Reflecting on the Lancaster House treachery In an interview with New African magazine (2007/2008:5), Sir Shridath Ramphal, Second Commonwealth Secretary-General from 1975 to 1990, who was Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo’s advisor at the conference, recalled that Lord Carrington was negotiating with Mugabe and Nkomo on one hand, and Ian Smith, and General Peter Walls, on the other.

Elliot Ziwira-At the Bookstore

“Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,” writes George Orwell in “Nineteen Eight-Four” (1949).

It is possible to implore the past to speak to the present, it is possible to silence it even, but it is impossible to blackout its memory, for the past is stubborn. 

The past does not forget.

Because the past exists in human memories and records, depending on their clout as informed by prevailing ideologies, individuals have a way of selectively recalling from a people’s repository of memories, that which speaks to their interests, and deliberately forget whatever imperils them.

This selective amnesia is used to recall past memories, and temper with them even, not so much as to inform the present, but to erroneously pass it on as collective history for future generations.

The past is always a conflation of accomplishments and miscarriages, which can be used as learning slates for both the present and the future.

However, if past hurts, wrongs and travails are always evoked in the hope of extrapolating meaning in the present, then, the future becomes a battlefield where scars are used to heal fresh wounds. 

If this happens, then the concept of nationhood suffers.

Even though some may want to pretend otherwise, as Chigwedere (2001) avers and collective memory concurs, the Lancaster House Conference of 1979 was a contestation of heritage designed to legitimise robbery and justify murder in the name of modern negotiation. 

The Lippert Concession of 1891 testifies to the same.

As historians, Raftopoulos and Mlambo (2009: xxviii), point out, after a long-drawn-out liberation struggle, the Lancaster House Agreement gave the nation of Zimbabwe a Constitution at birth on April 18, 1980, which “embodied a series of compromises over minority rights, in particular on the future of land ownership.”

Therefore, white capital was guaranteed glory in the sunshine.

At the Conference, delegates from the Patriotic Front of ZAPU and ZANU, and the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian government haggled for more than three weeks over the land issue.

Fighting in the corner of the Rhodesians, his kith and kin, Lord Carrington pressed for a clause in the Constitution protecting individual property rights. 

The Patriotic Front, on the other hand, wanted to do away with the existing land tenure in Rhodesia after independence.

Having built a legacy around the land, white Rhodesians did not want to let go.

The land, therefore, was the major “stumbling block” from the word go. 

In an interview with New African magazine (2007/2008:5), Sir Shridath Ramphal, Second Commonwealth Secretary-General from 1975 to 1990, who was Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo’s advisor at the conference, recalled that Lord Carrington was negotiating with Mugabe and Nkomo on one hand, and Ian Smith, and General Peter Walls, on the other.

 So, “there was no way he was going to get a constitution that didn’t guarantee the status quo on land,” he maintained.

Hence, the Lancaster House Agreement was flawed from the start, because Europeans were determined to hold onto African land at all cost.

Naturally, Lord Carrington was negotiating in bad faith because he already had a standpoint. 

To him, the European had a right to land in “backward” Africa, and as a lord, he had to preside over the allocation and ownership of that heritage.

It should be noted that the ZANU policy statement of August 21, 1963, committed the party to, among other resolutions, “repeal the Land Apportionment Act, the Land Husbandry Act, and to replace them with a new Land Redistribution Law; to create a National Land Board to effect an equitable redistribution of land and abolish the destocking of cattle” (Zvobgo, 2017:11).

Sir Ramphal reveals that “there was a sleight of hand because when Mugabe and Nkomo threatened to leave Lancaster House unless the land issue was dealt with in a way which would allow for land redistribution, the fudge was: ‘You will be helped to pay the compensation that the constitution requires to be paid.’”

Playing God, Lord Carrington told the Patriotic Front: “If you do not agree to the provision of the draft Constitution, but other delegates do, the Conference will resume without you” (New African, 2007/2008:5).

What he meant was that the British government, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Ian Smith and General Peter Walls could negotiate for a settlement without the Patriotic Front.

As Sedgefield opens up to Crawford in Nyaradzo Mtizira’s “The Chimurenga Protocol” (2008), Smith and his general, Peter Walls were “close to losing (the) war”.

