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Zimbabwe - the unintended effects of land and indigenisation laws
by Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London 15/10/10
What has been dubbed “legitimised looting in the guise of indigenisation and
the racist land seizures” could be argued as having got unintended results
in achieving more inequalities and investor boycott.
In what clearly appears to be a deliberate retaliatory response to the EU
travel ban on Mugabe and his 200 allies, the Harare regime has targeted for
partial acquisition, British-owned industrial and financial giants such as
cigarette manufacturer BAT Zimbabwe, Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered
Bank. The inclusion of the Swiss food group Nestle Zimbabwe on the short
list comes as no surprise in view of last year’s incidents.
Having been in Zimbabwe for 50 years Nestle sparked an international media
outcry in February 2009 when it was reported to be purchasing milk from
Gushungo Dairy owned by Mugabe’s wife. However, in an undated statement on
its website, Nestle announced that it would no longer be receiving milk from
“these 8 farms” referring to Gushungo Dairy Estate and 7 other (unspecified)
farms from Sunday 4 October (without saying 2009 or 2010). Consequently,
militant rhetoric has also increased.
“We are going to make sure that Nestle buys Gushungo milk. It is clear that
Nestle is perpetuating a foreign regime change agenda. We are demanding that
with immediate effect Nestle must be indigenised,” Affirmative Action Group
(AAG) Secretary General Tafadzwa Musarara told journalists in Harare. It is
common knowledge that Grace was allocated Gushungo under her husband’s
controversial land reforms. Other beneficiaries include Zanu-pf senior
members, their friends and allies as well as many members of the AAG who got
some of the best farms seized from whites (Zimonline, 22/10/09).
Other large multinational corporations in the line of fire are the partially
British-owned mining giants Rio Tinto and Zimplats. Zimbabwe Platinum Mines
(Zimplats) had to put on hold its US$2 billion expansion project in December
2005 unless the issue of Bilateral Investment Protection Agreements (BIPAs)
between Zimbabwe and South African companies had been settled.
The need to respect BIPAs came after Hippo Valley Sugar Estates, which is
owned by Anglo American Corporation had had part of its land invaded by war
veterans despite a standing bilateral agreement. As a result, 7 833 tonnes
of poor quality and unmillable cane from settler farmers valued at US$1.4
billion was rejected (The Zimbabwe Standard, 18/12/05). Five years later, no
BIPA is being respected by the Zanu-pf regime. The combined effects of the
chaotic, racist land seizures and indigenisation better known as “the
Zanu-pf vindictive nationalisation of foreign owned firms” are evidenced by
famine, poverty, 90 percent unemployment, the influx of Zimbabweans in South
Africa and obviously the reluctance of investors to risk everything to
“legitimised looting.” As a result, investors have voted with their feet.
In March the country’s power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Power Authority
(ZESA) was reportedly failing to secure serious investors to develop two
power stations worth US$3 billion that could help to ease power problems
bedevilling economic growth. Asked on whether investors were scared to
invest in the country, the then chief Executive, Engineer Rafemoyo gave an
academic or politically correct answer saying the country was coming from
doldrums of economic meltdown and some investors were not yet ready to take
part in such huge projects.
That Zesa is feeling the effects of an investor boycott and the recent
resignation of its boss, Engineer Rafemoyo materialised on Wednesday, 13
October 2010 when the government owned Herald reported that Zesa holdings
had indefinitely shut down Hwange Thermal Power Station owing to “technical
problems,” forcing the utility to increase load-shedding outside normal
schedules in most parts of the country. However, Zesa Holdings denied that
Hwange Power Station had been shut down. “Hwange Power Station lost all five
generation units which were producing 560MW of power at 1745hrs on Monday 13
October 2010 (wrong date) due to a transmitter fault. Restoration of units
to service was conducted in phases with three units coming into service by
Tuesday 12 October 2010” said Zesa on its website, giving another wrong date
(Zesa.co.zw accessed 15/10/10). Its customers are on the receiving end.
