Redeeming Disaster

There can be little doubt that the 'fast track land reform programme' launched by Zanu PF in 2000 has been an unmitigated disaster. Not only has it resulted in agricultural output declining over 70 per cent but all the industries that were built up to supply agriculture with its many needs and those companies that depended on farm output for raw materials, have suffered collapse.

While the target of this unlawful and unjust campaign were 4000 white Zimbabwean large scale commercial farmers, the impact was felt across the whole economy - small scale farmers suffering even more than their large scale counterparts because they were less able to protect themselves from the side effects. Whatever the protagonists of this campaign might say, this was just an act of wholesale piracy with the State offering the booty to their thugs in compensation for doing their will.

Where was God while all this was going on? The Bible teaches that He is the 'defender of the poor' and that He will bring justice to those treated in this way. But this is little compensation or comfort for the thousands of families whose lives were torn apart and homes destroyed. Farmers, whose lives had been invested in their farms and who know no other occupation and who now live a much diminished existence in towns and foreign lands.

In Genesis we read about how and why God set up the world and then brought mankind into existence. We read that He put us in charge and made us collectively responsible for the welfare and management of this tiny globe He has hung in space to act as our abode. He watches with sadness when we do crazy things - but He seldom intervenes, that is our business and He leaves us to create or destroy the creation we are a part of.

However He always acts to protect the interests and lives of those who are His children and follow His teaching. In addition He often turns a bad situation to good in unexpected ways. So it is with this particular human made disaster.

Among the farmers displaced are many fine Christians. Their faith calls on them to forgive those who did these awful things to them and in most cases they have done so. However at the same time He has often called them to devote their skills to helping the small farmers to make a better living for themselves.

One farmer has become the largest ostrich producer in the world - using small growers to produce the birds while he organises all the inputs and markets their production. Another has taken all he learned farming nearly 4000 hectares of dryland crops employing what he felt were godly principles, to train farmers how to use their land more effectively. This system now guides tens of thousands of small farmers in Zimbabwe and the technology and systems are being adopted in over 20 countries across Africa.

I sat in a meeting this past week where we were looking at how to support the small scale sector this coming summer. I happen to think that we are unlikely to get another good season this year, the Indian monsoons are late and light, Europe and the USA are having a very wet summer. The El Nino off South America is strengthening, all point to a lousy season. Since it seems that Zanu PF is intent on destroying what is left of commercial agriculture this winter, we have no choice but to target our whole effort on small scale agriculture.

It was quite an experience for me to see those dispossessed farmers sitting around a table and putting their ideas and vision together. Some have made remarkable progress and they will reach several hundred thousands small scale farmers this year. In particular I was impressed by the zero tillage concepts being taught with mulching and the use of organic forms of fertiliser.

Would this have happened if the farm invasions had not taken place? Perhaps not but my most immediate thought was that here was God turning another human disaster into good, almost despite ourselves. Many of the large scale farmers that I talk to say they would not go back to business as usual on their farms if they got the chance to go back. They talk about using their operations as a base for helping out the smaller producers in their districts.

Apart from this, we started the constitutional consultative process this week when 10 meetings were held at Provincial level to meet stakeholders and select delegates to attend the stakeholder’s conference in Harare in mid July. Zanu PF is doing all they can to stop the process. They have stated that there is 'no need' for the whole exercise - 'after all we have a draft in the form of the Kariba Constitution' which was signed at Kariba in 2007. None of us had any say in that draft. What the negotiators thought they were doing when they did that I have no idea, but we are never going to accept a draft that we had no hand in drafting.

Then they said we could not go ahead because there was no money. We went out and found the money for the first phase and will probably raise the funds for the whole process. Zanu then said we could not use donor funds for this process! What claptrap - this is the most important job that the Transitional Government has to do in its short life. We are going to do it properly.

Morgan is still being criticised on every front for his remarks while on his recent trip abroad. Just look at these headlines in Fridays Independent newspaper: 'Mugabe dispatches team to counter Tsvangirai trip'; 'Tsvangirai call on exiles ill-thought out'; 'In defence of Tsvangirai'; 'Tsvangirai loosing touch with reality'; 'Wake up call for naïve Tsvangirai'; 'Scepticism dogs Tsvangirai tour'; 'Warm welcome but little cash for Tsvangirai'.

The actual facts about this three week tour are in fact quite different. When he was sworn in, he was urged by Diplomats in Harare to visit their home capitals. He at first said he would not travel for six months. However pressure built up for this trip and it was decided to try and do as many capitals as he could in a short time. Bear in mind that no Zimbabweans leader has been received in major capitals for over 12 years. The objectives were quite simple - to re-establish contact with major western leaders and start the process of reengagement. The issue of additional money was not a major objective. Donor budgets are set well in advance and we already have had a doubling of foreign aid in the first half of 2009. We knew well in advance that new money was unlikely - certainly not in any quantum.

Was the trip a success - by any measure it was. In every capital he visited, he was seen by the Head of State and given a warm reception. He was able to brief these leaders on the problems of the Transitional Government and of the needs we have to get through to a new election in 2010. I am sure there is a much better understanding of the Zimbabwe situation and that we will get the strategic support we need to craft a new constitution and re-establish service delivery to our people. They will also have understood what we need to do to get free and fair conditions for the next elections.

The tour gave no comfort to the Zanu PF leadership at home. In country after country, our team was told, in no uncertain terms, what we as a country have to do to regain their confidence and support. Free up the media, stop abusing our legal system, respect private property rights, restore fundamental freedoms. Even the famous booing in that Cathedral in the UK bore no comfort - what those exiles were saying is 'we want no compromise; Mugabe and his henchmen must go'. We agree, but we are locked into a deal by the region and must simply live with it and try to overcome the obstacles they will put in our way to a new Zimbabwe.

Morgan is home today - next week he resumes the fight for justice and freedom in Zimbabwe. Rested and I hope strengthened in his resolve to do the right thing for all Zimbabweans. Please note that trip to the East by several Zanu PF heavyweights on a 'fund raising tour'. I happen to know that negotiations are well under way for a US$700 million line of credit from China. Watch the State press when they claim that this facility is the result of this trip. I just hope that China and Russia are too savvy to be used in this way.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 28th June 2009