"The conservatives would never have done that".

Author:Ankomah, Baffour
Position:The Interview: Zimbabwe

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. "Clare 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.

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 Marlborough. 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 Btitain 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 were three million hectares of land bought on the willing seller, willing buyer basis.

Baffour: So how did it go wrong?

Hasluck: Things starred 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...

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