US embassy was disappointed with Utete land report


The United States embassy was disappointed with the Utete Commission report on the land reform programme because it was not as explosive as the report by Flora Bhuka which the government had refused to release.

It said the Utete report had not named any of the multiple farm owners but only acknowledged that some problems regarding multiple farm ownership by beneficiaries, political inconsistency in the allocation of land, and lack of funding for input schemes for new farmers must be resolved.

The embassy also disputed some of the findings by the commission, namely that in terms of maize production communal farmers produced more than commercial farmers even though they used more land.

The report said in the 2000 growing season, when most commercial farmers were still planting and harvesting, commercial farms had 160 577 hectares under maize, which produced 680 942 metric tonnes of grain. In that same year, communal farmers had 1 217 115 hectares under maize, which produced 808 709 metric tonnes.

“While it is clear that seven times more communal land than commercial land was cultivated for maize, it is not true that the communal farmers largely carried the burden of feeding the country,” the embassy said.


Full cable:



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Reference ID





2003-10-07 10:17


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.













E.O. 12958: N/A




1. (SBU) Summary: The Utete commission report on anomalies

in the land resettlement program, widely anticipated as an

indicator of how the GOZ will address the chaotic situation

in the agricultural sector, is a non-event. Despite

stringent attempts to keep this document secret, Post

recently obtained a copy, which may indicate that the

“leaked” report will soon be widely distributed. While some

rumors had indicated that the Utete report would be

“explosive” if actually implemented, a careful reading

discovers nothing new. The report acknowledges that some

problems regarding multiple farm ownership by beneficiaries,

political inconsistency in the allocation of land, and lack

of funding for input schemes for new farmers must be

resolved. Further, the report concedes that resolution of

those pesky outstanding legal details (such as inconsistent

application of procedures, discrepancies between the law and

the constitution, and the issue of title) must be addressed.

However, this report is nowhere near as explosive as the

permanently unpublished Buka report, which “named names” of

the political beneficiaries (including a number of ministers)

who had manipulated the system by seizing multiple prime

farms — lock, livestock, and standing crops. This report,

by contrast, whines plaintively about “the activities of

certain persons,” “certain prominent persons,” and even “some

Governors… themselves” who are possibly guilty of engaging

in “political interference” in the allocation process. This

latest commission report continues to blame drought, outside

political interference, and ephemeral Western sanctions for

the agricultural mess which Zimbabwe must now address. End




“New and Improved” Numbers



2. (SBU) Despite continued claims in the GOZ-controlled

press that 300,000 families have been settled under the A1

(communal land decongestion) model, and 54,000 families have

been settled under the A2 (de-segregation of communal

farming) model, the numbers reported by the Utete commission

are considerably lower. The Utete report states that only

127,192 families have been settled on 4,321,080 hectares

under the A1 model (representing a 97% “uptake” rate), and

7,260 beneficiaries have been settled on 2,198,814 hectares

under the A2 model (average of 66% “uptake”). These numbers

should be balanced against an estimated 300,000 displaced

commercial farm worker families. At any rate, the new,

realistic, downward-revised numbers are one of the few

indications of credibility in the entire report.


3. (SBU) Other signs of credibility include suggestions for:

the Grain Marketing Board’s monopoly on grain purchases and

sales to be partially de-controlled; renewed efforts to

create a single farmers’ union; new efforts to create private

sector partnerships with agro-businesses; efforts to develop

an Agricultural Development Bank to fund farmers at all

levels; and efforts to increase skills among the new farmers.

However, in a theme which runs throughout this report, there

is no advice as to how to implement even the most

self-evident strategies. One of the most significant

recommendations is that the GOZ should reinvent the wheel and

once again split the Ministry of Land, Agriculture and Rural

Resettlement into two bodies: the Ministry of Agriculture

and a proposed Ministry of Land Affairs. However, there is

little hope that a series of small, isolated actions

(unsupported by massive infusions of foreign exchange) can

turn the land resettlement program, as it currently stands,

into a success.



White Commercial Farmers Remain A Factor?



4. (SBU) One of the more interesting elements of this report

is the “documented” number of white commercial farmers

remaining in the agricultural sector. Despite continuous and

ongoing listing of farms for acquisition (the latest lists of

81 farms were “gazetted” on October 3, 2003), the report

presents a picture of some 1,377 farms remaining in white

hands. The report cites this as “about 3% of land in the

country, excluding land held by corporate entities.” The

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) and Justice for Agriculture

(JAG) concede that there are still a number of white farmers

on the land, but both claim that many of these farmers are

merely holding out until the last possible moment. Some of

these commercial farmers are still in operation, and some are

attempting to farm after voluntary sub-division of their

property, but some are cultivating only a fraction of their

land, while others are simply occupying their homestead

despite ongoing attempts (both legal and extra-legal) to

evict them. These two farmers’ groups agree that only about

600 former commercial farmers are still fully in possession

of their land. In fact, even the Utete report is a bit

ambiguous on the status of its claim, stating that “The

presence or otherwise of these farmers on the land could not

in all cases be verified at the time of the compilation of

this Report,” which raises the question of what other basis

could be used for such a figure.



