Sunday, 23 December 2007

Land reform

"Our Cause Is Africa’s Cause" – Baffour Ankomah interviews Robert Mugabe

New African
May, 2007

After the recent events in Zimbabwe, which saw opposition leaders beaten up by the police, and the decision thereafter by the SADC to stand by Zimbabwe, our editor, Baffour Ankomah, went to interview the president in the eye of the storm, Robert Mugabe. He was in fine fettle.

Baffour: You had a good SADC conference in Tanzania, didn’t you? One British journalist grudgingly reported that you returned to Harare with a spring in your step. Was everything hanging on this summit?

President Robert Mugabe: Well, when we went to Dar es Salaam, it was really to try and explain to our colleagues of SADC the events that happened here on 11 March, so they could get the clear picture. We also wanted to explain to them, in a very clear perspective, why the actions here were not to be seen in isolation but to be read in the context where our erstwhile enemies – Britain and its allies – were actually orchestrating a situation which they believed would lead to regime change here.

This is the explanation I gave them, and I knew they would understand it, I knew that they too had been disturbed by what they had seen on CNN, BBC, Sky News and other television services. But they are solid, SADC is solid; and let it not be forgotten that if imperialism and colonialism were ever solidly fought and defeated, it was here in Southern Africa that the real fight against imperialism took place.

And so we went to Dar es Salaam not to put up a fight but to explain to my colleagues the true situation here, and they understood the explanation. In the circumstances, what they themselves thought was the right thing to do was to support us because they realized that we were besieged for a long time. Economic sanctions have been imposed on us and they have undermined our economy and our efforts to develop. And so, while the world thought Dar es Salaam would deal us a death blow [laughs sarcastically], it was them who were dealt a death blow.

Baffour: At the end of the day, the region showed solidarity with Zimbabwe …

Mugabe: [cuts in] … It did, yes.

Baffour: But I would like you to situate the Zimbabwe case in the wider African context. Why should a Ghanaian or Nigerian or Kenyan or South African or African American support Zimbabwe? Why should Africa stand with Zimbabwe?

Mugabe: Well, obviously, our cause is their cause. The success of Zimbabwe is their success. And we don’t live in isolation, we are not an extension of Europe, we are part of Africa, and so really our stand, as a fight, should be seen as an African cause, and wherever we have Africans, be they in the Diaspora or in Senegal or Ghana where we first got our revolutionary drink, they should be able to understand and appreciate the war we are fighting here, and when they are disillusioned, it is our duty to remove that disillusionment and get them back on the right path as our supporters.

Baffour: You are saying that if Africa allows Zimbabwe to go down, no African country would again be able to pop its head above water. It would be like when Nkrumah was taken out, the African revolutionary fire was extinguished, and we lost the momentum for the past 40 years.

Mugabe: Sure, it would affect them too – the whole of Africa. If you want to read Nkrumah’s own principle – Ghana would not regard itself as totally free and independent unless every inch of Africa was free. So every inch of Africa matters. If that inch loses its freedom, then the whole African continent is affected. It’s freedom minus. And you don’t want anything of that nature to happen to Africa.

And in Dar es Salaam, President Thabo Mbeki put it very clearly. He said: “The fight against Zimbabwe is a fight against us all. Today it is Zimbabwe, tomorrow it will be South Africa, it will be Mozambique, it will be Angola, it will be any other African country. And any government that is perceived to be strong, and to be resistant to imperialists, would be made a target and would be undermined. So let us not allow any point of weakness in the solidarity of SADC, because that weakness will also be transferred to the rest of Africa.”

Baffour: That was quite heart-warming, wasn’t it? But upon seeing the TV pictures of Morgan Tsvangirai and other MDC leaders beaten up by the police, many people around the world are asking: “Why is President Mugabe using the police to beat up his opponents?”

Mugabe: [laughs]. I wasn’t there. I didn’t even know they had been beaten! But if a person challenges the police, breaches law and order, and thinks the police would just look at him and shake hands with him, and say “you’ve done a good thing by tossing and pushing us around”, well, he is quite mistaken. The police are there to maintain law and order. And it doesn’t matter who, if you threaten them with force, they will answer back with force. And the police did their work.

We may regret that in doing their work, they might have exceeded the punishment they gave them. But these things happen. It happens in war, it happens everywhere. If you challenge the police, don’t think that they are going to be merciful with you at all. More so, that Tsvangirai’s own people had earlier beaten up some policemen very badly. There was a group of policemen who were unarmed, and Tsvangirai’s people took advantage of their small number, assailed them, and beat them up very badly. They are now in hospital and I hope they would recover, and recover fully. So the police had the grudge also. They are also human beings. Let us always bear that in mind. If Tsvangirai leaves his home to come and provoke the police because his counterpart, Arthur Mutambara, had been arrested, and Tsvangirai’s people do not want Mutambara to carry the glory of having been arrested and imprisoned, with Tsvangirai having gone home and deserted the struggle, to have that balance of honour and dishonour, and then Tsvangirai wants to correct that by going to challenge the police, at a police station, what do you expect the police to do?

If he had stayed at home, the police would never have gone to his home. But he chose to go to the police station, provoked them, there was a tussle, and they beat him up. So I am saying he was wrong. He is supposed to be a leader, aspiring to be president, and he should know how to behave. Mutambara was not beaten because he knew how to behave. Why should Tsvangirai alone be beaten, and not Mutambara?

Baffour: Again, many people were shocked to hear you tell the West “go hang” when they criticized you personally and your government for the police action against the opposition leaders. What exactly are the British and the Americans and their Western allies doing to destabilize Zimbabwe to elicit such a response fro you?

Mugabe: The sanctions. The British – since Tony Blair came to power and changed the face of the Labour Party completely in regards to relations with us – have reneged on the understanding and agreement reached at Lancaster House [in 1979] regarding the land reform programme and the compensation they agreed to pay to enable us to buy the land from their kith and kin here.

When Blair’s government decided to dishonour it, we said “well, we are also not bound by the agreement any longer, we are released from it and we should not pay any compensation to the white farmers because the funds had stopped flowing from Britain to us. And if we don’t get the funds, naturally we don’t have the capacity to compensate the farmers. And the farmers will have to deal with Britain to compensate them directly.

We will take the land and pay compensation in respect of improvements, and that is what we have honoured. If they had built a dam, a homestead, done some fencing, we are prepared to pay compensation for those, but not the market price of the farm. That’s the responsibility of Britain. This is why Blair is angry. He thought we would tax our poor people here to buy back their own land, but we were not prepared to do that.

And what did Blair do? He doesn’t talk of that. He talks of Zimbabwe that is breaching the tenets of democracy, human rights, rule of law, and which is a dictatorship. But he is very much more of a dictator than any dictator I have read about in modern times in Britain and in Europe. But we always comply with the law. Since 1980, we have complied with our constitution, and every five years we go to elections – parliamentary elections, presidential elections, local government elections – and the ground is open to anyone who wants to participate in these elections, he or she is free to do so.

But Britain and the United States read a completely different picture. Election results that are accepted by Africa as valid, they reject. They reject them because they are at the top of the world.

Baffour: Regarding the Americans, what has changed? I remember you telling me in our first interview in 2002, that the Americans were quite helpful in the early days…

Mugabe: [cuts in] …Yes, the [Jimmy] Carter regime.

Baffour: So why are the Americans now funding regime change activities here to get you out of power? For the first time, they publicly admitted in an official State Department report released in Washington on 5 April 2007 that they have been sponsoring regime change in Zimbabwe, by supporting the opposition, NGOs, the trade unions, the private media, even religious groups, who are working to discredit your government. So why has there been this about-turn.

Mugabe: This is what America has always been. Yes of course, they gave us that assistance during Carter’s administration, because they didn’t want a failure of our constitutional negotiations which were taking place in Lancaster House in London in 1979. But as soon as Carter was out and Ronald Reagan had come in, the funds were stopped, because they said we were communists. They accused me of being a communist. But they never, never really approved of a solid African government, a government that stands on its own. They were behind Nkrumah’s fall, and they have been behind the fall of other governments – in Latin America, everywhere. So we don’t trust them. They just don’t want a strong government, a government that lives by the truth and wants to help its own people, they don’t want that.

Baffour: Is that why you told them to go hang when they criticized you for the police action against the MDC leaders?

Mugabe: Well, if they don’t accept the truth, they should go hang, they can go hang!

Baffour: Knowing the enemy is half the battle won, they say. You know that they are sponsoring the opposition, and there has been violence blamed on the opposition of late. So what is your government doing to control the opposition violence? I find that on Saturday 14 April, they are calling another camouflaged “prayer meeting” in Bulawayo, which their own advertisement calls a “rally”. What is the government going to do?

Mugabe: Well, if it is the prayer meeting by a church within the precincts of a church and they actually pray, we have nothing against it. But if it is going to be a camouflage of a political meeting, the police are there to stop it. We will not brook that; definitely we will not brook any camouflages.

Baffour: Are they not baiting you so that you have another 11 March incident?

Mugabe: Who is baiting us? Of course if they breach the law, the police will be there. The opposition can do another 11 March incident, certainly if they do a repeat, and if they dare challenge the police, they will get more Tsvangirais beaten up.

Baffour: And the international community will criticize you again.

Mugabe: Yes, yes. The same old thing, we will go round and round again. But as long as we feel we are right, fine. They say might is right, we say right is might.

Baffour: I have always wondered why African countries allow Western ambassadors the latitude to behave the way they have done in Zimbabwe recently, when their countries do not allow our ambassadors to dabble in their internal affairs. Why are we allowing them to behave the way they do in Africa, especially their recent behaviour here? Why?

Mugabe: Well, we don’t allow them but they assume that because they represent big countries, therefore they have the right to dictate anything to us, even the right to play the hypocritical game with us. If you look at the stance they adopted, they were there with Tsvangirai and those they regarded as victims on Tsvangirai’s side, but they were never there with victims on our side, and that is the people who had been petrol-bombed or beaten up by MDC thugs who were in hospital. They never visited them.

They took food to Tsvangirai and the others in hospital, the ambassadors carried the food themselves to Tsvangirai and his people, but they wouldn’t do the same to those injured on our side. So there you are, we don’t trust them. They are just a bunch of hypocrites. It is as if they come from a very dark continent where hedonism is still the order of the day. They like to talk of Christianity as having been established in Europe, but they don’t practice it any more.

Baffour: Are there any concrete sanctions that your government could take against such diplomatic misbehaviour, because I think the Geneva Conventions do not allow such behaviour by diplomats in the domestic affairs of countries to which they are accredited.

Mugabe: Well, yes. We have read them the riot act, and if they continue to do that, we will certainly kick them out of the country. It doesn’t matter who it is. If America wants a man like Christopher Dell [their ambassador] to remain here, then he’s got to behave because we will not brook further nonsense from him.

Baffour: Everywhere else, when a country is under siege by foreign powers, as Zimbabwe now is, the opposition closes ranks with the government and fight the siege together. In Zimbabwe, it is the other way round. Have you tried to get your opposition to sit down and think this through?

