Zimbabwe and its SADC counterparts are counting down towards this year’s edition of the Anti-Sactions Day on October 25. The day was set aside last year to articulate the effects of the vile regime of punitive measures imposed on Zimbabwe in 2001, by the United States of America. It is also meant to rally the progressive world to press the US to remove the sanctions.
Lancaster House Agreement and the West’s imperialist agenda
A lot is said about the three-month long Lancaster House Conference of 1979, which culminated in the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement on December 21 that same and ushered Zimbabwe’s independence on April 18 1980.
One of the areas which delayed the agreement was the issue of land. The discourse around the conference and agreement usually centres on the fact Ian Smith’s agreement to attend the meeting indicated that he was fast losing the war.
Many Zimbabweans know the Conference and Agreement as the stepping stone to independence.
Nothing much is said about Lancaster House Conference and Zimbabweans’ quest for a land reform that would address the colonial imbalances of the previous 90 years.
Zimbabwe’s nationalist leaders wanted Britain to commit to compensating white former farmers for their land, which the new Zimbabwe of Government would re-distribute to black Zimbabweans.
Political independence without full control of the land would be hollow. After all the raison d’être of the liberation struggle was land.
Britain initially refused to pay for the compensation, stalling the conference’s progress. The United States played guarantor and the United Kingdom agreed to provide compensation for land sold under the willing buyer and willing seller basis.
Britain agreed to grant Zimbabwe her independence, but the haggling over the land issue and the welfare of the white farmers demonstrated that country’s imperialistic tendencies.
It showed how the two countries shamelessly sought to maintain their stranglehold on the country’s economy by ensuring that their kith and kin continued to own the country’s major resource – the land.
The International Donors’ Conference on Land Reform and Resettlement
Government not only adhered to the agreement by putting the inevitable reform in abeyance for the agreed ten years. It went beyond that but the UK was not forthcoming in terms of a concrete compensation plan. Any hopes of a compensation deal were dashed when Labour Party’s Anthony Blair replaced John Major of the Conservative Party on May 2 1997 as the UK’s Prime Minister.
Blair reneged on the UK government’s pledge to fund the compensation of white farmers whose land would be used in the country’s land reform programme. Although the British Prime Minister at the time of the Lancaster House Conference, the late Margaret Thatcher, had agreed to the compensation deal on behalf of the country, Blair reduced it to a party issue. He argued that the agreement was between Zimbabwe and the Conservative party.
Faced with this major hurdle, Zimbabwe had no choice except to convene the International Donors’ Conference on Land Reform and Resettlement in September 1998.
The Conference was convened to inform donors on land reform and resettlement issues and to mobilise support for the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme. The meeting, which was held in Harare from September 9 to 11 1998, was attended by donor countries, international organisations as well as local stakeholder bodies such as the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU).
Sadly, while the event enabled donors and other stakeholders to get an opportunity to get on the ground to engage with the landless Zimbabweans, the conference did not result in any meaningful way forward as the UK and the US did not make any commitment to fund the land reform programme.
This, obviously, provided a cue for other would-be donors to adopt a wait-and-see position. Frustrated by this stagnation, the people under Chief Svosve in Marondera District took matters into their own hands and occupied some farms in their area in October 1998.
ZIDERA and the fight for Zimbabwe’s resources
Although the Svosve people were convinced to leave the farms, the message had been sent home. Zimbabweans could no longer continue to stay landless in their own country anymore. In January 2000, the people who fought for the country’s independence, the war veterans, could not take the West’s imperialistic machinations anymore. They led the occupation of farms in the same way they led in the liberation of the country.
The US responded by enacting the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) Act of 2001, ostensibly to provide for a transition to democracy and to promote economic recovery. It is important to note that when the land issue was topical for most of 1998, it was also the same time that the West through the Westminster Foundation was sponsoring meetings of members of the so-called National Working People’s Coalition, which culminated in the formation of the MDC on September 11 1999. Western countries were and remain unprepared to allow Zimbabweans to enjoy their independence and resources.
To confirm that ZIDERA was meant to fight ZANU PF out of power and replace it with a pliable opposition-led administration, one only needs to look at the shamelessly imperialistic piece of legislation closely. It started off as a four-page document, but by end of 2018, it had grown to nine pages. The US government amended it in 2018 just before the just before the harmonised elections. The US Congress and Senate passed the amended ZIDERA, which US President, Donald Trump signed into law on August 8 2018.
The amendment was necessitated by the MDC Alliance’s request to have its demands such as its calls for electoral reforms included in the law. This was meant to strengthen the opposition’s hand in its quest to deliver Zimbabwe and its resources to the West.
As the region heads for this year’s Anti-Sanctions Day, Zimbabweans, especially the youth, should know that ZIDERA is neither about democracy nor economic recovery. It is about fulfilling the West’s undying wish to recover its control of mineral-rich Zimbabwe using willing local lapdogs in the opposition and the civil society.
They should know that the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe are not about fighting ZANU PF only, but dispossessing all Zimbabweans, including opposition members, of their sovereignty and control of their own resources.