Joram Nyathi Group Political Editor
Zanu-PF is being wreaked by widespread indiscipline. Everything else — whether we call it corruption, vote buying, violence, influence peddling, election rigging — are merely symptoms of indiscipline among party cadres.
ON Monday this week, the Daily News on page 3 ran a story titled, “CZI wants illegal invaders evicted.”
This came in a week in which President Mugabe almost lost his voice railing against indiscipline, factionalism, corruption, vote-buying and other forms of malfeasance in the ruling Zanu-PF party. This was in the background of party supporters — big and small, male and female, office-bearer or seeker — taking off the gloves to fight their factional agenda in the few contested positions in the Youth League.
That is the major reason that the Daily News headline immediately caught my attention, not the oxymoron about “invaders” being any more “illegal” than their act implies. We have had similar headlines about illegal land occupations, especially conservancies, in the Lowveld.
These have involved senior Zanu-PF members, some of whom already own large tracts of land, either in the same area or in other provinces.
The Daily News story quoted Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president for the Manicaland chapter Frank Kufa lamenting that the “invasion” of plantations in the province was hampering industrial recovery efforts. People without skills or resources were occupying tea, coffee, fruit and timber estates in the province. Timber Producers Federation chairman Joseph Kanyekanye weighed in, pointing out that illegal settlers had already cost Manicaland “a $20 million Chinese paper mill investment”.
“Sadly, the investors also sent their delegation which was disturbed by rampant and wanton illegal settlements on timber plantations,” said Kanyekanye, stating that insurance companies were now shunning the sector because of the very high risk, which also includes senseless burning of plantations.
Beside the Chinese investment, which is the new dimension, Zimbabweans are only too familiar with what has been going on in that part of the world without any corrective action being taken by Government.
Border Timbers alone has lost over 3 106ha while Wattle Company has lost 2 050ha to the illegal settlers. Mutare Board and Paper Mills has also lost thousands of hectares of its estates, in all undermining what Kanyekanye described as “the last standing industrial complex” in Manicaland. That should get the authorities seriously thinking about the impact of this against efforts to attract foreign investment to revive the economy and the noble objectives of Government’s land reform programme.
Government needs to clarify the policy. So far, it has not enforced some of its own pronouncements and the result is confusion, or simple acts of greed being allowed to run riot while besmirching a policy which has won President Mugabe a lot of praise in the developing world. And let’s not blame anybody else but Zanu-PF itself on this one. The party, or at least some of its senior officials, are, by their acts, giving hostage to fortune.
Policy wise, at the start of the land reform programme in 2000 President Mugabe insisted on one man one farm. Apparently that call went unneeded. Several land audits commissioned by Government itself have unearthed numerous cases of multiple farm ownership. Some of the farms still lie idle There was no action taken. The offenders were left to feel safe and dare more.
Government made pronouncements about “specialised” areas such as dairy farming, horticulture and conservancies being spared from acquisition at the start of the land reform programme.
This was an understandable “exclusion” because there are particular skills and immense financial resources required to run such enterprises on a commercial scale.
But that position appears to have been abandoned along the way. We are not so sure whether it was official policy reversal or it was a case of neglect and offenders felt they could dare a step further. I recall reading only about official adjustment of policy regarding Save conservancies in the Lowveld, ostensibly because it was felt that it would be unreasonable to completely exclude blacks from this lucrative business simply because of their exclusion in the past, that is, lack of skills and resources.
White conservancy owners and blacks would now share skills and resources. However, when Jomic members last visited that area in 2012 led by Honourable Oppah Muchinguri, there was massive cutting down of trees or burning of large swathes of land. Animals were being snared and slaughtered even in estates under Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements.
Original owners of the conservancies did not help their cause by their often open display of resentment to this encroachment into this “reserved” area, a white enclave, by their poor black neighbours. Zanu-PF bigwigs started moving in, even those already owning huge farms elsewhere. Those struggles for conservancies in Masvingo still haunt the land reform programme, and demand a definitive policy intervention. Before others, or the same offenders, can dare to stretch their luck.
The Government has issued out 99-year leases to A2 farmers. It is in the process of issuing out Settlement Permits to A1 farmers. So far more than 2000 Settlement Permits have been issued out, with a target to issue 8000 before the end of the year. These permits or leases should enable holders to leverage them to access loans so they can raise productivity on their pieces of land. The holder can produce his permit or lease agreement to stake his claim to a piece of land.
This is a commendable step on the part of Government as a form of security. They should also allay any fears of arbitrary removal from the farm.
But they have been met with reservations by economists and financial institutions because both don’t constitute sufficient security to be used as collateral, reports show. An item used as collateral should be legally transferable, but in the case of these leases and permits, Government remains the owner and guarantor, financial institutions and analysts argue.
Now, when in the midst of all this uncertainty the same financial institutions read in the papers that big companies such as Border Timbers and Wattle Companies are having their estates illegally occupied, what guarantee exists that land occupied on the basis of 99-year leases or Settlement Permits cannot be illegally occupied while the lenders hold onto legally-unenforceable pieces of paper? Here I am not talking about the cynicism of those inveterately opposed to the Government’s land reform programme and other indigenisation and economic empowerment policies.
I am placing myself in the shoes of the less noisy and unobtrusive Chinese investor friends who must be hitting their heads over their decision to invest $20 million in a paper mill project in Manicaland? It is the same China which gave Zimbabwe a loan of $144 million for the rehabilitation of water infrastructure in Harare. Part of that money was diverted by council officials to purchase luxury vehicles.
Is Zimbabwe not biting the hand that feeds it? Not only is China the biggest investor on the continent at $246 billion against America’s $85 billion; China is about the only significant investor to seriously deal with Zimbabwe in proportion to the puny size of our economy. At the United Nations it has stood by Zimbabwe, risking further straining ever unease relations with the US. Talk about misuse or abuse of friendship!
All of which sums the cause of the President’s anger. Zanu-PF is being wreaked by widespread indiscipline. Everything else — whether we call it corruption, vote buying, violence, influence peddling, election rigging — are merely symptoms of indiscipline among party cadres.
The cancer began way back when Zanu-PF officials slowly but surely abandoned the party Leadership Code and started living ostentatious life styles. That creeping consumerism boldly manifested itself in what came to be known as the Willowgate vehicle scandal. Most of those involved got no more than a slap on the wrist, so others felt it was permissible to offend without fear of consequences.
The result was the looting of the War Veterans Compensation Fund. Nobody was punished for the fraudulent claims. Thus many more were tempted to try their luck next time.
The land reform programme offered a magnificent opportunity. Some people took more than the permitted number of farms. The magnitude of the programme was almost an open invitation to a venal cadre now completely out of control. Add to this the pervasive feeling that you were assured of immunity for your offences if you were a member of the party.
That was a recipe for the chaos witnessed at the Youth League and claims of kidnappings ahead of the Women’s League conference this week. Zanu-PF will need to reinvent itself, to rediscover the discipline which defines a revolutionary party. This is an urgent issue if the party is to survive the onslaught of opposition political parties in the country and the ever growing machinations of Western powers led by the United States to try and destroy all political parties with a liberation war ethos.
Without discipline, Zanu-PF is ripe for destabilisation.