"The land has come back".

Author:Ankomah, Baffour
Position:Cover Story: Zimbabwe

Amidst the mounting Western strangulation and demonisation of Zimbabwe in recent months, the government has quietly pressed ahead with its fast track land reform programme, bringing it to a virtual end. Baffour Ankomah reports from Harare.

"The land has come back", a triumphant President Mugabe declared at the ruling Zanu--PF Central Committee meeting in Chinhoyi on 12 December. "The age old question has now been answered. We have not just made history in post-colonial Africa; we have also written a new page on social justice and social change," he thundered. All out of international glare, and as Britain and its Western allies tightened the economic noose around the neck of Zimbabwe in recent months leading to severe hardships in the country; Mugabe's government has quietly gone ahead with its fast track land reform programme, bringing it to a virtual completion.

In a major interview with the state--owned newspaper, The Herald, published on 12 December, Mugabe said Britain's "negative attitude" to the land programme "was a blessing in disguise" as it enabled his government to acquire more land and at a faster rate than it would have been possible had Britain agreed to compensate the white farmers. (See David Hasluck's historic interview, p48).

If Britain had played ball, Mugabe said "the land issue would have been resolved along the path of understanding between us and Britain, which would have resulted in an understanding between us and the commercial farmers. "There would not have emerged a situation of conflict between us and the commercial farmers, but that would have meant our moving smoothly, raking into account the feelings of the white farmers, and this would not have made for a faster rate of occupying and distributing the land."

"So, the fact that Britain was negative made us also negative in attitude to the farmers, and this negative had other positive results. It is the negative producing the positive. Because they confronted us politically, we geared ourselves to be negative against them and therefore not to take into account the smooth conduct of relations that would have seen us go slow. This is the position and it made it much faster and smoother on our side, and now we are at a stage where things are irreversible, and we are happy for it."

But this happiness has come at a huge cost. "Of course, we have had to bear the costs," Mugabe admitted. "Britain has imposed sanctions directly and indirectly -- by getting its friends to refrain from investing in Zimbabwe, withdrawing donor support, etc. But for us, the most valuable resource and source of wealth is our land. So Britain's negative attitude is welcome. Actually, Blair got us to work much faster on the land and we must thank...

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