Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front chairman John Nkomo was powerless in implementing meaningful land reform despite his seniority within ZANU-PF.
United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Christopher Dell said there had been great expectations when Nkomo was appointed Minister of Special Affairs responsible for land reform, a post that had been occupied by Joseph Made, that he would be able to implement some of the recommendations from the Utete Commission which included one farmer-one farm policy.
Nkomo had, however, hit a dead end and there was little meaningful debate about how to rejuvenate the agricultural sector.
Nkomo was the fourth most powerful person in ZANU-PF after President Robert Mugabe and his two deputies.
Viewing cable 04HARARE1643, NKOMO OPEN TO DIALOGUE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 001643
AF/S FOR BNEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: NKOMO OPEN TO DIALOGUE
¶1. On September 27, Ambassador Dell met briefly with
Minister of Special Affairs for Lands, Land Reform, and
Resettlement and ZANU-PF Party Chairman John Nkomo in Nkomo’s
office. Nkomo welcomed the Ambassador to Zimbabwe and said he
was interested in developing a better relationship. He then
recited a familiar history of land and land reform in
Zimbabwe. Nkomo mulled over the problem of tenure in the new
land regime and seemed optimistic about the likely success of
99-year leases in helping A1 (smallholder) farmers secure
bank financing. Nkomo expressed optimism that money for land
reform would pour in once Zimbabwe’s international image
improved. In particular, he seemed to think Americans and
U.S. organizations wanted to assist but were simply afraid to
get involved in the land process because of the negative
publicity associated with Zimbabwe.
¶2. The Ambassador emphasized the importance of looking
forward, particularly since the GOZ acknowledged that its
land reform process was almost complete. The Ambassador also
told Nkomo that he was interested in how to make a success of
land reform by empowering the people. Nkomo expressed some
interest in U.S. help in studying land tenure issues.
¶3. The recitation of the history of land in Zimbabwe is a
standard part of any meeting with GOZ Cabinet and ZANU-PF
party members. Nkomo added nothing new to the exchange in
that regard. If anything, his complaints about the
intricacies of land reform reveal his own impotence in the
land redistribution process.
¶4. When Nkomo was appointed to his newly created position in
February 2004, it was widely believed that Nkomo, because of
his seniority within the party, would be able to implement
some of the recommendations of the Utete Commission, such as
the one farmer-one farm policy. Nkomo, however, has hit a
dead end–there is little meaningful debate within the ruling
party over how to rejuvenate the deteriorating agriculture
sector. Land reform remains a sterile political issue
revolving around populist anti-colonial, racial themes
instead of real economic empowerment. Ironically, GOZ
failure to realize economic benefits from land reform fuels
resentment in ZANU-PF’s rural heartland, and frustration
among ZANU-PF elites, most of whom are saddled with
problematic farms themselves. End c