Mugabe: The opposition is an extension of imperialism, they are agents of imperialism; they are not home-grown opposition people, they were put together as an opposition package by the British, the three parties in Britain – the Labour Party, Conservative Party and the Liberal-Democrats – established the Westminster Foundation Fund, and it was on the strength of that fund that the MDC was formed. They chose the leaders, and they had to come from the labour movement. Tsvangirai became the president of the new movement, and they took Welshman Ncube from the university to become secretary-general. But now they have split into two, and we think they can even split into four, and like the amoeba go on multiplying until they come to nothing.

Baffour: Do you think they are incorrigible because they are agents of imperialism?

Mugabe: I think the Tsvangirai’s side is the one which is just incorrigible, completely incorrigible. They don’t know what politics means really. That in politics, it is not just the negative and the negative and the negative that you go by, there must be positive acts, and but no, as far as they are concerned, would not deal with the government, they would not recognize President Mugabe and so on. Why have they adopted this negative attitude? Because that’s what their masters tell them to do. That is precisely what Blair does. He would not talk to me; he would run away from me as if I am a man-eater.

Baffour: He would not shake your hand.

Mugabe: [Laughs]. He won’t shake my hand.

Baffour: But Jack Straw, when he was foreign secretary, once shook your hand.

Mugabe: Well, he shook my hand by mistake and he regretted it. I don’t know how many times he had to wash his hands after that. [Laughs].

Baffour: Coming back to the opposition, the SADC says dialogue is the best way out. Are both sides ready to give dialogue a serious chance this time around?

Mugabe: Dialogue with people who wouldn’t dialogue? We have been open to dialogue, in fact, with my permission, the government has been in dialogue with those in the MDC who, before the split, wanted to have dialogue with the government, Welshman Ncube and others, and they have been talking about the way forward, and what they regard on their side as areas of constitution that need amending. In 2000, we put forward a draft constitution which they rejected, and now they want that document reinstated, to become the constitution of the country. And we are saying “no, you rejected it, we put it to the people and the vote was lost by 1,000. And that’s it.” Yes, constitutional amendments can be proposed certainly, because we too would like to see certain amendments; we want to enhance the composition of our parliament, we want also to harmonise the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections, and in the process reduce the presidential term from six years to five years. And we have agreed that elections must be held next year, because the current presidential term ends next year. So we will combine the presidential and parliamentary elections which we used to hold separately.

Baffour: There are reports saying that the MDC is not quite ready for the elections next year.

Mugabe: Ready or not ready, we will have elections next year. Mind you, it is the prerogative of the president to call elections any time. But in this particular case, a presidential election is constitutionally due in March or soon after March, because the current presidential term ends in March. So we must go to elections then. If they are not quite ready, well, hard luck. They must get ready. In politics you must stay ready.

Baffour: What if they come and say, “we are not ready, can we please have the elections some time after next year?”

Mugabe: So you are not ready and you think in politics we wait for you, to enable you to take your time? It is when we judge that you are not ready, and we can take advantage of your unprepared, that we perform best, isn’t it? These are tricks of electioneering and it’s done all over. But anyway in this particular case, they knew that the presidential election was due in March next year – they have had six years to prepare, surely they must be able to do something!

Baffour: Now they are talking about a new constitution – their major bone of contention is a new constitution – and they say you cannot write a new constitution and get it approved by the people between now and March next year.

Mugabe: But you can’t just conceive a constitution, who are you? The majority of the people support the ruling party, that’s why we are ruling, and the majority of the people have not demanded a new constitution. However, the government is prepared to offer amendments if the opposition want amendments to the constitution. We will discuss them in the context of what we ourselves are proffering.

Baffour: So you are saying a fresh constitution is out of the question?

Mugabe: Out of the question, certainly! Our current constitution has undergone various amendments and there is no way a fresh constitution can be written between now and March. The opposition must have a mandate from the people for that kind of thing to happen, and they haven’t got it. They are a minority party and they can’t call the tune.

Baffour: Did it shock you when you heard Prof. Arthur Mutambara, the leader of the other MDC faction, say at a press conference in Harare in reaction to the SADC summit, that (his exact words were) “the transformation of the police into a criminal, sadistic, brutal force is worse than anything we ever saw under the [Ian] Smith regime”?

Mugabe: Of course that’s rubbish, pure rubbish! The Smith regime killed, imprisoned, and kidnapped people; they bombed and thousands died. We have treated them with kid-gloves really. You cannot continue to tease the police and lure them in the way they have done, and expect them not to take action against you. They have been very patient, our police, to tell the truth. They have been very, very patient with them. And so Mutambara’s remarks are quite ill-placed. Of course they are political remarks.

Baffour: Talking about kid-gloves, it is interesting that in Zimbabwe the more you bring out the kid-gloves, the more international community paints you as a despot, some have even called you a Hitler.

Mugabe: I was Hitler from even before independence in 1980 because of the party I belong to. We were fighting the whites and it was not Smith the Hitler, it was we who were fighting the Hitlerite system who were called Hitlers.

Baffour: Talking about the party you be long to, Zanu PF, in 2002, at our very first interview, you said if the party found a successor, you would retire and go and write your books. You have since won one presidential election and have just been nominated for another one. Does it mean the party has not yet found a successor? And for how long can you go on?

Mugabe: Well, for as long as I can go and for as long as the party wishes me to go. That’s the combination. And if the party says stand, it means the party has not found a successor. We will find a successor in due course.

Baffour: We hear stories about divisions in Zanu PF, and about some within the party having allied themselves with the British and so on. So, what really is going on in the party?

Mugabe: The party is very united, and you heard voices outside the country, especially in Britain, talking of a central committee that was going to be the nemesis of this man, Mugabe. They were going to deal with him. But they did not deal with me, they dealt with the British.

Baffour: So the stories about the divisions in the party are not true?

Mugabe: Well, you get points of view which may be opposed, and that’s what you get in any political grouping, it happens everywhere. It’s a healthy point of view. But there are no divisions in Zanu PF of the nature that really worries the party. You may get an individual who deviates here and there in terms of his outlook because he has become more materialistic. Yes, you get all that, but these things happen everywhere. But the main body of the party is very solid.

Baffour: So all these stories about coups and people planning coups are just fantasies?

Mugabe: Oh come on, we are talking of a country with an army that has established its name, and not only have we fought against the Rhodesians here, we have gone to secure the Mozambican issue you remember, we’ve also been to various other places, to DRCongo and so on, and two of our commanders were chosen by the UN to command its forces in Angola. It is a solid and well trained army, they are very professional. Talking of a coup is just trying to suggest that they should think of a coup but they will dismiss it as nonsense and completely unbecoming.

Baffour: The opposition newspapers have been reporting that your “exit plan strategy” is to increase the seats in parliament, so that after you are re-elected next year, you will then resign after a few months or so, or at least within a year, and then use the expanded parliament (which will act as an electoral college under the new constitutional proposals), to appoint a successor of your choice. Is that really the game plan?

Mugabe: [Laughs]. No, that’s how people make judgments on certain proposals we’ve put forward. But we are not looking at things that way. A successor will come but not as a product of an enhanced parliament. We want to increase the membership of parliament because we feel that it is long overdue and some of our constituencies are far too large, especially the rural ones, they cannot be covered by one person that easily. This is all it amounts to.

And of course we also feel that time has now come, we are 27 years old as an independent country, and we have had 150 members in the lower house of parliament for quite a long period, and since we are looking at putting up a new parliament house, it should be designed not with 150 in mind but 210. That’s how we are looking at the future.

Baffour: The Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter on Easter Sunday criticizing your government. You are a Catholic yourself, were you in church?

Mugabe: Well, I was away then. I arrived on Easter Sunday morning.

Baffour: So you didn’t hear the criticism leveled against you and your government?

Mugabe: No, no, not in church. If I had gone to church and the priest had read that so-called pastoral letter, I would have stood up and said nonsense. It is not something spiritual, it is not religious, the bishops have decided to turn political. And once they turn political, we regard them as no longer being spiritual, and our relations with them would be conducted as if we are dealing with political entities, and this is quite a dangerous path they have chosen for themselves.

I am going to talk to some of them. As for Pius Ncube [the archbishop of Bulawayo], he has long been a lost bishop, he thinks he is close to God, that’s why he says he is praying for me to die. But unfortunately God has not listened to him for all this duration. I don’t know how many times a day he is saying that prayer: “Please God, take that man Robert Mugabe away from us”.

I have said it once at a Catholic gathering that being a bishop does not place one next to God, nor does it make one a chosen person for sainthood. No. A bishop can go to hell while an ordinary person goes to heaven depending on the character of the person. Well, I don’t want to say much about the bishops now, I will say much when I meet them.

But for our bishops, this is a sad, sad story. The whole of this pastoral letter is political nonsense. If you read it, there is no reference at all to what has actually led to our current situation. Yes granted, they refer to the hardships that our people are going through. Yes, there are hardships, but tell me even with these hardships we have maintained a solid educational system, a solid health system, yes there are shortages of drugs, but we’ve tried to maintain our population together.

The droughts are not caused by bad governance, it’s the mercies of the Good Lord that we would be lacking in those days of drought. And when we have droughts, we have never allowed our people to die, never!

We have said the church and state must work hand in hand, but if this is going to be the partner that the Catholics want us to have, then obviously they must know that we will reciprocate as politicians.

Baffour: Talking about the droughts reminds me of the economic sanctions imposed by the West on your country. For a long time, your government played down the effects of the sanctions. Now the cat is out of the bag. So tell me, what is the real impact of sanctions on Zimbabwe? There are people out there who don’t believe that there are any sanctions imposed on your country.

Mugabe: The sanctions have had tremendous impact on us. Mind you when we took over in 1980, our economy was aligned to the West. And most of the fertile lands was in the hands of the Europeans as well as the manufacturing and mining sectors.

We differ with Blair and Blair decides to fight us using political, diplomatic and economic instruments. He doesn’t talk about the difference between us as being the land issue and the compensation from Britain that they have dishonoured.

No, he refers to good governance, human rights, rule of law. He then persuades the members of the European Union to think in the same way. And they agree, after being persuaded by Britain to do so, to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, and they say these are “personal sanctions” targeted at the leadership.

This is rubbish. But in the meantime what do they do? They influence other countries to cut their economic ties with us. In other words, the soft loans, grants and investments that were coming our way, start decreasing and in some cases actually petering out.

Then they interfere even with our friends in the East and try to persuade them to reduce their relations with us. In some cases, they do stupid things like intercepting ships carrying fuel destined for Zimbabwe. They say “we will pay you 50% more if you divert this fuel from Zimbabwe and sell it to us”. That has happened, they’ve done so. They have also approached India, China and other countries…

Baffour: [cuts in]. These are the British?

Mugabe: The British, they are doing it quietly.

Baffour: And they are the same people who are saying you are a bad manager of the economy?

Mugabe: Yes, yes! They have done that quietly and they are still doing it. Apart from that they have imposed a ban on spare parts for us. There are no spare parts, they say, for our weapons, planes and other machinery that we had bought from them in the past. And these are spare parts we need for our industries, factories and mines.

The Americans are even more blatant about the economic sanctions. They imposed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act which passed into law in December 2001, which effectively imposed stringent economic sanctions on us.

They then went on to interfere with the international financial institutions; so that even though we have paid our debts to the IMF, they still say the IMF should not give us the balance of payment support that we deserve. And even though we are members of the World Bank, and we have complied with their rules, they have also imposed sanctions against us.

