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White farmers wanted US$20 billion compensation to end land dispute

The Commercial Farmers Union was prepared to accept a US$20 billion compensation package to end the land dispute in Zimbabwe which had rocked the country for more than a decade but Agriculture Minister Joseph Made felt that US$1.5 billion was more than enough.

According to a cable released by Wikileaks Trevor Gifford, president of the Commercial Farmer’s Union, requested a meeting with United States ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGhee on 15 April 2009, just two months after the formation of the inclusive government, to discuss a shift in strategy his organization was adopting regarding seized and threatened commercial farms in Zimbabwe.

Gifford said the CFU now wanted compensation of up to US$20 billion because his organisation felt that by making the issue compensation-based, rather than property-rights based, farmers stood a chance of taking the emotion out of the discussion and finding common ground with President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF leaders.

Gifford also said that two-thirds of the commercial farmers he represented no longer wanted to farm and were only seeking compensation.

The CFU had met Agricultural Minister Joseph Made who acknowledged that government had a responsibility to compensate farmers for land improvements but he thought US$1.5 billion was a more appropriate figure.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 09HARARE333, COMMERCIAL FARMERS IN ZIMBABWE SEEK COMPENSATION

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE333

2009-04-21 13:22

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO5124

OO RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0333/01 1111322

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 211322Z APR 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4406

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 2787

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 2907

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1352

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2172

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2537

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2955

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5396

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2081

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000333

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR MICHELLE GAVIN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/21/2019

TAGS: PGOV PREL EAGR PHUM ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: COMMERCIAL FARMERS IN ZIMBABWE SEEK COMPENSATION

FOR SEIZED FARMS

 

Classified By: Ambassador James D. McGee for reason 1.4 (d)

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Trevor Gifford, president of the Commercial Farmer’s

Union (CFU), met with the Ambassador on April 15 to discuss a

shift in strategy his organization is adopting regarding

seized and threatened commercial farms in Zimbabwe. The

CFU’s new position is to seek compensation of up to US$20

billion for commercial farmers who have been victimized by

Zimbabwe’s chaotic land reform program. The idea may appeal

to both MDC and ZANU-PF officials who recognize that the land

issue is a hurdle to renewed investment. All parties

recognize that the money would have to come from

international sources, an extremely unlikely development.

Meanwhile, recent violence and disruptions at farms spurred

an investigation and site visits by Deputy Prime Minister

Mutambara and other MDC and ZANU-PF Cabinet officials. END

SUMMARY.

 

——————————————–

Farmers Seek Compensation Not Return of Land

——————————————–

 

2. (C) Gifford requested the April 15 meeting to discuss the

CFU’s shift from a strategy focused on protecting individual

property rights, to one focused on gaining compensation for

seized farms. The CFU believes that by making the issue

compensation-based, rather than property-rights based,

farmers stand a chance of taking the emotion out of the

discussion and finding common ground with President Mugabe

and ZANU-PF leaders. Gifford also recognizes that two-thirds

of the commercial farmers he represents no longer want to

farm and are only seeking compensation.

 

3. (C) The CFU has contracted with a local valuation firm,

The Valuation Consortium, to develop a methodology for

valuing Zimbabwean farms. The professional quality model is

in the final stages of completion and combines farm specific

factors — hectarage, buildings, irrigation systems — with

detailed environmental factors such as soil quality and

expected rainfall. The database is populated with data

provided voluntarily by farmers who view it as both a record

of their ownership, as well as a basis for negotiations in

the event compensation is ever paid. The CFU estimates that

about 60 percent of all seized farms are represented in the

database.

 

4. (C) Using this model and regional comparable farm sales

— there hasn’t been a viable farm real estate market in

Zimbabwe since land seizures began in 2000 — Gifford intends

to announce a total debt of US$20 billion due to current and

former farmers. This tally includes current land values

based on the model, as well as rents due during the period

where owners were forced to vacate their farms. It does not

include lost productivity as this is not an internationally

accepted compensation metric. Gifford intends to start high

and negotiate down from this figure.

Qand negotiate down from this figure.

 

5. (C) Unexpectedly, in a recent meeting between the CFU and

Agricultural Minister Joseph Made (ZANU-PF), Made

acknowledged that government had a responsibility to

compensate farmers for land improvements. Made thought

US$1.5 billion was a more appropriate figure. A CFU

representative told us this was the first time a high-ranking

ZANU-PF official had acknowledged that debt, despite its

basis in Zimbabwean law. (NOTE: Constitutional Amendment 17

placed certain categories of land under state ownership. The

 

HARARE 00000333 002 OF 003

 

 

intent was to give the government the authority to redress

historical wrongs by taking land from white commercial

farmers and giving it to landless black Zimbabweans. The

Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement is responsible for

managing this process through the issuance of offer letters

that entitle the recipients to possession. ZANU-PF has taken

the position that pursuant to the Lancaster House Agreement

under which Zimbabwe gained independence, the UK government

is responsible for compensation to dispossessed white

farmers. END NOTE.)

