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The international community does not come with clean hands to the current fast track land reform process. The British government in particular, the former colonial power responsible for brokering the Lancaster House Agreement that led to the 1980 transition to majority rule, has been protective of white farming interests in Zimbabwe and in the early years insisted on a land redistribution policy based on government purchase of land at full market value from willing sellers. The World Bank, another key donor, was widely blamed for the damaging effects of the Economic Structural Adjustment Plan (ESAP) for Zimbabwe, embarked on in 1991. The Bank itself remarked that the reforms under ESAP "could certainly not be regarded as a roaring success," noting that the percentage of households classified as poor rose from 40 percent in 1991 to over 60 percent in 1995, and that "the programme design itself was flawed, particularly in the under-estimation of its social consequences."175

The response of other African countries to Zimbabwe, meanwhile, has been strongly shaped by the history of southern Africa, and the long struggle for an end to colonial and white minority rule. Issues of control over land resonate forcefully in South Africa and Namibia, in particular.

At least partly as a consequence of this history, the strong criticism of the fast track program voiced by the British and Americans in particular has not been matched by similar statements from Zimbabwe's African neighbors. In late 2001, however, both the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and in particular the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) began to take a stronger-though often inconsistent-line in criticizing the disorder and economic chaos unleashed by fast track land redistribution and other developments, and urging President Mugabe to restore the rule of law to the land reform program and the elections scheduled for March 2002. The Commonwealth, which brings together both rich and poor former colonies of Britain, has been more outspoken. However, African countries have refused to endorse sanctions against the Mugabe government introduced by the European Union and United States in response to political violence and restrictions on election observers.

In 2000, just as farm occupations accelerated, the British government stated that it was "not convinced that the Zimbabwe government has a serious poverty eradication strategy nor that it is giving priority to land reform to help the poor of Zimbabwe. The UK remains concerned about transparency in the election of settlers and the arrangements to help resettlement." Accordingly the British government stated that, in the absence of a government program conforming with the principles agreed at the 1998 donors' conference on land reform, it would make available ₤5 million over three to five years from 2000 for land redistribution through nongovernmental channels.176 The British government's public statements have maintained the same position on land redistribution since the fast track program began. At the Abuja meeting of the Commonwealth (see below), Britain stated that, subject to a land reform program being adopted conforming with the Abuja agreement, it would make "a significant financial commitment" to support land reform, and lobby for other money to be raised from international donors.177 President Mugabe, however, has accused Britain of being "at war" with Zimbabwe, wishing to restore its own version of colonialism.178

European Union
In October 2001, after months of diplomatic confrontation, the European Union formally opened consultations with Zimbabwe under article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement that regulates the E.U.'s relations with the African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) group of countries. Article 96 integrates human rights and good governance criteria into E.U.-ACP relations. If there is no progress on human rights issues within seventy-five days after formal consultations are opened, "appropriate measures," that is, sanctions, may be undertaken. The E.U. named political violence, media freedom, independence of the judiciary, illegal occupation of properties, and the way in which the 2002 presidential elections would be conducted as its particular concerns. In February 2002, when Zimbabwe refused to allow access to its chosen team of election observers, the E.U. introduced targeted sanctions against key members of President Mugabe's government, including provisions for freezing assets and visa restrictions.

United States
The U.S. government repeatedly condemned political violence and the breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe in 2000 and 2001. In addition, the U.S. Congress passed the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Bill (the House of Representatives passed the bill in November 2001, and the Senate in August 2001), signed by President George W. Bush in January 2001, ordering U.S. representatives to oppose extensions of any loans to Zimbabwe by the international financial institutions and authorizing the president, in consultation with foreign governments, to take action against the individuals responsible for politically motivated violence and the breakdown of the rule of law. The bill set out conditions for these measures to be lifted, including the restoration of the rule of law "including respect for ownership and title to property," and "commitment to equitable, legal, and transparent land reform consistent with the agreements reached at the International Donors' Conference on Land Reform and Resettlement" of 1998. In late February 2002, following the imposition of E.U. sanctions, the U.S. introduced similar sanctions on the Zimbabwe government, under the terms of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act.

A committee of Commonwealth foreign ministers, including the foreign minister of Zimbabwe, met to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe, in Abuja, Nigeria, on September 6, 2001. The communiqué of the meeting "recognised that as a result of historical injustices, the current land ownership and distribution needed to be rectified in a transparent and equitable manner." The ministers also agreed on the following:

(a) Land is at the core of the crisis in Zimbabwe and cannot be separated from other issues of concern to the Commonwealth, such as the rule of law, respect for human rights, democracy and the economy.179 A program of land reform is, therefore, crucial to the resolution of the problem;
(b) Such a program of land reform must be implemented in a fair, just and sustainable manner, in the interest of all the people of Zimbabwe, within the law and constitution of Zimbabwe;
(c) The crisis in Zimbabwe also has political and rule of law implications, which must be addressed holistically and concurrently. The situation in Zimbabwe poses a threat to the socio-economic stability of the entire sub-region and the continent at large;
(d) The need to avoid a division within the Commonwealth, especially at the forthcoming CHOGM in Brisbane, Australia, over the situation in Zimbabwe;
(e) The orderly implementation of the land reform can only be meaningful and sustainable, if carried out with due regard to human rights, rule of law, transparency and democratic principles. The commitment of the Government of Zimbabwe is, therefore, crucial to this process.180

