Why the US is interested in the land issue in Zimbabwe


The United States was interested in the land issue in Zimbabwe because some of its citizens lost land to the government without any compensation even though in some cases the citizens had bought the farms after the government had declared no interest.

This is contained in one of the cables by then United States ambassador to Zimbabwe Joseph Sullivan who cited the case of seven citizens whose properties had been taken over.

The cable, released by Wikileaks, does not name the farmers affected. It was dispatched on 9 June 2003.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2003-06-09 07:51

2011-08-30 01:44


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






B. 02 HARARE 01597


1. Summary: This year’s Expropriation Report updates some

claimants detailed in the 2002 report, and adds some

claimants whose property remains in limbo. As in last

year’s report, the only claimants are American citizen

(Amcit) owners of Zimbabwean real estate, both farming

property and rural/wildlife based property. All seven of

the identified Amcit-owned properties are threatened by the

ongoing Land Resettlement Program, with several owners

already off their land and several attempting to hold on.

No compensation has been paid to any Amcit property owner

for real property which has been seized and settled. End




The Situation



2. Under the ongoing GOZ Land Resettlement Program, almost

all farm or wildlife property owned by non-indigenous

landowners has been targeted for compulsory acquisition. As

a central tenet of the program, the GOZ has consistently

maintained that no compensation will be made for land

itself, but that compensation will be made for improvements

to the property. Because of the disarray this program has

imposed on the value of rural land, as well as the ongoing

economic chaos, there is no absolute value for any claim,

although values predating the current situation range from

US $200,000 to more than US $2,000,000. To date, no owners

have been compensated for property acquired by the GOZ under

this program. Post continues to track the situation

concerning seven separate properties owned by American

citizens, all of which have received either Preliminary or

Final Notices of Acquisition from the GOZ.


3. Because of the current judicial and political chaos, it

is difficult to state when (exactly) any landowner was

legally dispossessed; many landowners continue to press

claims and challenges to acquisition through Zimbabwe’s

courts. Further, even in instances where Zimbabwean courts

issue favorable rulings to such challenges, the police and

District Land Administrators usually refuse to enforce the

rulings. However, all claims arise out of the GOZ’s Land

Resettlement Program, which was embarked upon in 2000. It

is accurate to state that the majority of Amcit landowners

continue to be threatened with acquisition, and most already

have been denied control, possession and use of their

property. Individual sitreps are provided below.



The Claimants



4. As detailed in last year’s Expropriation Report (ref b),

Claimant A continues to be denied access to or use of his

rural wildlife-based property. The property is located in

the district of Mangwe, in the vicinity of Bulawayo.

Currently the property is occupied by two large-scale Zanu-

PF-connected beneficiaries, and other small claimants

continue to graze livestock on the property. Claimant A has

received relief through a Zimbabwe High Court ruling.

However, when he attempted to have his local authorities

enforce the order, he was told by his local land

administrator, “you may have won in the courts, but you have

lost politically…” Ambassador Sullivan has protested this

expropriation both through a Diplomatic Note and through

various meetings with GOZ representatives, to no avail.


5. Claimant B, whose situation was also reported (ref b)

last year, has now been completely dispossessed of his

agricultural property. The property is situated in the

district of Salisbury, in the vicinity of Harare. The

property has been “pegged” into eighty-four separate A2, or

“new commercial farmer,” plots. At last review,

approximately twenty-one plots were occupied by settlers.

Claimant B has also pursued a claim through the Zimbabwe

courts and has received no relief. Ambassador Sullivan has

protested this expropriation through a Diplomatic Note and

through personal communications with GOZ representatives.


6. Claimant C, the final Amcit detailed in last year’s

report (ref b), awaits some resolution on acquisition of his

small-holding agricultural property through Zimbabwe’s

chaotic legal system. The property is situated in the

district of Goromonzi, in the vicinity of Harare. A

“delisting” form was initiated and signed by the Provincial

Governor of Mashonaland East, but the two other required

signatures — those of Minister of Local Government Ignatius

Chombo and Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural

Resettlement Joseph Made — have never materialized, nor are

they likely to. In the interim, Claimant C has entered into

a sales agreement with a relative of the Chief Justice of

Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court, and hopes to cut his losses should

the sale go through by year’s end. Although there are

currently no settlers actually residing on or farming the

property, Claimant C has left the farm due to personal

security concerns. Ambassador Sullivan has protested this

expropriation through a Diplomatic Note and through personal

communications with GOZ representatives.


7. Claimant D, who had previously twice managed to get his

property “de-listed” after receiving initial notices of

acquisition (Section 5 notices), received a final notice of

acquisition (Section 8 notice) in January, 2003 — well

after the GOZ formally announced that “the land resettlement

program is complete” in August 2002. The property

(supporting photographic and hunting safaris) is located in

the district of Kwekwe, which lies between Harare and Gweru.

Claimant D is protesting the acquisition through Zimbabwe’s

courts. The property consists of 7,618 hectares dedicated

as a wildlife conservancy, and is home to a number of

endangered black rhino. Claimant D purchased the property

in 1985 after the seller offered it to the GOZ and received

a “certificate of no present interest,” and has since

received several Zimbabwe Investment Center (ZIC)

certificates indicating formal approval of the conservancy

as a wildlife development investment. Claimant D is

currently attempting to file for South African residency and

has expressed no hope of being allowed to stay on his

Zimbabwean property, into which he has invested the majority

of his retirement savings — close to US $1 million.

Ambassador Sullivan has protested this expropriation through

a Diplomatic Note and through personal communications with

the Governor of that province.


8. Two other Amcits, Claimants E and F, each face complete

dispossession, although Post has not received enough details

from the property owners to register a formal protest.

Claimant E’s rural wildlife-based property (supporting

photographic and hunting safaris), which was transferred

from a Zimbabwean spouse to a trust benefiting the couple’s

two Amcit children, is located in the district of Wankie

(Hwange). The property has reportedly been allocated to an

A2 settler from the Hwange area. Claimant E has only been

allowed to visit the property under police supervision to

remove personal property. Claimant F has two separate

pieces of rural wildlife-based property, both in the

vicinity of Bulawayo, one of which was ceded to the GOZ for

resettlement and one of which is reportedly occupied by

settlers. Claimant F resides in the US, and her affairs

have been complicated by inheritance issues.   She is unable

to realize any revenue anticipated from the two properties.


9. One final Amcit, Claimant G, has received a Section 5

notice but is still in possession of the property. The

property (supporting photographic and hunting safaris) is

located in the district of Bikita, in the vicinity of

Chiredzi. This property is dedicated to a 26-farm wildlife

conservancy containing both black and white rhinos, and the

GOZ has repeatedly stated that it will address “true”

conservancies (meaning those owned by multiple owners in a

cooperative venture) with a long-promised policy on wildlife

concerns. The policy has yet to be articulated. In the

meantime, Claimant G continues to engage in dialogue with

the GOZ along with other Conservancy spokesmen, and hopes

for some resolution for the Conservancy as a whole.

However, the GOZ has made some indications that it expects

conservancies to “take on partners,” which is widely

interpreted as a demand that well-connected beneficiaries be

paid off in order for the conservancies to continue to

operate. As with the first four claimants, Ambassador

Sullivan has protested this attempted acquisition through a

Diplomatic Note and through personal communications with GOZ



10. We will continue to monitor the situation of these

Amcit property owners, and will continue to offer whatever

support we can. Any subsequent developments will be

reported as they occur.





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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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