Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

Comments from Ambassador Xavier Marchal (Head of Delegation of the European Commission to Zimbabwe)

I feel privileged to be invited again to address your annual Congress.

It is taking place in the context of a new political Dispensation, the main objective of which is to pull Zimbabwe out of a profound crisis, while paving the way for a better democratic environment.

One would expect that as a result of the Global Political Agreement, appeasement would now prevail over the land issue. This is unfortunately not the case, making the final resolution of this key issue much more difficult.

I will try however to make suggestions aimed at helping Zimbabweans to bring the land issue to a proper conclusion.

Speaking with authority

But can I claim that I can speak with sufficient authority? Consider these: 1) this is the fourth time I am addressing the CFU annual Congress; 2) I am an agricultural engineer by academic background; 3) I am the son of a farmer from the Congo; 4) I am also a diplomat.

I have been in Zimbabwe for four years now, significantly and positively involved in agriculture, food security, and the land issue. The European Commission has tabled important proposals regarding agriculture and the land issue, as has been the case notably concerning the coffee industry, which has virtually disappeared from Zimbabwe. Perhaps I have gained credit points to comment and advice.

Thanks to my academic background, I understand better some of the key realities related to agriculture in Zimbabwe: 1) Before 2000 Commercial agriculture was her largest employer; 2) without it becoming again a key driver of the economy, Zimbabwe will not redress; 3) it cannot exist in absence of dynamic and self sufficient small scale communal farming, and I repeat here what I have said last year, so important I feel it is: small scale farmer need commercial farmers for technical and economic reasons; commercial farmers need small scale farmers for social and political reasons; 4) of course, commercial agriculture needs an environment in which property rights are respected, the rule of law prevails, investment is encouraged and possible, farmers are not brutalized, farms are not grabbed for the wrong reasons.

As regards my past, my family left Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1967, narrowly escaping death and leaving their farms assets behind. In May of this year, forty years after, I had a chance to return to what is left of my homestead. I understand very well the ordeal of commercial farmers, evicted as a result of a land reform that has derailed from its core and laudable objectives.

But as a diplomat, I am neutral, even if proactive, and I look at the land issue in a wider context of a country in search of its destiny. And my assessment here is that this is the time to finally bring it to a conclusion. And for that to be possible, all stakeholders have to compromise, and accept that they all have to give something for the sake of their country.


The GPA, the basis for solving the land issue

Let us now look at what the GPA and the 100 day economic plan have to say about the land issue.

The GPA recognizes “the centrality of issues relating to the rule of law, respect of human rights, democracy and governance”. The GPA foresees a comprehensive, transparent and non-partisan land audit being conducted “for the purpose of establishing accountability and eliminating multiple farm ownerships”. It also foresees that citizens would be considered for land irrespective of race, gender, religion, ethnicity or political affiliation. It states that security of tenure to all land holders would be assured. It finally commits to mobilize compensation for the former land owners.

The 100 day plan commits the Government to “reducing conflicts and disputes on the land and ensure security of persons and assets”. It also commits the Government to undertake “an audit of the BIPPAs that have been violated and the costs of such violations”, as well as to “regularize BIPPAs farms that were resettled”.

Can we say that the GPA provides a basis for addressing the land issue in a positive and comprehensive manner? I think yes.

Translating the commitments of the GPA and of the 100 day plan in concrete deliverables should now become priority.

Zimbabwe could implement an immediate moratorium on land occupations, recognizing that violent action to force farmers out is a violation of the rule of law. Zimbabwe could recognize the political, moral and judicial force of the SADC Tribunal and respects its judgment. Zimbabwe should adhere to BIPPAs. The land audit should be undertaken without anymore delay, on the basis of clear terms of reference, respecting the spirit of the GPA. Substance should be given to the commitment to security of tenure to all land holders. A credible and coherent strategy to address the issue of compensation should be developed.

Is this possible to achieve? I think that the new Dispensation offers an opportunity to do just this, in addition to having the obligation to do so.

