Year 2000 No. 87, May 22-23, 2000

Condemn Britain's Attempts to Dictate to Zimbabwe!

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Condemn Britain's Attempts to Dictate to Zimbabwe!

For Your Information:
Third Annual UK/South Africa Forum

For Your Reference:
Background to the Land Question in Zimbabwe
Thabo Mbeki’s Speech in Zimbabwe

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Condemn Britain's Attempts to Dictate to Zimbabwe!

In this issue we are presenting reference material relating to the question of Britain's attempts to dictate to the Zimbabwean government how it should conduct its internal affairs. Britain has no business attempting to dictate to Zimbabwe in this way, and the British government must end its interference in Zimbabwe's affairs, end all threats and intimdiation and comply with the Zimbabwean government's demands that it should meet its obligations in full. The British working class and all democratic people must also condemn the Labour government's stand, and make a break with the chauvinism and disinformation that is being promoted on this issue.

Article Index

For Your Information:

Third Annual UK/South Africa Forum

South African President Thabo Mbeki visited London from May 17-19 on an official visit. On Thursday, May 18, the third annual UK/South Africa Forum, or bilateral summit of ministers and officials from the British and South African governments, was held. On Friday, May 19, Tony Blair and Thabo Mbeki met to discuss personally.

At the end of the visit Tony Blair and President Mbeki gave a press conference.

Tony Blair said: "South Africa is an important country for Britain, a key ally in linking north and south. We are South Africa’s largest business partner. We have £12 billion invested in South Africa making us the largest foreign direct investor by far, but we are also one of South Africa’s largest export markets, so trade and investment issues of course made up an important part of our talks. In particular I would like to congratulate the President and his ministerial team on the handling of the South African economy – I think the strength of the South African economy, the management that it has had, the growth prospects for it are immensely important and optimistic pointers for the future in South Africa.

"But the relation goes obviously far wider than simply trade and investment. As a pillar of stability as well as a motor for economic growth, South Africa’s importance stretches out across the continent of Africa and beyond. South Africa alone generates nearly half of Africa’s GDP and we discussed today how South Africa can help drive a renaissance in Africa, bringing democracy and prosperity to all African people. As I said to the President earlier this afternoon, I am strongly committed to helping him in this endeavour. I want the UK and South Africa to work together to eliminate poverty, work in partnership with us in the United Nations and the Commonwealth to tackle some of the fundamental challenges that face Africa today.

"We also discussed what more Britain can do to help in the process of change and transformation in South Africa itself, and one element of this is our support for the modernisation of South Africa’s defence forces. I am delighted to confirm that the British military advisory and training team – BMAT – will extend its role in South Africa to help with this process. The Metropolitan Police are also playing an important role in training South Africa’s new elite crime squad, the Scorpions, at their centre in Hendon."

Tony Blair went on to refer to the situation in Zimbabwe, where the government has announced that elections are to be held on June 24 and 25. The 150-seat parliament was dissolved on April 11, ending a five-year term. Under the constitution, elections are held within four months of parliament’s adjournment. The Prime Minister pointed out that both Britain and South Africa "welcome the setting of dates for the elections next month and agreed on the importance of those elections being free and fair. The Commonwealth and the EU have already agreed to send observers to the elections." EU and Commonwealth representatives are already in the Zimbabwean capital Harare for talks with the government and the opposition about the violence in Zimbabwe.

Tony Blair, at the press conference, paid tribute to President Mbeki’s "quiet diplomacy" and to "his leadership throughout Africa".

President Mbeki, in referring to Zimbabwe, spoke of the importance of the elections genuinely being "free and fair", and "that the land question is addressed in a manner that is beneficial for all Zimbabweans without confrontation, without conflict." He said that it is "important for the people of Zimbabwe and certainly for important for us in the whole region of southern Africa and therefore we would want to continue to remain engaged with this issue to make sure that these various problems are indeed solved".

On the conflict in Sierra Leone, he referred to "the role the British government is playing with regard to that to find a resolution of that issue and indeed to deal with people who in many instances are acting criminally and the unacceptable thing of kidnapping UN peace-keepers".

Thabo Mbeki referred to the way the two governments work. "But," he said, "we are moving from a common value system and therefore it is possible to deal with the practicalities in detail of all the various challenges that we face."

Article Index

For Your Reference

Background to the Land Question in Zimbabwe


Cecil Rhodes’ agents tricked the King Lobengula of the Ndebele into agreeing to a mining concession, the Rudd Concession, which gave the British South Africa Company exclusive domain over all metal and mineral resources in his kingdoms. Lobengula had never intended to confer land rights and he repudiated the treaty, appealing to the British government for justice, but Rhodes was given a royal charter to colonise much of present day Zimbabwe. The military occupation of African land in 1890 was followed by its appropriation by British settlers who were each awarded 3000 acres and 15 gold mining claims.


