Cablegate: Justice for Agriculture -- Too Little, Too Late

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary. Laboff attended the inaugural meeting of
the JAG on Tuesday, August 6. This group was formed by some
of the more confrontational members of the Commercial Farmers
Union (CFU) in response to CFU members' perception that the
organization was too conciliatory. The initial act of JAG
was to file suit against the GOZ on behalf of commercial
farmers, citing multi-billion dollar damages. Claiming a
mandate originating from the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights as adopted by Zimbabwe, JAG purports to represent the
interests of commercial farm owners, farm workers, and
agricultural ancillary industries, and proclaims the mission
of securing justice, peace and freedom for the agricultural
sector. In actuality, the main purpose of the JAG seems to
be publicizing developments in the ongoing land struggle in
the hope of spurring somebody -- whether Zimbabweans or
outside interests -- to intervene in the continuing
destruction of the commercial agricultural sector. End

2. (SBU) The membership of the JAG comprises a wide variety
of constituencies: farmers who seek more confrontation with
the GOZ, member of various civic groups, community activists,
and public relations specialists. The emergence of a
confrontational group at this stage of the game is indicative
of the deep divisions between members of the CFU as to the
best way of addressing the disaster which has decimated their
industry. Some reports indicate that the farmers who have
embraced JAG include those whose views are skewed far to one
side as well as those who have already been forced off their
land and have nothing more to lose. According to contacts
within the CFU, the parent organization has chosen not to
deal with JAG because the CFU remains committed to dialogue,
and any suggestion of complicity will taint their posture of
continued cooperation.

3. (SBU) The tone of the inaugural meeting of JAG was defiant
yet determined. Several speakers addressed the crowd, which
numbered about fifty participants from various groups --
commercial farmers, civic society, and the diplomatic corps.
The first speaker, a local attorney, sympathized with the
goals of the group but delivered a
good-luck-you're-going-to-need-it message. He bluntly told
the group that regardless of whether or not their litigation
was successful, the GOZ would not recognize a judgment since
President Mugabe has already announced that the government
will only honor judgments which it determines to be
appropriate. Given the long and painful process of land
acquisition and reallocation, it is incredibly unlikely that
the GOZ would actually pay out in accordance with a judicial
determination that the program was flawed. However, the
advocate supported both the legal right and the moral
obligation of JAG to proceed with a judicial challenge.

4. (SBU) The second speaker, an economist, outlined the
cataclysmic impact that the chaotic land acquisition exercise
is having on the economy as a whole. According to his
perspective, the government must "spend a large fortune in
order for 'resettled farmers' to earn a small fortune." Of
course, there is no indication of where the necessary funds
-- conservatively estimated to run at over Zim $300 billion,
or over US $434 million, annually -- will be found.

5. (SBU) The final speaker was the director of Amani Trust,
who acknowledged that widespread famine, which would
significantly affect displaced farm workers, was the
inevitable result of the mismanaged "agrarian reform"
program. He premised his presentation on the theory that
famines do not happen in the absence of bad governance, and
stated his belief that since the ruling party was not
demonstrably incompetent, they must be governing badly with
the intention of subverting the "democracy process." He
reiterated the oft-heard refrain that the way forward
required civil society to recognize the political
illegitimacy of the ruling party, to demand constitutional
reforms, and to hold free and fair elections.

6. (SBU) Comment: One eloquent comment from a member of the
Zimbabwe branch of Transparency International, a good
governance group, noted that in order to move forward, civil
society must address the problem in context. Specifically,
he stated that civil society needed to address how commercial
farming emerged in Zimbabwe, as well as why a return to
small-scale peasant farming will no longer work in the 21st
century. Other than this well-accepted observation, most of
the presentations covered familiar ground. Although many
members of JAG seemed energized by the fact that they were
finally responding and doing something -- anything -- there
seemed to be a muted realization that whatever steps they
took were ultimately too little and too late. End comment.

© Scoop Media

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