Then the signals to the rest of the world that Zimbabwe is under sanctions, that rings bells and countries that would want to invest in Zimbabwe are being very cautious. They say “ah, we can’t go to this country”. And we are being dragged through the mud every day on CNN, BBC, Sky News, and they are saying to these potential investors, “your investment will not be safe in Zimbabwe, the British farmers have lost their land, and your investment will go the same way”. Pure rubbish, but these messages ring bells in the minds of even our friends. And so the sanctions have wreaked quite some havoc on our economy.

But when we noticed that this was the situation, we looked at our own friends in developing world, and we adopted the Look East Policy – we said “fine, let’s deal with the East; we are now happy that we are getting some investments from there”. We have also looked at ourselves and said, “we are fighting a war, let’s use our own resources as judiciously as we can. We have good agriculture; we may not have good rainy seasons all the time, but when we have them, let’s produce abundantly, and help our farmers”. We have been sustaining our farmers as best we can, especially the small farmer, with seeds and other inputs. We will continue to do that, and also to our manufacturing and mining sectors. Fortunately we have natural resources, lots of minerals in the ground, and we are tapping these resources. Though we would want to have huge volumes of foreign currency which would enable us to get back to where we were, but as they drip in, we live from hand to mouth.

But the situation is much better. We have organized ourselves, we talk to various groups in industry, and even to the workers and are trying to get a social contract in place. We are happy that the majority of the workers do listen, and do want a social contract. The employers are also willing. So we are moving forward in this united way. We are working on an economic turnaround programme, and I think it is working.

Baffour: I was going to ask you about the way forward, but you have covered the ground with that answer. So let me ask you my last question. What message do you have for the constituency outside Zimbabwe – the African diasporic communities around the world who may have become disillusioned after seeing the TV footage of Morgan Tsvangirai & Co beaten up by the police?

Mugabe: The message is that when they are affected by events of that nature, they should always talk to us, and even visit us. If they don’t have means, we will provide the means for them to come and study the situation, understand it and get to know what really would have happened. If they had come, I would have taken them to see the victims of Tsvangirai’s thugs, what they did to the police and innocent people who are now in hospital or just been discharged from hospital. The house they destroyed, the petrol bombs they have thrown, and the damage they have wreaked by these petrol bombs, and what the police have since discovered – the arms, the training abroad, and so on.

All these things are going to be revealed in court. If our friends in the Diaspora came here, we would expose them to this knowledge, and they would be able to judge things for themselves. Yes, here and there, they might say, “oh, the police were guilty of excesses”, but I think on the whole the police acted correctly.

God hears the cry of the oppressed: Pastoral Letter by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference on the current crisis of our country
Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference
April 05, 2007

As your Shepherds we have reflected on our national situation and, in the light of the Word of God and Christian Social Teaching, have discerned what we now share with you, in the hope of offering guidance, light and hope in these difficult times.

The Crisis
The people of Zimbabwe are suffering. More and more people are getting angry, even from among those who had seemed to be doing reasonably well under the circumstances. The reasons for the anger are many, among them, bad governance and corruption. A tiny minority of the people have become very rich overnight, while the majority are languishing in poverty, creating a huge gap between the rich and the poor. Our Country is in deep crisis. A crisis is an unstable situation of extreme danger and difficulty. Yet, it can also be turned into a moment of grace and of a new beginning, if those responsible for causing the crisis repent, heed the cry of the people and foster a change of heart and mind especially during the imminent Easter Season, so our Nation can rise to new life with the Risen Lord.

In Zimbabwe today, there are Christians on all sides of the conflict; and there are many Christians sitting on the fence. Active members of our Parish and Pastoral Councils are prominent officials at all levels of the ruling party. Equally distinguished and committed office-bearers of the opposition parties actively support church activities in every parish and diocese. They all profess their loyalty to the same Church. They are all baptised, sit and pray and sing together in the same church, take part in the same celebration of the Eucharist and partake of the same Body and Blood of Christ. While the next day, outside the church, a few steps away, Christian State Agents, policemen and soldiers assault and beat peaceful, unarmed demonstrators and torture detainees. This is the unacceptable reality on the ground, which shows much disrespect for human life and falls far below the dignity of both the perpetrator and the victim.

In our prayer and reflection during this Lent, we have tried to understand the reasons why this is so. We have concluded that the crisis of our Country is, in essence, a crisis of governance and a crisis of leadership apart from being a spiritual and moral crisis.

A Crisis of Governance
The national health system has all but disintegrated as a result of prolonged industrial action by medical professionals, lack of drugs, essential equipment in disrepair and several other factors.

In the educational sector, high tuition fees and levies, the lack of teaching and learning resources, and the absence of teachers have brought activities in many public schools and institutions of higher education to a standstill. The number of students forced to terminate their education is increasing every month. At the same time, Government interference with the provision of education by private schools has created unnecessary tension and conflict.

Public services in Zimbabwe’s towns and cities have crumbled. Roads, street lighting, water and sewer reticulation are in a state of severe disrepair to the point of constituting an acute threat to public health and safety, while the collection of garbage has come to a complete standstill in many places. Unabated political interference with the work of democratically elected Councils is one of the chief causes of this breakdown.

The erosion of the public transport system has negatively affected every aspect of our Country’s economy and social life. Horrific accidents claim the lives of dozens of citizens each month.

Almost two years after the Operation Murambatsvina, thousands of victims are still without a home. That inexcusable injustice has not been forgotten.

Following a radical land reform programme seven years ago, many people are today going to bed hungry and wake up to a day without work. Hundreds of companies were forced to close. Over 80 per cent of the people of Zimbabwe are without employment. Scores risk their lives week after week in search of work in neighbouring countries.

Inflation has soared to over 1,600 per cent, and continues to rise, daily. It is the highest in the world and has made the life of ordinary Zimbabweans unbearable, regardless of their political preferences. We are all concerned for the turnaround of our economy but this will remain a dream unless corruption is dealt with severely irrespective of a person’s political or social status or connections.

The list of justified grievances is long and could go on for many pages.

The suffering people of Zimbabwe are groaning in agony: “Watchman, how much longer the night”? (Is 21:11)

A Crisis of Moral Leadership
The crisis of our Country is, secondly, a crisis of leadership. The burden of that crisis is borne by all Zimbabweans, but especially the young who grow up in search of role models. The youth are influenced and formed as much by what they see their elders doing as by what they hear and learn at school or from their peers.

If our young people see their leaders habitually engaging in acts and words which are hateful, disrespectful, racist, corrupt, lawless, unjust, greedy, dishonest and violent in order to cling to the privileges of power and wealth, it is highly likely that many of them will behave in exactly the same manner. The consequences of such overtly corrupt leadership as we are witnessing in Zimbabwe today will be with us for many years, perhaps decades, to come. Evil habits and attitudes take much longer to rehabilitate than
to acquire. Being elected to a position of leadership should not be misconstrued as a licence to do as one pleases at the expense of the will and trust of the electorate.

A Spiritual and Moral Crisis
Our crisis is not only political and economic but first and foremost a spiritual and moral crisis. As the young independent nation struggles to find its common national spirit, the people of Zimbabwe are reacting against the “structures of sin” in our society. Pope John Paul II says that the “structures of sin” are “rooted in personal sin, and thus always linked to the concrete acts of individuals who introduce these structures, consolidate them and make them difficult to remove. And thus they grow stronger, spread, and become the source of other sins, and so influence people’s behaviour.” The Holy Father stresses that in order to understand the reality that confronts us, we must “give a name to the root of the evils which afflict us.” That is what we have done in this Pastoral Letter.

The Roots of the Crisis
The present crisis in our Country has its roots deep in colonial society. Despite the rhetoric of a glorious socialist revolution brought about by the armed struggle, the colonial structures and institutions of pre-independent Zimbabwe continue to persist in our society. None of the unjust and oppressive security laws of the Rhodesian State have been repealed; in fact, they have been reinforced by even more repressive legislation, the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, in particular. It almost appears as though someone sat down with the Declaration of Human Rights and deliberately scrubbed out each in turn.

Why was this done? Because soon after Independence, the power and wealth of the tiny white Rhodesian elite was appropriated by an equally exclusive black elite, some of whom have governed the country for the past 27 years through political patronage. Black Zimbabweans today fight for the same basic rights they fought for during the liberation struggle. It is the same conflict between those who possess power and wealth in abundance, and those who do not; between those who are determined to maintain their privileges of power and wealth at any cost, even at the cost of bloodshed, and those who demand their democratic rights and a share in the fruits of independence; between those who continue to benefit from the present system of inequality and injustice, because it favours them and enables them to maintain an exceptionally high standard of living, and those who go to bed hungry at night and wake up in the morning to another day without work and without income; between those who only know the language of violence and intimidation, and those who feel they have nothing more to lose because their Constitutional rights have been abrogated and their votes rigged. Many people in Zimbabwe are angry, and their anger is now erupting into open revolt in one township after another.

The confrontation in our Country has now reached a flashpoint. As the suffering population becomes more insistent, generating more and more pressure through boycotts, strikes, demonstrations and uprisings, the State responds with ever harsher oppression through arrests, detentions, banning orders, beatings and torture. In our judgement, the situation is extremely volatile. In order to avoid further bloodshed and avert a mass uprising the nation needs a new people driven Constitution that will guide a democratic leadership chosen in free and fair elections that will offer a chance for economic recovery under genuinely new policies.

Our Message of Hope: God is always on the Side of the Oppressed
The Bible has much to say about situations of confrontation. The conflict between the oppressor and the oppressed is a central theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. Biblical scholars have discovered that there are no less than twenty different root words in Hebrew to describe oppression.

One example is the Creed of the chosen people, which we read on the First Sunday of Lent: “My Father was a homeless Aramaean. He went down to Egypt to find refuge there, few in numbers; but there he became a nation, great, mighty and strong. The Egyptians ill-treated us, they gave us no peace and inflicted harsh slavery on us. But we called on the Lord, the God of our fathers. The Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, our toil and our oppression; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great terror, and with signs and wonders. … “(Deut 26:5b-8).

The Bible describes oppression in concrete and vivid terms: Oppression is the experience of being crushed, degraded, humiliated, exploited, impoverished, defrauded, deceived and enslaved. And the oppressors are described as cruel, ruthless, arrogant, greedy, violent and tyrannical; they are called ‘the enemy’. Such words could only have been used by people who in their own lives and history had an immediate and personal experience of being oppressed. To them Yahweh revealed himself as the God of compassion who hears the cry of the oppressed and who liberates them from their oppressors. The God of the Bible is always on the side of the oppressed. He does not reconcile Moses and Pharaoh, or the Hebrew slaves with their Egyptian oppressors. Oppression is sin and cannot be compromised with. It must be overcome. God takes sides with the oppressed. As we read in Psalm 103:6: “God, who does what is right, is always on the side of the oppressed”.

When confronted with the politically powerful, Jesus speaks the language of the boldest among Israel’s prophets. He calls Herod ‘that fox’ (Lk13:32) and courageously exposes the greed for money, power and adulation of the political elite. And he warns his disciples never to do likewise: “Among the gentiles it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the title Benefactor. With you this must not happen. No, the greatest among you must behave as if he were the youngest, the leader as if he were the one who serves” (Lk 22:25-27). And he warns Pilate in no uncertain terms that he will be held to account by God for his use of power over life and death (John 19:11).

