Commercial Farmers Union president Colin Cloete said after several meetings with government officials he was now convinced that it was Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, and not Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, who was in control of the negotiations.
Cloete said there was a clear sense of Made’s subservience to Moyo’s declarations at those meetings.
Viewing cable 03HARARE356, CFU Update on Negotiations with GOZ
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000356
STATE FOR AF/S AND AF/EX
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
¶E. O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: CFU Update on Negotiations with GOZ
Ref: a) Harare 239; b) Cape Town 76
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING.
¶1. (SBU) Summary. Laboff met with Commercial Farmers Union
(CFU) president Colin Cloete to discuss the ongoing
negotiations between the farmers’ group and the GOZ.
Despite official claims that the two groups are in accord,
the CFU reports that the two sides remain fundamentally
divided on many issues. The GOZ wants its ownership of the
seized 11 million hectares acknowledged as a fait accompli;
the farmers want their title deeds honored. The GOZ wants
farmers to “release” their farming equipment for the use of
the newly-settled farmers, (ref a); the farmers want to
retain their equipment (much of which is still mortgaged,
all of which was individually purchased) for their own use
when they return to their own property. Despite the clear
standoff between the two parties at the national level,
farmers are being approached on the ground and offered
various deals by the local authorities to get them to
produce food. Still, many farmers — burnt by previous bad-
faith deals — remain wary, and others are simply
uninterested in returning to farming without a fundamental
shift in Zimbabwe policies. End summary.
¶2. (SBU) At a recent meeting, Cloete reported that GOZ
attempts to paint a rosy picture of accord between itself
and the CFU on the land resettlement program are completely
without basis. Still, despite the absolutist language in
the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) published by the
GOZ-controlled newspaper, ref a, Cloete believes that the
GOZ is desperately aware of its precarious position in
relation to food security. In any event, the two sides
remain miles apart on almost all issues.
¶3. (SBU) In the MOU, the GOZ stated as its opening position
that the 11 million hectares seized (approximately 97% of
the land previously owned by white commercial farmers) was
“STATE LAND” which would never revert to private ownership.
However, after a subsequent meeting on returning skilled
farmers to production between the CFU and the Minister of
Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement Joseph Made, the GOZ
seemed to back off from its initial position. At the outset
of that meeting, Made stated that ownership of the land by
the GOZ and its occupancy by resettled farmers were “non-
negotiable.” In response, Cloete and his deputies replied,
“Then there is nothing to negotiate,” closed their
notebooks, and walked out of the meeting.
¶4. (SBU) Cloete later received a call from the minister who
asked if the CFU members would consider a 35-year lease on
their own lands; receiving a negative response, Made asked
if a 99-year lease would be acceptable. Cloete responded
that the sanctity of title deeds, and thus acknowledged
ownership of the land, was non-negotiable from the farmers’
perspective, and that leases (without full compensation for
seized property) would never satisfy dispossessed farmers or
entice them to return to production. According to Cloete,
after these opening positions were stated, no further
meetings have taken place. The MOU has not been signed, and
the highly publicized “cooperation” between the GOZ and the
CFU — cited by Nigerian president Obasanjo, as well as
Foreign Minister Zuma of South Africa (ref b), as a sound
basis for lifting sanctions against Zimbabwe — remains
¶5. (SBU) Cloete also reports that the GOZ seems as
distanced as ever from the situation on the ground. For
instance, the Lands Committee in the Wedze area, a rich
farming region southeast of Harare, recently approached
between 15 and 18 commercial farmers in that area and
appealed to them to return to production for “the good of
the nation.” Of that number, only 3 are actually producing.
Similar appeals have in the past two years resulted in
farmers planting crops on the basis of an oral assurance
that they would be allowed to reap, only to be dispossessed
by war vets and settlers shortly before harvest time. Based
on previous experience, farmers remain wary about planting
without a nationwide return to rule of law, or at least
without local written guarantees that they will be allowed
to harvest their crops. Asked about the coordination
between Minister Made and the local Lands Committee in such
an appeal, Cloete responded that he greatly doubted if the
Minister was aware that the local authorities were
attempting to cut deals with the farmers.
¶6. (SBU) In fact, Cloete was convinced that Minister of
Information Jonathan Moyo — and not the Minister of Lands,
Agriculture and Resettlement Joseph Made — was actually in
control of the negotiations between Made and the CFU.
Cloete based his belief on the personal interactions between
the two ministers at his latest series of meetings, as well
as a clear sense of Made’s subservience to Moyo’s
declarations at those meetings.
¶7. (SBU) When asked what he saw as the best way forward for
the commercial farmers, Cloete was unwilling to speculate on
political solutions. Rather, he seemed to believe that
actually getting the farmers to return to production — even
in the absence of political accommodations — was vital.
Referring to the situation in Wedze, Cloete stated that he
would like to see six or seven farmers return, grow crops,
and help address the food security situation. If they were
successful, then perhaps another six or seven would return;
later another six or seven, and so on.
¶8. (SBU) However, Cloete acknowledged that this would only
help if the GOZ refrained from its continued attempts to
seize and establish its own ownership of the property in
question. He saw several pre-requisites to the return of
farmers in a productive capacity. The first is a guarantee
of personal security for farmers on their property. The
second is a return to law and order on the ground,
demonstrated by police support in confrontational situations
rather than a routine and dismissive response that “we can’t
help, this is political,” and clearly differentiated from an
ephemeral return to the “rule of law.” The third is a
respect for title deeds; the fourth, availability of
financing for the upcoming crop. The last prerequisite is
the availability of a motivated labor force. As reported
septel, many farmers — even those who nurtured good
relationships with their labor force — are wary of placing
their trust in workers who have demanded the payment of
financially crippling severance packages and, in some cases,
participated in looting their employers’ property.
¶9. (SBU) Cloete remains unsure as to how best proceed with
negotiations with the GOZ. He realizes that negotiation is
risky, but he knows that without negotiation the farmers
have no hope of returning to the land in time to make a
difference for Zimbabwe’s food crisis. Cloete believes that
some commercial farmers must be in place and producing by
the 2003/2004 growing season, or Zimbabwe may slide into an
abyss which will not be remedied for generations. Cloete
realizes that the CFU has been thrown a lifeline by the
GOZ’s need to have others — the EU, the Commonwealth, the
USG — see some effort at breaking the current impasse, but
he seems uncertain on how best to capitalize on the
increased international attention to the destruction of
commercial farming in his homeland. End comment.