March 31, 2003
New African: David Hasluck, the immediate past director of Zimbabwe's white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), blames Tony Blair's Labour government for messing up in Zimbabwe. "Claire Short knows that there was a land issue at Lancaster House, how can she write a letter like that and expect to go forward?", Hasluck asks in this historic, world exclusive interview with New African editor, Baffour Ankomah. [See also, What Future For Morgan? and "The Land Has Come Back."]
David Hasluck was the director of the CFU for 18 years -- from 1984 till 20 December 2002 when he finally left office. Last October, when meeting a visiting delegation of councillors from the New York City Council, Hasluck criticised Tony Blair's government for not recognising the colonial wrongs over land acquisition in Zimbabwe and, in the process, precipitating the current political and economic crisis in the country. Hasluck is special. According to his own assessment, he is not liked much in government circles in Harare. "Hasluck the Official is a hard man, he is quite different from Hasluck the Man," one government official told New African in Harare. Hasluck the Man is now left with just - just - 400 hectares of his 1,300-hectare farmland in Manicaland, on the border with Mozambique. 900 hectares of his land have been acquired by President Mugabe's government and distributed to landless blacks. But the Man says he is not bitter, rather he is helping his new black neighbours to settle down. "If my black neighbours are failing, I will fail too, believe me," he says. Very sweet. As Hasluck was clearing his desk on 20 December on his last day in office, our editor, Baffour Ankomah, caught up with him at the well appointed CFU headquarters in the sumptuous Harare suburb of Avondale. It was a historic interview, and another collector's item.
Baffour: I understand today is your last day in office, is that right?
Hasluck: Yes, I am going back to my farm, Manyera Farm, in the eastern district in a place called Burma Valley on the border with Mozambique. We grow many different crops and I am very proud of my cattle.
Baffour: I have been to the Burma Valley, it is a beautiful place. You go up the mountains and the valley spreads for miles down below. Gorgeous place.
Hasluck: Yes, God made this place, and hidden too.
Baffour: Does your going have anything to do with your remarks against Britain?
Hasluck: No, not really. There were people who sanctioned me for making those remarks. But my remarks were made in the context that my greatest concern as a Zimbabwean is the lack of diplomatic fulfilment and understanding between my country and Great Britain. Where people start shouting at each other as opposed to being able to engage and resolve issues is when we have problems. I continue to be concerned that the problems are deepening and the polarisation appears to be starker because of fundamental differences.
My remarks about Britain not understanding our historical heritage and not wishing to acknowledge it in respect of the land reform programme, was made in the context that when my president, Mugabe, personally went to Britain and met Tony Blair's new Labour government, I think it was during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Edinburgh, he wished to raise the land issue with the new Labour government, and he told me at the time that he felt he had not been well received. He was dismayed and angry about it. My then minister of agriculture, Kumbirai Kangai, who accompanied the president phoned me from Edinburgh and said that the president had not been well received by the British government.
Baffour: This was when?
Hasluck: The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh was in, I think, 1996 or 1997.
Baffour: Tony Blair came to power in May 1997. The Commonwealth meeting in Edingburgh was in October 1997, I think.
Hasluck: OK, then that's right. It was during the CHOGM in Edinburgh. Blair's policy was this: "My new Labour government has a White Paper on bilateral relations and it is based on a number of principles that my government believes should be the basis for mutual co-operation between Great Britain and any other developing country". He laid down the principles: good governance, transparency, democracy, land reform programme being to the national benefit, a programme that would constitute development in terms of British analysis of what the programme was.
Our delegation, including the president, Mugabe, as far as I know put across to Tony Blair that in 1980 there was a Lancaster House agreement, that land was the issue that prevented the early settlement of the independence issue. There had to be outside facilitators to reconcile the different parties.
And Mugabe and his government's understanding was that Britain would fund the land reform programme, the scope of which was too large for Britain to fund alone. That there would be some international assistance from other Western nations, including the USA, and that we would go forward together. We did so.