Throughout the history of the Church, persecuted Christians have remembered, prayed and sung the prophetic words of Mary: “[The Lord] has used the power of his arm, he has routed the arrogant of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and raised high the lowly. He has filled the starving with good things, sent the rich away empty” (Lk1:50-53).

Generations of Zimbabweans, too, throughout their own long history of oppression and their struggle for liberation, have remembered, prayed and sung these texts from the Old and New Testaments and found strength, courage and perseverance in their faith that Jesus is on their side. That is the message of hope we want to convey in this Pastoral Letter: God is on your side. He always hears the cry of the poor and oppressed and saves them.

We conclude our Pastoral Letter by affirming with a clear and unambiguous Yes our support of morally legitimate political authority. At the same time we say an equally clear and unambiguous No to power through violence, oppression and intimidation. We call on those who are responsible for the current crisis in our Country to repent and listen to the cry of their citizens. To the people of Zimbabwe we appeal for peace and restraint when expressing their justified grievances and demonstrating for their human rights.

Words call for concrete action, for symbols and gestures which keep our hope alive. We therefore invite all the faithful to a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Zimbabwe, on Saturday, 14 April 2007. This will be followed by a Prayer Service for Zimbabwe, on Friday, every week, in all parishes of our Country. As for the details, each Diocese will make known its own arrangements.

May the Peace and Hope of the Risen Lord be with you always. Happy Easter.

Prayer for our country
God Our Father,
You have given all peoples one common origin,
And your will is to gather them as one family in yourself.
Give compassion to our leaders, integrity to our citizens, and repentance to us all.
Fill the hearts of all women and men with your love
And the desire to ensure justice for all their brothers and sisters.
By sharing the good things you give us
May we ensure justice and equality for every human being,
An end to all division, and a human society built on love,
Lasting prosperity and peace for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be to the Father …

+Robert C. Ndlovu, Archbishop of Harare (ZCBC President)
+Pius Alec M. Ncube, Archbishop of Bulawayo
+Alexio Churu Muchabaiwa, Bishop of Mutare (ZCBC Secretary/Treasurer)
+Michael D. Bhasera, Bishop of Masvingo
+Angel Floro, Bishop of Gokwe (ZCBC Vice President)
+Martin Munyanyi, Bishop of Gweru
+Dieter B. Scholz SJ, Bishop of Chinhoyi
+Albert Serrano, Bishop of Hwange
+Patrick M. Mutume, Auxiliary Bishop of Mutare

Claire Short's letter

"5 November 1997
From the Secretary of State

Hon Kumbirai Kangai MP
Minister of Agriculture and Land

Dear Minister

George Foulkes has reported to me on the meeting which you and Hon John Nkomo had with Tony Lloyd and him during your recent visit. I know that President Mugabe also discussed the land issue with the Prime Minister briefly during their meeting. It may be helpful if I record where matters now rest on the issue.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Tony Blair said that he looked forward to developing a new basis for relations with Commonwealth countries founded upon our government's policies, not on the past.

We will set out our agenda for international development in a White Paper to be published this week. The central thrust of this will be the development of partnerships with developing countries which are committed to eradicate poverty, and have their own proposals for achieving that which we and other donors can support.

I very much hope that we will be able to develop such a relationship with Zimbabwe. I understand that you aim shortly to publish your own policies on economic management and poverty reduction. I hope that we can discuss them with you and identify areas where we are best able to help. I mentioned this in my letter on 31 August to Hon Herbert Murarwa.

I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers.

We do, however, recognise the very real issues you face over land reform. We believe that land reform could be an important component of a Zimbabwean programme designed to eliminate poverty. We would be prepared to support a programme of land reform that was part of a poverty eradication strategy but not on any other basis.

I am told Britain provided a package of assistance for resettlement in the period immediately following independence. This was, I gather, carefully planned and implemented, and met most of its targets.

Again, I am told there were discussions in 1989 and 1996 to explore the possibility of further assistance. However that is all in the past.

If we look to the present, a number of specific issues are unresolved, including the way in which land would be acquired and compensation paid - clearly it would not help the poor of Zimbabwe if it was done in a way which undermined investor confidence.

Other questions that would need to be settled would be to ensure that the process was completely open and transparent, including the establishment of a proper land register.

Individual schemes would have to be economically justified to ensure that the process helped the poor, and for me the most important issue is that any programme must be planned as part of a programme to contribute to the goal of eliminating poverty. I would need to consider detailed proposals on these issues before confirming further British support for resettlement.

I am sure that a carefully worked out programme of land reform that was part of a programme of poverty eradication which we could support would also bring in other donors, whose support would help ensure that a substantial land resettlement programme such as you clearly desire could be undertaken successfully. If is [sic] to do so, they too will need to be involved from the start.

It follows from this that a programme of rapid land acquisition as you now seem to envisage would be impossible for us to support. I know that many of Zimbabwe's friends share our concern about the damage which this might do to Zimbabwe's agricultural output and its prospects of attracting investment.

I thought it best to be frank about where we are. If you think it would be helpful, my officials are ready to meet yours to discuss these issues.

Yours sincerely

Claire Short."

The Anti-Mugabe Brigade

by Gilles d'Aymery

"They who put out the people's eyes, reproach them of their blindness."
--John Milton

"Surely, journalists must ask themselves: is it not possible to break away from the pack?" once asked John Pilger. "And," he mused on, "do the media courses turning out the next generation examine and analyse such institutional failure (honourable exceptions aside) to keep the record straight? Are media students warned that true journalists must be sceptical of all authority, and that their job is to push back screens and lift rocks...?" (1)

Well, certainly, certainly...till you get blasted by a bunch of phony human righters and other crusading civilizers, and can't pay your bills as no main publication will ever touch your work with a ten-foot pole!

Pushing back screens and lifting rocks is very much what Gregory Elich did in his August 26 article, Zimbabwe Under Siege, through weekly trips to the library of Ohio State University for over six months, assembling more than 100 references to compose his 12,000-word essay (which took him three weeks to write and edit); a work that, I should add, we were proud and honored to publish. Elich, however, appears to have committed an excommunicable sin when he sided with the Zimbabwean government and received for his recompense a flurry of trashing comments, some long on rhetoric and all diminutively short on substance.

There were a few glaring exceptions. A reader wrote, "Excellent article! I don't know how you have time to keep up on so many areas of the world. It's a great current case study of foreign affairs that effectively ignores so much of the rhetoric to concentrate on the real policy." Another noted that the article was an "intelligent commentary on Zimbabwe after the years of a near daily hate by the corporate media lead by the BBC." And, most pleasantly, Baffour Ankomah, the Editor of the British-based New African, whose own exceptional work we are publishing today: "Many thanks for sending me your wonderful piece on Zimbabwe. Wonderful, wonderful!! So I'm not the only mad one out there after all. Since 1999, I have been reporting Zimbabwe much like you've done in your piece. Our magazine, New African, has been uncompromising in the coverage of Zimbabwe, and I personally have been called various names by the anti-Mugabe brigade. So I was gratified to read your wonderful piece." Parenthetically, I owe the title of this piece to Mr. Ankomah and I am delighted that New African will be publishing parts of Gregory Elich's article in its October issue. Wonderful, indeed!

Various names?

Here are a few samples of the least aggravating comments:
* Excuse me but most of your so-called study is not true. Where did you find this kind of crap? . . . I can take your story apart, bit by bit. I hope you don't have sleepless nights of the 6 million that are domed [sic] to starve to death because of ONE DICTATOR, just like 3 million died in Cambodia.

* It is just Marxist junk. All save for those suffering from advanced Liberal Brain Disease can see after 20 seconds of reading that it is junk.

* Rubbish. They threw the Brits out and now they're paying the price for it. Peddle your Marxist fairytales elsewhere.


Mugabe = black = good

farmers = white = bad


* To blame anyone but Robert Mugabe for the failure of Zimbabwe is laughable. This despot shamelessly uses racism and the Left looks the other way. He is a brutal thug that is in time-honored Socialist fashion starving his country to consolidate his power. In two decades this man has reduced the second-best economy in Africa to a shambles [sic]. Put him up against a wall.

* Mugabe is so bad he had a guy by the name of Hitler working for Him [sic].

* I agree there is a problem in Zimbabwe...his name is Mugabe.

* Mugabe's a Maoist and is determined to enforce Mao's teachings regardless of how much blood (black *and* white blood) must be spilled. He, like Mao, firmly believes that all power flows from the gun. He and his sociopathic [sic] must be killed lest all Zimbabweans descend into Mali-like economic desperation, which would be a particularly sad fate for [a] nation that was, just a decade ago, the breadbasket of Africa.

* Mr. Elich, Where are you living? Where did you study? Have you ever been to Zimbabwe? Why are you such a racist? Why are you protecting a dictator as [sic] Mugabe? I will send you photos of the victims who Zanla murdered, if you are interested in the real history of Rhodesia!

Had enough? Smear and slander are old tricks of the trade, I guess... As Elich commented to me, "I suppose any controversial article generates such responses."

The letter of Alex Jay Berman, published here, had the merit to be longer than one or two paragraphs and while undoubtedly argumentative and disapproving was both considerate and polite, thus providing Gregory Elich with the opportunity to respond thoroughly. Mr. Berman, a writer in his own right, who enjoys Science Fiction, Book Reviews, " Cooking for Writers who Forget to Eat" and is a proud member of the alt.misc.writing forum once contributed a piece to Swans. I should point out -- another parenthetical comment -- that Mr. Berman erred when he asserted that Swans was "so very concerned with human rights." I can assure him that it is not the case. Human rights, as evolved in the past two decades, are yet another instrument of Western interventionism all around the world to further western interests. We are not concerned with the business of human rights. We are concerned with the respect for, and rights of, humans.

This, of course, would tend to greatly weaken Mr. Berman's thesis as he based his argument on a false premise. Actually, he considers Elich's views appropriate. He writes, "This may be an appropriate view of the subject to an agricultural economist, but it constitutes a grave sin of omission for a magazine so very concerned with human rights." Well, we aren't concerned much with this kind of human rights except to underline their destructive power everywhere the NGO's caravan plants its tent! Oh well, just a tiny rhetorical bit on my part to gently counter an amicable writer who finds Elich's article "well-researched, well-documented, and well-written" but "NOT well-done" (how an article can be well-researched, well-documented, and well-written but not well-done at the same time is truly befuddling!); an interesting technique which by the way Mr. Berman also used in his first piece over two years ago in response to an article by Alma Hromic ("That said, after reading the aforementioned article, I told her it was a very good piece; very well-written and very moving. Also that it was very wrong."). Amusing...

Discerning Outrage

More seriously, discretionary outrage can become quite tiring after a while, almost boring. To see people shed crocodile tears on some of the "poor" Zimbabwean farming families, those who happen to be white (many of whom hold British passports...), to defend landowners and their farms, the biggest ones being controlled by non-Zimbabwean interests, to lay the blame as always on the Zimbabwean government and to demonize its leader is getting old very fast.

