CFU’s attempt to derail land reform

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THE recent announcement by the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), a body representing exclusively former white farmers, that the country is facing a deficit of at least 400 000 metric tonnes of maize must be understood in the context of the organisation’s attempts to derail the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme.
The CFU has been vehemently opposed to the Land Reform Programme as the majority of its members lost the revered asset in the redistribution exercise.
It has tried to get the land indigenisation exercise reversed.
This week CFU together with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) produced an ‘independent’ maize assessment that said there will be shortages.
But a latest crop assessment report produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development shows that the country harvested adequate maize this year.
The Minister Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Dr Joseph Made this week rubbished the CFU’s claims saying the organisation was driven by the desire to undermine the Land Reform Programme.
“The CFU’s mission is to always undermine the Land Reform Programme and they have their own agenda,” said Dr Made.
“Let’s not waste time on detractors.”
There are several reasons why the CFU and its partners have taken the position to dismiss Government projections.
The CFU is bitter over the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme.
As such any prospects of a bumper harvest in the country puts paid their hopes of remaining relevant in the country’s political and economic affairs at a time there is an attempt between Zimbabwe and the West to find each other through the re-engagement process.
It should be remembered that the CFU has taken the Government of Zimbabwe to court several times over the Land Reform Programme.
A few years ago High Court judge Justice Bharat Patel ruled that the Land Reform Programme was constitutional after 77 CFU members took Government to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal to challenge the acquisition of ‘their’ farms.
While the SADC Tribunal in Windhoek ruled in favour of the farmers, Justice Patel stated in a ruling on January 26 2010 that the decision of the Tribunal could not be enforced in Zimbabwe because the Land Reform Programme was a matter of ‘public policy’ and therefore served the ‘public good’.
The Tribunal was duly disbanded after Harare raised dust on its composition and fairness.
But that would not deter the CFU whose members proceeded to South African courts.
This decision to approach South African courts was intended to cause some diplomatic tiff between the two nations after the courts there took the view that the land reform was based on the disregard for the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
The South African courts further ruled that the Land Reform Programme was ‘racially discriminatory’, ignoring the bigger issue of public policy and the expectations of the majority population and the reason for the liberation war, as Joram Nyathi noted in The Herald in June.
Now the CFU has taken a completely new route in their opposition to the Land Reform Programme.
They are resorting to calling for compensation and dismissing the success of farmers who replaced them.
In April last year, the CFU lamented the ‘collapse’ of the once productive agricultural sector which was triggered by various factors attributable to the wholesale expropriation of land without compensation.
But how soon these people forget.
During the Lancaster House Conference, one of the commitments made was that the United States (US) would provide funds for the land redistribution programme under the willing buyer-willing seller scheme.
This was after the talks had almost broken down due to the land issue when President Robert Mugabe and the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo had threatened to walk out of the talks over the issue because they felt Britain was not giving blacks a fair deal over the land question.
However, one US stipulation was the aid programme would run under the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF).
This did not, however, happen as the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did not establish the Fund as required and her successor, the Labour government followed suit.
To add salt to injury, Britain also refused to renew its pledge to buy out white farmers off the land when the 10-year Lancaster clause expired in 1990.
John Major, Thatcher’s successor seemed to be willing to solve the problem when he had dialogue with Zimbabwe over the land issue.
This was followed by his sending of an Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) team to Zimbabwe in 1996 to assess the First Phase of the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme.
The visit exposed the hypocrisy of Britain and its reluctance to honour its mandatory obligations of funding and pursuing the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme together with ZANU PF.
This marked the first political confrontation between Britain and Zimbabwe after the former had claimed that they had stopped further funding of the exercise under the pretext that President Mugabe was giving land to his ‘cronies’ and political allies and that there was no movement taking in the implementation of the programme when it was in actual fact their intransigence that had caused this anomaly.
So what compensation are they talking about when their people refused to honour their pledges?
Efforts to talk to CFU officials did not yield results as they refused to entertain The Patriot crew.

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