The Zimbabwe delegation gave assurances that, among other things, there would be no further occupation of farm lands, and that the rule of law would be restored to the process of land reform program. The meeting also "welcomed the re-affirmation of the United Kingdom's commitment to a significant financial contribution to such a land reform programme and its undertaking to encourage other international donors to do the same."

Representatives of the War Veterans Association said that they would not be bound by the deal with the Commonwealth. The Commercial Farmers' Union noted an escalation of violence in the context of farm occupations over the following weeks.181

In December 2001, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), set up to assess compliance by Commonwealth members with the Commonwealth Harare Declaration of 1991, which commits Commonwealth members to democratic governance, met and considered the situation in Zimbabwe (among other countries). CMAG noted that the Government of Zimbabwe had not agreed to receive a Commonwealth ministerial mission, and "reiterated its deep concern about the ongoing situation in Zimbabwe especially the continued violence, occupation of property, actions against the freedom and independence of the media and political intimidation. It agreed that the situation in Zimbabwe constitutes a serious and persistent violation of the Commonwealth's fundamental political values and the rule of law as enshrined in the Harare Commonwealth Declaration."182

In January 2002, CMAG met again. The meeting again "expressed its full support for the process established by the Abuja Agreement" and "looked forward to the publication of the United Nations Development Programme report on equitable and sustainable land reform in Zimbabwe and expressed support for the involvement of the UNDP in this process, as agreed at Abuja" (see below). CMAG further called on the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure amongst other things that: "There is an immediate end to violence and intimidation and that the police and army refrain from party political statements and activities." The group "noted that the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme provides for a range of measures from Commonwealth disapproval to suspension."183 The meeting was, however, clearly divided along racial lines, with resistance from African and other developing countries to the British call for strong action.

United Nations
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan questioned the Zimbabwe government's approach to land reform at the World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa, in August 2001. He said land reform had to be credible and legal and required adequate compensation to those whose land was being expropriated.184 A technical team from the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) visited Zimbabwe in November 2001, on the request of the Commonwealth and the government of Zimbabwe, to investigate the land reform program and make suggestions for resolution of the land crisis in accordance with the Abuja agreement. The UNDP team submitted its report to the secretary-general in early 2002, concluding that: "while the political philosophy and socio-economic rationale of the Fast Track land reform and resettlement programme as defined by the Government of Zimbabwe remain sound, the current scope of the Fast Track represents and over-reach of the original objectives as stated by the Government. In addition, the manner in which [the] programme is being pursued, while legal because of the many changes in the law, has not provided any scope for formal debate either among elected officials, or among those who will lose and those who will benefit."185 In January 2002, Secretary-General Annan issued a statement in which he "encourages the Government of Zimbabwe to implement fully and faithfully the actions it has promised to take, including ensuring freedom of speech and assembly, admitting international observers, investigating political violence and scrupulously respecting the rule of law."186 U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson added her support for his statement.187

The Organization of African Unity
The OAU Assembly of Heads of State and Government meeting in Lusaka in July 2001 adopted a resolution on the land question in Zimbabwe. Overruling a resolution adopted by the OAU foreign ministers preparing for the summit, which had fully backed Zimbabwe in its confrontation with Britain, the summit stated in more moderate terms that it "reiterated its demand for Britain to honour its colonial obligation to fund the land resettlement programme in Zimbabwe in accordance with the Lancaster House Agreement" and "called on Britain to cooperate fully and enter into dialogue with the Government of Zimbabwe with the purpose of finding a final solution to this colonial legacy." The foreign ministers also set up a committee chaired by Nigeria, and comprising Algeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Kenya and Zambia to "coordinate with Zimbabwe at all fora wherever the Zimbabwe land issue is raised."188

Southern African Development Community
Responding to the fast track land reform program, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) initially took a low key approach. Though President Mugabe was reportedly criticized behind the scenes and urged to end farm occupations, public statements were more conciliatory. In April 2000, President Chissano of Mozambique, speaking for SADC, told reporters that "we think the donors, including Great Britain, have to deliver. They have to fulfil their commitments."189 As 2000 progressed, and in particular during 2001, it became clear that Zimbabwe's SADC neighbors were increasingly concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe, though they stopped short of an outright condemnation. In August 2001, in the communiqué following the Blantyre, Malawi, annual summit of SADC, heads of government expressed their concern at the effect of the economic situation in Zimbabwe on the region. The summit appointed a task force comprising Mozambique, South Africa, and Botswana to work with the Zimbabwe government on the economic and political issues affecting Zimbabwe.

