Cablegate: New Utete Land Audit Report Offers Little

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 Utete commission report on anomalies
in the land resettlement program, widely anticipated as an
indicator of how the GOZ will address the chaotic situation
in the agricultural sector, is a non-event. Despite
stringent attempts to keep this document secret, Post
recently obtained a copy, which may indicate that the
"leaked" report will soon be widely distributed. While some
rumors had indicated that the Utete report would be
"explosive" if actually implemented, a careful reading
discovers nothing new. The report acknowledges that some
problems regarding multiple farm ownership by beneficiaries,
political inconsistency in the allocation of land, and lack
of funding for input schemes for new farmers must be
resolved. Further, the report concedes that resolution of
those pesky outstanding legal details (such as inconsistent
application of procedures, discrepancies between the law and
the constitution, and the issue of title) must be addressed.
However, this report is nowhere near as explosive as the
permanently unpublished Buka report, which "named names" of
the political beneficiaries (including a number of ministers)
who had manipulated the system by seizing multiple prime
farms -- lock, livestock, and standing crops. This report,
by contrast, whines plaintively about "the activities of
certain persons," "certain prominent persons," and even "some
Governors... themselves" who are possibly guilty of engaging
in "political interference" in the allocation process. This
latest commission report continues to blame drought, outside
political interference, and ephemeral Western sanctions for
the agricultural mess which Zimbabwe must now address. End

"New and Improved" Numbers

2. (SBU) Despite continued claims in the GOZ-controlled
press that 300,000 families have been settled under the A1
(communal land decongestion) model, and 54,000 families have
been settled under the A2 (de-segregation of communal
farming) model, the numbers reported by the Utete commission
are considerably lower. The Utete report states that only
127,192 families have been settled on 4,321,080 hectares
under the A1 model (representing a 97% "uptake" rate), and
7,260 beneficiaries have been settled on 2,198,814 hectares
under the A2 model (average of 66% "uptake"). These numbers
should be balanced against an estimated 300,000 displaced
commercial farm worker families. At any rate, the new,
realistic, downward-revised numbers are one of the few
indications of credibility in the entire report.

3. (SBU) Other signs of credibility include suggestions for:
the Grain Marketing Board's monopoly on grain purchases and
sales to be partially de-controlled; renewed efforts to
create a single farmers' union; new efforts to create private
sector partnerships with agro-businesses; efforts to develop
an Agricultural Development Bank to fund farmers at all
levels; and efforts to increase skills among the new farmers.
However, in a theme which runs throughout this report, there
is no advice as to how to implement even the most
self-evident strategies. One of the most significant
recommendations is that the GOZ should reinvent the wheel and
once again split the Ministry of Land, Agriculture and Rural
Resettlement into two bodies: the Ministry of Agriculture
and a proposed Ministry of Land Affairs. However, there is
little hope that a series of small, isolated actions
(unsupported by massive infusions of foreign exchange) can
turn the land resettlement program, as it currently stands,
into a success.

White Commercial Farmers Remain A Factor?

4. (SBU) One of the more interesting elements of this report
is the "documented" number of white commercial farmers
remaining in the agricultural sector. Despite continuous and
ongoing listing of farms for acquisition (the latest lists of
81 farms were "gazetted" on October 3, 2003), the report
presents a picture of some 1,377 farms remaining in white
hands. The report cites this as "about 3% of land in the
country, excluding land held by corporate entities." The
Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) and Justice for Agriculture
(JAG) concede that there are still a number of white farmers
on the land, but both claim that many of these farmers are
merely holding out until the last possible moment. Some of
these commercial farmers are still in operation, and some are
attempting to farm after voluntary sub-division of their
property, but some are cultivating only a fraction of their
land, while others are simply occupying their homestead
despite ongoing attempts (both legal and extra-legal) to
evict them. These two farmers' groups agree that only about
600 former commercial farmers are still fully in possession
of their land. In fact, even the Utete report is a bit
ambiguous on the status of its claim, stating that "The
presence or otherwise of these farmers on the land could not
in all cases be verified at the time of the compilation of
this Report," which raises the question of what other basis
could be used for such a figure.

