Friday, September 22, 2006

LAND REFORM, WESTERN PSYCHE’S BOGEY MAN -- by Gregory Elich - from Harare's Sunday Mirror [Zimbabwe]

LAND REFORM, WESTERN PSYCHE’S BOGEY MAN -- by Gregory Elich - from Harare's Sunday Mirror [Zimbabwe]

[Our good friend Greg Elich has contributed yet again to the amazing story of Zimbabwe and its resistence to the Hegemon, the meat-grinder of neo-liberal--or neo-con or neo-wetfe--'social and economic structural reforms' that brought to kneel bigger nations like Iraq, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and are currently wasting human society in the name of 'Democracy's struggle against global terrorism'. I'm shocked Britain hasn't linked Mugabe and Zimbabwe with developing a special exploding tabacco or bio-toxic popcorn that could bring down planeloads of innocent British and US tourists during in-flight screenings of Oliver Stone's WTC. Greg has played no small part in maintaining the images of the international community's red-headed stepchildren like Zimbabwe and North Korea significantly above the sceptic sludge of the specious inanity that passes for Western critical consciousness. Pay your respects by ordering a copy of Greg's formidable new book, Strange Liberators. And keep coming back to CM/P--it works if you work it--so work it, you're worth it--but don't jerk it; you'll break it. --mc]

Sunday Mirror (Harare)
September 3, 2006


Gregory Elich

The process of land reform is at root a struggle for justice and a challenge to the Western neoliberal model.

The refusal to serve Western interests is what motivates U.S. and British hostility.

Agriculture is the most significant sector of Zimbabwe’s economy.

Western news reports encouraged the notion that land reform has harmed economic performance, implying that efficient farming was best left in the hands of the few wealthy white farmers, while discounting the plight of the millions of blacks who struggled for bare survival.

The unspoken assumption was that only white farmers could be efficient. The concern expressed in the West for "efficiency" was in reality a mask for the preservation of white privilege.

Efficiency is a relative term. Temporary economic dislocation is an unavoidable by-product of land reform, but the only path to genuine and lasting progress is through land redistribution.

There can be nothing efficient about a gross concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, while millions are condemned to lives of hopeless despair and poverty.

No mainstream western journalist has ever described the grotesque inequality of the situation inherited from colonialism and what this meant for those on the bottom.

Sylvestre Maunganidze, who was the head of political affairs at the Zimbabwe Embassy in Georgia, said, "We realised that unless we maximised production we would not be able to survive the onslaught of the West.

We are not a perfect people but we know that there is a group of people outside of Zimbabwe who would only be waiting to pounce on our mistakes but the only response we have for them is to ask them to come back in two years and they would see a transformed Zimbabwe.

We thought we had good partners abroad and did not know that we were killing ourselves with this dependency. Now we are weaning ourselves from dependency and we want to be independent both politically and economically."

Zimbabwe, he said, will no longer be "an appendage of the industrial capitalist system." It was precisely this independence which made Zimbabwe a target of Western hostility.

In her confirmation hearings for US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice named Zimbabwe as one of the nations she termed "outposts of tyranny." Referring to Rice’s statement, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Thomas Woods said that, "helping to advance the president’s call for greater freedom in the world is our core mission in Zimbabwe." On March 2, 2005, President Bush issued a message to Congress in which he stated that the situation in Zimbabwe "has not been resolved."

The "actions and policies" of the government of Zimbabwe "pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.

For these reasons, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency blocking the property of persons undermining democratic processes or institutions in Zimbabwe and to maintain in force the sanctions to respond to this threat."

That tiny Zimbabwe posed a threat to the foreign policy of the powerful United States was a laughable assertion, but one which no one in the West questioned. It would be more truthful to point out that it was the U.S. that was threatening Zimbabwe.

Land was at the heart of the liberation struggle, but the Zimbabwean delegation to the 1979 Lancaster House talks agreed to British and U.S. terms only after receiving promises of Western funding for the purchase of land. In time those promises would prove to be worthless.

The limited prospect of success for the imposed market-based approach to land reform hinged on British and American financial support. Predictably, the US$1 to 1.5 billion the U.S. promised to Zimbabwean liberation forces in 1976 in an agreement to end guerrilla warfare never materialised. Great Britain promised much but delivered little.

Once it obtained what it wanted in the Lancaster House Agreement, it sharply scaled down its commitment. Yet Great Britain failed to match even that inadequate amount and by 1996, when Great Britain ceased funding the program altogether, it had contributed barely more than half the promised funds.

The paltry US$45 million contributed by Great Britain paled in comparison to the untold billions it had forcibly expropriated from the people and land throughout the long colonial period.

By emphasising that land should be held in so-called "capable" hands, British officials sought to maintain white privilege and ensure the continued dominance of the agricultural sector by white commercial farmers at the expense of the destitute indigenous population.

Zimbabwe finally abandoned the "willing buyer, willing seller" formula in 1997.

The formula was crippled from the start by parsimonious British funding, and it was clear that the programme’s modest goals were more than Great Britain was willing to countenance.

In a letter to the Zimbabwean Minister of Agriculture in November of that year, British Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short wrote, "I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe." Referring to earlier British assistance funding, Short curtly stated, "I am told that there were discussions in 1989 and 1996 to explore the possibility
of further assistance. However that is all in the past." Short complained of "unresolved" issues, such as "the way in which land would be acquired and compensation paid – clearly it would not help the poor of Zimbabwe if it was done in a way which undermined investor confidence." Short was concerned about the interests of corporate investors, then.

In closing, Short wrote that "a programme of rapid land acquisition as you now seem to envisage would be impossible for us to support," as it would damage the "prospects for attracting investment."

Market-driven land reform was an abysmal failure from every standpoint save that of protecting wealth and privilege.

The number of resettled farmers never approached the numbers necessary for the nation to advance economically and alleviate widespread rural poverty.

Zimbabwe’s jettisoning of the structural adjustment programme and its implementation of a non-market based land reform triggered U.S. and British hostility and the imposition of sanctions. Measures have been taken to reverse the decline.

The road ahead remains difficult under the continued onslaught of Western sanctions and pressure.

· This is an abridged version of an article written for the Centre for
Research on Globalisation.


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