Geneva, 1st October 2004
the World Bank took a positive stand on it and the UK issued a less negative statement. Many countries, such as Sweden and Denmark volunteered to be part of the land reform project as elaborated in that document. Although the document was finally adopted, opposition from the British Government which considered that it was not placed sufficiently in the IMF context, “slowly destroyed” it. The Land Acquisition Act of 1990 was then adopted which provided for land to be taken without payment of compensation, except for improvements that had been made. This was the beginning of the recovery of land, the Minister said.
2.The creation of the Movement for Democratic Change
For the authorities, the land problem and the creation of the MDC is closely linked. They described this in the following way:
According to the Minister of Justice, at the donor conference held in September 1998, pledges were made but not acted upon by States, least of all the United Kingdom. Instead, funding went to the opposition and human rights NGOs, such as for example Zimrights or the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZHR). According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when the constitutional reform process started in 1999, there “was a red flag”, namely a clause to take land without compensation unless the colonial power would provide sufficient funds to pay such compensation. The United Kingdom “wanted to go against this and needed an instrument” to do it. The draft constitution was defeated in a referendum and the opposition was subsequently formed from the trade union movement with the purpose of blocking the land reform. However, 100 MPs voted subsequently for a constitutional amendment providing for the seizure of land. The Westminster Foundation and all parties in the United Kingdom funded the “organisation of the opposition in Zimbabwe” project. As the Minister put it, “we had never seen this in our history; the European Union and the USA poured money into a political party”. The party in question, the Movement for Democratic Change, was consequently “a phenomenon aided and abetted from outside” to stop the land reform. In the words of the Commissioner of Police, the MDC wanted to give back to the whites the land for which wars had been fought and which was “in the heart of everyone”. For this purpose, the MDC also received money from the white farmers.
Mr. Gibson Sibanda, Leader of the Opposition and MDC Vice-president, stated the following with regard to the establishment of the MDC:
The MDC, officially created in September 1999, has its origins in the labour movement, in particular the Zimbabwe Congress Trade Union (ZCTU). In the two years preceding the establishment of the MDC, the Union had pressed the Government to improve the economy which was in bad shape. At the time, many companies were closing down or down-sizing, resulting in the loss of many jobs. The ZCTU and the Employers Confederation had adopted a common position on stabilisation measures (such as, for example, reducing the number of Ministries and fighting corruption) but neither succeeded in having any of the proposed measures implemented. At the time, little was being done to resolve the land issue. The ZCTU called for a land reform and suggested that laid off workers be given land and resettled. However, this was to no avail. Instead the land was bought and given to Ministers. In December 1997, after President Mugabe had decided to pay the war veterans substantial pensions, the Zimbabwe dollar collapsed and prices increased sharply. Countrywide strikes and food riots shook up the country and the economic difficulties were compounded when Zimbabwean troops were sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo. This was “the turning point” when the decision was taken to form a new party. According to Ms. Khupe, opposition Deputy Chief Whip, President Mugabe himself whom trade unionists had met to raise concerns about the economic crisis, had suggested setting up a political party.
The MDC officials rejected outright the view that the MDC was created to block the land reform process and they pointed out that the ZANU-PF, in power since 1980, had had more than 10 years to tackle this question. The land clause introduced in the draft constitution was therefore not the reason which led the MDC to oppose the draft constitution but the fact that, after a large consultation process had taken place, the Government unilaterally introduced provisions providing for increased presidential powers when the aim of the draft was on the contrary to decrease executive power. The MDC opposed not only these