One Man, One Farm -- Sort Of

5. (SBU) The biggest surprise, after the brutal frankness of
the Buka report (produced by a commission headed by
Government minister Flora Buka), was the bland tone taken by
the Utete commission on the issue of multiple farm ownership
by new beneficiaries. Whereas the Buka report listed
numerous ministers who had acquired two, three, or even more
prime pieces of commercial farm property through the
resettlement program, the Utete report barely acknowledges
this. Instead, the Utete report repeatedly claims that the
decongestion of the rural areas has been compromised by A1
settlers who receive a new A1 plot without returning their
original communal plot. This is undoubtedly true; the
infrastructure, including availability of schools, clinics,
roads, and water, in the newly resettled A1 areas is grossly
inadequate. Many A1 settlers have moved to their new plots
while leaving wives and school-going children on their old
communal holding. In addition, many A1 settlers have been
"relocated" from one acquired farm to another as new
claimants or errors in allocations have emerged, convincing
many to retain their communal entitlement as a backup. The
report calls for enforcement of the one man, one farm
concept, which is cast not as a policy, but rather as a
"guideline" for sharing a scarce resource between the
numerous land-hungry peasant farmers. Any hope that this
report would compel the worst A2 offenders to relinquish part
of their spoils is apparently futile.

6. (SBU) The report states, however, that "Any beneficiary
of the land resettlement program whether on A1 or A2 models
with more than one piece of land is expected to surrender
excess land." It goes on to claim that a total of 24,562
hectares, which will be re-allocated to A1 settlers, have
actually been recovered. The commission suggests that "one
family, one farm" might be a better way to address the
situation, but even so it cites the difficulties of enforcing
compliance. For instance, the report addresses the
complications inherent in polygamous marriages and marriages
where both spouses are ex-combatants, and where the wives
would therefore want to maintain "ownership" in their own
right. In its typically noncommittal fashion, the report
continues that "Government has still to firmly pronounce
itself on this matter."

7. (SBU) Many of the former commercial farmers have used
this "one man, one farm" mantra to justify their own legal
challenges to compulsory acquisition. The report, however,
states that "In the case of a single owned farm being
acquired due to its being contiguous to a communal area,
Government undertook to provide the affected farmer with
another elsewhere around the country." Currently, neither of
the farmers organizations are aware of any white commercial
farmer receiving such an offer. In fairness, it is unlikely
that many commercial farmers would accept this offer, since
it implies that any beneficiary would have to voluntarily
relinquish claim and title to the first farm.

Land Subdivisions -- or Lack Thereof

8. (SBU) The report offers a fascinating glimpse into the
power struggles which must have consumed all players in this
process. Provincial governors complain that they have been
ignored, and cite for support the situation regarding
voluntary subdivision of white commercial farms. Apparently,
some provincial governors (such as Governor Msipa of the
Midlands province) were fairly assertive about negotiating
farm reductions with some of their larger landowners. Many
landowners actually signed over either a second farm, or a
portion of their single farm, via a GOZ-generated LA3 form.
Many others complained that they were never given the
opportunity to reduce their holdings. Most farmers who did
voluntarily yield part of their land did so under the belief
that they would then be allowed to stay on their reduced
landholding, and in their own home.

9. (SBU) However, the Ministry of Land did not formalize any
of the voluntary reductions, and in fact has allegedly said
that it would not do so, as it had not participated in the
process. In the meantime, many farmers who had submitted to
the authority of the land resettlement program found
themselves evicted, either through a continuation of the
legal process or by gangs of war vets. In typical fashion,
the report advised that "a conclusive position be taken on
the allocation of land subdivisions to which the LA3 forms
were designed to apply," without advising what position would
be most beneficial. A response from the GOZ, incorporated
into the report, states that an exercise to settle this issue
would include interviewing farmers still interested in
pursuing farming, after which the Land Acquisition Act will
be amended. Under these amendments, "Affected farmers will
be given offer letters and allocated either parts of their
original farms or given alternative land elsewhere in the

Legal Issues, Including Title

10. (SBU) This report acknowledges the legal morass
surrounding the land resettlement exercise. Many former
commercial farmers have built legal cases by demonstrating
that their land did not fit into any of the categories
identified for compulsory acquisition -- derelict land,
underutilized land, land under multiple ownership,
foreign-owned land, or land adjoining communal areas.
Others have cited their exemption under one of the published
categories -- church-owned land, agro-industrial or
plantation land, land protected by a Bilateral Investment
Promotion and Protection Agreements, land designated as a
Export Processing Zone, or projects approved by the Zimbabwe
Investment Center. The report attempts to bypass these
original criteria by stating that these were never
"policies," but merely guidelines ("neither a legal
requirement nor conclusive criteria") to help the Land
Identification Committees to prioritize land for acquisition.