One Man, One Farm — Sort Of



5. (SBU) The biggest surprise, after the brutal frankness of

the Buka report (produced by a commission headed by

Government minister Flora Buka), was the bland tone taken by

the Utete commission on the issue of multiple farm ownership

by new beneficiaries. Whereas the Buka report listed

numerous ministers who had acquired two, three, or even more

prime pieces of commercial farm property through the

resettlement program, the Utete report barely acknowledges

this. Instead, the Utete report repeatedly claims that the

decongestion of the rural areas has been compromised by A1

settlers who receive a new A1 plot without returning their

original communal plot. This is undoubtedly true; the

infrastructure, including availability of schools, clinics,

roads, and water, in the newly resettled A1 areas is grossly

inadequate. Many A1 settlers have moved to their new plots

while leaving wives and school-going children on their old

communal holding. In addition, many A1 settlers have been

“relocated” from one acquired farm to another as new

claimants or errors in allocations have emerged, convincing

many to retain their communal entitlement as a backup. The

report calls for enforcement of the one man, one farm

concept, which is cast not as a policy, but rather as a

“guideline” for sharing a scarce resource between the

numerous land-hungry peasant farmers. Any hope that this

report would compel the worst A2 offenders to relinquish part

of their spoils is apparently futile.


6. (SBU) The report states, however, that “Any beneficiary

of the land resettlement program whether on A1 or A2 models

with more than one piece of land is expected to surrender

excess land.” It goes on to claim that a total of 24,562

hectares, which will be re-allocated to A1 settlers, have

actually been recovered. The commission suggests that “one

family, one farm” might be a better way to address the

situation, but even so it cites the difficulties of enforcing

compliance. For instance, the report addresses the

complications inherent in polygamous marriages and marriages

where both spouses are ex-combatants, and where the wives

would therefore want to maintain “ownership” in their own

right. In its typically noncommittal fashion, the report

continues that “Government has still to firmly pronounce

itself on this matter.”


7. (SBU) Many of the former commercial farmers have used

this “one man, one farm” mantra to justify their own legal

challenges to compulsory acquisition. The report, however,

states that “In the case of a single owned farm being

acquired due to its being contiguous to a communal area,

Government undertook to provide the affected farmer with

another elsewhere around the country.” Currently, neither of

the farmers organizations are aware of any white commercial

farmer receiving such an offer. In fairness, it is unlikely

that many commercial farmers would accept this offer, since

it implies that any beneficiary would have to voluntarily

relinquish claim and title to the first farm.



Land Subdivisions — or Lack Thereof



8. (SBU) The report offers a fascinating glimpse into the

power struggles which must have consumed all players in this

process. Provincial governors complain that they have been

ignored, and cite for support the situation regarding

voluntary subdivision of white commercial farms. Apparently,

some provincial governors (such as Governor Msipa of the

Midlands province) were fairly assertive about negotiating

farm reductions with some of their larger landowners. Many

landowners actually signed over either a second farm, or a

portion of their single farm, via a GOZ-generated LA3 form.

Many others complained that they were never given the

opportunity to reduce their holdings. Most farmers who did

voluntarily yield part of their land did so under the belief

that they would then be allowed to stay on their reduced

landholding, and in their own home.


9. (SBU) However, the Ministry of Land did not formalize any

of the voluntary reductions, and in fact has allegedly said

that it would not do so, as it had not participated in the

process. In the meantime, many farmers who had submitted to

the authority of the land resettlement program found

themselves evicted, either through a continuation of the

legal process or by gangs of war vets. In typical fashion,

the report advised that “a conclusive position be taken on

the allocation of land subdivisions to which the LA3 forms

were designed to apply,” without advising what position would

be most beneficial. A response from the GOZ, incorporated

into the report, states that an exercise to settle this issue

would include interviewing farmers still interested in

pursuing farming, after which the Land Acquisition Act will

be amended. Under these amendments, “Affected farmers will

be given offer letters and allocated either parts of their

original farms or given alternative land elsewhere in the




Legal Issues, Including Title



10. (SBU) This report acknowledges the legal morass

surrounding the land resettlement exercise. Many former

commercial farmers have built legal cases by demonstrating

that their land did not fit into any of the categories

identified for compulsory acquisition — derelict land,

underutilized land, land under multiple ownership,

foreign-owned land, or land adjoining communal areas.