During the first 10 years of independence, you will remember, the clauses affecting the appropriation of land and property were entrenched in the Lancaster Constitution, and if the government wanted to compulsorily take land it had to pay compensation in the currency or currencies of the landowner's choice. There was three million hectares of land bought on the willing seller, willing buyer basis.
Baffour: So where did it go wrong?
Hasluck: Things started getting difficult in this country in 1995 because by now my president, Mugabe, had seen that the land reform programme had not gone on as quickly as his government had hoped. So he made an extraordinary decision, in my opinion, together with his ZANU-PF party, to take the land issue out of the institution of government and make it a party issue. This was very distressing for commercial farmers. We had worked well with the government. To them, there was never enough land available. But we always said there was as much land available as they had money to buy, that finance was a constraint. That was why the government maintained that the British didn't fund the land programme adequately.
Back in '97 and '98, there was a major intergovernmental (British and Zimbabwean governments) review of the land reform programme. I don't think either party was very enthusiastic about how successful it had been. It needed more impetus, and more new people involved in increasing productivity rather than just transferring land.
In 1997, when the vital decision to make the land reform programme a party project was taken, a lot of farms were listed for compulsory acquisition in terms of the now amended Land Acquisition Act that allows the government to take land without paying compensation.
We obviously did not like the idea of having so much land taken so quickly because as far as we could see, there was no prospect for it being paid for in good time. But the political spin was that if they threatened to take it, and the international community including the British saw that the Zimbabwean government was serious, they would come up with some more resources.
There were a lot of difficulties because many farmers, including myself, didn't know that our farms were going to be acquired until the list was published.
Baffour: Was your farm acquired?
Hasluck: My farm was listed for compulsory acquisition in the first listing. I was always of the opinion that if there was going to be a good solution, it had to be done by Zimbabweans together - farmers, government and civic society. I went with the government delegation to London to try and persuade the British that we could have a joint position, that we wanted fair compensation in a reasonable time.
Baffour: This was in 2000?
Hasluck: No, it was in 1999. Just prior to that, we had a donors' conference here in Harare in September 1998. I was involved in it. Together with my friends in government, we drew up a very comprehensive document showing the scope of a reform programme over five million hectares of land chosen where the government wanted it as opposed to where farmers wanted it. We estimated the whole programme to cost US$2 billion. About 46 countries attended the donors' conference. There were pledges of support for the principles, but there was some reticence by donors to give money before they saw capacity to do such a massive programme. In short, things didn't go very well after the donors' conference.
Hasluck: There was this unfortunate rankling, unfortunate and I say that, with people in the press here where some people were arrested for writing a story about the possibility of a coup. And instead of focussing on the major issue of land reform, the question of press freedom became the dominant issue for donors and Western governments. Those sensitive human rights issues tended to dissuade potential contributors to the land programme, particularly the Scandinavian and European countries. There was the commitment but they were asking "what's this?"
Our union, the CFU, worked hard. We spent quite a lot of money on some pilot projects to show how land reform could be done successfully on commercial farms. The government was not particularly keen on private sector initiatives, they wanted a massive national land reform programme.
The issue became politicised and very entrenched. When the 2000 constitutional referendum in which the amendments to the constitution and the provisions for the government to acquire land failed, the president said, "well, we will continue with our existing constitution".
But in April of that year, on the last day of parliament, they amended Provisions Section 16 that dealt with property, and said that rural agricultural land that was compulsorily acquired for resettlement would not be paid for. No compensation for the land but the government would pay for the improvements on the land. Compensation was the responsibility of the former colonial power, they said. And it comes back to my first point: "Because we believe that this land was taken from our forefathers without compensation and it was often violently, and there has been no recognition of this by the colonial power, the British must live with this responsibility."
Baffour: And yet, you and the CFU went to court?
Hasluck: We did. But the recent fast track approach, the Chave Chimurenga [the government's new slogan meaning "Now, It's War"] is a revolution not constrained by the law. I went to court in the interest of our members. We went to the Supreme Court, and we won initially on the basis that there was a requirement for the government to have a proper programme that was published so everybody could see who the beneficiaries were.
