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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL 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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid