'New UK govt won't compensate

HARARE - British Prime Minister David Cameron’s new Conservative government is refusing to compensate thousands of Zimbabwe’s evicted white farmers forced by President Robert Mugabe off lands they had farmed for generations.

With the 48-year-old Cameron sweeping to a stunning May 7 election victory and forming the first majority Conservative government since John Major’s surprise victory in 1992,  Catriona Laing, the British ambassador to Zimbabwe, this week told the Daily News on Sunday the new government will not  support any compensation scheme set up to help evicted white farmers in Zimbabwe. In fact, the demand was met with scorn in Whitehall.

“The UK has never agreed to accept responsibility for compensation but we have always said that we would support a fair, transparent and pro-poor land reform programme as part of an international effort,” Laing said.

“The UK government supports, and will continue to support, the aspirations of the Zimbabwean people for a more democratic, stable and prosperous Zimbabwe.”

Thousands of veterans of the 1970s war against white minority rule in the former Rhodesia invaded most of the country’s 4 000 commercial farms starting in 2000 — demanding land they said was stolen by the British from their forefathers in the 1890s.

Mugabe, a lifelong Marxist who has attributed his country’s woes to economic sabotage by capitalist powers, used the appeal of forced redistribution of farmland and a genuine hunger for arable land in Zimbabwe to compulsorily acquire white-owned farms for black resettlement 15 years ago in a controversial move that critics claim wrecked the country’s agriculture-based economy.

Before the advent of his land reforms, the great majority of the 13 million Zimbabweans lived crammed together on over-used and relatively unproductive land held as communal property, while approximately 4 500 white farmers shared more than half of the best agricultural land.

Mugabe has said the government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair was responsible for the crisis by back-tracking on the previous Conservative government’s plans to finance the purchase of land from the white farmers and thus redistribute it more fairly.

Zimbabwe’s demand that Britain be responsible for compensating the affected white farmers badly strained ties with the country’s former colonial ruler.

Harare says this had been agreed to under the 1980 Lancaster House accord that ended Zimbabwe’s liberation war.

Mugabe has said his government is willing to pay compensation — if the fifth largest economy in the world, Britain, provides the funds— for any developments like irrigation schemes and other structures erected on the land previously held by commercial white farmers, “but the full market value of the land, no, we cannot pay that.”

Mugabe amended the Land Act through a constitutional change forced through Parliament, which put the onus for paying compensation on Britain, as the former colonial power.

Britain has offered a $56 million package for voluntary redistribution of farmland to landless black people, but has always insisted it will not provide compensation for farms confiscated against their owners’ wishes. The Zimbabwe government used the same law to confiscate the more than 4000 farms.

Laing said: “UK aid programmes continue to deliver critical assistance and services to Zimbabweans. From 2013 to 2014, DfID provided £106m ($167m) to support the most vulnerable Zimbabweans.”

The Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU), representing Zimbabwe’s 4 500 mainly white commercial farmers, has appealed to the international community, especially Britain, to make funds available so that farmers would be compensated for properties seized.

“With the new British government in place, there is an ideal opportunity for better engagement to find a solution to make funds available, in which farmers would be fully compensated for their land once and for all,” CFU director Hendricks Olivier told the Daily News on Sunday.

He said it would be helpful if the new Conservative government in Britain were to come to the table and participate.

The farmers’ plea for international aid is widely viewed as unrealistic. Diplomats and political analysts say that, no international donor would agree to compensate evicted white farmers.

Stephen Chan, professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said Britain is in no financial shape to compensate anyone for anything in any part of the world.

“That won’t change under the new government,” Chan said.

“Basically, the government will step in line with overall European policy towards Zimbabwe — rather than US policy, which is a little harder line. Much might depend on who the new minister for Africa might be, but that is not a Cabinet-level minister and has not, as of today, been appointed. Essentially, the UK has been without a minister for Africa for some months, as the previous incumbent fell ill,” he said, referring to Britain’s previous Africa minister Mark Simmonds who resigned in August 2014 ostensibly to spend more time with his family.

Piers Pigou, the International Crisis Group’s southern Africa project director, said it seems unlikely there will be any serious progress beyond some of the background discussions amongst some of the interested parties that have taken place such as efforts to calculate the compensation amounts, until there is greater trust in the rule of law and effective due process in Zimbabwe — which is not currently the case.