Others have cited their exemption under one of the published

categories — church-owned land, agro-industrial or

plantation land, land protected by a Bilateral Investment

Promotion and Protection Agreements, land designated as a

Export Processing Zone, or projects approved by the Zimbabwe

Investment Center. The report attempts to bypass these

original criteria by stating that these were never

“policies,” but merely guidelines (“neither a legal

requirement nor conclusive criteria”) to help the Land

Identification Committees to prioritize land for acquisition.



11. (SBU) In addition to admitting errors in processing

acquisitions and allocating plots, the Commission concedes

that the entire process is not quite constitutional. “Above

all, there was a major contradiction observed as between the

1992 Land Acquisition Act as amended, which provides for the

compulsory acquisition of land, and the provision embedded in

the Constitution which requires that such acquisition be

confirmed by the Administrative Court. This contradiction

ought to be removed (last sentence bold and italic in



12. (SBU) The issue of title to the newly acquired land

continues to present difficulties for the GOZ. The report

recognizes that leases or “other forms of legal title” are

necessary to allow A2 farmers to finance commercial

agriculture. However, the Commission seems to sidestep the

issue of competing claims by existing title deed holders, and

recommends long-term (and possibly inheritable) leases

several times in the lengthy document. In fact, the report

states several times that A2 beneficiaries should only be

leased land on a complete cost-recovery basis, and suggests

passing the complete burden of compensation onto the new

farmers. The report calls several times for comprehensive

assessment of all improvements, including houses, barns,

irrigation systems, and moveable equipment, so that a proper

lease price can be determined. Regarding A1 beneficiaries,

the report states that “the issue of tenure is still under

consideration, although indications are that the tenure

system is likely to be similar to the one obtaining for

communal areas (e.g., no bankable title).”


13. (SBU) The unspoken conflict is that the GOZ seems

determined to maintain control of the allocations in a manner

which would make title — even a transferable lease —

useless. At various points throughout the report, the

Commission emphasizes the need for both A1 and A2 farmers to

submit to the GOZ’s need to control agricultural planning,

and its right to assess and confirm productivity. At the

same time, the report concedes that investment in property

will only flourish where the landowner has the security of

knowing that he (or his financier) will reap the benefits of

his investment. While the GOZ is understandably concerned

with food security, any system of title or lease which allows

the holder to be dispossessed based on the whims of a

government functionary defeats the purpose.



Former Farm Workers Blamed, Dismissed



14. (SBU) The lack of attention to this vulnerable group is

startling. The report claims, several times throughout the

text, that the former farm workers fall into one of three

groups: some farm workers were given A1 plots; some have

found employment with the new farmers; and some returned to

their rural homes or “opted to … return to their country of

origin” (despite the fact that many are third- or

fourth-generation Zimbabwe-born). The report advises that

most in this third category remain in their former

compounds, a festering problem waiting for GOZ action. In

several instances, the report blames much of the lawlessness

(illegal squatting, illegal gold panning, crop theft,

vandalism, poaching, misuse of farm equipment, and “general

criminal activities”) on the farm workers. In several

others, the report states that “they were reportedly

unwilling to work for the newly resettled farmers, preferring

to be engaged in gold panning activities which they

considered to be more lucrative. Whilst unwilling to take up

employment, they remained a burden to the new farmers in

terms of water and electricity usage…” It must be noted

that according to GAPWUZ (the union previously representing

the bulk of commercial farm workers), the “new farmers” were

in January strenuously fighting an increase in the minimum

wage from around Zim $5000/month to $7,500/month (an increase

from US $3.36 to US $5.05 per month).



15. (SBU) The total number of the approximately 300,000

former farm workers who reportedly received some land in the

program is detailed below.


Province     Total workers   Total beneficiaries


Manicaland   90,000 (est.)   1,080

Mash Central not provided   “a small number”

Mash East     not provided   “some”

Mash West     not provided   “some,” but very few

Masvingo     not provided     128

Mat North     not provided     225

Mat South     not provided     361

Midlands     not provided     377

Total   2,171



Status of Conservancies



16. (SBU) Many of the wildlife conservancy landowners,

including several Amcit couples, had hopes that the Utete

commission would help resolve the ongoing threat to the

peaceful possession of their property. Unfortunately,

nothing in this report offers any respite. While the report

decries the “attempt to subdivide these areas into individual

plots which would clearly be unviable,” there is no

suggestion that land ownership revert to the existing model.

Rather, the Utete commission recommends “a corporate-type

model (of ownership) with a component to provide for local

community participation.” “A2 beneficiaries would be

allocated shares in and participate in managing the entities

running the Safari farms, Plantations or Conservancies.”


