Gono luring white farmers to stay


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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.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 05HARARE935, CFU ON RESTORE ORDER AND OTHER EVENTS

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

05HARARE935

2005-07-08 08:32

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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

 

SIPDIS

 

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

TAGS: EINV ECON PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: CFU ON RESTORE ORDER AND OTHER EVENTS

 

 

Classified By: Charge d’affaires Eric T. Schultz a.i. for reason 1.4 d

 

——–

Summary

——–

 

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

owned.

 

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

would collapse.

 

—————————————–

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.

 

——–

Comment

——–

 

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.

SCHULTZ

 

(23 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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