In an editorial comment, the Daily News, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania of 17 October 1979, noted that Lord Carrington insisted on pleading “poverty on an issue his country handled so well when decolonising Kenya”. The British lord, thus, became an obstacle to social justice.

In an editorial comment, the Zambia Daily Mail (Lusaka) issue of 18 October 1979 reported: “Things are not going well at Lancaster House.

“And if the talks on the independence of Rhodesia collapse, the man to lynch is Lord Carrington. Lord Carrington has become an obstacle and dynasty at Lancaster House to prove his lordship.

“His intention is to see that the negotiations fail by frightening away the Patriotic Front delegation. . . The man has no regard for the dignity of the black people.

“His attitude towards the Patriotic Front is openly biased, hostile and nasty, and it is dangerous for the ultimate outcome of the talks” (New African, 2007/2008:13).

The above citation is telling, not only of Lord Carrington’s heavy-handedness, lack of respect for the dignity of blacks, hostility and nastiness towards the Patriotic Front, but it reflects on the Hegelian philosophy of supremacism.

Lord Carrington, and, indeed, his fellow colonists were keen to see the negotiations collapse, because they were banking on Muzorewa to legitimate their continued stay on Zimbabwean land.

This rationale is premised on the concept of the “good” and the “bad” African.

The good African agrees with everything that the coloniser says, while the bad African resists foreign influence.

Muzorewa became the “good African”, whereas Mugabe and Nkomo were regarded as “bad Africans” for resisting “foreign influence.”

The proposed Declaration of Rights, which was not to be amended for 10 years, the issue of dual citizenship and property rights were all meant to drive white hegemony.

The persistent argument is whether rights are only for Europeans, whose property was begotten through plunder and not the rule of law?

If the same Rhodesians, who insisted on being European through their own constitution, even though they were in Africa (Mukonori, 2016), could clamour for dual citizenship in a new Zimbabwe, a nation unknown to them, what would happen to Zimbabweans, who belong to no other country, if their land remains in the hands of Rhodesians?

These are the questions that remained unanswered at Lancaster House, and these are the same questions that impede land reform in Zimbabwe.

Because “treachery” has always been the white man’s way, Sir Ramphal drives the point home, the idea at Lancaster House was to maintain a semblance of legitimacy, hence the concoction of a document by the Americans through Kingman Brewster (the American Ambassador).

 In the document the Americans pledged that they would “support the establishment of an agricultural development fund” to help defray any compensation provided that it was “matched by the British government and had an international character”, Sir Ramphal told the New African (2007/08:6).

Although “solid assurances were recorded in the documents of the Conference and notified to all Commonwealth countries” (ibid), no particular sum was specified, which could make it difficult to enforce compliance in future.

Another condition that compromised the noble plan of the new nation’s Government set by the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia delegation at the Conference was that: where land was compulsorily acquired, “The white farmers who were dispossessed should be paid full and fair compensation to be deposited wherever they wanted, in a currency of their choice” (Maruma in “Coming Home”, 2007:6).

According to Sir Ramphal, there was no mention of a contribution on the part of the Zimbabwean Government. 

The Patriotic Front never accepted the responsibility to compensate white farmers in future.

It should be noted here that the British, the Americans and their Rhodesian kin and kith did not believe that the Patriotic Front would win the historic 1980 elections.

They were banking on Muzorewa.

The Lancaster House Agreement, therefore, was built on deception, meant to uphold entrenched European values at the expense of Africans in an attempt to forestall progress on the land question.

It was only a matter of time for the British to show their true colours; supremacist hypocrites of the highest order.

Around the late 1990s, the colonial agenda in place since 1890 started rearing its ugly head. Everything to do with upsetting the status quo on land ownership was shot down.

It is worth noting that Claire Short’s letter on behalf of the United Kingdom repudiating responsibility to their own historical blunders, claiming that she was “Irish”, and were also “colonised and not colonisers”, was “an inimitable mixture of shamelessness and sanctimony” (Nathaniel Manheru in New African: 2007/2008:27).

Denying responsibility was meant to create fertile grounds for rebuke on the post-2000 Fast Track Land Reform Programme. 

However, against all odds the Government of Zimbabwe embarked on the journey to open up opportunities for citizens through land ownership.

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