Can black and white farmers join forces?

That was the question United States embassy officials asked eight years ago. It can still be asked today.

The question was raised after reports that the Commercial Farmers Union which represented white farmers who were being driven off the land and the Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union which was benefitting from the land reform programme were holding talks either to merge or at least to work closely together.

The CFU had the technical skills while the ICFU had the numbers and the ear of the government though both claimed that they were apolitical.

The CFU which had 4 500 before the land reform programme was now down to 600 members. Eighteen white farmers had decided to join the ICFU on their own.

Here are some of the reasons why CFU president Doug Taylor-Freeme thought the CFU could support the merger:

  • CFU and ICFU members were both farmers and businessmen, sharing similar interests for better-functioning markets;
  • He could not hope to lobby more effectively on behalf of an-ever shrinking number of active farmers;
  • Speaking the local language and having spent his whole life in Zimbabwe, Taylor-Freeme wanted to go nowhere else;
  • He placed a priority on saving Zimbabwe's final 600 white-owned farms rather than seeking restitution for the approximately 3 400 already dispossessed - many of whom had emigrated;
  • And although many dispossessed farmers, especially Justice for Agriculture members, pinned their hopes on fair compensation for land, equipment and homes, Taylor-Freeme doubted they would ever see fair compensation in their lifetimes.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 04HARARE849, Can Black and White Farmers Join Forces?

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE849

2004-05-19 14:09

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

191409Z May 04

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000849

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

STATE FOR AF/S

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER

USDOC FOR AMANDA HILLIGAS

TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW

PASS USTR FLORIZELLE LISER

STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON, ERIC LOKEN

 

E. O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ECON EAID EAGR EINV PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: Can Black and White Farmers Join Forces?

 

 

1. (SBU) Summary: Zimbabwe's mostly white Commercial

Farmers Union (CFU) and mostly black Indigenous

Commercial Farmers Union (ICFU) have been holding

informal discussions that could - one day - lead to a

merger. Although there is much on both sides that might

sidetrack this process, it could prove a significant new

twist in Zimbabwe's racially-charged land debates. End

summary.

 

Tale of Two Unions

------------------

2. (SBU) The two farmer bodies have been heading speedily

in opposite directions. Since only about 600 white

Zimbabweans are still farming, the CFU has shrunk

dramatically since 2000; meanwhile, land redistribution

has swelled the ICFU's ranks to perhaps 20,000 black

commercial (referred to as A2) beneficiaries of land

reform. Yet the CFU still has a vastly superior

technical and administrative infrastructure.

 

3. (SBU) On several occasions, ICFU President Davison

Mugabe and General Secretary Wilson Nyabonda told us they

wanted a single multiracial union for all commercial

farmers. They expressed hope that the CFU would

eventually agree to a merger, or at least that some white

farmers would begin to join ICFU on their own. Over the

past year, in fact, 18 white farmers have broken ranks

and enlisted in ICFU, which seeks to de-emphasize its

indigenous origins and rename itself the Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU). Mugabe and Nyabonda

admitted ICFU members would benefit immeasurably from CFU

expertise.

 

CFU Leadership Ponders a Radical Move

-------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Until now, the CFU has resisted any ICFU

overtures. Given its dwindling membership, the CFU is

afraid the larger body would simply gobble it up. Some

CFU members would not want to align with land reform

beneficiaries, who have settled on white-owned farms

without due process or compensation. A main plank of the

CFU has been lobbying against, and of the ICFU

encouraging, land reform. Still, both associations claim

to be nonpolitical.

 

5. (SBU) Nonetheless, CFU President Doug Taylor-Freeme

now tells us he has been holding informal talks with the

ICFU's Mugabe. Taylor-Freeme is considering a proposal

to his board for a closer association and potential

merger with the ICFU. The CFU President recognizes he

would be leading his association down a radical path,

that he would antagonize many CFU members. He admitted

that white farmers from the more militant Justice for

Agriculture (JAG) would view this gesture as the ultimate

capitulation.

 

Why the CFU Could Support It

----------------------------

6. (SBU) Taylor-Freeme's pro-merger arguments are as

follows. CFU and ICFU members are both farmers and

businessmen, sharing similar interests for better-

functioning markets. He cannot hope to lobby more

effectively on behalf of an-ever shrinking number of

active farmers. Speaking the local language and having

spent his whole life in Zimbabwe, Taylor-Freeme wants to

go nowhere else. He places a priority on saving

Zimbabwe's final 600 white-owned farms (and an additional

500 where the white family no longer farms but still

remains on the land) rather than seeking restitution for

the approximately 3,400 already dispossessed - many of

whom have emigrated. Although many dispossessed farmers,

especially JAG members, pin their hopes on fair

compensation for land, equipment and homes, Taylor-Freeme

doubts they will ever see fair compensation in their

lifetimes.

 

7. (SBU) From the closer association, Taylor-Freeme wants

GOZ land acquisitions to end, preserving the final 600

white farms. The GOZ, CFU and ICFU would work together

to resettle new farmers from the other 500 farms still

occupied by whites, enabling former farmers to begin work

again. This would mean 1,100 active white-owned farms,

down from a pre-land reform 4,500. In return, Taylor-

Freeme would make all CFU resources available to ICFU

members and put structures in place for white farmers to

assist indigenous counterparts.

 

Comment

-------

8. (SBU) Taylor-Freeme, who will be in Washington May 28-

June 9 for the World Farmers Congress, has his work cut

out for him trying to sell the proposal to the CFU. He

is more farmer than polished lobbyist. Taylor-Freeme

also seeks to strengthen the hand of GOZ moderates -

particularly Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Lands

Minister John Nkomo - who are encouraging him to move in

this direction. In fact, the GOZ's so-called Utete

Commission report proposes a single commercial farmer

body. GOZ hardliners probably prefer the departure of

all remaining white farmers. Taylor-Freeme is aware that

the CFU's hand is far stronger now than it will be in two

year's time, after more of his technical staff will have

departed and the GOZ will have expropriated more farms.

 

9. (SBU) The Embassy, on friendly terms with the

leaderships of both farm associations, will encourage

this dialogue. We recognize that a voluntary CFU-ICFU

alliance or merger would not go down well with certain

white and black Zimbabweans. It presupposes, perhaps

dubiously, that the GOZ will sign on to a negotiated

compromise that reaffirms the status of some white

farmers. But we believe it makes sense for Zimbabwe to

find a way to retain whatever white farmer skills it can

at this late stage, while recognizing that the country

will not return to the pre-land reform status quo.

 

Sullivan

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