Not that the human stories should be dismissed out of hand. To lose one's land is a personal tragedy, always poignant and heart breaking, especially when it's your own (2) family land (I could expand on my own experience about this). That people empathize with the plight of these families is a legitimate, humane sentiment, and quite respectable at that. However, I don't recall much empathy, if any, when 40,000 members of the Barabaig tribe in Tanzania were dispossessed of their land in the Batsotu Plains a decade ago, compliments of a Canadian project. And this I know: no one is shedding tears over the forthcoming United Kingdom project in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, where some 20 million people will be dispossessed. (3) Did any one of Greg Elich's critics ever hear about these "atrocities"? And did they care about the actual ethnic cleansing of about one million Serbs (but of course, they were the "bad guys;" so who cares, right?)? Or, what about the Turkish farmers who have seen their land -- and entire villages -- taken away from them for the ambitious water projects along the Euphrates that Turkey embarked upon years ago? Crocodile tears, anyone?

I can already hear the usual whine; the fact that there is no public outrage in some cases does not mean that there should be no outrage in all cases. How many times have I heard this specious, moralizing stance? Too often for not becoming ill at ease and wanting to throw up! Not only is the outrage taking place in the context of the rich and poor divide, as the Guardian columnist George Monbiot notes, but the rich world's media only focus on what the rich world wants -- resources, resources, resources -- and the "International Community" (makes me shiver just to write these two words), sends out the human rights bandwagons, launches PR campaigns demonizing the local leader, finances (bribes?) the opposition, applies stiff sanctions to further destabilize the economy, walks away from past agreements, and, if necessary intervenes militarily, either directly or through a regional proxy. And the ball keeps rolling in a series of inescapable patterns for those who care to look, the fast becoming extinct non-ostrich-like crowd.

Monbiot again: "Robert Mugabe is portrayed as the prince of darkness, but when whites expel black people from their lands, nobody gives a damn." And when non-white people are dispossessed, "[t]hese are dark-skinned people being expelled by whites, rather than whites being expelled by black people. They are, as such, assuming their rightful place, as invisible obstacles to the rich world's projects. Mugabe is a monster because he has usurped the natural order." And so, "[t]he most evil man on earth, besides Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, is Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe. That, at least, is the view of most of the western world's press." (4)

As Decca Aitkenhead wrote in a gem of an article originally published in the Guardian, and a copy of which I found on a Web site worth visiting, Race and History, "[b]ad things should obviously not happen to white people. How else to explain the indignation? The knowledge of unspeakable horrors inflicted on black Africans is seldom allowed to interfere with our peace of mind, as if they were in the natural order of things. Over there it is hot, zebras live in the wild, and bad things happen to blacks. But when white families are dispossessed, it is another matter altogether."

She further reported, "'[p]lease don't write all the usual old clichés about swimming pools, servants and gin and tonics,' Zimbabwean whites told the journalist Ian Jack in 1977. That is what he found, though, and that is what many of the whites moved there for. Few families arrived 100 years ago, as it is claimed; most were postwar arrivals looking for sunshine and a higher standard of living than they could possibly hope for at home. They say they have been 'good' for Zimbabwe, and indeed they have. If you own rich land and pay your workers a pittance, how could you not be productive?" (5)

The criticism is easy, the art difficult (6)

I am reminded of a long time ago -- it was in 1966 if memory serves -- when I spent two wintry weeks of holidays in sunny Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast. My father was an executive of a French airlines that serviced Africa and the Pacific. I stayed with the family of the airlines' local director. The house was huge; it had more servants (maids, cooks, gardeners) than the family of four they attended to. I had lots of fun boating along the lagoons, relaxing aside the pool of the main hotel, in the company of the French ambassador's daughter and other friendly expatriates, in a swimming suit, sipping gin fizzes served by black waiters dressed in black pants and white jackets. Very dignified, very civil and civilizing indeed... I had a swell time! My brother, for his part, on another occasion, went to South Africa. He came back enthused by the lifestyle there, in a walled-in estate guarded by a couple of Dobermans and guns in sight. There too, he had a super time, a life to which he could aspire. And there too, the hosts were providing work to these nègres ("negroes") within the now famous generosity and civilizing context of Apartheid. It would truly be laughable were it not so pitiful...

One only needs to read Baffour Ankomah's article to understand the situation. A simple example demonstrates the humiliation and the inhumane treatment the black population has received under white rule. Ankomah writes that "[o]n one farm in the Raffingora area in the north of the country, the white farmers' big house on the hill has electricity. The crocodiles that are farmed beneath the hill have electricity. The butchery, about 80 metres away from the crocodile pens, has electricity. The general store, owned by the white farmer situated about 50 metres from the butchery, has electricity. But the farm manager (a black Zimbabwean) has no electricity in his "quarters", which is barely 20 metres away from the general store. And the black workers have no electricity in their flimsy rectangular dwellings abutting on the manager's accommodation."

It says it all.

To attempt to grasp the Zimbabwean predicament without falling for, or being naïvely suckered by, the well orchestrated and demonizing propaganda of the rapacious western interests -- those predators who roam the globe to enrich themselves and their cronies and supply our guzzling economies with the goodies that fatten us and end up wasted in overflowing landfills -- one must not ignore history, particularly that of colonialism and the subsequent but rarely fully implemented decolonization; the savagery of the former and the messy and painful process of the latter.

To understand does not mean to justify or condone all the actions taken by the Mugabe government; but it may help if one cares to ask this simple question: How does a social structure change from one situation to another, from, if you will, one paradigm to a new one? There is no easy answer to such a question. For sure, to demonize Mugabe (soon, he will be accused of having created the torrid drought that affects swaths of southern Africa!), to continually tighten the slipknot around Zimbabwe's economy through debilitating sanctions, and to advocate policies that further destabilize the country can only exacerbate the situation. (We see this kind of situation get repeated time and again. Action, reaction, till we send the Marines and the B52s or their British counterparts.) But it won't help the farmers one bit, just delay their best.

Notice that Mr. Berman was long on undocumented criticisms of Elich's work but rather short on solutions. Actually, he made not one proposal to alleviate the crisis or find a positive outcome. Should Mugabe be "put against a wall" as the more strident critics advocate? Should he be construed as a Maoist, a Marxist, bent into "in time-honored Socialist fashion starving his country to consolidate his power" (here again applying clichés and showing a lamentably poor knowledge of the historical though Socialists are inherently nefarious, e.g. Allende or Castro starving their constituents!)? Remember, Nelson Mandela was once branded a communist terrorist by the civilizers... Come on! (7)

Forty years ago, in 1962, when an exhausted France reluctantly granted independence to Algeria, the colonizers -- they were called Pieds Noirs (Black Feet) -- left in mass. It was not a pretty sight. (8) They did not have to, but I guess they knew how nice the French Army had conducted itself with the FLN (National Liberation Front. They were called "fellaghas," "les terroristes"...nothing new under the sky...) and the Algerian population -- about one million casualties between November 1954 and April 1962, and countless tortures. So, they all left, over one million of them. The French government helped them resettle in France (mostly in its southern part and Corsica) with huge financial the point that it created real resentment from the local farmers. They could not compete anymore with the Pieds Noirs who every time they whined were getting more financial aid (loans without interest or very low interest, etc.). There were a lot of sad stories. Families had been in Algeria, which was considered a part of France, for generations (132 years to be precise); sad stories compounded by, of course, as it goes, and is repeated today by the human righters, the lament that they had built roads, hospitals, schools, bridges, etc., etc., etc. Nation-building, anyone? (Arabs and "negroes" can't build roads, hospitals, schools, bridges...they are inferior beings, you see; only good in other words, the Bell Curve...). The colonizers had brought "civilization" to the indigenous population. (And these humanitarian philanthropes were living quite well thank you, and the locals were either laborers or living in abject poverty or both...)

The Pieds Noirs eventually went on with their lives, able to show their scars and tell their stories to the world. I hope Mr. Berman will empathize and his nay-sayer acolytes will opine. They may also realize that the Zimbabwean tiny minority is not facing the human tragedy that the Pieds Noirs had to experience, at least currently (who knows the potential consequences of further demonizing the Zimbabwean government and strangulating the country's economy?). Actually, a case can easily be made that this so-called tyrant, Robert Mugabe, has been far more conscious of the human rights of the country's minority than the former colonizers ever were with the majority. Here too, Nelson Mandela comes to mind... Possibly, the same nay sayers could entertain the idea that the rich nations help to financially compensate for the farmers' loss of land (again, these farmers will still have land to farm, only smaller properties).

Such an outcome is quite unlikely, I am afraid. The suckers will keep being suckered. The weak will get weaker. Force and violence will prevail. And John Milton will, once more, be proven right.

But we will take the criticism head on and we will keep putting facts out there. To answer John Pilger's question, yes, it is possible to break away from the pack, denigration and demonization notwithstanding... I am used to them. I grew up with them. I shall not succumb to them!

As said, criticism is easier than the art. The trashing e-mails that Gregory Elich received, the wishy-washy, moralizing tone of Mr. Berman's "condemnation" of Elich's article, will take little away from the formidable work he performed. As Elich wrote to me, "Readers may not like my conclusions or my research or anything else, but I did spend a lot of effort on research because I was digging to get as close to the truth as I could. I've learned that one cannot just accept what the media tell us, no matter how many times a claim is repeated without being backed up by evidence." I wish his critics had his stamina... (9)

And I wish the human ostriches would get their heads out of the sand!

I am a past contributor to -- and a frequent reader of -- Swans. While I do not always agree with all the views presented therein, it is very rare that an article strikes me as wholly derelict in its journalistic duties.

The article by Gregory Elich, Zimbabwe Under Siege, is well-researched, well-documented, and well-written.

What it is NOT, however, is "well-done."

Zimbabwe has been ill-served by the colonialism under which it suffered until Independence, and has been further ill-treated by the sanctions and criticisms put onto it by Western governments, banks, and industrial bodies, it is true. This is not, however, any sort of justification for Zimbabwe's ill-treatment of its own citizens and residents.

Elich notes that almost three thousand of the remaining white-owned farms -- two thirds of the total number -- have been earmarked for redistribution, under the new plan of land reform. The current land drive, President Mugabe has said, is meant to correct colonial injustice, as the prime land was stolen, during colonial rule, from its original inhabitants. Elich lingers for a moment on the Western reaction to the land seizures, then drops the subject, preferring instead to focus upon the economic theories behind the projected success of the land reform and upon the impact felt by the country resulting from the sanctions and harsh words laid upon Zimbabwe by the West.

This may be an appropriate view of the subject to an agricultural economist, but it constitutes a grave sin of omission for a magazine so very concerned with human rights.

Mugabe's government seems not so much focused on stable governing as it does on enacting a policy of eye-for-an-eye when it comes to what it considers injustices left over from the time of colonial rule.

The land, we are told, is being redistributed because it was originally stolen. However, the people who now face seizures have worked that land, built up that land, lived on that land, for as long as a century; long enough for the sins of the fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, to no longer apply. And these people are being told to leave that land and those farms they have built without any real compensation. Oh, the government has promised that, while the farmers will not be reimbursed for the land itself, they will receive full recompense for any improvements made to the land. Considering the current fiscal state of Zimbabwe, this too is likely to never materialize.

Elich further notes that the government has "repeatedly stated" that those landowners who have their only farms taken will be given another farm of suitable equality. Fine and good, if this were actually being done. It has not and may never, however.

