By Jonathan Maphenduka
I READ with great interest a recent letter to the editor by Ben Freeth in which he raises issue with the government of Zimbabwe regarding the land compensation question and property rights of individuals in Zimbabwe. Freeth represents an organisation known as Sadc Tribunal Rights Watch, which must have been formed after Zimbabwe’s land reform programme with the sole purpose of dabbling in a matter which is purely domestic to the laws of Zimbabwe.
The first question that comes to mind being: is Zimbabwe a signatory to this organisation? If not, why does Freeth think that anyone should account to the so-called tribunal regarding the justice/injustice of the land reform programme in Zimbabwe? The name of the organisation purports to be a body formed by Sadc member states to protect land/property rights in the region.
Why should Zimbabwe seek to protect property rights under the watchful eye of a regional body because the government launched a land reform programme for the benefit of its citizens? One must dismiss Freeth as an intruder in matters domestic to this country and its people. The idea that a body like Freeth’s tribunal should be set up to oversee how a Sadc member state should protect its citizens’ property rights is frivolous and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms as a brazenly hostile agent of those who seek to show Zimbabwe in bad light in this regard.
Freeth, while raising issue regarding land tenure in this country, avoids like the plague mentioning how the land tenure was established in this country because the land reform largely affected whites in this country for whose protection the tribunal was formed outside Zimbabwe. In his letter, Freeth deliberately concealed his place of domicile.
One can take all 4 500 white farmers and 37 companies that owned land in Zimbabwe and therefore are due to benefit from the compensation exercise, it will be shown that the beneficiaries owe their land tenure to the August 14, 1893 Victoria Secret Agreement. What has caused the unceasing debate on compensation is government’s refusal to accept that the origin of all white-owned land in this country was with the secret agreement.
I have stated before and I will state this again, that the signing of that agreement came with the payment of £10 000 and the right to peg 6 000 acres of land by each of those who signed the agreement to take the land. All this became effective before the British South Africa Company forces crossed the border into Lobengula’s Kingdom and the estate of anyone who died in the hostilities that followed was protected.
While the Kingdom was used as a pawn in the invasion, the expropriation of the land was not limited to the Kingdom, but affected the whole of what was to become Zimbabwe. Freeth chooses to focus his attention on white land tenure because to him nothing else matters, but white land rights. This is so because he is ignorant of the origin of white land tenure in Zimbabwe. He, therefore, chooses to fudge instead of giving clear guidelines on a historically difficult matter.
Unfortunately the government of Zimbabwe refuses to accept the fact that the land tenure in this country has a colonial history and foundation and one cannot do justice to the subject by looking for a quick-fix which is the 2013 constitution. Because those in the moronic fringe of its supporters will not question its decisions, government has ignored all else and is riding roughshod against those who seek justice for the people of Zimbabwe and also those who stand to benefit from its decision.
Vital information regarding those who stand to benefit from government’s quick-fix approach is being withheld from the people because government failed to do its homework before taking the plunge to compensate. This is why government has failed to justify why those people who expropriated the land by force of arms must be compensated, even though the injustice of this act to the people of this country is glaring.
There are those African people who lost state-allocated farms because they were labelled members of the opposition. Government has chosen to deal with the issue of white farmers and has therefore failed to formulate a broad-based policy on how to fix the injustice on those who were accused of being political opponents of government. In this category are those who were allocated state farms but the farms and property were destroyed because the holders were labelled as members of the opposition.
Against this category of affected African farmers, government has actually made provision to compensate third and fourth generations of white farmers who benefited from the secret agreement. It has not declared its willingness to consider the cases of those Africans who suffered through politically-motivated reasons. Because government chooses to pay its attention to issues pertaining to white farmers only, government shall fail to redress the injustice suffered by African farmers despite its declared intention to clean up the land mess which was precipitated by its predecessor.
Freeth makes (not in so many words) an interesting observation that despite the finality of government’s decision to compensate, the matter remains murky and unclear. He is right. You cannot ignore the reality of the history of the land tenure in Zimbabwe and persuade observers that you have not merely swept under the rug the really history of the land tenure in this country, but also choose to cherrypick those issues which have immediate benefits to the government.
The history of the land tenure in this country is fundamental to a flawless cleaning up the mess of previous decisions with unfailing justice.
It is extremely unfortunate for justice that the beneficiaries themselves are ignorant of the history of land tenure in this country. Because of their warped understanding of the history of land tenure they enjoy, they believe they are owed every inch of this country for the land they lost. They never ask themselves why the United Kingdom government did not negotiate their protection beyond the ten years after which government became free to launch land reforms.
It is true (as Freeth points out) that Robert Mugabe’s government was caught napping when a popular opposition party was launched which nearly removed his government from power in 2000. But how did this hindsight help forestall the shambles of 2020 when government has found itself clutching at straws to explain away an unpopular decision to compensate in the face of massive opposition?
