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CL/175/11(a)-R.2- 5 -

Geneva, 1st October 2004


I.General remarks on the historic, political and legal background to the cases

It should be noted from the outset that, with the exception of the Acting Attorney General, the Commissioner of Prisons and the Chief Justice, the other authorities started the conversation with the delegation by giving it an overview of the recent history of Zimbabwe and the reasons which, according to them, have led to the establishment of the Movement for Democratic Change and determined its policy.  

1.The legacy of the past as presented by the authorities

1.1.A history of political violence

The Speaker and the Minister of Justice, Parliamentary and Legal Affairs both said that the history of Zimbabwe was marked by political violence.  They referred to the brutality of the settler regime and its systematic oppression of the black people, maintaining itself in power, as the Speaker said, by applying divide and rule policies.  Mr. Mnangagwe had spent 10 years in prison under that regime and Mr. Chinamasa specified that before 1980, a strict apartheid regime was applied under which he, for example, could not have left the area where he was living and become a lawyer.  It had therefore been necessary to take up arms to overthrow the regime.  In 1962, the struggle against oppression started which lasted until 1980.  

In the words of the Speaker, the violence was necessary to obtain independence.  Zimbabwe was now moving away from such violence and seeking to create a culture of tolerance and freedom.   He said that during the first elections in 1980, there were violent clashes.  In the second elections of 1985, nine political parties contested but only three won seats.  In 1990, ZANU and ZAPU contested the elections together and there was less violence.  Likewise, in 1995 the elections were relatively calm.  In 2000, the situation was different as a new political party, the MDC, was contesting the poll and the land issue had arisen.

1.2.The land issue:  the Lancaster House Conference and subsequent Government initiatives to settle the issue, as presented by the authorities

According to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, in the Lancaster House discussions, the land issue was the most important one:  “we wanted our land back “owned by 4,000 white farmers “or we were ready to continue fighting”.

According to the Minister, in 1979, the USA and the United Kingdom declared that, if the liberation movement laid down its arms, they would provide resources to solve the colonial question.  While the USA under Ronald Reagan did not honour this commitment, the United Kingdom under Margaret Thatcher tried to do so.  According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the British Government helped with the land re-distribution and, as he said “we went on well with them”.  At the time, land was distributed on the basis of the “willing buyer - willing seller” principle.

The situation changed with the arrival in office of Tony Blair’s Labour Government.  The Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Justice made reference to a letter which the British Overseas Development Department, headed by Minister Claire Short, had written to the Zimbabwe Government, stating that the Labour Government had not inherited colonial responsibilities and consequently had no obligation to help with the land reform.  In short, according to the authorities, the Labour Government rejected the agreement reached at Lancaster House and the efforts made by the Zimbabwe Government to obtain a change of this position were to no avail.  This situation created “an explosion” at the ZANU-PF Party Conference at which it was decided that the land would be taken.  

The Minister of Foreign Affairs referred to initiatives taken subsequently to resolve the land issue.  He said that an initiative of an international conference on the land issue organised jointly by the European Union and the Zimbabwe Government did not take place because the EU pulled out.  Moreover, in 1988, a Conference on land chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe produced a document on the land issue with which “everyone was happy”.  Even the International Monetary Fund and

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