This is made clear when one considers the criticisms from many sources that the best farms which have so far been "redistributed" have gone not to landless blacks, as was the intent, but rather to politicians, military personages, and assorted cronies. One farmer, Vince Schultz, was granted a court reprieve from eviction by the Harare High Court in June -- but has since been arrested, threatened by militants, and informed that the court order means nothing. After all, he was told, there were no courts in the late 1800s when the land was originally stolen; why should courts matter now?

Schultz has found out that his farm has indeed been allocated -- to Bright Matonga, a prominent ruling party official and former executive of Zimbabwean state television who now heads a state transport company. And so ends ownership of a farm which has been in Schultz' wife's family since 1919.

But all of this is fair, you see. It was originally stolen. Stealing it back is simply justice.

The justice of a state in which journalists are arrested for being unlicensed. In which high schools are closed after militants beat teachers bloody for being suspected supporters of the opposition party. In which thousands are detained for simply attempting to vote in what is roundly viewed as a rigged election. (Those who wish to draw parallels to the recent U.S. Presidential elections will note that Al Gore was not arrested for treason immediately following the election.)

Yes; Zimbabwe has suffered. But that is no justification for the suffering its government is now inflicting.

"White farmers' actions of defiance confirm yet again their hostility towards Zimbabwe...White farmers' refusal to leave shows that their greed knows no bounds," reads an editorial in the country's Herald newspaper.

If the theft of the land in colonial times was so wrong, how can this government-ordered theft be considered right?

Alex Jay Berman
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Zimbabwe: What Future For Morgan?

Baffour Ankomah

"Morgan Tsvangirai is finished," Dr. Ibbo Mandaza, a former Zimbabwean cabinet minister now trusted political commentator, boldly proclaimed to New African five days before Christmas. There are some brave people in Zimbabwe, and Dr. Mandaza is one. For starters, he was the only one bold enough, against the public mood in Harare, to forecast the results of last March's presidential elections two weeks before it happened -- and got it right! Give or take a point or two, his figures (of 60% for Mugabe, 40% for Morgan) were almost dead on. The official results were 56.2% for Mugabe, 41.9% for Morgan. After the official results were known, even Dr. Mandaza's arch opponents took their hats off in congratulation for his accuracy.

Now, the same man is looking into his crystal ball and divining that the end of the road is nigh for Morgan. We shall see where his forecast goes this time.

Interestingly, Morgan Tsvangirai himself is making -- or appears to make -- the work easier for Dr. Mandaza. On Wednesday 18 December, he called his MDC party's members of parliament to an impromptu meeting at the party's headquarters and told them, on first hearing, "a very strange" story. It took political diviners like Ibbo Mandaza to read between the lines and proclaim it "not very strange" after all.

Morgan told his MPs (he was beaten in his constituency in the June 2000 parliamentary elections and therefore not an MP himself), that as the review of the Commonwealth suspension of Zimbabwe drew near (in March), "we have begun to witness a number of unsettling developments with regards to the way forward".

And what were these "unsettling developments"?

"One Colonel Lionel Dyke and his business associates," Morgan revealed, "are being used to promote an agenda that seeks to legitimise the rogue regime [meaning Mugabe's government; the MDC still refuses to recognise Mugabe's electoral victory a year ago, claiming it was achieved through rigging, a word even the Commonwealth with all its many agendas has refrained from using in its discourse on Zimbabwe]."

Morgan continued: "The names of Emmerson Mnangagwa [the speaker of parliament highly tipped as a likely successor to Mugabe], and General Vitalis Zvinavashe [commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces] keep on coming up in this dirty plan which we are told was endorsed by Zanu PF, the British and the South Africans.

"We are, therefore, confronted with this unholy and strange triple alliance designed to neutralise the sovereign wishes of the people of Zimbabwe. The cutting edge is supposed to come in the form of a summit between Robert Mugabe and myself. I am reliably informed that Mugabe is prepared to meet with me somewhere outside the country to discuss his problems," Morgan told his hushed MPs.

Something new always come from Africa after all! Sounding tough and pretending to be his own man, Morgan emphasised that "the Anglo-South African plan" would not even take off if the aim was to legitimise Mugabe's government.

The next morning, the opposition newspaper, The Daily News (which is very pro-MDC), reported Col Dyke as confirming to the paper: "I went to see Tsvangirai last Friday (13 December). He said he and his party would vote for a change in the Constitution that would allow Mugabe to go peacefully and would not force elections for two years thereafter. I took this message back to [General] Zvinavashe."

Col Dyke was the former commander of the Rhodesian African Rifles. After Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, he was asked to command the country's first Parachute Battalion. The Daily News quoted him as saying further: "I would like to see a peaceful change in Zimbabwe, and, as such, the vehicle of Zanu PF should be used as part of a transition to a peaceful change."

Morgan's revelations made good headlines in Harare, but proved pretty uncomfortable for his chief foreign backers -- the British.

Diane Corner, Britain's deputy high commissioner in Harare, quickly put on her denying robes: "The British government has consistently made it clear that it wants to see a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe. It follows that we have no interest in 'neutralising the sovereign wishes of the people of Zimbabwe'. Indeed, it has been the central plank of British and European Union policy to see those wishes freely and fairly expressed through the democratic process."

This was a significant development. The denial aside (Britain would deny it as a matter of course, so no news there), why did Morgan choose to go public instead of making his misgivings quietly known to his principal foreign supporters? Imagine Britain working with Mugabe (forget South Africa) to dump Morgan in this "dirty plan" (Morgan's own words). It is a funny old world, our world.

It needed somebody with political nous like Dr. Mandaza to break Morgan's code. "He is talking about it because it is true. Morgan Tsvangirai is finished. He really is," Mandaza bravely declared.

Looking at it closely, Morgan's decision to go public was born out of the stark realisation that the end was nigh, especially when, as he claimed, the British were involved in the "dirty plan".

"He is not happy, but the British are even more unhappy with him," another Harare-based political commentator explained. "They have now realised that he cannot deliver, and they want a new man."

Already, there are speculations in Harare that a group of church leaders are being groomed by the West to take over from Morgan. They want them to form a "Christian" party to be fronted by the churches opposed to Mugabe, whose membership covers about 40% of the population.

Operating on the belief that "religion is the opium of the people" (apologies to Karl Marx), the foreign backers, according to the grape vine, are hoping that where Morgan and trade unionism failed, religion might do better, especially given the fact that Zimbabwe is such a strong church-going country.

According to the speculations, some church leaders have already been flying in and out of the country, lining up the finance and the necessary foreign support for the launch.

Which makes Morgan's revelation of "a dirty plan" endorsed by Britain in cahoots with Zanu-PF and South Africa to "neutralise the sovereign wishes of the people of Zimbabwe", a bit difficult to reconcile with the "grooming of the church leaders".

But if true, Morgan would not be the first, and certainly not the last, African "leader" to be so dumped by his foreign backers. The continent's post-independence history is replete with such spectacular "dumpings".

Again, if true, the British might be taking desperate pre-emptive measures as the greatest danger to Morgan's political ambitions is just around the corner in the shape of a treason trial that will make or break him.

This month (February), Morgan and two of his MDC colleagues -- Prof Welshman Ncube (secretary general of the party) and Ranson Gasela (the party's agricultural spokesman) -- will be arraigned before court in the treason trail regarding the Ben-Menashe video tape in which Morgan and the MDC allegedly hired Ari Ben-Menashe's Canadian-based political consultancy firm, Dickens & Madson, to arrange the assassination of President Mugabe ahead of last March's presidential elections (see New African, April 2002, p24-27).

After a year's delay due to the logjam of cases in the Zimbabwean legal system, the trial is finally expected to open this month. Barring any further delay, February is going to be a very exciting month in Harare.

"We can't wait," a top government official told New African. "We've been frustrated ourselves by the delay."

Which is quite contrary to the view of the opposition at home and abroad, which claims that the "treason charges were a political gimmick" contrived by the government to win votes for Mugabe in last March's presidential election.

When the news of the tape broke on 13 February last year, 12 days to the presidential election, it was roundly rubbished in the West (in both government and media circles). But the Australian TV station, SBS, which first broke the news by airing an edited version of the six-hour tape on 13 February, stuck to its guns. Morgan denied any wrongdoing and sued in Australia, but nothing was heard of the case.

The tape was recorded in Montreal, Canada, at the third meeting between Morgan and Dickens & Madson on 4 December 2001. "The meeting begins at approximately 8.53 am," the SBS reported. "This tape records continuously for six hours. Tsvangirai remains all day until about 2 pm in the offices of Dickens & Madson, and later shares the birthday cake of Ari Ben-Menashe."

Ben-Menashe (who later crossed the carpet to Mugabe's side) claimed that his company was promised US$500,000 and lucrative government contracts (when Tsvangirai came to power) to arrange the assassination of Mugabe, "because Tsvangirai did not think that he could win the presidential election."

"Rubbish", Morgan said. But in his vigorous denial, he admitted that he had in fact attended a meeting in Montreal but for fundraising purposes. The MDC, he added, had only "hired Dickens & Madson to help build the MDC's image abroad but mainly in North America where Mugabe was said to be winning the propaganda war through its lobbyist group, Cohen and Woods".

When asked on South African TV, SABC, if he had suspected at any given time that there was a recording taking place, Morgan retorted: "How can you suspect a company that you have hired yourself to be recording you? I mean, it's crazy. And on the question of assassination, how can you talk about assassination with a lobby group? Are they an assassination group or some Mafia? It's never occurred to me that such an issue would be relevant in that discussion."

Since then, journalists (including those on New African, and the British papers, The Guardian and The Sunday Times) who have had access to all six hours of tape have said it appears to be "very genuine". Mark Barkham of The Guardian, after seeing the unedited tape, reported that "there is no obvious sign that the sound or sequences have been tampered with". The Sunday Times agreed: "The tape revealed no sign of obvious doctoring. Scenes do not jump or appear out of sequence."

Despite rubbishing the tape when the news broke last February, the British authorities yet know of its highly incriminating nature, and the serious threat it poses to Morgan's political career. If his recent revelations about British involvement in a "dirty plan" to undo him is true, it may have come from a realisation by London that there was no virtue in waiting to be hit in the eye. "Permanent interests, not permanent friends" is the foundation stone of Western foreign policy. So why wait for the bad day, when you can find yourself a replacement now?

According to government sources in Harare, the prosecution in the treason trial does not have only the Ben-Menashe tape, but more besides, including an audio tape recorded by the country's Air Force commander, General Pretence Shiri, to back up its case in court.

The MDC is alleged to have sent a delegation to the home of General Phiri to recruit him into the coup against Mugabe. If true, it shows the utter naivety and political immaturity of the MDC.

Gen Shiri was one of the leading commanders of Zimbabwe's liberation war, a war which had land redistribution at its core. Having spent years in the bush with Mugabe forces, Shiri has risen to become one of the dyed in the wool Mugabe loyalists. To imagine that such a man would turn tail on the say-so of the MDC -- a party regarded by Zimbabwean nationalists as "a stooge of the British" -- beggars belief.

Not only that. To fix the meeting, Shiri is said to have been contacted on the phone by the MDC. Initially taken aback by the call, Shiri is said to have recovered quickly to demand that the meeting take place in his home and nowhere else. The MDC foolishly agreed, giving him time to set up his recording equipment. When the delegation arrived, they knew nothing of it, until it became an open secret last February (at the time of the Ben-Menashe tape) that Shiri had handed his tape over to the government immediately after the meeting.

