Zimbabwe: Mugabe Rant Self-Defeating

editorial

Where in the constitution does it say whites cannot own land? Nowhere of course.

The constitution upholds the rights of all, albeit with qualifications. It doesn't exclude minorities of any type from land ownership.

This important point needs to be spelt out to President Robert Mugabe who seems to think he can make pronunciamentos regardless of individuals' rights.

He was speaking at the launch of A1 permits in Mashonaland West.

He accused his cabinet colleagues of "supping with whites" and vowed that no farmland would be returned to whites again. He accused chiefs in particular of leasing land to whites.

This is manifestly discriminatory. Section 289 of the constitution gives every Zimbabwean the right to agricultural land regardless of his or her race subject to Section 72 which safeguards agricultural land from challenge, a curious clause in a democratic constitution.

Whatever the case, Zimbabwe will suffer international opprobrium if it allows the impression that it is discriminating on the grounds of race, often for no other reason than to covet other people's property. Section 56 grants every person the right not to be treated in a discriminatory manner on the grounds of race or colour unless it is fair, reasonable and justifiable in a democratic society.

That is quite obviously not the situation we have here where Mugabe gives the impression he can do what he likes.

This is populism at its worst and it is precisely the sort of thing Sadc leaders sought to avoid in setting up the government of national unity five years ago. Why should whites be treated in this arbitrary way when their farms are productive yet ruling party luminaries preside over derelict and often multiple properties? It is unreasonable by any definition. What can we say of Gushungo Estates and how they were acquired? Let's hope the European Union doesn't see its duty as approving a system as defective and discriminatory as this.

There has been very little progress in the re-engagement talks that were supposed to usher in a new era. But apart from Patrick Chinamasa's negotiations, Zimbabwe's economic progress appears grounded.

The problem here is that economic policy is firmly wedded to domestic demagoguery.

What President Mugabe has done is to compound the problem we face by appearing to hang tough. That won't do the trick. Zimbabwe needs well thought out policies that respect the rights of all its citizens.

Abusing a productive minority will discourage foreign direct investment, something we urgently need. Those ministers that support the president in his scorched-earth policies will soon discover the downside to disruption in agriculture.

What we have now is a return to the policies that might have served Zanu PF well in the election but certainly won't serve it much further.

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