11. (SBU) In addition to admitting errors in processing
acquisitions and allocating plots, the Commission concedes
that the entire process is not quite constitutional. "Above
all, there was a major contradiction observed as between the
1992 Land Acquisition Act as amended, which provides for the
compulsory acquisition of land, and the provision embedded in
the Constitution which requires that such acquisition be
confirmed by the Administrative Court. This contradiction
ought to be removed (last sentence bold and italic in

12. (SBU) The issue of title to the newly acquired land
continues to present difficulties for the GOZ. The report
recognizes that leases or "other forms of legal title" are
necessary to allow A2 farmers to finance commercial
agriculture. However, the Commission seems to sidestep the
issue of competing claims by existing title deed holders, and
recommends long-term (and possibly inheritable) leases
several times in the lengthy document. In fact, the report
states several times that A2 beneficiaries should only be
leased land on a complete cost-recovery basis, and suggests
passing the complete burden of compensation onto the new
farmers. The report calls several times for comprehensive
assessment of all improvements, including houses, barns,
irrigation systems, and moveable equipment, so that a proper
lease price can be determined. Regarding A1 beneficiaries,
the report states that "the issue of tenure is still under
consideration, although indications are that the tenure
system is likely to be similar to the one obtaining for
communal areas (e.g., no bankable title)."

13. (SBU) The unspoken conflict is that the GOZ seems
determined to maintain control of the allocations in a manner
which would make title -- even a transferable lease --
useless. At various points throughout the report, the
Commission emphasizes the need for both A1 and A2 farmers to
submit to the GOZ's need to control agricultural planning,
and its right to assess and confirm productivity. At the
same time, the report concedes that investment in property
will only flourish where the landowner has the security of
knowing that he (or his financier) will reap the benefits of
his investment. While the GOZ is understandably concerned
with food security, any system of title or lease which allows
the holder to be dispossessed based on the whims of a
government functionary defeats the purpose.

Former Farm Workers Blamed, Dismissed

14. (SBU) The lack of attention to this vulnerable group is
startling. The report claims, several times throughout the
text, that the former farm workers fall into one of three
groups: some farm workers were given A1 plots; some have
found employment with the new farmers; and some returned to
their rural homes or "opted to ... return to their country of
origin" (despite the fact that many are third- or
fourth-generation Zimbabwe-born). The report advises that
most in this third category remain in their former
compounds, a festering problem waiting for GOZ action. In
several instances, the report blames much of the lawlessness
(illegal squatting, illegal gold panning, crop theft,
vandalism, poaching, misuse of farm equipment, and "general
criminal activities") on the farm workers. In several
others, the report states that "they were reportedly
unwilling to work for the newly resettled farmers, preferring
to be engaged in gold panning activities which they
considered to be more lucrative. Whilst unwilling to take up
employment, they remained a burden to the new farmers in
terms of water and electricity usage..." It must be noted
that according to GAPWUZ (the union previously representing
the bulk of commercial farm workers), the "new farmers" were
in January strenuously fighting an increase in the minimum
wage from around Zim $5000/month to $7,500/month (an increase
from US $3.36 to US $5.05 per month).

15. (SBU) The total number of the approximately 300,000
former farm workers who reportedly received some land in the
program is detailed below.

Province Total workers Total beneficiaries

Manicaland 90,000 (est.) 1,080
Mash Central not provided "a small number"
Mash East not provided "some"
Mash West not provided "some," but very few
Masvingo not provided 128
Mat North not provided 225
Mat South not provided 361
Midlands not provided 377
Total 2,171

Status of Conservancies

16. (SBU) Many of the wildlife conservancy landowners,
including several Amcit couples, had hopes that the Utete
commission would help resolve the ongoing threat to the
peaceful possession of their property. Unfortunately,
nothing in this report offers any respite. While the report
decries the "attempt to subdivide these areas into individual
plots which would clearly be unviable," there is no
suggestion that land ownership revert to the existing model.
Rather, the Utete commission recommends "a corporate-type
model (of ownership) with a component to provide for local
community participation." "A2 beneficiaries would be
allocated shares in and participate in managing the entities
running the Safari farms, Plantations or Conservancies."

17. (SBU) The report also addresses the situation of illegal
occupiers in Gonarezhou, the national park to be incorporated
into the Zimbabwe-South Africa-Mozambique Transfrontier Park.
Although the governor of Masvingo reportedly "settled" the
families in Gonarezhou, the report states that "Government
stance on National Parks and Gazetted Forests is that such
areas should be exempted from acquisitions and resettlement.
With particular reference to the Gonarezhou National Park,
the Provincial Governor of Masvingo... is in the process of
finding alternative land to resettle the families currently
occupying" the park.

