The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Of Intellectuals Caught in a Time Warp

editorial

ZIMBABWE had two re-awakenings this week, both white but looking in different directions vis-à-vis the country's policies and its future.

Let me start with the Commercial Farmers Union, a body representing exclusively white former farmers, and has rejected and fiercely opposed the land reform programme and tried to get it reversed but only started talking seriously about the possibility of compensation for its members when it became apparent that reversal of the programme might not be a tenable option.

High Court judge Justice Bharat Patel ruled as much after 77 CFU members took Government to the Sadc Tribunal to challenge the acquisition of their farms. While the Sadc Tribunal in Windhoek ruled in favour of the farmers, Justice Patel stated in a ruling on January 26, 2010 that the decision of the Tribunal could not be enforced in Zimbabwe because the land reform programme was a matter of "public policy" and therefore served the "public good". In any event, he pointed out, Zimbabwe's Supreme Court had already confirmed that the land reform programme was constitutional.

Undaunted, the CFU members proceeded to approach South African courts, a decision which was intended, and indeed did, cause some diplomatic tiff between the two nations after the courts there took the view that the land reform was based on the disregard for the rule of law, democracy and human rights and that it was "racially discriminatory", ignoring the bigger issue of public policy and the expectations of the majority population and the reason for the liberation war.

That CFU war is still work in progress, it's not resolved, it's not over and not likely to end any time soon.

This is why. This week the CFU came up with a proposal. It unveiled a "constitution" it has drafted. The constitution proposes that all indigenous farmers' unions in the country be collapsed into a Federation of Agricultural Unions.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union vice president Berean Mukwende said they had not agreed on forming a federation with the CFU although he said they "agree on technical issues and marketing of commodities . . . " He said the issue of land remained a "barrier" because his members were beneficiaries of the land reform while CFU members were insisting on the matter of compensation. The Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Joseph Made said he was not aware of the proposed merger.

The CFU, represented by its president Hendrik Olivier, says a federation would allow farmers to work together "towards a common cause despite some differences". He was quoted as saying, "There are some imbalances in the land reform that we need to address." And he specifically refers to the need for "compensation". All this is fair and fine, that is on the surface. Government pledged from the onset that it would pay compensation "for improvements", not for land, and we assume the delays are a factor of resources as priority is given to the "public good".

But the fact that the CFU opts to draft a constitution on its own and then brings it to indigenous farmers for endorsement and signature smacks of extreme contempt and condescension of the worst kind. It is this same racial arrogance which dictates that France can summon heads of five African nations for a briefing in Paris over Boko Haram or that a conference to discuss rape as a weapon of war in South Sudan or Central African Republic must take place in London.

The question is, why not take the debate closer to the scene?

And here is the scene of the incident. At its peak the CFU had between 4 500 and 6 000 members. It has never missed an opportunity to tell the world that nearly all of these have been "kicked off" the land. Recent estimates put those still on the farms at between 200 and 300 members.

It is these remaining CFU members who have the effrontery to draft a constitution and the terms of engagement with indigenous farmers unions which have a membership of about 300 000! How does that work? What special competency or resource does the CFU have that it finds it demeaning for it to fold up and join the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union? Or is it that they don't want to be associated with anything which has "Zimbabwe" in its name, hence the resort to a cosmopolitan Federation!

Here is a tribe which forgot time and is desperately trying to hold back history's inexorable march.

But then, more definitively, this is a warning of a long land war ahead and one hopes that our indigenous farmers have a stomach for it.

If the CFU can't join them it simply means it is against everything they are fighting for until it can get its way.

Enter Ambassador Aldo Dell'Ariccia, the EU envoy to Zimbabwe who suddenly refuses to see a "crisis" at a workshop appositely organised by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.

Mr Dell'Ariccia disagreed with participants at the workshop who always reduce Zimbabwe's current challenges to a crisis of leadership, itself a tired story peddled since the early 1990s to discredit independence leaders in the region such as Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, Hastings Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, Daniel arap Moi of Kenya and President Robert Mugabe.

They were viewed as an impediment to neo-colonialism's fast spread on the continent. NGOs chanting slogans about democracy and human rights became the leading light while opposition political parties were sponsored to become the new torch-bearers towards a world where free markets are the dominant organising principle in international relations and Africans always emerge the loser.

Mr Dell'Ariccia was clear on two issues: there was no leadership in the country. "If there was a leadership crisis there would be chaos in the country," he said.

He also scoffed at our "crisis" intellectuals for "bashing" and "ridiculing" Zim-Asset.

He instead ridiculed their ignorance for failing to make a distinction between a "blueprint" and a "development strategy document" still in need of funding mechanisms.

"Zim-Asset is just a blueprint," Ambassador Dell'Ariccia pointed out, "it's work in progress and I think that the Government and particularly the Minister of Finance knows very well that the work is not completed and they are calling on the African Development Bank in particular to provide technical assistance. It will permit it to go from a blueprint to a development strategy document, which means to take into consideration the resources which are necessary and to take into consideration the risks which are there and how to handle these risks."

And this is the crisis Zimbabwe faces, living in the past, and the ambassador did not mince his words: "The civil society has a role to play but I have the impression that you are little anchored to the past where instead of seeing NGOs one perceives AGOs, Anti-Government Organisations. And if you start catching the flair of the time, the trend, there is an opening to be worked upon."

The challenge is how to transform an organisation founded on a "crisis" into a positive force, a constructive institution which can thrive in the "flair of the time". In a way, perhaps also inadvertently, Mr Dell'Ariccia is warning why funding to these negative, confrontational NGOS is declining. Their funders have not reaped any dividend for their investment.

I feel embarrassed that it took a foreigner, an alien, to state these plain truths to us, that we are our own worst enemy as Zimbabweans.

We have intellectuals caught in time warp and cannot read the changed times.

Yet the truth is that it is accepted, and a legitimate quest for every nation to seek to take control of all its natural resources. And every nation under the sun has enough of them to exchange with other nations to obtain what it doesn't have.

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