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IB10059

10-17-01

Land Crisis Resumes, 2000

The land issue indeed figured heavily in the referendum on constitutional changes proposed by the government, which took place on February 12 and 13, 2000. The proposed changes included a provision, inserted at President Mugabe’s insistence, empowering the government to acquire agricultural land compulsorily for resettlement without paying

compensation.

(Africa

News

Service,

January

constitutional amendments would pass, in view of

changes

and

its

domination

of

the

media,

but

28,

2000.)

It

seemed

the government’s strong

in

a

surprise

outcome,

likely that the backing of the 55% of those

participating

voted

“no.”

Some

analysts

wrote

that

in

view

of

the

result,

President

Mugabe

should have recognized that his influence was waning and accepted that the to retire; but instead, the referendum seemed only to energize Mugabe for a

time

had come

new

assault on

white-owned

farmland.

There

was

speculation

that

he

was

motivated

in

part

by

anger

over

the strong support among whites for a “no” vote and by the backing whites were giving a new opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC, see below).

to

Within days of the referendum, war veterans and other ZANU-PF supporters began to move on to white owned farms, and by May 2000, it was estimated that squatters were present at approximately 1,000 farms. In some instances, according to reports, the farm occupations were peaceful and farm work was allowed to continue. In other instances, however, white farmers were attacked and driven off their properties. The Zimbabwe police took no action to prevent the farm occupations, claiming that they lacked the capability to repel the squatters. Court orders requiring the squatters to leave were ignored. By early June, twenty-five people had been killed during the land occupation crisis, including four white farmers and several black farm workers; the killers seemed to target MDC supporters, both black and white.

A high-level Zimbabwe delegation traveled to Britain at the end of April 2000 and was told that London would provide an additional $57 million to help with land reform and other programs – and would take the lead in mobilizing additional support from the international community. But then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook insisted that no action would be taken against a background of occupations and violence, and he reaffirmed British insistence on transparency, fair compensation, good economic management, and clear benefit to the rural poor in any land reform program. (Robin Cook press conference, April 27, 2000). Mugabe’s reply seemed to come on May 1, when a spokesman announced that, with parliament adjourned since April 12, the president would invoke special powers to allow the forced acquisition of white-owned land. In a May 4 speech, Mugabe said that for whites who did not cooperate, “we can assist by showing them the various ways they can leave our territory.”

Pre-Election Escalation. Before escalated the land takeover drive. On June 2,

the June voting, President Mugabe sharply 2000 the government listed 804 large farms for

swift

takeover

and

rapid

resettlement.

According

to

reports,

as

many

as

100,000

poor

Africans facilities

would be quickly would be provided

moved onto the farms, while roads, schools, clinics and other later. Owners, who were granted 30 days to file legal objections,

would not be compensated for improvements to the land, such as

the

land itself but

farm

buildings. How

would receive compensation for the improvements would be valued,

and the form and timing of this compensation, were not invoked emergency powers to enable the government to May 24.

made clear. President Mugabe had take land without compensation on

CRS-7

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