Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe reiterates his threat to re-distribute land.
August 12, 2002 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe reiterates his threat to re-distribute land. "One farmer, one farm policy." What this fool doesn't realize (or perhaps more terribly, really does), is that this policy will cause a devastating famine, and bring about economic chaos: "Commercial agriculture is Zimbabwe’s biggest private employer, providing work — and, almost invariably, accommodation — for about 350,000 people. If Mr Mugabe carries out his threat to evict 2,900 white farmers, the workers and their families — a total of 1.2 million people — will join the ranks of the dispossessed..." Not only that, but his government has been terrorizing black farm hands and others thought to have opposed him in the recent "election." What can be done about Zimbabwe? The EU seems willing to help in case of famine, but there is no guarantee their money will get past Mugabe's pockets.
posted by insomnyuk (30 comments total)
BOXES! CURSES! And it looked fine in preview.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:17 PM on August 12, 2002

I say you treat this like Mugabe would... the boxes are an imperialist conspiracy and you can make them leave their spots.
posted by RobbieFal at 12:20 PM on August 12, 2002

What's more bizarre is that the post renders fine on the front page; the boxes only appear when you go to the detail view. Hmmm, Matt must be tinkering behind the scenes.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:02 PM on August 12, 2002

it is a good thing that the zanu pf keep strict control of the comunications in and out of zimbabwe, a weblog from there might actually be interesting. / intentionally inflamatory and pointless statement
posted by asok at 1:05 PM on August 12, 2002

Yes, but it will be a more fair and equitable starvation.
posted by revbrian at 1:11 PM on August 12, 2002

I remember Mugabe did something outlandish and ridiculous a few months back... anyone know what exactly? Did he declare war or turnips or the UN or something?
posted by The Michael The at 1:22 PM on August 12, 2002

crap. On turnips or the UN, I meant.
posted by The Michael The at 1:23 PM on August 12, 2002

"a weblog from there might actually be interesting"

Actually, the BBC website is hosting the dailydiary of Colin Shand, a small time white farmer in Zimbabwe.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:24 PM on August 12, 2002

aside from the fact that this is a amoral seizure, it is important to note that all land being seized is being redistributed to political allies of Mugabe and members of the government (via the NPR report).

it is not even going to the common man.
posted by jazzkat11 at 1:30 PM on August 12, 2002

Further evidence that Living in America isn't so bad.
posted by Mushkelley at 1:30 PM on August 12, 2002

Kleptocrats like this make me want to throw up my hands and say, "Let them starve." A more wrong headed policy--taking away land from the only people who know how to farm it--I can scarcely imagine. But it's ok, Libya supports his actions! Libya, of course, says to pay no attention to those allegations of them buying up whole parts of Zimbabwe in exchange for forgiving their oil loans. Feh.
posted by haqspan at 1:44 PM on August 12, 2002

the michael the:

I believe he rejected a US food shipment on the grounds that it might be genetically modified. Meanwhile, there already is famine in Zimbabwe because of earlier land grabs.
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:05 PM on August 12, 2002

insomnyuk - nice one. a white farmer with a farm - must be a very small one, or he's a zanu pf voter perhaps? or keeps a low profile, can't last forever. good luck to him.
i wonder what the proportion of blacks killed to whites killed in this campaign has been...
mugabe seems to want to kill his country, like a child destroying a toy rather than sharing it.
posted by asok at 2:07 PM on August 12, 2002

Elwoodwiles: thank you. He also told Tony Blair to "Go to Hell." That zany Mugabe!
posted by The Michael The at 2:11 PM on August 12, 2002

The Michael The: Perhaps you're referring to the horribly rigged and corrupt elections marked by violence against opposition parties, deliberate closures of polling stations, and other antics which led to Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth, EU sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies, and seemed only to enhance Mugabe's mandate of terror. There's a scandal involving a probably altered video showing his chief political opponent taking a bribe (it's disjointed, and seems to skip back and forth in time). The UN is pretty much with the EU and US on Zimbabwe so far, but the African Union, unfortunately, began its existence in July with the inauspicious certification of the Zimbabwean elections -- suggesting that Ghaddafi's influence on the organization has only been enhanced by his statesmanship in creating it, which had been thought indicatory of moderation.