A German business delegation cancelled a visit to Zimbabwe in March 2010,
put off by the controversial indigenisation law saying Zimbabwe had become a
“no-go area” for foreign investors. The move by Germany came about a week
after Norway announced it was putting on hold a US$1.5million project to
assist Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector citing the indigenisation law as the
Meanwhile beneficiaries of the chaotic land reform programme have confessed
that their participation in the land grab exercise was a result of greed to
merely snatch the farm houses from the white community and not to till the
land. The assertion contradicts the perceived enrichment of land reform as
peddled by Zanu-pf. A ZBC Newsnet reporter said, “Most farmers are
confessing that what they needed were farm houses and not vast swathes of
land, which implied slavery for them. That is the reason why there is no
productivity on the farms” (Zimdaily, 18/02/10).
Although the Zanu-pf leadership code says that it regards corruption as an
“evil disease destructive of society” the story seems to differ in practice.
The Zimbabwe Times reported on 15 June 2009 that Senator Jamaya Muvuduri of
Zanu-pf, who already allegedly owns four farms was wrestling with Catherine
Jouineau-Meredith, a French citizen for Twyford Farm in Chegutu which is
protected by a Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPA) between
Zimbabwe and French governments. Muvuduri reportedly owns Shiloh Farm near
Kadoma, Mandalay Farm near Chegutu, Hoffmarie Farm in Kadoma and Brunswick
Farm in Chegutu.
A typical breakdown of the rule of law under Mugabe’s stewardship is
illustrated by Jouineau-Meredith, when she said that during one of the
beating sessions, her farm workers were assaulted from 6.00 a.m. to 10.00
a.m. with bars and sticks on their buttocks and under the sole of their feet
adding, “The police refused to intervene or come to the farm to make a
statement.” The courts were not interested to help either.
Zimbabwe’s High Court in a ruling in January refused to enforce a SADC
Tribunal judgement outlawing the country’s land reforms although, the
Tribunal in November 2008 declared Mugabe’s land reform programme
discriminatory, racist and illegal under the SADC Treaty. It was suspended
for six months in August.
Mugabe has reportedly commissioned at least four land audits but failed to
publish their explosive findings due to embarrassment. First, there was a
land audit by Flora Bhuka, the then Minister of State in Vice President
Joseph Msika’s office, followed by the audit by the former Secretary to the
Cabinet Charles Utete to investigate matters relating to Flora Bhuka’s
audit! Then there was the Chiwewe Committee which recommended in vain that
areas that were protected under BIPAs, forestry estates or which had Export
Processing Zone (EPZ) licences be exempted from compulsory land acquisition.
According to Zimnetradio.com (20/07/09) a five-member Presidential Land
Resettlement Committee appointed by Mugabe (fourth one) completed its land
allocation audit in July 2009 and unearthed widespread evidence of corrupt
allocations and the use of violence by senior politicians and military
officers to evict landless smallholder farmers, the very people Mugabe
claimed the land reform policy sought to help. The team reportedly named
about 13 cabinet ministers and four provincial governors as having violated
the “one man, one farm policy” but the report is being set upon by Didymus
Mutasa, Mugabe’s confidante.
The Supreme Leader himself allegedly owns a 10,000 acre holding made up of
six farms worth £2million. According to the Daily Telegraph 25/09/09, Robert
Mugabe has built a secret farming empire from land seized from at least five
white-owned businesses. The paper says, the 1,100-acre Highfield farm near
Mugabe’s tribal home was bought commercially but five others were seized
from their white owners. His Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo
allegedly attempted to “hide” his empire under shelf companies “facilitated”by
Attorney General Johannes Tomana. For details of the properties see
www.zimbabwemetro.com “Chombo’s Empire – The Details” Sep 1st, 2009.
Nobody is suggesting any wrong doing in the foregoing but just astonished at
the ease with which some people amassed wealth and became multi-millionaires
in less than 30 years in the midst of abject poverty.
Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, Political Analyst, London