By November 2001, South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, with the apparent support of Botswana, was making it clear that he believed the blame for Zimbabwe's troubles lay with the policies pursued by its ruling party. The government-owned Herald newspaper castigated Mbeki for caving in to "Britain's pressure to protect white and colonial economic interests in Zimbabwe."190 In January 2002, South Africa criticized Zimbabwean defense force commander Genera Vitalis Zvinavashe for comments in which he stated that he could only support a president who had fought in the liberation struggle.191 In December 2001, however, SADC foreign ministers appeared to retreat from the position adopted by the heads of state, stating that they opposed the sanctions proposed by the U.S. and E.U., and believed that "violence on the farms had reduced significantly and that the few reported incidents were being dealt with under the criminal justice system," and that the government was committed to holding free and fair elections.192 Nonetheless, Malawian Foreign Minister Lillian Patel stated that "we have reiterated that the bottom line for Zimbabwe is a just and equitable land redistribution, which however must be done in a legally sound and violence-free manner."193 A SADC heads of government summit held in January 2002 "welcomed" assurances by Mugabe that he would allow independent media to function, respect judicial independence, investigate political violence, allow independent election observers, and respect the right to free assembly; while expressing "serious concern" over Zvinavashe's warnings.194 SADC leaders, including President Mbeki, have criticized the international focus on Zimbabwe at the expense of other crises in Africa and have opposed E.U. and other sanctions. In January 2002, Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao accused western countries of waging a propaganda war against Zimbabwe.195

175 Thomas W. Allen, World Bank Resident Representative in Zimbabwe, Structural Adjustment in Zimbabwe: The World Bank Perspective, resource paper, 1999. The IMF declared Zimbabwe ineligible to access its resources in September 1999, following an accrual of arrears.

176 Background Briefing, Land Resettlement in Zimbabwe (London: Department for International Development, March 2000).

177 Conclusions of the Meeting of the Committee of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers on Zimbabwe, Abuja, Nigeria, September 6, 2001. Elsewhere, Britain has stated that it is willing to contribute £35 million, provided that land reform is carried out "on these principles: without violence; according to the rule of law; genuinely empowering the rural landless poor in Zimbabwe and giving them a stake in the land rather than distributing land on a haphazard basis after violence, or on a cronyism principle which has unfortunately been the case in the past." Edited extract from a press conference given by FCO Minister of State Peter Hain, at 10 Downing Street, London, October 25 2001, available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website,

178 "Mugabe renews attack on Britain," BBC website, January 12, 2002.

179 This statement was challenged by many in Zimbabwe, including the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, which stated that "Although land is an important issue, the main reason for the crisis in Zimbabwe is not due to the land problem, but has been induced by bad governance and serious misuse of power." Complying with the Abuja Agreement: Two Months Report (Harare: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, December 2001), p.4.

180 Conclusions of the Meeting of the Committee of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers on Zimbabwe, Abuja, Nigeria, September 6, 2001, paragraph 2.

181 "White farmers see major escalation of violence in Zimbabwe," AFP, October 19, 2001.

182 "Concluding Statement," 17th Meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration (CMAG), December 20, 2001, available at, accessed December 21, 2001.

183 "Concluding Statement," 18th Eighteenth Meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration (CMAG), January 30, 2002

184 "Annan criticizes Zim land grabs," SAPA, September 1, 2001.

185 UNDP Interim Mission Report, January 2002, p.40.

186 "Secretary-General strongly supports SADC efforts to facilitate free, fair elections in Zimbabwe," M2 Presswire, January 16, 2002.

187 "High Commissioner For Human Rights Concerned Over Deteriorating Situation In Zimbabwe," UNHCHR, January 16, 2002.

188 "OAU ministers set up special committee on Zimbabwe's land dispute," SAPA-AFP, July 8, 2001.

189 "Southern African leaders back Mugabe over land occupations,", April 22, 2000.

190 "State media lash out at `Mbeki betrayal,'" South African Press Association (Johannesburg), December 3, 2001.

191 "SA condemns Zimbabwe military," BBC website, January 11, 2002.

192 "Communiqué of the Committee of Ministers for the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, December 17-18, 2001, Luanda, Angola. In response, the CFU stated that "in the month immediately following that meeting, there were two deaths, two armed robberies, sixty-one cases of assault, twenty-three cases of abductions or barricades, forty-four cases of illegal evictions of farmers and nineteen cases of illegal eviction of farm workforces recorded in commercial farming areas." "Background Briefing" submitted to SADC heads of state summit, January 13-15, 2002.

193 "Quiet diplomacy only way with Zimbabwe: Pahad," SAPA, January 13, 2002.

194 "Summit takes no action on Mugabe, despite broken promises," SAPA-AFP, January 15, 2002.

195 "Mozambique accuses west of propaganda campaign against Zimbabwe," SAPA-AP, January 25, 2002.

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