Cablegate: Mou: Can't Live with It, Can't Survive Without It

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. The proposed Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) between the GOZ and the Commercial Farmers' Union
(CFU), foreshadowed in reftel, typifies the bad faith
underlying current efforts by the GOZ to use the CFU in
support of its propaganda. The specific language in the
proposed MOU demonstrates that the GOZ's position is, in
effect, "what's yours is ours, and what's ours is
non-negotiable." However, if the CFU refuses outright to
continue a dialogue with the Minister of Lands, the GOZ may
well seize the farmers' remaining assets anyway. End summary.

2. (SBU) The introductory rhetoric in the MOU clearly states
that: the CFU must cooperate in order to demonstrate that it
is not acting as an "instrument of or representative of any
foreign power or interest, but as a Zimbabwean organisation
representing the interests of its members"; the 11 million
hectares seized from commercial farmers is "STATE LAND that
cannot and will not revert back to any previous status for
whatever reason whatsoever"; and "lawfully resettled farmers,
whether under the Model A1 or Model A2 schemes that are on
the 11 million hectares shall not be evicted therefrom." In
short, by signing such an MOU, the CFU would concede defeat
on behalf of its individual members.

3. (SBU) Further introductory clauses address the ambiguous
policy of "one man, one farm" by stating that CFU members
("and others similarly affected" -- possibly an oblique
reference to Justice for Agriculture, the hardline farmers'
group which is pushing for farmers to retain their title
deeds and challenge the GOZ's program through legal action),
are eligible to receive land under the resettlement program.
However, the MOU states that such farmers "shall be
accommodated ELSEWHERE on land compulsorily acquired by the
Government for resettlement purposes, OVER AND ABOVE the
already mentioned 11 million hectares, where they shall be
allocated portions of land within and up to the applicable
maximum farm size depending on the agro-ecological region in
question (emphasis added)." The careful phrasing of this
clause confirms the fears expressed by CFU members in
previous meetings: the GOZ may allocate some small pieces of
marginal land, possibly virgin bush, probably several hundred
miles from their original homes, to CFU applicants -- but
only after the CFU members have turned over their title deeds
and submitted themselves to the authority of the Minister of
Lands, effectively signaling their acquiescence to their own

4. (SBU) The active clauses detailed as the substantive
"record of understanding between the parties" require the CFU
to commit the personal property of its members to a
GOZ-sponsored forced purchase. The GOZ undertakes to
guarantee that applications by CFU members for new land will
be "favourably considered" not later than August 31, 2003; in
return, the GOZ demands that the CFU urge its members to sell
and/or lease their warehoused equipment, as well as their
expertise, to the government for the use of the new farmers
resettled on their former property. The MOU further insists
that the CFU provide the Minister of Lands with an inventory
of such moveable equipment and skills "that may be offered
for sale" or rental within thirty days of the execution of
the document. Although the MOU, on the surface, appears to
recognize that the farm equipment in question is the
individual property of CFU members, the clear implication is
that the GOZ wants the equipment -- and may seize it if it is
not meekly offered up. This is a potent and credible threat.
Just last week, sources reported that a government minister
broke into a warehouse and "seized" a combine tractor worth
over US$27,000 from a former commercial farmer for the
minister's use.

5. (SBU) Comment. The underlying theme of this entire
document, other than the attempt to gain access to
badly-needed agricultural equipment, is that the land
seizures will not be reversed and that the CFU should join
the GOZ in placing the responsibility for compensation on
Great Britain. The MOU states in two separate places that
the GOZ "is ready and willing to assist the CFU to
constructively pursue and finalise the matter (compensation)
with the former colonial power or any other (identified)
party..." This correlates with the GOZ's urgent request for
an exonerating "statement" which CFU president Colin Cloete
reported in his meetings with various ministers last week,
see reftel.

6. (SBU) In a strictly legal sense, it is highly unlikely
that the CFU has the authority to commit its individual
members to acceptance of the terms of this MOU. Even if the
CFU president agrees that acquired land cannot and will not
revert to individual ownership, that would not preclude an
individual CFU member from pursuing a challenge through the
courts. Even if the CFU agrees to urge its members to sell
farm equipment to the GOZ, it cannot force a sale. The
greatest value to the GOZ in executing this version of the
MOU lies in its propaganda value. It would suit the GOZ's
frantic attempts to ease international censure if the CFU is
seen as accepting the land resettlement as a fait accompli,
for which the "former colonial power" is morally and
financially responsible. It would also suit the GOZ if the
CFU helped persuade its members to turn over their farming
equipment to the resettled farmers -- for an unspecified
payment at an unspecified future date. Commercial farmers
throughout the nation are carefully watching these meetings
play out, and many believe that the CFU is openly betraying
its membership by continuing a dialogue in which no
concessions or relief are gained by its members. Ongoing
contacts with Cloete indicate that he is aware of tightrope
he is walking, and that he is unlikely to sign the MOU in its
current form. End comment.

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