Central bank governor Gideon Gono, who was a long standing member of the Commercial Farmers Union, called President Robert Mugabe on his speakerphone so that he and CFU president Doug Taylor-Freeme could brainstorm with Mugabe the revival of the country’s agriculture.
This was disclosed to United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell by the CFU president who had just toured the country and felt that although Agriculture Minister Joseph Made had issued a lot of acquisition notices while Lands Minister John Nkomo was on vacation, the government was not likely to acquire any more farms from the white commercial farmers since most had already carved out deals with high-level ZANU-PF or local officials.
The CFU president felt prominent ZANU-PF politicians would find it easier to take farms from less powerful blacks than from surviving white farmers.
Taylor-Freeme said he had frequent talks with Gono and Nkomo but Nkomo now only wanted to talk to him on the phone and not in person.
He said that he had become sceptical of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change’s prescriptions for agricultural recovery and was put off by the lack of businessmen in their ranks.
All things being equal, he believed ZANU-PF’s moderate Gono-Nkomo wing – if it ever took control of policy – could do a better job managing the economy than the MDC.
Viewing cable 04HARARE1664, 600 White Farms Still Hanging On
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 001664
STATE FOR AF/S
USDOC FOR AMANDA HILLIGAS
TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW
PASS USTR FLORIZELLE LISER
STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
¶E. O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: 600 White Farms Still Hanging On
Sensitive but unclassified. Not for dissemination to
¶1. (SBU/NF) Summary: The GOZ has been issuing an
increasing number of acquisition notices to the small
number of remaining white farmers, but has not taken over
many new farms, according to Doug Taylor-Freeme,
president of the mostly-white Commercial Farmers Union
(CFU). He believes around 600 whites are still farming.
Taylor-Freeme reiterated his willingness to engage in
reconciliation talks with the mostly-black Indigenous
Commercial Farmers Union (ICFU) but now wants the small-
scale Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU) included. End
Lots of Acquisition Notices – Few Acquisitions
¶2. (SBU/NF) Taylor-Freeme just concluded two-weeks travel
to nearly every farming region of Zimbabwe. He believes
production of all commercial crops except cotton will
drop from 2004 to 2005, but declined to offer concrete
forecasts at this early stage. The CFU president
suggested that hard-line Agriculture Minister Joseph Made
signed off on many recent acquisition notices while
filling in for a vacationing Lands Minister John Nkomo.
Taylor-Freeme believed the GOZ would find it hard to
evict the final 600 white farmers, however, since most
had already carved out deals with high-level ZANU-PF or
local officials. For the time-being, he felt prominent
ZANU-PF politicians would find it easier to take farms
from less powerful blacks than from surviving white
farmers. Still, Taylor-Freeme acknowledged that these
whites would one day also lose their farms if the GOZ did
not modify its policy.
¶3. (SBU/NF) The CFU President continues to look for new
ways to defend his membership’s interests. He estimates
that a dozen sub-Saharan governments have now approached
him to woo dispossessed white farmers, and that about 500
have relocated elsewhere in Africa. He said most
remaining white farmers would now accept transferable 99-
year leases, if offered by the GOZ. Taylor-Freeme said
he talks frequently with Reserve Bank Governor Gideon
Gono, a long-standing CFU member. Taylor-Freeme told us
Gono even recently called President Mugabe on the
speakerphone with Taylor-Freeme in the office, so that
the three could brainstorm about reviving Zimbabwean
agriculture. (Comment: Although relations have soured
over the past five years, the CFU used to enjoy better
access to Mugabe than other private sector groups.) On
the other hand, the CFU president regretted that Lands
Minister Nkomo will speak with him anytime over the phone
but will no longer meet with him in person. (Comment:
GOZ hard-liners have accused vice-presidential candidate
Nkomo of not being tough enough on white farmers.)
¶4. (SBU/NF) Taylor-Freeme added that he has become
skeptical of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC)’s prescriptions for agricultural recovery
and is put off by the lack of businessmen in their ranks.
All things being equal, he believes ZANU-PF’s moderate
Gono-Nkomo wing – if it ever took control of policy –
could do a better job managing the economy than the MDC’s
present shadow cabinet.
Merger Prospects for Farmers Unions
¶5. (SBU/NF) The CFU president said he remains prepared to
sit together with the ICFU to discuss agricultural
reconciliation. However, Taylor-Freeme now insists that
the small-scale ZFU, a third agrarian body that
represents communal farmers, be included in talks. He
underscored for us how difficult it will be for CFU
members who have lost farms to sit accross the table from
those who now occupy them. But he agreed that a “gradual
merger of forces” toward a nonracial union of farmers is
probably the most logical way forward.
¶6. (SBU/NF) Justifiably or not, Taylor-Freeme can take
credit the GOZ has expropriated only about 50 white farms
during the first of his two years in office. By
comparison, about 3,800 white farmers lost all or most of
their land during the previous two CFU presidents’
tenures. Taylor-Freeme has taken a lower-key approach,
urging his staff to be nonpolitical and treat ZANU-PF and
MDC equally. Only rarely is he now a target of scorn in
the official media. Still, the CFU president’s options
are limited, even if the acquisition pace remains just
one every two weeks. Taylor-Freeme’s purported desire to
now include the ZFU in merger talks may simply be a
diversionary tactic, but it more likely reflects growing
realignment. With “land reform” now essentially
completed, the interests of all Zimbabwe’s farmers –
black, white, commercial, small-holder – will be better
served by moving the debate forward and focusing on how
to restore productivity to a once thriving sector.