We have in this country the unfortunate and ingrained mind-set that government’s wisdom in matters of governance should not be challenged. This is the result of 40 years of totalitarianism which has been cultivated and nurtured by our rulers.
The government therefore has simply passed the buck to the 2013 constitution. But one can’t help sympathising with government because its decision comes in the wake unsettling opposition and pressures by external forces like the SADC Tribunal Right Watch which is responsible for certain retributive actions against this country. The design behind their actions is to support the ousted farmers against the government.
I find it rather amazing that this organisation (without showing whether or not Zimbabwe is a signatory to the tribunal) exists only to champion the white farmer’s view and rights without giving due regard to the land tenure problem facing Zimbabwe. There are other external forces that subscribe to the idea that exclusivity should be given to white farmer interests in the land tenure debacle in this country.
This has thrown the dispossessed people of this country to the cold where they have no one to speak for them.
How much does Freeth know about the history of the land tenure of this country, which knowledge should temper his views in this regard? In 1894 the United Kingdom passed a Matabeleland Order Council which “regularised” the irregular confiscation of land and cattle by the Chartered Company. The effect of that order in council was that Gwebu people of what became Essexvale in the Umzingwane District (for one example) were removed to Buhera where they are still considered aliens.
Their removal enabled Frederick Courtney Selous to take 200 000 acres (for just one glaring injustice)of what today is Esigodini to graze his share of the cattle that were seized under one of the Orders in Council. It has always been my argument that the British government should compensate the white farmers for the land they lost in 2000.
Loft-minded white people in this country agree that the foundation stock of cattle belonging to the white farmer today were in fact “looted” from the African people under the Matabeleland Orders in Council of December 1894 which “regularised” an illegal act. Government’s move to compensate white farmers has therefore opened a Pandora’s Box for African people of this country to seek litigation against it to redress the situation that has been caused by government’s buckling under pressure from the United Kingdom and its allies.
Government is duty bound to make a public statement regarding its policy on the people’s cattle which were seized by those who Bishop Abelsigned the secret agreement. Instead of fudging government should give clear answers to every arising question on the land based on a broad policy framework.
Government makes the point that it is not taxing African farmers and resettlement villagers to pay white farmers. What government has in fact done is to mortgage this country to the whims and vagaries of international money markets for the next 50 years, with the World Bank and its associates holding the mortgage papers, in a horrendous betrayal of the African people of this country.
Are we not indebted to the World Bank and associates already?
Unfortunately President Mgnangagwa’s administration will go down in history as having betrayed the African people on a high scale of injustice of its compensation decision. Despite the decision it remains my argument that the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia experiment to give Bishop Abel Muzorewa the edge in the 1980 elections established one fundamental and unceasing principle, which is that the United Kingdom remains guilty of failing to protect or compensate its kith and kin on the land issue after the ten-year period stipulated in the 1980 constitution, which did not bind the government of Zimbabwe to compensate anyone.
Still the UK government’s failure to seek protection measures for white farmers exposed the government of Zimbabwe to panic measures it took to redress a situation which in point of fact was not its responsibility
During the lifetime of the Rhodesia-Zimbabwe government the British government initiated and financed a land scheme for the benefit of Africans because Joshua Nkomo was making a lot of noise regarding the land. This experiment was designed to further Bishop Abel Muzorewa’s election fortunes in 1980.
White farmers who were emigrating to avoid living under a black government sold their farms to the British government for distribution to deserving Africans. One of the beneficiaries was Bishop Mutende’s church which got prime land in Bikita West. There were African beneficiaries in the Sote Source commercial farming area of Gutu West and Gutu South. Other beneficiaries got farms in Ndanga West, across the road from Bishop Mutendi’s new farm.
When last week I saw President Emmerson Mnangagwa basking in the limelight of Mutendi’s achievements on that farm I wondered if he knew how the Bishop became one of the beneficiaries in the British Government’s land scheme.
Two years later the British government signed the 1980 constitution without insisting on protection provisions for white farmers. It must be noted that this constitution did not discriminate against white people who wanted to remain in the country without becoming traitors to the country’s future prosperity. What became a major concern to African Zimbabweans was the massive divestment from the country by British companies in corroboration with the Rhodesia government.
Those white people who remained in the country were hard core Rhodesians (of not in a thousand years persuasion) who had nowhere else to go and still maintain a privileged lifestyle for which they are famous.
They have also been known to indulge in a hoax every so often by wearing the ruling party’s regalia in public, posturing as supporters of government. They are also famous for being the worst employers of African labour on their farms.
Not just few of them have failed to render the loyalty which they owe this country, and now they are being sent off with a bounty that their African counterpart can never claim from their own government. In short the beneficiaries in the compensation saga are getting what they don’t deserve. This much they must all know…
On the other hand government has not taken into consideration the fact that there are millions of Zimbabweans living in the diaspora and will one day return home to find that the land for which we fought a war of liberation has been returned to those who expropriated it with arms of war.
l Jonathan Maphenduka contact +263 772 332 404