[OPE-L:3009] Re: Zimbabwe

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Wed May 03 2000 - 17:11:31 EDT

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Rakesh, thanks for your questions on Zimbabwe [OPE-L:3003]. It is great
that people are interested, in spite of the peculiar reporting in the
international media (and my inadequate attempts to explain). Bear with me
and I'll have another go:

>Nicky, I am a bit confused by your account of events. The constitutional
>referendum which was voted down in Februrary would have given Mugabe broad
>based powers, only one of which would have been the right to confiscate
>white owned lands (whites, less than 20f the pop, own 300f the land,
>700f the most arable land, right?).

Right on both accounts. Mugabe attempted to sell the referendum on the
land issue. But the broad based powers were always the *real* issue - and
these would have enabled him to confiscate more than white lands. He has
in the past confiscated land from his political opponents and expelled
people settled on these lands (of course, these opponents were all black
and did not command the attention of the foreign media). Opposition
political parties and the trades unions fought for a NO vote at the
referendum because of a basic lack of trust re Mugabe's intentions (why
indeed would anyone trust him?). [btw, the relevant clause concerning the
right to confiscate land has now been included through an amendment to
Clause 16 of the Zimbabwean constitution].

>Now while whites of course voted down
>the constitutional reform primarily because of the confiscation powers
>Mugabe was trying to obtain, is this why the majority of the people voted
>it down? I can find no confirmation of this claim in the news stories
>which I just read. And if this were the case, then why is Mugabe trying
>to win the election in part--aside from the brutal murder and repression
>which has characterized his regime from the outset--by forcing Britain to
>compensate the settlers for confiscated land? Are you sure that there is
>widespread popular opposition to this specific measure?

As you point out whites constitute only 20f the population - frankly, how
we vote on any issue matters not a jot. The majority of the people voted
NO because this was a way to send Mugabe a clear message. i.e. they didn't
swallow his anti-white (racist) rhetoric, and false promises about land. I
have tried - maybe not very successfully - to separate the land issue from
Mugabe's particular *use* (*misuse*) of the land issue in the current
crisis. Most Zimbabweans DO support land reform - indeed, it is an urgent
demand. Most Zimbabweans DO NOT support Mugabe's attempt to misuse the
land issue to reward *his supporters* at the expense of *other
Zimbabweans*, and extend his grip on power. It is in this context that
widespread opposition to land grabs by ZANU supporters must be understood
and opposed.

If you want news stories written by black Zimbabweans, try *EXCITE* on the
internet, search *Political Parties Zimbabwe* and look for the REUTERS
daily news stories that appear at the bottom of the page. Zimbabwe's only
non-government newspaper *Zimbabwe Independent* is at:
http://www.samara.co.zw/zimin/ and the MDC webpage is at
http://www.in2zw.com/mdc/ The trade union ZCTU website has recently moved,
but I will try to find it for you next time I'm on the net.

>Of course I would
>sign any petition against the international finance community's
>darling Mugabe's use of terror to suppress opponents,
>but getting Britain to compensate settlers would not be the reason for my
>opposition. It seems to me a terrible blunder to make this the focus of
>opposition to Mugabe--I shared Julian's and Paul C's reaction to your
>initial comments. By the way, do you know how Morgan Tvsenginai (sorry
>for any misspelling) has proposed to deal with the land crisis?
>Yours, Rakesh

Compensation for settlers is not the focus (I have indeed blundered badly
if this was your impression!). I can't even comment seriously on the
business of getting Britain to compensate settlers. I don't know what it
is about, or who originally proposed it. My guess is that Mugabe is taking
an opportunity to have a 'crack' at Britain. Britain has some
responsibility for the crisis, because at Lancaster House, Britain forced
ZANU to accept a no expropriation without compensation policy. Mugabe is
saying to Britain that if Britain wants this policy to remain in effect,
then the British government must do the compensating.

The MDC propose to deal with the land crisis by dealing with present
realities. That is, any new government needs to deal first with issues
(the conflicts between farm workers and ZANU supporters) on the farms that
are already occupied, and try to minimise the political differences. The
main point is to try to prevent a further deterioration of the situation -
that is why May Day marches were cancelled. If MDC are to fight the
election at all - assuming Mugabe allows it to go ahead - we can't provide
him with any new opportunity to use the Law and Order Maintenance Act
against us.

Hope the position is now clearer,
comradely greetings,

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