Cablegate: Black Farmer's Take On Land Reform
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 000142
STATE FOR AF/S AND AF/EX
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
USDOC FOR 2037 DIEMOND
PASS USTR ROSA WHITAKER
TREASURY FOR ED BARBER AND C WILKINSON
USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON
E. O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIN EAGR ECON ZI
SUBJECT: Black Farmer's Take on Land Reform
Sensitive but unclassified.
1. (U) Summary: A large-scale black commercial farmer
believes most settlers on expropriated white commercial
farms will fail and give up during 2003, leaving a future
government to pick up the pieces of uncompensated land
redistribution. At the same time, he expressed regret
that white farmers did little to assist nascent black
commercial farmers in the years before the GOZ began its
controversial fast-track land reform. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Wilson Nyabonda has emerged as one of Zimbabwe's
most successful black commercial farmers. We recently
toured his vast tobacco, soybean, paprika and maize crops
while exchanging views on Zimbabwean agriculture.
Nyabonda believes Zimbabwe's so-called new farmers --
those resettled on seized white farms -- have little
prospect of success. They and the GOZ overrated the
value of land in farming, which Nyabonda calculates at 10
percent among other inputs. He sees no evidence new
farmers are willing or able to invest the remaining 90
percent in seed, fertilizer, equipment, transport or
workers. He is troubled by their lack of emotional
commitment, evinced by the obsession among the
politically-connected to take over the family houses of
white farmers, then worry about crops later. Ethical
considerations aside, Nyabonda feels a well-anointed
house should be the "last" concern of a devoted farmer,
and he himself is only building an upscale house after 8
years on his property. He also worries that his farm
cannot comfortably coexist alongside many smaller new
farms in an area where commercial farmers have always
benefited from economies of scale.
3. (SBU) At the same time, Nyabonda recounted his
frustration that the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) did
not provide support for him and other emerging black
commercial farmers in the early-1990s. By 1995, most of
them broke ranks and formed the Indigenous Commercial
Farmers Union (ICFU), an association that is still
thriving today. The CFU lived on as a white-farmer
lobby, limiting its influence with the race-conscious
4. (SBU) Few Zimbabweans have much good to say about the
GOZ's version of land reform, which has turned the
breadbasket of Southern Africa into a beggar nation.
However, white farmers -- regarded simultaneously as
enterprising overachievers and vestiges of race-based
privilege -- still provoke polarized sentiments. The
truth is more nuanced. White farmers here ran the most
productive agro-businesses anywhere, making Zimbabwe tops
in world tobacco exports and inspiring black
entrepreneurs like Nyabonda to follow in their footsteps.
But along the way, they did not appreciate the need to
embrace black commercial farmers -- equally business-
savvy but with fewer advantages -- or the ticking time-
bomb they epitomized and that President Mugabe finally
exploded in the path of political opposition.
Ironically, neither white nor recently resettled farmers,
everyone's present focus, will mean much in Zimbabwe's
agricultural future. The country will come to depend on
the generation of black commercial farmers that acquired
land in a more conventional way.