 

——————————————— —

Making Land Issue Go Away in Everyone’s Interest

——————————————— —

 

6. (C) The CFU is proposing to senior members of government

— including Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and both MDC

and ZANU-PF ministers — that Zimbabwe form a land

compensation and investment fund. This fund would provide

loans to new farmers who want to buy out commercial farmers.

Gifford recognized that the GOZ was broke and this strategy

would need to rely on international financial support.

 

7. (C) Gifford thought the idea might appeal to both ZANU-PF

and MDC elements in the government, because resolving the

land issue would remove a major impediment to renewed donor

and private investment. Compensation for farmers is also

consistent with Zimbabwean law that makes the GOZ responsible

for any improvements such as buildings, irrigation systems,

and equipment. According to Gifford, these improvements

actually account for up to 90 percent of the farm,s value.

 

———————————————

New Offer Letters Surface; Violence Continues

———————————————

 

8. (C) Gifford reported that several hundred of the 400 to

600 remaining commercial farmers have been faced with fresh

demands to vacate their farms based on newly-issued offer

letters. These letters all appear genuine, but bear dates

that pre-date the new unity government. Gifford said that

they are newly-issued letters that have merely been

post-dated. A common refrain from these new owners is that

they had previously chosen not to execute the letters, but

now wanted to assume ownership.

 

9. (C) Post has received new reports of farm disruptions and

violence since the Easter holidays. Many of these occurred

in the Chegutu district of Mashonaland West. At one Chegutu

farm, a farm worker was severely beaten and suffered a broken

skull, before being thrown into a fire. He survived. At

nearby Stockdale Farm, invaders forced a halt to operations,

threatening a US$2 million citrus crop. They also beat to

death on April 19 an area resident who was caught stealing

oranges from a tree. Stockdale Farm has been threatened by

Senate President Edna Madzongwe since 2007. Madzongwe has

ignored four High Court ruling favoring the owners, and has

Qignored four High Court ruling favoring the owners, and has

already seized eight other farms.

 

10. (C) In response, Tsvangirai directed a team of ministers

to visit farms on April 17 and investigate the reports of

violence. The team was led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur

Mutambara (MDC-M), and included Home Affairs Ministers Giles

Mutsekwa (MDC-T) and Kembo Mohadi (ZANU-PF), Agriculture

Minister Joseph Made (ZANU-PF), Lands Minister Herbert

Murerwa (ZANU-PF), and Minister of State Gordon Moyo (MDC-T).

Mutambara was highly critical of the invasions after

visiting several farms, and accused the invaders of “reaping

where you did not sow.” He also said, “The next time Mugabe

denies that there are fresh land invasions I can say that is

 

HARARE 00000333 003 OF 003

 

 

not true. I saw it for myself.” At the Mount Carmel farm in

Chegutu that was seized by Mugabe biographer and former

Information Minister Nathan Shamuyarira, Mutambara ordered

the invaders off the land and chastised the police for not

maintaining order. Shamuyarira’s supporters left, only to

return an hour after Mutambara left to chase off the owner,

Ben Freeth, and his employees. This was mirrored at the

other farms Mutambara visited, including the French-owned

Twyford farm in Chegutu that falls within the scope of the

Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement

between Zimbabwe and France. After Mutambara left, ZANU-PF

Senator Jamaya Muduvuri was reported to say, “I am a ZANU-PF

senator and the MDC will not tell me what to do on this farm.

It is my farm and I will not allow this French woman to come

back here or reap her crops.”

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

11. (C) Although legal issues exist in the recent spate of

farm invasions — whether offer letters are genuine, the lack

of due process in executing them, and compensation for

expropriated property — the fate of remaining white farms is

ultimately a political rather than a legal issue. This is

because, as noted, the existing Zimbabwean Constitution

(Amendment 17) vests ownership of designated agricultural

land in the State. Realizing the importance of agriculture

to Zimbabwe, the MDC hopes that an accommodation can be

reached with ZANU-PF to allow most of the remaining white

farmers and conservancy owners to maintain possession of

their properties. It hopes that the Mutambara-led visit will

embarrass Mugabe and ZANU-PF into reaching such an

accommodation. More embarrassing would be the MDC-promised

land audit, as called for by the Inter-Party Agreement, which

would highlight the rapacious farm appetites of Madzongwe and

her like.

 

12. (C) Land has become a symbol for ZANU-PF of colonial

exploitation, and the mantra of land long served as a smoke

screen for ZANU-PF as it corruptly dispensed patronage and

attacked the West. In an April 15 courtesy call by the

Ambassador on Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo,

Chombo spent the better part of an hour proclaiming the

importance of land to the Zimbabwean people. Although he

told the Ambassador that once the land issue was settled

ZANU-PF and the MDC could go forward in harmony, we suspect

Chombo and other Mugabe cronies will continue their efforts

to stay in power by undermining the MDC.

 

13. (C) Having run out of options, the CFU appears to be

setting down a marker in the hopes of future compensation.

Prospects of this of course are dubious. The CFU may also be

hoping that this will reduce tensions, and lead to

arrangements whereby remaining farmers can remain on their

farms. END COMMENT.

 

MCGEE

(61 VIEWS)

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