“This will necessarily include moves on a comprehensive land audit, clarity on property rights, and some evidence that the Zimbabwean government is going to uphold what it says it will in terms of compensating those who lost their farms, as well as honouring payments around bilateral dispute settlements etc,” Pigou told the Daily News on Sunday.

“There would be a much stronger basis for engaging the UK on compensation issues especially if there was some seriousness about moving beyond the playground logic of ‘he said, she said’, if the Zimbabwean government was able to get its act together on these fronts. The big question remains whether it has that intention, and the capacity to do so. It would be very helpful also if the UK could set out its position and expectations on this front.”

Mugabe has lashed Britain for allegedly stirring up European opinion over the Zimbabwe issue.

Pigou said it was important to recognise the UK  — under the previous Tory dominated coalition government — had already made a considerable shift in policy, albeit in the slipstream of the EU’s efforts to move from a punitive approach to one more focused on re-engagement and incentives.

“The suspension of Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement (dealing with appropriate measures) — leading to the resumption of development aid, and the suspension or lifting of restrictive measures to all but the first family and Zimbabwe defence Industries (ZDI) reflects a significant shift by the EU, and by implication the UK, which had for many years resisted such a move,” Pigou said.

The European Union has been gradually easing its sanctions on Zimbabwe — imposed over the violence surrounding the land reform, electoral theft and rights violations — as part of a strategy to encourage political reform after 35 years of Mugabe’s rule.

Pigou said for some, this has set a very dangerous precedent as the very issues for which the measures were introduced in the first place remain unaddressed, and an array of violations and related reform deficits remain present. Critics say Mugabe’s seizure  of the white-owned farms was meant to help his ruling Zanu PF party regain the support of the country’s poor rural blacks.

“The new politics of constructive engagement opens to the door to all sorts of possibilities, but given the very limited reciprocation from the Zimbabwean government, it seems unlikely that there will be any major embracing of the current government,” Pigou said.

“I would be very surprised to see the lifting of measures against Mugabe himself or (his wife) Grace, and in that respect, there is a sense that the ‘politics of wait and see’ will remain in place, until RGM (Robert Gabriel Mugabe) leaves office.

Comments (12)

It is common knowledge that the British detested their Rhodesian kith and kin. Before and after World War II Britain set out to populate its colonies. In a short space of time they established one of the best managed British colonies in Rhodesia. After this war Britain was bankrupt and found that it owed America Billions in war debt. Along came the morally bankrupt Prime Minister Harold McMillan with his winds of change philosophy. This started the rot and chaos in the colonies. The delusions of the British governments progressively became more insidious. They claimed that they had beaten Adolf Hitler and his Nazis when in fact the Americans and Russians did it. During the war years Rhodesians fought alongside the British. Home based Rhodesians gave food and other assistance to the British. When Harold Wilson and his crony Arthur Bottomley decided to forfeit Rhodesia to retarded and tyrannical governance, Ian Douglas Smith told the British to fornicate themselves. Today the British do not even acknowledge the role played by Rhodesians in the war. In addition, notwithstanding their ancestry, the British give no travel documents or any other help to frail or destitute Rhodesians or their descendants. As Ian Douglas Smith succinctly put it “The Great Betrayal” for which Britain shows no shame or remorse. Britain will soon no longer be called Great Britain and will soon be out of the European Union. Another mediocre basket case state in the making. The reasons why are abundantly clear.

Shadrick Guto - 17 May 2015

" ... Catriona Laing, the British ambassador to Zimbabwe, this week told the Daily News on Sunday the new government will not support any compensation scheme set up to help evicted white farmers in Zimbabwe. In fact, the demand was met with scorn in Whitehall." This statement is only credible because the white farmers were evicted and the farms parceled to Zanu-PF sharks. If the land was fairly given back to deserving Zimbabweans me Masamba Akareyo - Tanganda would be shouting " TO HELL WITH YOU !"

Masamba Akareyo - Tanganda - 17 May 2015

ZANU PF must compensate the white farmers because the distribution of the farmland favored their Party members who even looted white farmers' machinery. The world belongs to God until one understands that then will all live in harmony. Don't forget that it was through hard work by white commercial farmers that Rhodesia was bread bucket of African. Should have acknowledged the good they did for the benefit of all the country and let them stay on their farms. Because of greedy you choose death instead of life and now slogans haven't put food on the table

Dee - 17 May 2015

Th black resettled farmer cares not about whether the white farmer is compensated or not. The Zimbabwe govt would want to hour the obligation but resources are not permitting. The white former farmer should take his case to Britain, & Zimbabwe govt will be very willing to provide proof of previous farm ownership. In the meantime the new farmer will not be bothered, now or in the next 50yrs. We are now able to do great things with the farms we took.

