Commercial Farmers Union president Doug Taylor Freeme told United States embassy officials that central bank governor Gideon Gono was interested in luring white farmers back to the land and protecting those still there from further seizures but he seemed to be failing.
Taylor-Freeme said the number of farms being seized had increased to five a week. He believed that the pace had quickened after the March elections because the government needed to reward those who had helped ZANU-PF win the elections because it had nothing to offer them other than land.
Members of his organisation now fell into three categories: those who were still farming but not investing, those who would consider returning under the right circumstances, and those who sought only compensation for their lost farms.
Gono wanted the farmers to stay because there was competition with Zimbabwe’s neighbours for these farmers because they had the experience and skills to restore productivity to the agricultural sector.
Gono was particularly interested in luring back horticulturalists and dairy farmers, ideally to manage the farms now owned by ZANU-PF insiders. This was a non-starter. The whites would only return to manage farms they had once owned.
Freeme said white farmers would also be reluctant to return as owners of the farms without better assurances from the government. The biggest obstacle remained the government’s attitude toward private property.
He said the government was moving to nationalise all farmland and then grant farmers 99-year leases. Gono had shown him a draft of the proposed lease. It was inheritable but not transferable.
Viewing cable 05HARARE935, CFU ON RESTORE ORDER AND OTHER EVENTS
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
080832Z Jul 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000935
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
USDOC FOR ROBERT TELCHIN
TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW
PASS USTR FOR FLORIZELLE LISER
STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
USDOL FOR ROBERT YOUNG
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2009
SUBJECT: CFU ON RESTORE ORDER AND OTHER EVENTS
Classified By: Charge d’affaires Eric T. Schultz a.i. for reason 1.4 d
¶1. (C) Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) President Douglas
Taylor-Freeme told the CDA on July 6 that RBZ head Gideon
Gono was interested in luring white farmers back to Zimbabwe
and protecting those still here from further seizures.
However, Gono,s influence had not been able to prevent the
seizure of white commercial farms accelerating to five a week
since the March elections and his plans for &command
agriculture8 would fail to entice white farmers to return or
to invest more. Freeme said Gono sought to restore
productivity to the commercial farms by using the former
white owners as managers and the people displaced by
Operation Restore Order as cheap labor. The government would
&own8 the farms. Freeme cautioned that he had heard the
GOZ was also planning to transport IDPs to remote areas
outside the view of international media and relief agencies
and leave them to their fate even as food stocks ran out
sometime in July. End Summary.
Current Status Of White Farmers
¶2. (C) Freeme told the CDA that the members of his
organization fell into three categories: those who were still
farming but not investing, those who would consider returning
under the right circumstances, and those who sought only
compensation for their lost farms. Of the first group, he
said there were approximately 850 white farmers remaining in
Zimbabwe with 450 of them fully operational. However, he
reiterated that none, including himself, were putting money
into the farms to upgrade irrigation systems and the like.
The situation was far too unstable.
¶3. (C) In fact, Freeme said, there not a single white-owned
farm that the government had not already &acquired8 through
the courts it was just a question of when the government
moved to physically seize the farms. Freeme said despite the
moderate rhetoric from RBZ governor Gono, the government had
actually accelerated its seizures of white-owned farms since
the election with the pace now roughly five farms a week.
Freeme speculate that the pace had quickened because the
government needed to reward those who had helped ZANU-PF
&win8 the election and aside from land they had little to
give at this point.
Relations with Gono; Future Prospects
¶4. (C) Freeme said Gono,s theory was that 20 percent of the
farms provided 80 percent of the production. Many of those
farms were still in white hands; others had languished since
ownership changed hands. Gono wanted to protect these farms
from government interference and to restore their
productivity. Gono had for instance, told Provincial
Governors and other local officials to stop taking commercial
farms because they provided the foreign exchange needed for
hospital, school, and church supplies in local communities.
However, his entreaties were falling on deaf ears, as
evidenced by the continuing seizures of farms.
5 (C) Freeme said that although no formal offer had yet been
made, Gono also clearly wanted some of the dispossessed white
farmers to return to farming in Zimbabwe as he had intimated
in his May 19 address to the nation. Freeme said Gono
understood that Zimbabwe was in competition with neighboring
countries for these farmers, who had the experience and
skills needed to restore productivity to the agricultural
sector. Gono was particularly interested in luring back
horticulturalists and diary farmers, ideally to manage the
farms now owned by ZANU-PF insiders. This was a non-starter.
The whites would not return to manage farms they had once
¶6. (C) Freeme said white farmers would also be reluctant to
return as owners of the farms without better assurances from
the government. The biggest obstacle remained the
government,s attitude toward private property. As part of
its plans for &command agriculture8 the GOZ was moving to
nationalize all farmland and then grant farmers 99-year
leases. Gono had shown him a draft of the proposed lease.
It was inheritable but not transferable. In addition, the
GOZ planned to establish a commission to oversee agriculture,
which could take the lease away at any time for failure to
farm productively. Freeme said a lease of this type could
not be mortgaged to raise needed investment capital and if
the government followed through with this plan agriculture
Operation Restore Order and Food Security
¶7. (C) Freeme said there was little doubt in his mind that
part of the government,s motivation for Operation Restore
Order had been to create a pool of cheap agricultural labor
to work on the commercial farms. Part of that pool of
laborers would be comprised of the war veterans and other A1
farmers that the GOZ had encouraged to settle on white farms
and now intended to evict from those farms. Ironically, even
as it was doing this, the government was encouraging settlers
to move on to the remaining white farms as part of its
efforts to seize them.
¶8. (C) Freeme said he thought the operation was also intended
to intimidate the population and prevent any expressions of
discontent. The operation was really no different than what
had happened to white farmers a few years earlier. The
government had set out to destroy a potential source of
opposition without regard to the economic or humanitarian
consequences. In that regard, he said he had heard that the
GOZ intended to transport IDPs that were not needed for labor
to remote areas away from the view of the international
community and leave them to their fate, which could be a grim
one given that Zimbabwe,s food supply would run out by the
end of July, no new grain contracts had been signed, and the
last 100,000 metric tons from old contracts would have been
delivered by mid-July.
¶9. (C) Freeme’s account confirms that Gono’s interest in the
return of some white farmers, while genuine, will likely
prove illusory. Moreover, we would agree with Freeme that
Gono,s plans for restoring productivity to the agricultural
sector are also unlikely to succeed. The GOZ’s vision of
&command agriculture8 and ruling party control are
incompatible with the market solutions the sector needs.
Without leases or titles that can be used as security for
loans, the sector will remain starved of capital. The GOZ’s
savage campaign to direct the country’s displaced masses to
provide labor to the commercial farms is also doomed to
failure in the long run; most of these people are likely to
return to the cities as soon as they get the chance rather
than accept the equivalent of serfdom.