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Interview with Jennifer Windsor - 2002-08-14


Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of the Freedom House. Ms. Windsor is an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University, where she teaches a graduate seminar on “Democratic Development” at the School of Foreign Service. She worked at the U.S. Agency for International Development for over nine years, helping to start-up the democracy and governance program in Africa.

MS. SMITH:
With me to talk about the situation in Zimbabwe is Jennifer Windsor of the human rights organization Freedom House here in Washington, D.C. Thank you for being here.

MS. WINDSOR:
It's good to be here.

MS. SMITH:
Not all the white farmers I guess are resisting this change, but is there room for compromise between Mr. Mugabe's government and the farmers?

MS. WINDSOR:
Yes, I think there is. I think a number of the white farmers have agreed that there is need for land reform, and I think most people do think there is a need for land reform. The question is how it's carried out. And certainly the way it is being carried out, with force being used and violence, is not the way to forge that compromise.

MS. SMITH:
Do you think this is a growing pattern, of people being evicted from their farmland? They are past the deadline now obviously.

MS. SMITH:
Yes, the settlements of course have been going on. The illegal settlements of farms have been going on really since 2000. And, frankly, it can be traced to when the opposition to Mugabe started really getting a lot of support within the country. And many people think that the settlements are in fact politically motivated.

MS. SMITH:
Certainly during Colonial rule there had been a lot of inequity, with a inority of the population owning most of the land. So I'm just wondering, in your opinion, how unjust and how unequal is the situation now?

MS. WINDSOR:
I think it's quite unequal. I think the problem of adequacy of land for the majority of Zimbabweans is extreme and needs to be dealt with. So I think that there is agreement related to that. And I think that everyone agrees that the way that a lot of the whites acquired their land in the first place needs to be addressed. The issue, again, is how do you do it according to the rule of law and in accordance with sort of political compromise and principles of democracy. And that is really not how it is being carried out.

MS. SMITH:
Why has the redistribution process taken so long?

MS. WINDSOR:
I think that obviously it has political ramifications there. And I think that probably the white farmers had a lot of political power that could resist it. And I think that it was complicated by a number of measures. And probably the international community, I would say, could have done a lot more in furthering that process earlier on. And a lot of people point out the role of the British, who perhaps held on too long for a position of sort of full compensation for the value of the land, which really wasn't politically or economically feasible in the early days.

MS. SMITH:
I guess there is also some talk of Mr. Mugabe wants Britain to come up with some compensation for these farmers rather than the Zimbabwe Government. Do you think that is likely?

MS. WINDSOR:
I think that the British Government, as with other governments, have indicated their willingness to pay for a land reform program. There is a disagreement in terms of yes, there is some responsibility of the Zimbabwean Government as well, and it is not just the full responsibility of the British Government. So I think there will be some reimbursement, but not any backing for the program as it is currently being carried out, which is really the wrong way to carry out such a program.

MS. SMITH:
What impact will the departure of the white farmers have on the country's food supply, the food distribution? As I mentioned earlier, the U.S. State Department said that half the population faces the possibility of starvation. Are these serious problems?

MS. WINDSOR:
I think there are serious problems. I think they are going to worsen. Unemployment is at an all-time high. They say there are 60 percent unemployed. I would say that doesn't even halfway count the problem of unemployment in Zimbabwe. A lot of those jobs are being affected by the farm takoevers, and people haven't focused on that. Those Zimbabweans that are actually working on the farms as workers are also being affected by this.

I think it is a reckless policy and it is going to aggravate the economic situation. President Mugabe says that productivity is going to be back up by the fall; I don't think anybody really believes that is the case.

MS. SMITH:
What are the other African countries reacting to while all this is going on? This is maybe the first time this has happened.

MS. WINDSOR:
Yes. I think that, frankly, the other African countries are key to solving this situation. I think there is some nervousness about the overall stability within Zimbabwe. And that certainly has been the concern of South Africa, which has wanted to get the opposition and the government together to hold talks after the fraudulent elections, and that they would like this situation, I think, to be solved sooner rather than later. Because, frankly, it's tending towards a situation related to civil war.

And it's extremely unhelpful not only for Zimbabwe and the people of Zimbabwe, but it is dangerous for the region, which has really been considered to be a region with a lot of hope. In all of Africa, Southern Africa was considered to be the region that was moving towards democracy and towards peace. That obviously is being pulled backwards by Zimbabwe right now.

MS. SMITH:
Thank you very much, Jennifer Windsor.

MS. WINDSOR:
Thank you.

MS. SMITH:
I really appreciate your being here, from Freedom House.

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