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Cablegate: Zimbabwe's Other Land Crisis

VZCZCXRO8984
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0903/01 3201214
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161214Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5141
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 3173
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3285
RUEHBY/AMEMBAQCANBERRA 2546
RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2915
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1712
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 3333
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5781
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2465
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK
RHMFISS/EUCOM POLAD VAIHINGEN GE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000903

SIPDIS

AF/S FOR B.WALCH
DRL FOR N.WILETT
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J.HARMON AND L.DOBBINS
STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR M.GAVIN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EAGR ZI

SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE'S OTHER LAND CRISIS

1. SUMMARY: Lack of secure tenure is a problem for all farmers in
Zimbabwe, not just the white commercial farmers who have lost their
land. In the absence of transferable claims to land that can back
agricultural credit, lack of financing now limits production across
the entire sector and reduces expectations for the 2010 harvest.
Much of the damage done to agriculture through the Government of
Zimbabwe's (GOZ) "fast-track land reform" cannot be reversed. But
agriculture will only be able to recover once reasonable credit is
available, and for that land titles need to become tradable legal
assets again. A necessary step to legalize titles is for the GOZ to
complete the land audit donors are ready to support. END SUMMARY.

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2. Zimbabwe's "fast-track land reform" -- GOZ-speak for
uncompensated seizure of commercial farms -- has done more than put
the country's most productive farmers out of business. It has also
undermined the very foundation of commercial agriculture by
destroying the entire system of transferable land tenure. It is no
longer possible for farmers to secure debt with land, for the most
efficient producers to replace inefficient ones, or for productive
farmers to expand output by leaQ additional land.


3. A report presented September 30 at the GOZ-sponsored National
Agricultural Conference notes that "insecurity is evident across all
the tenure sectors." The report highlighted tenure insecurity for
so-called "A1 farmers" and "old resettlement" beneficiaries. (NOTE:
A typical A1 farm is a few hectares carved out of a confiscated
commercial farm; A2 farms are large-scale operations based on
confiscated land; the "old resettlement" schemes were part of a
pre-1998 process of moving farmers from communal land to
smallholdings the GOZ purchased. END NOTE.) Tenure for both A1 and
old resettlement land is based on a GOZ-issued permit rather than a
registered lease. Unlike a lease, the permit is not transferable
and does not grant tenure for a specified period. Many A1 farmers
have no formal documentation of their permits. As a result, neither
A1 farmers nor those who benefited from the resettlement schemes can
use land claims as collateral.


4. The A2 beneficiaries have the same problem. The GOZ has leaned
on banks to accept as collateral the "offer letters" they receive to
show their entitlement. But there are widespread reports that such
letters can be forged, and in any case the claims they represent are
not transferable. As a consequence, it is impossible for banks to
use them as collateral.

5. Lack of secure tenure has an immediate negative effect on
expectations for the 2010 harvest. While farmer organizations and
relief agencies report that seed and fertilizer are widely
available, many farmers cannot finance the purchase of inputs needed
for planting. Bankers have told us that lending in agriculture is
now limited to farmers who can pledge residential real estate in
town or who have a long track record of successful bQwing.
Qtown or who have a long track record of successful borrowing.

6. For A1 and A2 farmers -- the beneficiaries of "fast-track land
reform" -- tenure is acutely insecure because it is based on the
patronage of President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party. Many A2 farmers
reportedly have little experience in agriculture and most lack the
financing needed to support farming on an economic scale. But the
GOZ's land-reform program does not allow them to rent their land to
farmers who do have the means to cultivate. In some cases, A2
farmers have been able to make informal arrangements with
neighboring white farmers who continue to operate. Even so, the
consequence of tenure insecurity is that while the A1 and A2 farmers
produce very little, ZANU-PF retains leverage over its new rural
clientele.

7. In a briefing for diplomats on October 15, leaders of the
Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) echoed the message that land tenure
has become insecure across all sectors of agriculture in Zimbabwe.

HARARE 00000903 002 OF 002


The CFU represents the interests of large scale commercial farmers
-- the mainly white landowners who have been the targets of
GOZ-sponsored farm invasions. The CFU's members were the first to
see howQ land-reform policies ruined agricultural livelihoods by
destabilizing the established land tenure system.

8. The CFU does not advocate restoration of the freehold titles its
members have lost. Remedies the CFU supports include long-term
leases and compromise arrangements with those who have been
resettled on confiscated land. But at the October 15 briefing, both
the president and vice-president of the CFU said the soluQn to
Zimbabwe's conflicts over land must include a uniform and nationwide
system of secure tenure that gives all farmers access to bank
financing backed by transferable claims to land.

9. COMMENT: Much of the havoc caused by "fast-track land reform"
cannot be reversed. Displaced commercial farmers will not be able
to reclaim ownership of the land, and in any case (as the CFU
concedes) most do not wish to return. But a government with a
mandate for reform and the authority to act could boost agriculture
by stabilizing and legitimizing the claims of those who are on the
land now and prepared to cultivate it. The CFU's vision of a
uniform system of land tenure is unrealistic -- attempts to
legislate a substitute for customary tenure in communal areas would
likely make the situation worse. The most constructive step the GOZ
can take now to restore security of tenure outside communal areas is
to complete the land audit the USG and other donors are ready to
support. This preliminary step will likely take years, not months,
and should mark the beginning of a process that ultimately gives
Zimbabwe a reliable system of transferable land rights. END
COMMENT.

RAY

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