We won on that. But there was a reform in the Supreme Court, new judges and a new chief justice were appointed. The new chief justice who was also the chairman of the Constitutional Commission told me, during the appeal that was heard in December 2001: "Mr Hasluck, you can win in law every time but my court is going to deal with matters relating to land in the context of what I see to be social justice, and I have every reason to believe that, that is what we can expect from the Court, not references to precedents set in Roman Dutch Law. The Court will look at a new approach and come out with what I see to be justice to redress the iniquities of the past and restore what was taken from people for nothing."
You will appreciate that for me as a commercial farmer, it was difficult to deal with my business in a predictable way. But these are facts!
Baffour: Social justice, it is a fair concept, isn't it?
Hasluck: I don't think fairness was the issue here. What people say and what is happening on the ground are two different things, and that is the issue. But if we are Zimbabweans living on a continuum of history, these are issues we have to address not by going to court, but trying to see a way forward. That is why I was critical of the British for stating their policy. "This is the policy," they said. But the reality is something different. And to say that we have a policy and we expect everybody to comply with it, irrespective of the reality back on my farm, is a failure!
There is a disconnection between Africa and Europe. We don't have a lovely European Union and a Common Agricultural Policy that look after us all in times of need. It's not like that here. European farmers farm for themselves, but if my black neighbours are failing, I will fail too, believe me. Because you can't have success here and failure there, and think that we are just going to be happy together. It's not true.
Baffour: The "failure" of British policy, what do you mean exactly?
Hasluck: The failure, I will tell you. President Mugabe said to me: "Mr Hasluck, I don't understand why you as white commercial farmers are not supporting me in getting money from the British to pay you compensation." Well, why did we have to do that? I will tell you. We had been asked by a World Bank/IMF team our opinion as the Commercial Farmers Union about some policies they had for Zimbabwe. And I gave a candid opinion. And the government said: "How can you deal with this issue when these institutions are dealing with the government, not with you individually?"
So I said to President Mugabe, we have not openly expressed support for your attempts to get compensation from Britain because we have learnt to our cost that we rely on our government to negotiate and deal with international issues on behalf of the nation. If we go as individuals and start saying this and that, we give the impression that we are a nation divided. And I won't do that! We rely on you, you have a diplomatic service, I go every year to the diplomatic school to brief people - all our ambassadors, the Central Intelligence Organisation chiefs, etc - on the political realities of the land reform programme, and they know very well how to express this to the British. They must do so in a manner that is convincing enough to persuade them that there is some merit in the land reform programme.
Baffour: Well said, but everybody knows that the British support the white farmers here. So if the CFU had put in a word, even behind closed doors, it could have made a difference in London, surely Mr Hasluck.
Hasluck: The British government has consistently been canvassed by CFU presidents on what to do, behind closed doors. But the policy is there in Britain, and the history is here in Zimbabwe. And now the history has got in front of the policy. And you can see that Zimbabwe now produces one-third of what it produced three years ago. That is the reality.
And the tragedy is that white commercial farmers are not in business to any great extent, and the new settlers are not farming either to the extent that they could have. So there is a big vacuum. And I insist that the problem was due to a diplomatic failure, in that they were not able to engage each other on the basis of give-and-take on both sides. This issue didn't have to develop into something to cause an impact in the Southern African region for some years to come.
Baffour: So you still stand by your remarks that the diplomatic failure by the Blair government in not recognising the history of land acquisition in Zimbabwe...
Hasluck: [cuts in] ...Yes, the Labour government does not. The Conservative government, oh yeah, I mean listen to what Lord Carrington is saying: "Of course there were some commitments at Lancaster House. It is a question of how we deal with them." But the new Labour government says: "No, we don't deal unless you deal with our White Paper and five principles". Now those are good principles for everybody after all. But they are not damn good to anybody if they are not working and are causing a crisis of the magnitude that we now see in our country.
