News / Africa

Q&A: Zimbabwe's 'Cold War, Which Is a Racial War'

Zimbabwean farmers attend a meeting of white commercial farmers in the capital Harare, 2010 (file photo).
Zimbabwean farmers attend a meeting of white commercial farmers in the capital Harare, 2010 (file photo).
Peta Thornycroft

Zimbabwe’s long-running land controversy continues to undermine the economy, as many of 200 or so remaining white farmers battle to stay on their land. The farmers say they are expecting renewed attacks later this month. Economists say Zimbabwe’s economy, dependent on agricultural exports, was wrecked by President Robert Mugabe’s post-2000 land grab when he and his ZANU-PF party supporters took thousands of productive white-owned farms, mostly from members of the Commercial Farmers Union, or CFU. VOA's Peta Thornycroft asks Professor Mandi Rukuni, a leading African academic on land issues and international consultant to organizations like the World Bank, about the background to Zimbabwe’s land question.

How long there have been land struggles in Zimbabwe and what has caused them?

I was old enough in [the] mid-50’s when [Prime Minister] Garfield Todd’s government ... set up a select committee in parliament which came up with a brilliant, practical solution, [which was], "okay, there is plenty of European land which was not settled." They designated that land as special areas where people of any race could apply for land. This is exactly what triggered the formation of the Rhodesia Front. It was established to protest giving away European land back to Africans, and also the attempts by Garfield Todd to change all the racial laws in education, etc. And in 1962 the Rhodesia Front contested the whites-only election and won. And this is exactly what led to the radicalization of the [black] nationalist movement.

The black nationalist movement included ZANU-PF, which unseated Prime Minister Ian Smith’s Rhodesia Front government in the country’s first fully-democratic elections in 1980. Twenty years later, ZANU-PF suffered its first defeat at the polls by the Movement for Democratic Change party in a referendum. Almost immediately ZANU-PF began chasing white farmers off their land. Tens of thousands of poor Zimbabweans also were given small pieces of land for the first time. How he would you characterize ZANU-PF's actions since 2000?

In my own reading of history, ZANU-PF today is settling old scores. [It] was not reconciliation in 1980, it was a truce between the new Rhodesian Front in the form of the CFU and ZANU-PF. It was a truce to say, "Ok, we may tolerate each other," but that window of opportunity was never used to resolve the issue. So when the white farmers started supporting any opposition to [the] ZANU-PF government, the truce was out. To me, it is really a cold war between those two formidable forces and each was waiting for the other and to outdo the other.

In the end it boiled down to, "O.K., we will smash you white farmers because you have broken the truce." And for the white farmers I think it was, "O.K., we have the backing of the Western world and the backing of our kith and kin over there, so we will smash you back." So that part of history to me is still being played out, but that to me is the cold war. The rest of what we report on every day as democracy, good governance and human rights, blah blah... is for me something that is just a facade [masking] the cold war, which is a racial war. Until this is openly discussed outside the realm of politics, it is going to be difficult to resolve.

Would compensation for dispossessed white farmers resolve the ongoing battle between ZANU-PF and white farmers?

Actually, when it comes to compensation for dispossessed white farmers, there is no real dispute in a legal sense. The law says they will be compensated for improvements only. But the government has limited capacity.

Would emerging black farmers benefit in any way if compensation is paid to dispossessed white farmers, such as being able to legally lease their land?

The government wishes for it to be a fully tradeable lease, so the pressure is on the ministry of lands and the attorney-general to adjust the lease so it is fully tradeable. The government wants a tradeable lease that is bankable."

Would any benefit accrue to the national purse from legal, tradeable leases?

When, eventually, government offers a tradeable 99-year lease to the new owner, I expect that there will be some tax of some kind. I can’t see it happening without that kind of transaction.

A peaceful resolution to the farmland issue would help stabilize Zimbabwe politically, and likely generate new investment and revenue to strengthen the economy. The economy, while stronger than it was in the hyper-inflationary environment of 2007, remains shaky, and is not helped by fears of new violence whenever the next elections are held.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More