Between 1890 and World War I the British South Africa Company (BSAC) and the British government appropriated the land of the Shona and Ndebele people largely by military conquest and created the new colony of Southern Rhodesia by 1895. Those settlers who fought against the Ndebele were each given 6000 acres of land. Within a year, 10,000 square miles around Bulawayo had been marked out. By the end of 1895 the BSAC had introduced the hut tax, "native reservations" and passes for the purpose of dispossessing Africans of their land, livestock and minerals and forcing them to work for European settlers. The famous Chimurenga rebellion of the Shona and Ndebele in1896 was not finally suppressed by the BSAC until 1903, but by this time the settlers had seized over 15 million acres of land. By 1914, the BSAC had taken 48 million acres, other companies 9 million acres and individual settlers a further 13 million acres. By this time Africans who were 97% of the population had been forced into 23% of the land in the so-called "reserves".


The Land Apportionment Act of 1930 formalised the separation of land and divided the country in two. In the most fertile region only European settlers could own land, while 50,000 Africans were forced to move to reserves. Under the Act, 49 million acres were designated "European Areas", including all urban areas and land solely for the use of European farmers, 29 million acres (22.4%) were designated "Native Reserves" and a further 8 million acres were reserved for purchase by Africans. The settler government took control of 6 million acres to be distributed as it saw fit. At this time Southern Rhodesia had a population of 1.1 million Africans and only 50,000 European settlers, who by this time enjoyed internal self-government.


In 1965, Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence (UDI) from Britain and armed resistance by the Zimbabwean forces of the Patriotic Front, incorporating ZANU and ZAPU began in 1966. When international economic sanctions were imposed against the Smith regime, the commercial agriculture under the settlers was heavily subsidised. In 1979, the Lancaster House Agreement paved the way for independence in April 1980. Under the Agreement, Britain has an obligation to fund land redistribution. Payments of £44 million were made, but these were stopped in 1988 on the basis that the British government did not agree with the way in which land was being redistributed. Britain and other countries also made pledges to fund land redistribution in 1998 but have never implemented these promises. Under the Lancaster House constitution the Zimbabwe government could only buy land from "willing settlers". When this expired after 10 years the government passed a law empowering it to make compulsory purchases. Three years ago, Robert Mugabe announced a list of 1,500 farms for compulsory acquisition, saying Britain should foot the bill for compensating the settler farmers because of the history of the colonists who had stolen the land from the African people.

In his national address on the 20th anniversary of independence, Robert Mugabe said the issue of land was the last colonial question heavily qualifying the sovereignty of the people of Zimbabwe. He said he could understand the frustration of the war veterans and the pressures faced by white commercial farmers which was emanating from the unwillingness of the British government to honour its commitment to land reform and the resistance to the land clause in the rejected draft constitution.

Article Index

For Your Reference

Thabo Mbeki’s Speech in Zimbabwe

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki gave a speech at the opening of the Zimbabwe Trade Fair in Bulawayo on May 5. The following are excerpts from his speech, as published by the South African news agency SAPA website:

Our two economies, those of Zimbabwe and South Africa, are the largest in our region. They also enjoy a considerable degree of integration...

Inevitably, therefore, both of us have responsibilities that extend beyond our borders...

Mr President, I might take advantage of this occasion to mention the concern you had, a few years ago, that we, the black people of South Africa, should not make the grievous mistake of allowing the outbreak of a civil war among themselves.

I am convinced that the interventions you made in this regard contributed to turn us away from a path that would have been truly disastrous.

Colonial legacy

Land dispossession was one of the most iniquitous results of the colonisation of Zimbabwe...

Both of our countries, which experienced extensive land dispossession of the indigenous majority by those who colonised our countries, are confronted by the challenge to address this colonial legacy.

Our peoples, on both banks of the Limpopo, both black and white, have a responsibility to recognise the fact that the land question constitutes an important part of the national agenda.

Accordingly, they must commit themselves to work together to address this central question, to advance the common good.

Clearly, the resultant land redistribution also imposes the obligation to ensure that such land is used productively, to help provide a better life for the people...

To you, the people of Zimbabwe, I would like to convey the message that the overwhelming majority of your brothers and sisters south of the Limpopo share with you the hope that the land question in Zimbabwe will be addressed successfully.

National consensus

At the same time, as a people, we are convinced that it would be best that this important matter is dealt with in a co-operative and non-confrontational manner among all the people of this sister country, both black and white, reflecting the achievement of a national consensus on this issue, encompassing all Zimbabweans.

Accordingly, we trust that ways and means will be found to end the conflict that has erupted in some areas of Zimbabwe, occasioned by the still unresolved land question in this country.

Peace, stability, democracy and social progress in Zimbabwe are as important for yourselves as they are for the rest of the region...

Inasmuch as we know from our own history that you are ready to assist us to achieve peace, stability, democracy and social progress in our own country, so are we, in the common interest, willing and ready to work with you for peace, stability, democracy and social progress in Zimbabwe, in our region and the rest of our continent.

The motto on our new national coat of arms, which we unveiled a mere eight days ago, expressed in an ancient African language, says: People who are different come together.

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