And you will think that the diplomatic failure to pre-empt this, I mean we are internationally sanctioned now, our leaders are internationally sanctioned largely - you know, the elections are one thing - they are sanctioned largely because of the approach on land which started all the other things.
And I insist that if there had been a better approach to deal with the issue, to get engaged, I mean, I was looking at my file, we have this very Abuja thing, we have South Africa, Mbeki and Obasanjo being asked to bring us into the fold. Why? These people are not our shepherds. We need to have a good solution. Diplomatically, everything is conditional now. You do this, we do that.
Baffour: Did you see the letter written by Claire Short, the British international development minister, to the Zimbabwean government on 5 November 1997 repudiating British responsibility for colonial wrongs in Zimbabwe?
Hasluck: Yes, and it's what I am referring to. It is the spark that precipitated this conviction in the mind of my president, Mugabe, that the British government was not going to fulfil its obligations.
Baffour: Did the CFU get back to the British government when this letter was brought to your attention?
Hasluck: No, I have explained, because you cannot get back to the British government like that.
Baffour: Why? Not even through your informal channels?
Hasluck: No. We've said all along to the British: "Everybody in the world thinks that your policy and principles are very good. But for Zimbabwe, where you settle a dispute that went on from 1965 to 1980 on the basis of a Lancaster House constitution with some assurances on land, to write a letter like that, sort of reneges on what those historic, I mean when this country gained its independence, the leaders who achieved it, Robert Mugabe was a famous man internationally, he was seen as a person who had reconciled the people and motivated the economy.
If you look at the 1990 edition of Time magazine's Review, there is an article by me saying, "this is the first 10 years since 1900 that where I live in the east of Zimbabwe we have total peace and tranquillity and support from our government." Yes, there were some problems in Mozambique, but my government sent troops to protect my farming operation from border raids. And we had established some good reputation, I mean we had the Harare Declaration on Human Rights here.
Claire Short is a tough lady. And when you think that you cannot dictate policy and try to superimpose that over what is the reality and a firm belief in the minds of the people of my country here; look, my grandfather was a colonialist, he came here in 1893, and he did bad things I am sure, in terms of dispossessing [people of their land] and being a miner and a speculator and all those things. But I can't live with the sins of my father and my forefathers, but I can acknowledge the reality. And these were part of a British plan to colonise this part of Africa. Cecil Rhodes had huge publicity, I mean he was an icon in his era, a successful politician-entrepreneur who was going to go from Cape to Cairo in the interest of the British Empire. And to say that there is no history regarding the land?
Baffour: In short, Claire Short's approach was a bad one.
Hasluck: It was not a sensitive, diplomatic way. I believe a Conservative government would never have done that.
Baffour: Do you put it down then to immaturity, because Claire Short and Tony Blair had been in office for barely seven months, May to November 1997?
Hasluck: Look, I am a farmer, I know about farming, I don't know about politics. But I do know that where I come from, in Manyika politics in Manicaland, we are sensitive to other people's views, to the history, everything has to be understood by the parties involved.
Claire Short knows them well, that there was a land issue at Lancaster House, how can she write a letter like that and expect to go forward? The rightness of the principles is not the issue, the question is trying to get together, not confrontation.
Baffour: Do many white farmers share your views?
Hasluck: Our Union is like any gathering of people. I sincerely believe that the majority of our members share this view. There are others though who are of the view that we just have to go to court and demand our rights. And I have no doubt that if that was the course the Union pursued in the future, it would help nobody.
Baffour: Your country, Zimbabwe, has become a byword for stigmatisation. Does it affect the business of white farmers?
Hasluck: Of course.
Baffour: In which way?
Hasluck: My international lines of credit are no more. I can no longer borrow in foreign exchange. There is no facility for me, we have to get special permission to raise funds offshore for new projects. This position is not tenable anymore.
Baffour: In effect, the international strangulation of the country is not affecting only the government?
Hasluck: White farmers, in terms of numbers, are insignificant in Zimbabwe. I find it amusing that white farmers are accused of being the backbone of the opposition when in the last presidential election, there were five million black voters and only 4,000 white farmers. It is not true that we have high influence to get people to vote for the opposition.