Sheba - 18 May 2015

It is a shame how someone who has a head between his/her two shoulders can make such shallow arguments as Dee's. " The land belongs to God..." When did it start belonging to God?In 2000 when blacks started reclaiming it from colonial thieves? Who did it belong to when our ancestors were forced off it with no compensation? Pliz save us from the crap about whites working harder than blacks. They succeeded through primitive accumulation. Those who celebrate the statements of the British ambassador are enemies of the former white farmers whom they do not want compensated.

Musoni - 18 May 2015

Compensation for farm take over came to ZIMBABWE long time ago. Its mischievious reporting that new Governemnt if UK is refusing. Mugabe and ZANU PF got money long time, but they abused it and they can not continue getting money for one thing. They should first account where that money went that they got and used f=some of it to resettle the villagers in the early1980s

ananian - 18 May 2015

shadreck Guto your analysis is full of naivety , you think UK is a basket case in the making simply because it is getting out of the Euro, No my friend! Go ,study and understand what and who is the UK. That country certainly cant be the basket case in the making, its leaders respect the constitutionality of their country and once an elected leader thinks he has messed up, he resigns without even allowing demostrations to daint their images.The UK is mother to a lot of companies across the globe. What the means is that its balance of payments is always sustained by profit repatriations from their companies jotted across the globe.Their forefathers invested for their children for centuries to come.

Big Meech Larry Hoover - 19 May 2015

Catriona Laing, the British ambassador to Zimbabwe shows signs of mental deficiency for being a fervent disciple of Ian Scoones (Mugabe's favorite bootlicking apologist liar ) It is time that she told the real truth about Lancaster House, Tony Blair and Clare Short instead of sitting on her hands whilst under continuous attack be Zanu pf rabid racists. She has failed to note Zanu pf's paranoia and their massive inferiority complexes because they and their ancestors have never invented or achieved anything. She is mortified in fear of being called a racist. (A standard Zanu pf piece of rhetoric when their stupidity is revealed). She should be aware that her cover ups will be revealed when appropriate documents are exposed after a demand in terms of the Freedom of Information legislation. She will be shaken up when her new boss Philip Hammond gives her an overdue performance appraisal.

Wiseman Nkuhlu - 19 May 2015

If is a shame that no research is done before comments by all. Briefly, it is a fact that recognizing that all funds given by the British were for the alleviation of rural poverty - none for compensation. With this in mind a compensation fund was set up, agreed by the British parliament in 2000 to compensate former farmers albeit Peter Hain attempted and failed to change the rules, conditions of the fund. Due to agreement to fund local farming organisations and salaries of CFU and JAG a precondition of no claims against the fund was ,met thus no claim has ever been presented and the former Chair stated thast any farmer that attempted to claim would be b lscklisted from any compensation by local organisations. It worked and those uniformed are still trying to debate an issue already decided and admitted by the British Parliament in 2000. If is also factual that Blair did renege on the Lancaster House agreement stating it was made by a previous government - frankly if he didn't want any liabilities he shouldn't have accepted the job. Thuds it is simple - in a statement to the British Government in the commons Robin Cook admitted that no compensation as promised had ever been paid and announce the compensation fund. If Blair didn't like the commitment - bad luck. People shouldfnt try to debate the issue until they research the facts - the simple reason no one has been compensation are learned reporters with zero information to offer.

john - 20 May 2015

JOHN "the RESEARCHER" clearly has got uncoupled mental neurons. Without sending him back to kindergarten he can start by reading the Lancaster House agreement and tell us chapter and verse the text that says Britain would finance the land grabs. The British (such as Robin Renwick) have already proven that they are hypocritical deceitful slimy liars pretending to be humanitarians. The REAL facts will emerge in due time. Catriona Laing, Aldo Dell'Ariccia and Philippe Van Damme have already proven themselves to be unrepentant Mugabe sponsors. Now they are stuffing their so called AID money directly into Patrick Chinamasa's back pocket.

Stanslaus Gorerazvo - 21 May 2015

compensation or no compensation, the land is now in the hands of deserving people. varidzi vakatora ivhu ravo

wind - 21 May 2015

Compensation or no compensation, the land is now in the hands of deserving people ... it sums up the Zim woes in one line and the west can go shove their sanctions up you know where.

Django - 5 July 2015

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