One way or another, the place is a mess. Which seems to suit the man just fine. To think 20 years ago he was thought a standard-bearer of a democratic Africa.
posted by dhartung at 2:26 PM on August 12, 2002

Go to Hell..


..why should they poke their pink noses in our business" -- Mugabe
posted by stbalbach at 2:53 PM on August 12, 2002

This is an opportunity for Mbeki and RSA to step up and take their place as leaders of black Africa. A well-timed humanitarian military intervention, emplacing a peacekeeping force, would oust Mugabe in days (if not hours).

Seized land can be restored to its rightful white owners, not on the basis of its colonial seizure, but on the basis of the 1980 post-civil-war settlement (granted by Mugabe) whereby white farmers and industrialists were invited to remain in Zimbabwe and promised tenure in their property. A South African-style affirmative action program can ensure that the Zimbabwean agriculture industry is gradually and prudently diversified.
posted by MattD at 2:56 PM on August 12, 2002

MattD, It would be fairer and a better affirmative action to return land distribution to pre the 1930's Land Apportionment Act which excluded Africans from the half of the country that contained the best farming land (despite the fact that Africans constituted over 95% of the population at the time).

I think your plan is based on the common assumption that black run farms in Zimbabwe are somehow incapable of more than subsistence farming. 10,000+ small scale mainly black commercial farmers occupy 1.2m hectares of land. The NewAfrican reports that this group now produce 70% of the country's maize, cotton and groundnut output (figures May 2001) with less than 5% of the fertile land. By comparison the white owned farms are shown to be inefficient producers, only capable of producing volumes for external markets by factor of their sheer size.
posted by keno at 5:46 PM on August 12, 2002

welp, their fucked.
posted by delmoi at 7:45 PM on August 12, 2002

keno: There is a diffrence between "black farmers" and Mugabe's cronies. Besides, white people are a minority there, shouldn't 'default liberalism' side with them?
posted by delmoi at 7:50 PM on August 12, 2002

keno: are you aware that the beneficiaries of the current 'redistribution' appear to have their own problems with Mugabe?
For the war vets who are intended to benefit, the expiry of the deadline should have been a cause for celebration. Instead many were in despair, unable to feed themselves on the farms they occupied and bitter that cabinet ministers, high-ranking civil servants, MPs, army officers and other members of Mugabe’s elite had grabbed much of the best land for themselves.

When the veterans first invaded the white farms in early 2000 they were intended to be the vanguard of “resettlement schemes” extolled on television as miracles of peasant productivity. But while the black elite has grabbed many farms, owning far more than the 400 hectares (about 990 acres) decreed by the reform programme, the countryside has been denuded. The settlers were promised seeds, fertilisers and tractors. The promises were broken, with the result that hundreds of thousands are now destitute and the land is derelict.
Mugabe, of course, has a win-win: whether land confiscation succeeds or fails, he can blame himself or the colonial meddlers respectively. And there's a pretty chilling similarity to the Israeli government's recruitment campaign, promises of economic benefit to get settlers to do their dirty work.
posted by riviera at 2:31 AM on August 13, 2002

Interesting comment piece here from the Guardian. It's always struck me about this situation that the reporting of it is way out of line with the situation, and a lot of that has to be attributed to the fact that the farmers are white.

I think Mugabe is a crazed and dangerous man, but I think the nature of his regime and its ruthless oppression of any dissent is more of a story than the reclaiming of land from a minority. Not to say they aren't suffering, the death of the nine farmers is wrong and the reclamation of the lands is being disasterously handled, I just question the priority given to this story when there are so many worse things happening on the continent.
posted by ciderwoman at 3:51 AM on August 13, 2002

Thank you, ciderwoman, for reminding me how despicable The Guardian can be. The issue of white farmers being ousted from the land has not been a bigger story than the general collapse of Zimbabwe as a whole, as far as I can tell. There are BBC correspondents in every part of Zimbabwe monitoring the situation, as you can see here. But the farms are a big story in the UK for a number of reasons.