Possible role for EC and EU

Can the European Commission, on behalf of the European Union, play a role to that respect? The answer is also yes.

The European Union is conducting formal political dialogue with Zimbabwe, with the aim of normalizing a relationship seriously strained since 2002. The end game is full EU-Zimbabwe normalization. The process is a two way roadmap: the Zimbabwean track of implementing the GPA, and a resulting EU track of progressive reengagement. An achievable process indeed, in which the land issue is part.

When the Prime Minister visited Brussels on 18 June last, leading an important multi-party Governmental delegation, he asked for EC support to implement the land audit provided for in the GPA. We responded positively. We need now to move into action.


The Prime Minister also asked for support to improve food security in his country. We also responded positively. In addition to having significantly supported food aid/food security in the last years ( hundreds of million Euros committed since 2002), the EC has dispatched a fully fledged technical mission to Zimbabwe, currently still in country, to prepare a Short term Strategy to support the new Dispensation, which we committed to implement when the Prime Minister was in Brussels. Food security is one of its pillars, and so are a number of actions in support of the implementation of the GPA, including supporting the land audit.

But in the end, the key element remains a positive outcome of the EU-Zimbabwe political dialogue and its resulting full normalization of EU relationship with this country. Then the EU can unleash massive assistance, EC and EU Member States combined. The EC will then implement a very significant package to support agriculture, rural development, land, and environment.

In conclusion

I flew a number of times in a small plane over Zimbabwe. I was always struck by the extent in which the land lays idle and uncultivated, be it commercial or communal. But I have also always been very impressed by how extensively communal land has been improved so as to practice anti erosion agriculture; this is unique in all Africa. There is clearly a huge potential there. Transferring land in an arbitrary manner, or for patronage reasons, is not the answer to the land issue in Zimbabwe. Proper and realistic policies, an environment conducive to investments, full recognition that there is indeed a need to properly close the effects of past history but within the rule of law and with proper compensations, constitute instead combined elements of answer to the Zimbabwean land issue.

Land has always been at the core of the tensions that have prevented this country from gaining full benefit from its potentialities. But as I explained there is a way forward, and the new Dispensation has the historical responsibility to deliver.

In the end, Zimbabwe is a sovereign country. But like any other nation in the world, Zimbabwe needs international engagement and investment. For this to be there, confidence is needed, building upon clear rules and rights that are fully respected.

The EC, on behalf of the EU, can significantly contribute to these goals. Thank you



COMMERCIAL FARMERS’ UNION  PROPOSED RESOLUTION TO THE 66th ANNUAL CONGRESS  OFFICE BEARERS The Council of the Commercial Farmers’ Union resolves and recommends to Congress the adoption

Read More »

International Federation of Agricultural Producers Report

International Federation of Agricultural Producers                                                                                                       CFU – Zimbabwe 2009  ANNUAL  CONGRESSHarare, 4- 5 August 2009                                              KEYNOTE  ADDRESS By Mr. Ajay Vashee, PresidentInternational Federation

Read More »

Masvingo Region Report

              MASVINGO REGION ­              REPORT TO CONGRESS 2009   Another year has come and gone so fast and although much has happened in the country itself

Read More »

Agricultural Information Services Department Report

                       AGRICULTURAL INFORMATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT ­                       REPORT TO CONGRESS 2009                                                                                              PRESENTED BY VICE PRESIDENT C TAFFS  For many years this report to

Read More »

Financial Report

                                         FINANCIAL  REPORT TO CONGRESS 2009 INTRODUCTION: 2008 – 2009 Financial year was faced with many challenges. Hyperinflation causing the devaluation of the Zimbabwean dollar.

Read More »

Mashonaland West North Report

                                       MASHONALAND WEST NORTH                  REPORT TO CONGRESS 2009  Land – Seven farmers being prosecuted in Chinhoyi courts.  Most of these farmers have

Read More »

New Posts:

From the archives

Posts from our archive you may find interesting