Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Old Mutual offered to buy grabbed farms: WikiLeaks

Old Mutual offered to buy grabbed farms: WikiLeaks

By Taurai Mangudhla, Business Writer
Wednesday, 14 September 2011 11:32

HARARE – Global insurance firm Old Mutual (OM) proposed to arrange a credit 
facility for government to purchase up to 400 Zimbabwean commercial farms 
that were unlawfully grabbed by Zanu PF in 2000, WikiLeaks has revealed.

According to latest US diplomatic cables, leaked by whistle blower, OM 
approached government in 2002 seeking to break a deadlock on the 
controversial fast-track land reform, which discredited the country’s rule 
of law and rendered the country an unfavourable investment destination.

OM offered to fund the land purchase, with a successive removal of “lawless” 
war veterans from the land resettlement picture, in a bid to demonstrate to 
the international community that law and order was returning to Zimbabwe.

The cable revealed that Patrick Rooney, then Delta Corporation chief 
executive, told former US Ambassador Tom McDonald that OM’s proposal would 
allow war veterans occupying farms to be relocated to the purchased 
“Rooney continued that this proposal would soon be put to President (Robert) 
Mugabe, but it was unclear to him whether the president would accept it.

“The chief executive said that Vice-President (Joseph) Msika had endorsed 
the programme, but believed that Minister of State for Information and 
Publicity Jonathan Moyo, Minister for Local Government Ignatius Chombo, and 
Minister for Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement Joseph Made could still 
scuttle the effort,” McDonald is quoted as  saying in the report, adding 
that the Commercial Farmer’s Union (CFU) was not involved in the “private” 
business proposal.

Rooney also informed McDonald that he and other business leaders were 
seeking to appoint an impartial mediator to give a platform for the two 
warring parties, MDC and Zanu PF, to work out their differences.

“There is currently a short list of potential mediators, at the top of which 
is former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda (who) is a good possibility, but 
may be a problem with Mugabe because of his prior confidential support of 
Joshua Nkomo,” the report said.

“There are no South Africans on the short list, Rooney continued. The 
ambassador told Rooney that the US government welcomes both these 
initiatives and encourages all the parties involved to keep the channels of 
dialogue open (before he) asked Rooney to keep US apprised of any 
developments in these negotiations.”

Meanwhile, commercial farmers have welcomed the proposal saying that it 
would unlock Zimbabwe’s economic value. Deon Theron, CFU past president, 
said farmers would support OM’s proposal given the potential return to a 
stable political and economic environment for agriculture.

“What we have always said is that rule of law should always be followed and 
this illegal land grab should be resolved in Zimbabwe and we support such 
initiatives whether they are coming from government, an international or 
local pressure group,” he said, adding that conflict resolution between 
commercial farmers and government was long overdue.

“The sooner we resolve the conflict, the better.”

Charles Taffs, incumbent CFU president, added that the proposed purchase and 
reallocation of seized land was critical in remodelling the country’s 
investment image.

“The international community has a negative perception on Zimbabwe 
especially given the on-going indigenisation exercise. Zimbabwe’s biggest 
asset is land and we can maximize value as soon as we get free trade on the 
land market, but the problem is that current policy is not allowing this to 
happen,’ he said.

Economist Erich Bloch also agreed that the decision to buy illegal settlers 
off the farm land could have changed Zimbabwe’s economic fate.

“We could certainly have attracted investment if we had pursued the land 
reform on a willing buyer willing seller basis instead of government taking 
land that it never paid for.

“The decision to just grab land was a major blow to our investment 
credibility,” he said. In the meantime, government –– through Saviour 
Kasukuwere’s Indigenisation Ministry –– is pushing for all foreign-owned 
firms to immediately relinquish a minimum 51 percent share holding to 
Zimbabwean locals.

The initiative is steaming ahead in a typical grab all approach given 
government’s lack of funds to legitimately pay for the stakes in the foreign 

Recently, Kasukuwere threatened to suspend licences of all firms that failed 
to submit acceptable indigenisation compliance proposals.


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