According to this summary of the situation in Zimbabwe, a large majority of the most productive land is still owned, or was till recently, by white farmers. The disasterous food shortages which are already claiming lives are directly related to this. Secondly, a lot of the farmers have British passports and will be returning to the UK. That's of direct interest to the British press, is it not? The British government was asked by Mugabe to compensate the farmers for the loss of their farms. The government refused on the grounds the land was going to government cronies. That makes the story relevant to the UK, doesn't it?

From listening to the radio in the past two weeks, which is where I get my news, the fate of the Zimbabwean people has been higher on the agenda than the issue of the farmers. Mugabe himself is big story because of his insanity and inhumanity towards his own people, not because everyone is crying for the poor white farmers. Britain isn't generally that sympathetic to colonials.
posted by Summer at 5:15 AM on August 13, 2002

Be fair summer, the Guardian article reminds us how despicable Decca Aitkenhead can be (see also her awful book). How they ever printed such a contrived piece of filler I don't know (note that all her quotes are lifted from other newspapers, mostly the Daily Mail). The article is also somewhat out of date now.

I was in Zimbabwe in June of last year and at that point the overwhelming feelings of the white people we met (mostly tourist operators/hotel owners etc) were concern - for the future, for themselves, but as much as anything for their employees - white, black, whatever. Most had already laid off staff knowing full well they would not find another job - those that hadn't then will have done so now as the tourist industry has totally collapsed. The feelings of a significant proportion (by no means all, I'll admit) of the farmers were the same.

Since last year I have received letters from some of those employees, begging to be 'given the honour' of coming to work for us, so that they can send money home to their families. Huge numbers are unemployed as the entire economy is simply collapsing, so they couldnt afford food even if it was available. Whatever you think of land redistribution (and in a long-term, controlled manner it is probably the ethical thing to do) what is happening now is killing the country and killing its countrymen.

Just one of the tragedies of Zimbabwe is that it was so close to becoming the first sub-Saharan country (other than SA) to really integrate with the world economy. It had the infrastructure that is crucial, relative economic stability, and peace. It should have been the focal point to expand these things into the poorer, more troubled regions surrounding it. Mugabe has decided otherwise.
posted by barnsoir at 6:32 AM on August 13, 2002

riviera/delmoi: let me be clear - I know all too well that Mugabe is a thug, he rules through a regime of terror and corruption.

However my point was that the land-redistribution policy (not the method) has some merit and is supported by many non-Mugabe supporters. Indeed the British government gave resources to facilitate the long-term land-redistrution by providing fund to reimburse white farmers. (as riviera states ... Mugabe used these funds to buy favour with the military and leaders of the groups of mostly teenage thugs called 'War veterans').
posted by keno at 7:12 AM on August 13, 2002

Agree totally about La Aitkenhead, and I think Keno put my point rather better than my (typically mid-morning) ramble.

My beef was in the way the story has been reported, which has concentrated on the plight of the farmers with little debate about the ethics of the policy as an idea (as opposed to how Mugabe is going about it), and I do think that has something to do with the fact these are white farmers. Sure the fact that they're British passport holders makes it of more interest tothe UK press, but rarely have I seen anything in the press that debates the idea of land re-distribution.

Maybe I should read more than the Sun, but being a wooly headed left wing liberal it's the one for me.
posted by ciderwoman at 9:37 AM on August 13, 2002

i just love the sound of it.

"movin to zimbabwe soon, gonna be a big land-grab tycoon..."
posted by quonsar at 10:08 AM on August 13, 2002

It must be holiday season at the Graun, if they're letting Decca E-kenhead file. Simon Hoggart's pieces from the handover in 1980 are good, though: you can dig them out on the site, but I can't be bothered looking for the links right now...
posted by riviera at 12:53 PM on August 13, 2002

For another interesting look, check this out. Not all disastrous land redistribution is the fault of evil local governments...
posted by pjgulliver at 1:17 PM on August 13, 2002

Thanks, pjgulliver, that was a useful corrective. For all its occasional idiocies, I'm very glad the Guardian exists.
posted by languagehat at 8:17 AM on August 14, 2002

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