Baffour: They say the white farmers provided the funds.
Hasluck: Well, let me assure you of one thing. This Union never gave any political party one cent. Never. Not even Ian Smith. He never got any money from us.
Baffour: But individual members, individual white farmers?
Hasluck: Yeah, some farmers supported the opposition. I know that in the 1990s and certainly in the 1980s, everybody supported ZANU-PF. Is it reasonable to punish people politically for expressing their views? I don't think so. And I think the support of white farmers was exaggerated.
Baffour: So, the CFU is split, as you say. There are progressives like you who want a second look at your relationship with the government, and others who still want to go the hard way through the courts. Is that right?
Hasluck: Well, there was a time in the beginning of this year  before and during the presidential election when a ginger group, not the whole organisation but a group of like-minded white farmers in and outside the Union, joined together and started a movement called Justice for Agriculture to deal, they said, "only in the truth" [he laughs sarcastically]. "We will only deal with the law," they said, "and we will prosecute every transgression that we have suffered, so we can be seen to be righteous. And all these iniquities of farm invasions and violence and so on that have been perpetrated against our members will be dealt with some day in the future when there would be a day of reckoning."
Look, I have no problem with the notion that we need to be more law-abiding citizens. And we need to take recourse where we can create stability through the use of the law and use the law as an independent arbiter. But there is no point, in reality, no matter how you believe in the law, to go to court and ask for something that you are not going to get. Because the Chave Chimurenga is not about the law and the courts, it is about the revolution and the historic rights that Claire Short says she doesn't acknowledge. That's why we've got problems here.
The Justice for Agriculture movement did get some support for taking this position. I think the CFU is less split now. When I resigned, I had to chair the election of the presidency and...
Baffour: [cuts in] ...Why did you resign?
Hasluck: Because I have more important things to do back on the farm now. I have new settlers who have to be made successful. I can't afford to be in a union where there are fundamental differences - by definition, union means togetherness.
Baffour: So your resignation has nothing to do with your anti-British remarks?
Hasluck: Now look, I want to be fully accountable for what I said. I believe in what I said, and I believe it is right. But that I will resign as a leading executive of this Union for something that I said, no, no, no. I have tried to leave the Union in a unified basis. We have a president, and vice president from Matabeleland, so they can have a more constructive approach. I believe I have deepened and strengthened the commitment of our members to have a dialogue. I hope so.
Baffour: How do the members who don't share your views see you? Do they think you are selling out?
Hasluck: Oh, they are entitled to their views. Yeah. There are some radical people who might think so, but selling out to whom? How can you sell out to your own country? If we are going to survive as Zimbabweans and as farmers here, we've got to be on our farms farming. In my community, in Burma Valley, every farmer is there. Here in Mashonaland, maybe 5% . Because we believe that we've got to make concessions, and we've got to get through the political process to understand what is required.
Baffour: Looking at the future, if you were asked to advise on the way forward, to bring about an understanding between the British and Zimbabwean governments, what would be your advice?
Hasluck: My advice has always been to use skilful diplomats, and that is what I continue to appeal for. I acted for my government for many years as a trade negotiator, I enjoyed working with the ministers of this government, I did my best in the national interest, not in the interest of the CFU. But the government now thinks Hasluck is a bad bugger. I don't know why Jonathan Moyo [minister of information] wants to rubbish me. I always tried to serve the national interest here. I also have a problem with Joseph Made [minister for lands and agriculture]. He won't speak to me.
Baffour: He won't?
Hasluck: No, no. Well, he doesn't speak to too many people.
Baffour: But from the outside, you are seen as a progressive man. Not many white farmers will say what you've said to me today. So why won't Moyo and Made speak to you?
Hasluck: I am very glad to hear that, progressive white farmer? But you must ask the government why they won't speak to me. I don't know. In the 1980s when Robert Mugabe was the prime minister, I used to go and have a cup of tea with him. Now, there are some bad people in this government, I tell you. Mugabe has the record of being a leader, a skilful leader, but he has got some bad buggers here who, I am sure, are doing what he doesn't expect of them. And this is a problem for him and for me and for Zimbabwe.
