Cablegate: Can Black and White Farmers Join Forces?

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

191409Z May 04





E. O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Can Black and White Farmers Join Forces?

1. (SBU) Summary: Zimbabwe's mostly white Commercial
Farmers Union (CFU) and mostly black Indigenous
Commercial Farmers Union (ICFU) have been holding
informal discussions that could - one day - lead to a
merger. Although there is much on both sides that might
sidetrack this process, it could prove a significant new
twist in Zimbabwe's racially-charged land debates. End

Tale of Two Unions
2. (SBU) The two farmer bodies have been heading speedily
in opposite directions. Since only about 600 white
Zimbabweans are still farming, the CFU has shrunk
dramatically since 2000; meanwhile, land redistribution
has swelled the ICFU's ranks to perhaps 20,000 black
commercial (referred to as A2) beneficiaries of land
reform. Yet the CFU still has a vastly superior
technical and administrative infrastructure.

3. (SBU) On several occasions, ICFU President Davison
Mugabe and General Secretary Wilson Nyabonda told us they
wanted a single multiracial union for all commercial
farmers. They expressed hope that the CFU would
eventually agree to a merger, or at least that some white
farmers would begin to join ICFU on their own. Over the
past year, in fact, 18 white farmers have broken ranks
and enlisted in ICFU, which seeks to de-emphasize its
indigenous origins and rename itself the Zimbabwe
Commercial Farmers Union (ZCFU). Mugabe and Nyabonda
admitted ICFU members would benefit immeasurably from CFU

CFU Leadership Ponders a Radical Move
4. (SBU) Until now, the CFU has resisted any ICFU
overtures. Given its dwindling membership, the CFU is
afraid the larger body would simply gobble it up. Some
CFU members would not want to align with land reform
beneficiaries, who have settled on white-owned farms
without due process or compensation. A main plank of the
CFU has been lobbying against, and of the ICFU
encouraging, land reform. Still, both associations claim
to be nonpolitical.

5. (SBU) Nonetheless, CFU President Doug Taylor-Freeme
now tells us he has been holding informal talks with the
ICFU's Mugabe. Taylor-Freeme is considering a proposal
to his board for a closer association and potential
merger with the ICFU. The CFU President recognizes he
would be leading his association down a radical path,
that he would antagonize many CFU members. He admitted
that white farmers from the more militant Justice for
Agriculture (JAG) would view this gesture as the ultimate

Why the CFU Could Support It
6. (SBU) Taylor-Freeme's pro-merger arguments are as
follows. CFU and ICFU members are both farmers and
businessmen, sharing similar interests for better-
functioning markets. He cannot hope to lobby more
effectively on behalf of an-ever shrinking number of
active farmers. Speaking the local language and having
spent his whole life in Zimbabwe, Taylor-Freeme wants to
go nowhere else. He places a priority on saving
Zimbabwe's final 600 white-owned farms (and an additional
500 where the white family no longer farms but still
remains on the land) rather than seeking restitution for
the approximately 3,400 already dispossessed - many of
whom have emigrated. Although many dispossessed farmers,
especially JAG members, pin their hopes on fair
compensation for land, equipment and homes, Taylor-Freeme
doubts they will ever see fair compensation in their

7. (SBU) From the closer association, Taylor-Freeme wants
GOZ land acquisitions to end, preserving the final 600
white farms. The GOZ, CFU and ICFU would work together
to resettle new farmers from the other 500 farms still
occupied by whites, enabling former farmers to begin work
again. This would mean 1,100 active white-owned farms,
down from a pre-land reform 4,500. In return, Taylor-
Freeme would make all CFU resources available to ICFU
members and put structures in place for white farmers to
assist indigenous counterparts.

8. (SBU) Taylor-Freeme, who will be in Washington May 28-
June 9 for the World Farmers Congress, has his work cut
out for him trying to sell the proposal to the CFU. He
is more farmer than polished lobbyist. Taylor-Freeme
also seeks to strengthen the hand of GOZ moderates -
particularly Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Lands
Minister John Nkomo - who are encouraging him to move in
this direction. In fact, the GOZ's so-called Utete
Commission report proposes a single commercial farmer
body. GOZ hardliners probably prefer the departure of
all remaining white farmers. Taylor-Freeme is aware that
the CFU's hand is far stronger now than it will be in two
year's time, after more of his technical staff will have
departed and the GOZ will have expropriated more farms.

9. (SBU) The Embassy, on friendly terms with the
leaderships of both farm associations, will encourage
this dialogue. We recognize that a voluntary CFU-ICFU
alliance or merger would not go down well with certain
white and black Zimbabweans. It presupposes, perhaps
dubiously, that the GOZ will sign on to a negotiated
compromise that reaffirms the status of some white
farmers. But we believe it makes sense for Zimbabwe to
find a way to retain whatever white farmer skills it can
at this late stage, while recognizing that the country
will not return to the pre-land reform status quo.


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