All this -- combined with recent inside-fighting within the MDC and heavy losses in both local, and parliamentary by-elections -- has sent jitters through Morgan's local and foreign backers. Recently, the MDC even had to resort to strong-arm tactics to silence one of its own, the MP Munyaradzi Gwisai. He was expelled from the party for publicly lambasting the leadership for losing direction and for its intolerance to divergent views. So, the grass is not greener on the other side after all!

In Zimbabwe, like most countries, treason carries a death penalty. If found guilty, Morgan and his two colleagues might well receive presidential pardons from the man they so despise and save themselves an appointment with the hangman.

If found not guilty, Morgan would receive a major boost to his political career. But so far, the odds are staked high against him, and his political future lies delicately in the hands of the courts.

Zimbabwe: "A Conservative Government Would Never Have Done That"

by Baffour Ankomah

David Hasluck was the director of the CFU for 18 years -- from 1984 till 20 December 2002 when he finally left office. Last October, when meeting a visiting delegation of councillors from the New York City Council, Hasluck criticised Tony Blair's government for not recognising the colonial wrongs over land acquisition in Zimbabwe and, in the process, precipitating the current political and economic crisis in the country. Hasluck is special. According to his own assessment, he is not liked much in government circles in Harare. "Hasluck the Official is a hard man, he is quite different from Hasluck the Man," one government official told New African in Harare. Hasluck the Man is now left with just - just - 400 hectares of his 1,300-hectare farmland in Manicaland, on the border with Mozambique. 900 hectares of his land have been acquired by President Mugabe's government and distributed to landless blacks. But the Man says he is not bitter, rather he is helping his new black neighbours to settle down. "If my black neighbours are failing, I will fail too, believe me," he says. Very sweet. As Hasluck was clearing his desk on 20 December on his last day in office, our editor, Baffour Ankomah, caught up with him at the well appointed CFU headquarters in the sumptuous Harare suburb of Avondale. It was a historic interview, and another collector's item.

Baffour: I understand today is your last day in office, is that right?

Hasluck: Yes, I am going back to my farm, Manyera Farm, in the eastern district in a place called Burma Valley on the border with Mozambique. We grow many different crops and I am very proud of my cattle.

Baffour: I have been to the Burma Valley, it is a beautiful place. You go up the mountains and the valley spreads for miles down below. Gorgeous place.

Hasluck: Yes, God made this place, and hidden too.

Baffour: Does your going have anything to do with your remarks against Britain?

Hasluck: No, not really. There were people who sanctioned me for making those remarks. But my remarks were made in the context that my greatest concern as a Zimbabwean is the lack of diplomatic fulfilment and understanding between my country and Great Britain. Where people start shouting at each other as opposed to being able to engage and resolve issues is when we have problems. I continue to be concerned that the problems are deepening and the polarisation appears to be starker because of fundamental differences.

My remarks about Britain not understanding our historical heritage and not wishing to acknowledge it in respect of the land reform programme, was made in the context that when my president, Mugabe, personally went to Britain and met Tony Blair's new Labour government, I think it was during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Edinburgh, he wished to raise the land issue with the new Labour government, and he told me at the time that he felt he had not been well received. He was dismayed and angry about it. My then minister of agriculture, Kumbirai Kangai, who accompanied the president phoned me from Edinburgh and said that the president had not been well received by the British government.

Baffour: This was when?

Hasluck: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh was in, I think, 1996 or 1997.

Baffour: Tony Blair came to power in May 1997. The Commonwealth meeting in Edingburgh was in October 1997, I think.

Hasluck: OK, then that's right. It was during the CHOGM in Edinburgh. Blair's policy was this: "My new Labour government has a White Paper on bilateral relations and it is based on a number of principles that my government believes should be the basis for mutual co-operation between Great Britain and any other developing country". He laid down the principles: good governance, transparency, democracy, land reform programme being to the national benefit, a programme that would constitute development in terms of British analysis of what the programme was.

Our delegation, including the president, Mugabe, as far as I know put across to Tony Blair that in 1980 there was a Lancaster House agreement, that land was the issue that prevented the early settlement of the independence issue. There had to be outside facilitators to reconcile the different parties.

And Mugabe and his government's understanding was that Britain would fund the land reform programme, the scope of which was too large for Britain to fund alone. That there would be some international assistance from other Western nations, including the USA, and that we would go forward together. We did so.

During the first 10 years of independence, you will remember, the clauses affecting the appropriation of land and property were entrenched in the Lancaster Constitution, and if the government wanted to compulsorily take land it had to pay compensation in the currency or currencies of the landowner's choice. There was three million hectares of land bought on the willing seller, willing buyer basis.

Baffour: So where did it go wrong?

Hasluck: Things started getting difficult in this country in 1995 because by now my president, Mugabe, had seen that the land reform programme had not gone on as quickly as his government had hoped. So he made an extraordinary decision, in my opinion, together with his ZANU-PF party, to take the land issue out of the institution of government and make it a party issue. This was very distressing for commercial farmers. We had worked well with the government. To them, there was never enough land available. But we always said there was as much land available as they had money to buy, that finance was a constraint. That was why the government maintained that the British didn't fund the land programme adequately.

Back in '97 and '98, there was a major intergovernmental (British and Zimbabwean governments) review of the land reform programme. I don't think either party was very enthusiastic about how successful it had been. It needed more impetus, and more new people involved in increasing productivity rather than just transferring land.

In 1997, when the vital decision to make the land reform programme a party project was taken, a lot of farms were listed for compulsory acquisition in terms of the now amended Land Acquisition Act that allows the government to take land without paying compensation.

We obviously did not like the idea of having so much land taken so quickly because as far as we could see, there was no prospect for it being paid for in good time. But the political spin was that if they threatened to take it, and the international community including the British saw that the Zimbabwean government was serious, they would come up with some more resources.

There were a lot of difficulties because many farmers, including myself, didn't know that our farms were going to be acquired until the list was published.

Baffour: Was your farm acquired?

Hasluck: My farm was listed for compulsory acquisition in the first listing. I was always of the opinion that if there was going to be a good solution, it had to be done by Zimbabweans together - farmers, government and civic society. I went with the government delegation to London to try and persuade the British that we could have a joint position, that we wanted fair compensation in a reasonable time.

Baffour: This was in 2000?

Hasluck: No, it was in 1999. Just prior to that, we had a donors' conference here in Harare in September 1998. I was involved in it. Together with my friends in government, we drew up a very comprehensive document showing the scope of a reform programme over five million hectares of land chosen where the government wanted it as opposed to where farmers wanted it. We estimated the whole programme to cost US$2 billion. About 46 countries attended the donors' conference. There were pledges of support for the principles, but there was some reticence by donors to give money before they saw capacity to do such a massive programme. In short, things didn't go very well after the donors' conference.

Baffour: Why?

Hasluck: There was this unfortunate rankling, unfortunate and I say that, with people in the press here where some people were arrested for writing a story about the possibility of a coup. And instead of focussing on the major issue of land reform, the question of press freedom became the dominant issue for donors and Western governments. Those sensitive human rights issues tended to dissuade potential contributors to the land programme, particularly the Scandinavian and European countries. There was the commitment but they were asking "what's this?"

Our union, the CFU, worked hard. We spent quite a lot of money on some pilot projects to show how land reform could be done successfully on commercial farms. The government was not particularly keen on private sector initiatives, they wanted a massive national land reform programme.

The issue became politicised and very entrenched. When the 2000 constitutional referendum in which the amendments to the constitution and the provisions for the government to acquire land failed, the president said, "well, we will continue with our existing constitution".

But in April of that year, on the last day of parliament, they amended Provisions Section 16 that dealt with property, and said that rural agricultural land that was compulsorily acquired for resettlement would not be paid for. No compensation for the land but the government would pay for the improvements on the land. Compensation was the responsibility of the former colonial power, they said. And it comes back to my first point: "Because we believe that this land was taken from our forefathers without compensation and it was often violently, and there has been no recognition of this by the colonial power, the British must live with this responsibility."

Baffour: And yet, you and the CFU went to court?

Hasluck: We did. But the recent fast track approach, the Chave Chimurenga [the government's new slogan meaning "Now, It's War"] is a revolution not constrained by the law. I went to court in the interest of our members. We went to the Supreme Court, and we won initially on the basis that there was a requirement for the government to have a proper programme that was published so everybody could see who the beneficiaries were.

We won on that. But there was a reform in the Supreme Court, new judges and a new chief justice were appointed. The new chief justice who was also the chairman of the Constitutional Commission told me, during the appeal that was heard in December 2001: "Mr Hasluck, you can win in law every time but my court is going to deal with matters relating to land in the context of what I see to be social justice, and I have every reason to believe that, that is what we can expect from the Court, not references to precedents set in Roman Dutch Law. The Court will look at a new approach and come out with what I see to be justice to redress the iniquities of the past and restore what was taken from people for nothing."

You will appreciate that for me as a commercial farmer, it was difficult to deal with my business in a predictable way. But these are facts!

Baffour: Social justice, it is a fair concept, isn't it?

Hasluck: I don't think fairness was the issue here. What people say and what is happening on the ground are two different things, and that is the issue. But if we are Zimbabweans living on a continuum of history, these are issues we have to address not by going to court, but trying to see a way forward. That is why I was critical of the British for stating their policy. "This is the policy," they said. But the reality is something different. And to say that we have a policy and we expect everybody to comply with it, irrespective of the reality back on my farm, is a failure!

There is a disconnection between Africa and Europe. We don't have a lovely European Union and a Common Agricultural Policy that look after us all in times of need. It's not like that here. European farmers farm for themselves, but if my black neighbours are failing, I will fail too, believe me. Because you can't have success here and failure there, and think that we are just going to be happy together. It's not true.

Baffour: The "failure" of British policy, what do you mean exactly?

Hasluck: The failure, I will tell you. President Mugabe said to me: "Mr Hasluck, I don't understand why you as white commercial farmers are not supporting me in getting money from the British to pay you compensation." Well, why did we have to do that? I will tell you. We had been asked by a World Bank/IMF team our opinion as the Commercial Farmers Union about some policies they had for Zimbabwe. And I gave a candid opinion. And the government said: "How can you deal with this issue when these institutions are dealing with the government, not with you individually?"

So I said to President Mugabe, we have not openly expressed support for your attempts to get compensation from Britain because we have learnt to our cost that we rely on our government to negotiate and deal with international issues on behalf of the nation. If we go as individuals and start saying this and that, we give the impression that we are a nation divided. And I won't do that! We rely on you, you have a diplomatic service, I go every year to the diplomatic school to brief people - all our ambassadors, the Central Intelligence Organisation chiefs, etc - on the political realities of the land reform programme, and they know very well how to express this to the British. They must do so in a manner that is convincing enough to persuade them that there is some merit in the land reform programme.

Baffour: Well said, but everybody knows that the British support the white farmers here. So if the CFU had put in a word, even behind closed doors, it could have made a difference in London, surely Mr Hasluck.

Hasluck: The British government has consistently been canvassed by CFU presidents on what to do, behind closed doors. But the policy is there in Britain, and the history is here in Zimbabwe. And now the history has got in front of the policy. And you can see that Zimbabwe now produces one-third of what it produced three years ago. That is the reality.