Baffour: It's been reported in Britain that white farmers who are sympathetic to the government are left alone, while the others lose their farms. Is that true?
Hasluck: It is much more complicated than that.
Baffour: There is also a school of thought which says white farmers could have played the land issue better, especially in the years when the government went slow on land reform, before it exploded.
Hasluck: Yeah, you know, you always have 20-20 vision with hindsight. And of course, one would have played it differently if there was the inevitability of what has now happened. But in my opinion, it wasn't a question of giving more, it became a complicated political issue because of the failure of diplomacy.
Baffour: So, in effect, the white farmers could have played it much better.
Hasluck: Jeez, you are quite persistent at getting back to the question. No, it is not a question of farmers. Because the question of colonialism was now going to be dealt with politically, because it was not acknowledged, what we could offer was never enough because it wouldn't assuage the wrongs that were not being recognised by the former colonial power. Does that make sense?
Baffour: Sure, but I am looking at the period between 1980 and 1997, before Blair came into office. Couldn't the white farmers have done more to prevent what we see today.
Hasluck: Well, I wrote a plan that was published in 1991 showing how we could develop together. We needed to be more integrated, to have a commercial sector that was colour blind. I tried to promote it, our members were not quite supportive. To the government, it was not really an issue, land policy was not an issue. So the answer is I don't know.
Baffour: Well, let's look at the future. Will the country survive the current international strangulation choking it to death?
Hasluck: It is going to be tough, but we will manage. We still have some unity of purpose in the Southern African region. Our neighbours don't like our economic policy because it is distorting their trade. People accuse me of having said Mbeki should throw us a lifeline and that Zimbabwe should not be sanctioned by South Africa. They say "why did you say that". I say how could that be? South Africa should turn off the power and not supply fuel, to change what? If you think that will make Zimbabwe to surrender, you are quite wrong. They don't understand our people and the nature of this government. They will just get tougher.
And I certainly don't approve of the notion that some other person should come here and change our government for us. Where is democracy? People run elections, some run good ones, some bad ones. But we want to have a government that has been elected, we don't want one that has been changed.
Baffour: You are leaving office today as director of the CFU. In effect, this interview is quite historic. What's your farewell message for your country and its people?
Hasluck: We must set individual interests and partisanship aside. We must act in the national interest for our country. Because united we stand, divided we fall.
(See letter written by Claire Short)
· · · · · ·
Zimbabwe: What Future For Morgan? - by Baffour Ankomah (March 2003)
Zimbabwe: Life After The Election - by Baffour Ankomah (Sept. 2002)
Wholly Derelict Journalism: Letter to the Editor - by Alex Jay Berman (Sept. 2002)
My Journalistic Dereliction: Response to Mr. Berman's Letter - by Gregory Elich (Sept. 2002)
The Anti-Mugabe Brigade - by Gilles d'Aymery (Sept. 2002)
Zimbabwe Under Siege - by Gregory Elich (Aug. 2002)
Baffour Ankomah is the Editor of New African, a British-based magazine published by IC Publications, an international publications company, founded in London 40 years ago. With offices in New York and Paris, the IC group specializes in producing newsletters, magazines, special supplements and reports on Africa and the Middle East. In addition to New African the IC Group publishes two other magazines, African Business and The Middle East. In April 2002, Baffour Ankomah made a "world exclusive interview" with President Mugabe which was published in the May issue of New African. Parts of the interview were extensively reported by all the major agencies -- AFP, Reuters, BBC, CNN and scores of other newspapers and magazines around the world. In addition, New African published extensive excerpts of Gregory Elich's article, Zimbabwe Under Siege, in its October 2002 issue. Earlier this year Ankomah returned to Zimbabwe. This article was first published in the February 2003 issue of the magazine. It is republished here with the generous and kind courtesy of the author.
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