Mduduzi Mathuthu Chronicle Editor
BRITAIN fouled up by failing to honour the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement which guaranteed compensation for its settler farmers in independent Zimbabwe, a leading figure of the ruling Conservative Party admitted yesterday.London mayor Boris Johnson, tipped as the next Conservative Party leader, said in a mournful article in the Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph newspaper that Britain’s “betrayal” of the agreement led to Zimbabwe’s land revolution, starting in 2000, in which the settler farmers emerged losers.
Sensitive to the constituency at home, which sees President Mugabe as a tyrannical land grabber, Johnson prefaced his admission of British bungling with customary imperialist subterfuge and anti-Mugabe bluster.
He goes on to blame former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for wrecking the white farmers’ chance of staying on the land, or at least being compensated for it.
“This Mugabe tyranny is no accident — and Britain played a shameful part in the disaster. Readers will remember the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement, by which Margaret Thatcher granted independence to Rhodesia,” wrote Johnson, who reveals he once visited Mazowe sometime in the year 2000.
“At that time the country was a breadbasket, a flourishing agricultural producer, with about 6 000 commercial farmers. The only trouble with those farmers was that the most successful of them were white — and Mugabe’s long reign has been characterised by one overwhelming objective: to exterminate the last vestiges of white power, whether political or economic.
“As he has said: ‘The white man is here as a second citizen. The only man you can trust is a dead white man.’ So it was crucial that the Lancaster House Agreement protected the interests of these white farmers. They could, of course, be bought out, but their land could not be simply seized. There had to be a ‘willing buyer, willing seller’.
“The British government agreed to fund the arrangement, compensating the former colonial farmers for land that they gave up. Under that arrangement the white farmers were able to survive – more or less; Zimbabwe remained economically viable – more or less.
“And then in 1997, along came Tony Blair and New Labour, and in a fit of avowed anti-colonialist fervour they unilaterally scrapped the arrangement. The overseas development minister, Clare Short, made it clear that neither she nor Blair gave a stuff about the former colonial farmers. As she put it at the time: ‘I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new government from diverse backgrounds, without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and, as you know, we were colonised not colonisers’.
“It was that betrayal of Lancaster House that gave Mugabe his pretext to launch his pogroms against the whites.”
Johnson’s admission of Britain’s “betrayal”, which triggered a diplomatic chill in relations between the two countries, is thought to be the first time a leading British political figure has admitted the former colonial power’s ruinous diplomacy in Zimbabwe.
The former colonial power, behind an international lobby to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, has used global summits to paint President Mugabe as a racist tyrant driven sorely by his hatred of whites, while paying short shrift to Britain’s repudiation of the Lancaster House Agreement which led Zimbabwe to reclaim its land without compensation.
“We turned our backs on the very people who were actually indispensable to the economic well-being of Zimbabwe, and Labour essentially allowed Mugabe to launch a racist tyranny,” reflected Johnson.
“It was Labour’s betrayal of the Lancaster House Agreement – driven by political correctness and cowardice – that gave Mugabe the pretext for the despotic confiscations by which he has rewarded his supporters.”
Last night, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo said the government would not be responding to Johnson.
“We’d look crazy if we responded to mayors. We’ve noted his views, most of them inaccurate and malicious, and wonder if this admission of guilt is the plea of the Conservative Party or an individual. We’ll let Mr Johnson carry his own cross and deal with his guilt,” Prof Moyo said.