And the tragedy is that white commercial farmers are not in business to any great extent, and the new settlers are not farming either to the extent that they could have. So there is a big vacuum. And I insist that the problem was due to a diplomatic failure, in that they were not able to engage each other on the basis of give-and-take on both sides. This issue didn't have to develop into something to cause an impact in the Southern African region for some years to come.

Baffour: So you still stand by your remarks that the diplomatic failure by the Blair government in not recognising the history of land acquisition in Zimbabwe...

Hasluck: [cuts in] ...Yes, the Labour government does not. The Conservative government, oh yeah, I mean listen to what Lord Carrington is saying: "Of course there were some commitments at Lancaster House. It is a question of how we deal with them." But the new Labour government says: "No, we don't deal unless you deal with our White Paper and five principles". Now those are good principles for everybody after all. But they are not damn good to anybody if they are not working and are causing a crisis of the magnitude that we now see in our country.

And you will think that the diplomatic failure to pre-empt this, I mean we are internationally sanctioned now, our leaders are internationally sanctioned largely - you know, the elections are one thing - they are sanctioned largely because of the approach on land which started all the other things.

And I insist that if there had been a better approach to deal with the issue, to get engaged, I mean, I was looking at my file, we have this very Abuja thing, we have South Africa, Mbeki and Obasanjo being asked to bring us into the fold. Why? These people are not our shepherds. We need to have a good solution. Diplomatically, everything is conditional now. You do this, we do that.

Baffour: Did you see the letter written by Claire Short, the British international development minister, to the Zimbabwean government on 5 November 1997 repudiating British responsibility for colonial wrongs in Zimbabwe?

Hasluck: Yes, and it's what I am referring to. It is the spark that precipitated this conviction in the mind of my president, Mugabe, that the British government was not going to fulfil its obligations.

Baffour: Did the CFU get back to the British government when this letter was brought to your attention?

Hasluck: No, I have explained, because you cannot get back to the British government like that.

Baffour: Why? Not even through your informal channels?

Hasluck: No. We've said all along to the British: "Everybody in the world thinks that your policy and principles are very good. But for Zimbabwe, where you settle a dispute that went on from 1965 to 1980 on the basis of a Lancaster House constitution with some assurances on land, to write a letter like that, sort of reneges on what those historic, I mean when this country gained its independence, the leaders who achieved it, Robert Mugabe was a famous man internationally, he was seen as a person who had reconciled the people and motivated the economy.

If you look at the 1990 edition of Time magazine's Review, there is an article by me saying, "this is the first 10 years since 1900 that where I live in the east of Zimbabwe we have total peace and tranquillity and support from our government." Yes, there were some problems in Mozambique, but my government sent troops to protect my farming operation from border raids. And we had established some good reputation, I mean we had the Harare Declaration on Human Rights here.

Claire Short is a tough lady. And when you think that you cannot dictate policy and try to superimpose that over what is the reality and a firm belief in the minds of the people of my country here; look, my grandfather was a colonialist, he came here in 1893, and he did bad things I am sure, in terms of dispossessing [people of their land] and being a miner and a speculator and all those things. But I can't live with the sins of my father and my forefathers, but I can acknowledge the reality. And these were part of a British plan to colonise this part of Africa. Cecil Rhodes had huge publicity, I mean he was an icon in his era, a successful politician-entrepreneur who was going to go from Cape to Cairo in the interest of the British Empire. And to say that there is no history regarding the land?

Baffour: In short, Claire Short's approach was a bad one.

Hasluck: It was not a sensitive, diplomatic way. I believe a Conservative government would never have done that.

Baffour: Do you put it down then to immaturity, because Claire Short and Tony Blair had been in office for barely seven months, May to November 1997?

Hasluck: Look, I am a farmer, I know about farming, I don't know about politics. But I do know that where I come from, in Manyika politics in Manicaland, we are sensitive to other people's views, to the history, everything has to be understood by the parties involved.

Claire Short knows them well, that there was a land issue at Lancaster House, how can she write a letter like that and expect to go forward? The rightness of the principles is not the issue, the question is trying to get together, not confrontation.

Baffour: Do many white farmers share your views?

Hasluck: Our Union is like any gathering of people. I sincerely believe that the majority of our members share this view. There are others though who are of the view that we just have to go to court and demand our rights. And I have no doubt that if that was the course the Union pursued in the future, it would help nobody.

Baffour: Your country, Zimbabwe, has become a byword for stigmatisation. Does it affect the business of white farmers?

Hasluck: Of course.

Baffour: In which way?

Hasluck: My international lines of credit are no more. I can no longer borrow in foreign exchange. There is no facility for me, we have to get special permission to raise funds offshore for new projects. This position is not tenable anymore.

Baffour: In effect, the international strangulation of the country is not affecting only the government?

Hasluck: White farmers, in terms of numbers, are insignificant in Zimbabwe. I find it amusing that white farmers are accused of being the backbone of the opposition when in the last presidential election, there were five million black voters and only 4,000 white farmers. It is not true that we have high influence to get people to vote for the opposition.

Baffour: They say the white farmers provided the funds.

Hasluck: Well, let me assure you of one thing. This Union never gave any political party one cent. Never. Not even Ian Smith. He never got any money from us.

Baffour: But individual members, individual white farmers?

Hasluck: Yeah, some farmers supported the opposition. I know that in the 1990s and certainly in the 1980s, everybody supported ZANU-PF. Is it reasonable to punish people politically for expressing their views? I don't think so. And I think the support of white farmers was exaggerated.

Baffour: So, the CFU is split, as you say. There are progressives like you who want a second look at your relationship with the government, and others who still want to go the hard way through the courts. Is that right?

Hasluck: Well, there was a time in the beginning of this year [2002] before and during the presidential election when a ginger group, not the whole organisation but a group of like-minded white farmers in and outside the Union, joined together and started a movement called Justice for Agriculture to deal, they said, "only in the truth" [he laughs sarcastically]. "We will only deal with the law," they said, "and we will prosecute every transgression that we have suffered, so we can be seen to be righteous. And all these iniquities of farm invasions and violence and so on that have been perpetrated against our members will be dealt with some day in the future when there would be a day of reckoning."

Look, I have no problem with the notion that we need to be more law-abiding citizens. And we need to take recourse where we can create stability through the use of the law and use the law as an independent arbiter. But there is no point, in reality, no matter how you believe in the law, to go to court and ask for something that you are not going to get. Because the Chave Chimurenga is not about the law and the courts, it is about the revolution and the historic rights that Claire Short says she doesn't acknowledge. That's why we've got problems here.

The Justice for Agriculture movement did get some support for taking this position. I think the CFU is less split now. When I resigned, I had to chair the election of the presidency and...

Baffour: [cuts in] ...Why did you resign?

Hasluck: Because I have more important things to do back on the farm now. I have new settlers who have to be made successful. I can't afford to be in a union where there are fundamental differences - by definition, union means togetherness.

Baffour: So your resignation has nothing to do with your anti-British remarks?

Hasluck: Now look, I want to be fully accountable for what I said. I believe in what I said, and I believe it is right. But that I will resign as a leading executive of this Union for something that I said, no, no, no. I have tried to leave the Union in a unified basis. We have a president, and vice president from Matabeleland, so they can have a more constructive approach. I believe I have deepened and strengthened the commitment of our members to have a dialogue. I hope so.

Baffour: How do the members who don't share your views see you? Do they think you are selling out?

Hasluck: Oh, they are entitled to their views. Yeah. There are some radical people who might think so, but selling out to whom? How can you sell out to your own country? If we are going to survive as Zimbabweans and as farmers here, we've got to be on our farms farming. In my community, in Burma Valley, every farmer is there. Here in Mashonaland, maybe 5% . Because we believe that we've got to make concessions, and we've got to get through the political process to understand what is required.

Baffour: Looking at the future, if you were asked to advise on the way forward, to bring about an understanding between the British and Zimbabwean governments, what would be your advice?

Hasluck: My advice has always been to use skilful diplomats, and that is what I continue to appeal for. I acted for my government for many years as a trade negotiator, I enjoyed working with the ministers of this government, I did my best in the national interest, not in the interest of the CFU. But the government now thinks Hasluck is a bad bugger. I don't know why Jonathan Moyo [minister of information] wants to rubbish me. I always tried to serve the national interest here. I also have a problem with Joseph Made [minister for lands and agriculture]. He won't speak to me.

Baffour: He won't?

Hasluck: No, no. Well, he doesn't speak to too many people.

Baffour: But from the outside, you are seen as a progressive man. Not many white farmers will say what you've said to me today. So why won't Moyo and Made speak to you?

Hasluck: I am very glad to hear that, progressive white farmer? But you must ask the government why they won't speak to me. I don't know. In the 1980s when Robert Mugabe was the prime minister, I used to go and have a cup of tea with him. Now, there are some bad people in this government, I tell you. Mugabe has the record of being a leader, a skilful leader, but he has got some bad buggers here who, I am sure, are doing what he doesn't expect of them. And this is a problem for him and for me and for Zimbabwe.

Baffour: It's been reported in Britain that white farmers who are sympathetic to the government are left alone, while the others lose their farms. Is that true?

Hasluck: It is much more complicated than that.

Baffour: There is also a school of thought which says white farmers could have played the land issue better, especially in the years when the government went slow on land reform, before it exploded.

Hasluck: Yeah, you know, you always have 20-20 vision with hindsight. And of course, one would have played it differently if there was the inevitability of what has now happened. But in my opinion, it wasn't a question of giving more, it became a complicated political issue because of the failure of diplomacy.

Baffour: So, in effect, the white farmers could have played it much better.

Hasluck: Jeez, you are quite persistent at getting back to the question. No, it is not a question of farmers. Because the question of colonialism was now going to be dealt with politically, because it was not acknowledged, what we could offer was never enough because it wouldn't assuage the wrongs that were not being recognised by the former colonial power. Does that make sense?

Baffour: Sure, but I am looking at the period between 1980 and 1997, before Blair came into office. Couldn't the white farmers have done more to prevent what we see today.

Hasluck: Well, I wrote a plan that was published in 1991 showing how we could develop together. We needed to be more integrated, to have a commercial sector that was colour blind. I tried to promote it, our members were not quite supportive. To the government, it was not really an issue, land policy was not an issue. So the answer is I don't know.

Baffour: Well, let's look at the future. Will the country survive the current international strangulation choking it to death?

Hasluck: It is going to be tough, but we will manage. We still have some unity of purpose in the Southern African region. Our neighbours don't like our economic policy because it is distorting their trade. People accuse me of having said Mbeki should throw us a lifeline and that Zimbabwe should not be sanctioned by South Africa. They say "why did you say that". I say how could that be? South Africa should turn off the power and not supply fuel, to change what? If you think that will make Zimbabwe to surrender, you are quite wrong. They don't understand our people and the nature of this government. They will just get tougher.

And I certainly don't approve of the notion that some other person should come here and change our government for us. Where is democracy? People run elections, some run good ones, some bad ones. But we want to have a government that has been elected, we don't want one that has been changed.

Baffour: You are leaving office today as director of the CFU. In effect, this interview is quite historic. What's your farewell message for your country and its people?

Hasluck: We must set individual interests and partisanship aside. We must act in the national interest for our country. Because united we stand, divided we fall.