17. (SBU) The report also addresses the situation of illegal

occupiers in Gonarezhou, the national park to be incorporated

into the Zimbabwe-South Africa-Mozambique Transfrontier Park.

Although the governor of Masvingo reportedly “settled” the

families in Gonarezhou, the report states that “Government

stance on National Parks and Gazetted Forests is that such

areas should be exempted from acquisitions and resettlement.

With particular reference to the Gonarezhou National Park,

the Provincial Governor of Masvingo… is in the process of

finding alternative land to resettle the families currently

occupying” the park.



Claims of Increased Productivity Misleading



18. (SBU) There are several credible and rational

assessments included in this report, but few concrete

suggestions for meaningful action. These are interspersed

with unexpected claims of high crop production and

beneficiaries making “full use of the land allocated to

them.” In one case, the GOZ’s own figures belie its previous

claims. According to this report, in the 2000 growing

season, when most commercial farmers were still planting and

harvesting, commercial farms had 160,577 hectares under

maize, which produced 680,942 metric tonnes of grain. In

that same year, communal farmers had 1,217,115 hectares under

maize, which produced 808,709 metric tonnes. While it is

clear that seven times more communal land than commercial

land was cultivated for maize, it is not true that the

communal farmers largely carried the burden of feeding the

country (a statistic often repeated and seldom supported).

Elsewhere, the report claims that “Many of those (A1

beneficiaries) whom the Committee met stated that even

against the unfavourable weather conditions in the 2002 to

2003 agricultural season (note: when rains were delayed, but

average in amount, end note), they had harvested better

yields than in the past.” This could be entirely true yet

completely misleading. Even when a communal farmer increases

his yield from .66 tonnes/hectare, he still does not begin to

reach the commercial productivity of 4.2 tonnes/hectare.


19. (SBU) In fact, the report claims, “For both old and new

farmers, but particularly the latter, the prevailing

macro-economic environment, and in particular the relentless

capital equipment and input price inflation, represented a

serious challenge if not a major obstacle to the

significantly increased production on the land envisaged

under the Programme.” It is unclear why the GOZ would have

envisaged such an increase in production by deconstructing a

highly sophisticated and functional system.






20. (SBU) This is a bland and sanitized report. Given the

contents, there is little explanation for the GOZ’s great

secrecy. The tone combines a selective history lesson,

outdated anticolonial jargon, platitudes,

blame-apportionment, and self-absolution. The style is

filled with passive voice and arms’-length references, as if

the commission is commenting on remote and distant events.

The international community was looking to this report as an

indication of whether the winds of reform are blowing. Based

on this report, they are not. The three elements which must

be addressed in order to “reform” the crisis-ridden

agricultural sector are developing a viable economic model,

tackling the issue of compensation, and reining in

politically-connected A2 abuse. Not one of these issues has

been confronted. The fact that the Buka report, which could

have formed the basis for reform, has been summarily shelved,

is telling.


21. (SBU) The report raises more questions than it answers.

Despite claims that wholesale gazetting of new properties is

over, new lists appear in the GOZ press on a weekly basis.

Regarding indigenous landowners who bought multiple farms

before the resettlement program, the report states that “At

this state, they are, also not targeted for compulsory

acquisition.” The report hints at a third model of

resettlement, euphemistically entitled a “Peri-Urban/Green

Zone Resettlement Scheme,” which is being finalized even now.

Although this is described as a way to “create space for the

development of peri urban agriculture or green belts around

urban areas…,” there are insufficient details as to what

this will entail.


22. (SBU) Although the report takes an obligatory swipe at

“Western sanctions” which are destabilizing the economy, it

does concede that national macro-economic instability has

adversely affected smooth implementation. That being said,

it makes no suggestions for repairing the macro-economic

environment. The report addresses the problem of bringing

all farms into compliance with the maximum farm size, but

offers no recommendations as to how to combine this with its

proposed farm-size flexibility. The Executive Summary

states, “it is also critical that value addition to

agricultural produce be undertaken as a matter of deliberate

policy. For example, there is no plausible reason in the

country exporting bulky cotton lint instead of weaving it to

boost the textiles and clothing industry.” The unspoken

plausible reason is that few independent investors would want

to brave the perils of the Zimbabwean economy when investing

in exports from AGOA-eligible countries is so much less risky.


23. (SBU) In places, the report does not refrain from utter

falsehoods — as in its claims that the GOZ fulfilled, but

Britain did not honor, their respective commitments under the

September 2001 Abuja agreements.


24. (SBU) The Executive Summary ends with the claim, “There

can be no alternative to the Programme’s success… Neither

stagnation nor regression can be contemplated.” Therein lies

this commission’s raison d’etre: justification of a

fundamentally flawed program, the enormous costs (social,

political and economic) notwithstanding.



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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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