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‘UK made no deal to fund land reform’

THE British Parliament’s Africa All-Party Group’s latest report, Land in Zimbabwe: Past Mistakes, Future Prospects, claims that Britain never made nor betrayed any promises on land reform made at Lancaster House as claimed by President Robert Mugabe.

Some of the “most interesting evidence of all” came from Zanu PF, and the Zimbabwean embassy in London did not claim that there was a secret deal that the UK would provide funds to pay for land reform.
“It is true that both Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo sought commitments on land reform…, but the UK had to broker a deal between Ian Smith and his regime’s military on the one hand and the liberation movements on the other hand, and there was no agreement on land,” said the researchers who undertook the research presented to Parliament by Hugh Bayley, Labour MP for York.
At one stage in the talks, Mugabe and and the late Dr Joshua Nkomo, who led the Zimbabwean Patriotic Front delegation to the Lancaster House talks, threatened to walk out, but “a great deal of pressure was put on them by the presidents of the front-line states, particularly Zambia and Mozambique, which were used by the Zimbabwean liberation movement fighters for their training camps and supply lines.
“Pressure from those neighbouring countries was put on the Zimbabwean liberation movements to agree a deal so that the war might end. The leaders of those movements were urged to compromise, and they did,” Bayley said.
“There is nothing in the Lancaster House agreement promising to pay for land reform, and nothing in our conversations with the principal Western ministers involved at the time –– Lord Carrington and Chester Crocker –– suggested that there was any secret deal to do so.”
Britain, however, made aid available for land reform on a “willing seller, willing buyer” basis, and by 1986 71 000 families had been resettled on land formerly owned by commercial farmers in what the Economist described  at the time as “one of the most successful aid schemes in Africa”.
However, by 1985 the scheme had slowed down, and in the 1990s it stopped altogether, and when in 1997 Robert Mugabe was losing support within Zanu PF, and came under pressure from war veterans for pensions, he capitulated to their demands.
But his capitulation did not end the demands
“The veterans came back with more demands, including demands for land, and in 2000 Robert Mugabe instituted a fast-track land reform process. From that time onwards, Zimbabwe’s relationship with the UK, the European Union and the United States deteriorated,” said Bayley.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group had chosen to investigate this subject because the violence from farm invasions has destroyed the livelihoods of 200 000 farm workers and halved the commercial agricultural output of Zimbabwe, and because of concern that UK policy is misunderstood in Africa as the UK having reneged on its promise made during the Lancaster House talks.
“Furthermore, many in Africa believe that we oppose farm invasions in Zimbabwe principally because it is white farmers whose land is being expropriated, and many believe that we support the European Union’s restrictive measures because we have political differences with the president of Zimbabwe.
“To set the record straight and to look forwards, the Group sought to establish what was actually agreed at Lancaster House and to document what development assistance has been provided by the UK to Zimbabwe for land reform.” –– Changezimbabwe.com

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