Cablegate: Divergent Commercial Farmer Groups Attempt to Find

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) Laboff attended a meeting called by the Commercial
Farmers Union (CFU) intended to address the needs of
displaced farmers; the meeting actually ended up addressing
divisions between its supporters and supporters of the hard-
line farmers' group Justice for Agriculture (JAG). Although
the two groups represent the same constituency, a split
occurred last July when the CFU elected to continue seeking
dialogue with the GOZ, while JAG elected to pursue court
challenges and international publication of corruption and
irregularities associated with the land resettlement
program. Subsequent conversations with CFU president Colin
Cloete revealed that the "split" was actually a carefully
conceived strategy which would enable divergent factions to
pursue separate agendas on behalf of the group as a whole.
However, since most supporters of CFU are still attempting
to remain on their farms while most supporters of JAG are
completely dispossessed, the two-track approach dissolved
and the two groups have reverted to factionalism, acrimony,
and name-calling.

2. (SBU) Both factions, with a few individual exceptions,
agreed that the best way to confront the continuing seizure
of farms and resulting chaos on the ground was to present a
united front. Cloete reported that Masipula Sithole, a
prominent political analyst, opines that the GOZ has no
coherent plan for the future of agriculture, but rather is
progressing on a "crisis management" basis. Cloete affirmed
that his organization was attempting to craft a suitable
response to the demand that it sign a one-sided and heavily
GOZ-weighted Memorandum of Understanding. Although still
being drafted, this response reportedly will be presented to
the GOZ when "the time is right," presumably within the next
few weeks. Cloete also raised publicly the possibility that
many farmers' only relief might lie in compensation, and
that full and fair compensation might not materialize until
the next generation.

3. (SBU) It would obviously best serve the two publicly
warring factions to present a united front to the GOZ, and
many participants at this meeting indicated the groups'
agreement with that strategy. Although the chances for all
commercial farmers to return to their properties are
practically nonexistent, there are moderate factions within
the GOZ that have admitted that returning some farmers to
productive endeavors is critical for the country's food
security. Whether those forces can prevail is uncertain,
but infighting and backbiting between farmers only serves to
make them easier targets for the hardline forces. The CFU
seems eager for support and recognition by the USG, and
Cloete twice asked Laboff to comment on the current
situation -- in relation to eventual compensation for
dispossessed farmers, and in relation to food aid for
dispossessed farm workers. Although Laboff could offer
little in the way of solution, she did point out that few,
if any, bilateral donors would consider discussing with the
GOZ assistance for land reform under the current political
climate, and that international food aid donors are aware of
the desperation of displaced farm workers and attempting to
address their critical needs. Although commercial farmers
seem determined to try and retain something from their
ruined legacy, the awareness is dawning that help will not
arrive from the outside, but that they must somehow find the
means to help themselves -- and each other.


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