Claims of Increased Productivity Misleading

18. (SBU) There are several credible and rational
assessments included in this report, but few concrete
suggestions for meaningful action. These are interspersed
with unexpected claims of high crop production and
beneficiaries making "full use of the land allocated to
them." In one case, the GOZ's own figures belie its previous
claims. According to this report, in the 2000 growing
season, when most commercial farmers were still planting and
harvesting, commercial farms had 160,577 hectares under
maize, which produced 680,942 metric tonnes of grain. In
that same year, communal farmers had 1,217,115 hectares under
maize, which produced 808,709 metric tonnes. While it is
clear that seven times more communal land than commercial
land was cultivated for maize, it is not true that the
communal farmers largely carried the burden of feeding the
country (a statistic often repeated and seldom supported).
Elsewhere, the report claims that "Many of those (A1
beneficiaries) whom the Committee met stated that even
against the unfavourable weather conditions in the 2002 to
2003 agricultural season (note: when rains were delayed, but
average in amount, end note), they had harvested better
yields than in the past." This could be entirely true yet
completely misleading. Even when a communal farmer increases
his yield from .66 tonnes/hectare, he still does not begin to
reach the commercial productivity of 4.2 tonnes/hectare.

19. (SBU) In fact, the report claims, "For both old and new
farmers, but particularly the latter, the prevailing
macro-economic environment, and in particular the relentless
capital equipment and input price inflation, represented a
serious challenge if not a major obstacle to the
significantly increased production on the land envisaged
under the Programme." It is unclear why the GOZ would have
envisaged such an increase in production by deconstructing a
highly sophisticated and functional system.


20. (SBU) This is a bland and sanitized report. Given the
contents, there is little explanation for the GOZ's great
secrecy. The tone combines a selective history lesson,
outdated anticolonial jargon, platitudes,
blame-apportionment, and self-absolution. The style is
filled with passive voice and arms'-length references, as if
the commission is commenting on remote and distant events.
The international community was looking to this report as an
indication of whether the winds of reform are blowing. Based
on this report, they are not. The three elements which must
be addressed in order to "reform" the crisis-ridden
agricultural sector are developing a viable economic model,
tackling the issue of compensation, and reining in
politically-connected A2 abuse. Not one of these issues has
been confronted. The fact that the Buka report, which could
have formed the basis for reform, has been summarily shelved,
is telling.

21. (SBU) The report raises more questions than it answers.
Despite claims that wholesale gazetting of new properties is
over, new lists appear in the GOZ press on a weekly basis.
Regarding indigenous landowners who bought multiple farms
before the resettlement program, the report states that "At
this state, they are, also not targeted for compulsory
acquisition." The report hints at a third model of
resettlement, euphemistically entitled a "Peri-Urban/Green
Zone Resettlement Scheme," which is being finalized even now.
Although this is described as a way to "create space for the
development of peri urban agriculture or green belts around
urban areas...," there are insufficient details as to what
this will entail.

22. (SBU) Although the report takes an obligatory swipe at
"Western sanctions" which are destabilizing the economy, it
does concede that national macro-economic instability has
adversely affected smooth implementation. That being said,
it makes no suggestions for repairing the macro-economic
environment. The report addresses the problem of bringing
all farms into compliance with the maximum farm size, but
offers no recommendations as to how to combine this with its
proposed farm-size flexibility. The Executive Summary
states, "it is also critical that value addition to
agricultural produce be undertaken as a matter of deliberate
policy. For example, there is no plausible reason in the
country exporting bulky cotton lint instead of weaving it to
boost the textiles and clothing industry." The unspoken
plausible reason is that few independent investors would want
to brave the perils of the Zimbabwean economy when investing
in exports from AGOA-eligible countries is so much less risky.

23. (SBU) In places, the report does not refrain from utter
falsehoods -- as in its claims that the GOZ fulfilled, but
Britain did not honor, their respective commitments under the
September 2001 Abuja agreements.

24. (SBU) The Executive Summary ends with the claim, "There
can be no alternative to the Programme's success... Neither
stagnation nor regression can be contemplated." Therein lies
this commission's raison d'etre: justification of a
fundamentally flawed program, the enormous costs (social,
political and economic) notwithstanding.

© Scoop Media

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