assistance.

[] We call for the increase in school supplies and equipment to help students in Zimbabwe.

[] We call for the increase in commercial contacts and visits by ordinary Americans to Zimbabwe, including a wider spectrum of media organizations so that Americans can observe the changes occurring and judge for themselves.