Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 14 September, 2001, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
Zimbabwe deal: Will it work?
Zimbabwe has promised sweeping measures to halt the violent occupation of white-owned farms.

Robert Mugabe's government guarantees that land taken from white farmers will be given to landless blacks. In return, Britain and other countries will bear the cost of compensating the white farmers.

Zimbabwe has also agreed to allow close monitoring of the human rights situation in the country, and said it would safeguard freedom of expression and the press.

Nigeria's foreign minister hailed the agreement as a "breakthrough", but British and Commonwealth leaders say Zimbabwe must act on its promises.

Will the deal stop the violence? Can it help to avert the looming economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

The Land issue of Zimbabwe has and will devastate the economy in Southern Africa

Jeremiah Kang'ombe, Malawi
I think the step taken is a great one but the issue is how to enforce that. The Land issue of Zimbabwe has and will devastate the economy in Southern Africa. Please reconcile quickly and let's move on and rebuild. It's easier to destroy than build anything. The principles of leadership should put the welfare of the people at heart. This is the opposite in Zimbabwean situation.
Jeremiah Kang'ombe, Malawi

So all of a sudden Mr Mugabe has a change of heart? It may be a pessimistic way of thinking but the saying goes a leopard never changes its spots. How long will it take for him to implement all this 'change' that has been spoken about? Personally I think him and his henchmen will be skimming the money provided for the farmers.
Steve, UK

The deal will only allow Mugabe to buy himself more time as President. Believe it or not it's probably better that way for this Region's stability. It's up to the international community to make sure the funds are used correctly and that Mugabe lives up to his side of the deal.
Krush, Zimbabwe

Let's forget about land - let's have the rule of law

A Farmer, Zimbabwe
Every time the Zim Govt manages to resurrect the argument about LAND - it is a smokescreen to cover the total barbarity of what is happening on the ground - a misguided onslaught to maintain POWER. Every time we mention land, we fall into their trap. There is undoubtedly a land issue - but that is not what is on the Govt agenda. Let's forget about land - let's have the rule of law. Only then is the land worth anything to anybody, and can be discussed meaningfully.

What can the International Community do? Quite simple: free our airwaves. It is technically quite easy and not even very expensive. A population constantly fed blatant lies, and never hearing the opposing view, is not free. Cde Stan Mudenge even had the patronizing nerve to say that the Abuja deal would delight the white farmers. We want peace - to stay; not the money - to run.
A Farmer, Zimbabwe

Britain has been and will remain obliged to satisfy the needs of a country it "colonised". the Zimbabwean government should, on the other hand, with international assistance take steps to ensure that the monies being disbursed by the British government are put to effective use. The Abuja deal may not be a breakthrough but it will certainly make steps to bridging the gap.
Zimcha, Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe is getting off lightly

Andrew Owen, UK
I'm dubious. Robert Mugabe is getting off lightly. He has managed to hold Britain to ransom, by threatening the destabilisation of the entire continent. I am not opposed to Britain paying compensation, but am not convinced it will be spent as it should be. It never was before.
Andrew Owen, UK

The naivety of this deal is beyond embarrassment. The cynicism of knowing it will fail but going ahead anyway for whatever reason is pure cowardice and is immoral in possibly contributing to the further prolongation of the appalling human tragedy in Zimbabwe.
Will, UK

The so-called breakthrough is a sickening sell out. The Commonwealth should have insisted on Mugabe's resignation, that perpetrators of the violence be brought to justice, and on restitution of farms and other property seized. As far as I can see Mugabe will do whatever it takes to cling to power and much worse is yet to come.
Ken Simmonds, South Africa

It's a good deal on paper but I fear for the worst

Yan, China
It's a good deal on paper but I fear for the worst. With due respect to Jack Straw, he is fairly new and inexperienced as far as his new job as Foreign Secretary is concerned. Mugabe will still be up to his tricks again for sure and will continue to harrass those who oppose him. A more effective deal would have included his commitment to step down at next year's elections but it would probably be a pie in the sky, i.e. as effective as getting his signature in blood on stone!
Yan, China

I hope the deal works. Land is an emotive issue in Zimbabwe and that is why more than 50,000 black people died during the liberation struggle. Rhodesia was a creation of force, fraud and folly on the part of the British and they have to atone for their sins. The British government has a moral obligation to pay compensation or the other alternative would be to take it to Hague for colonisation
Tidza, Zimbabwe

I find it staggering that people are saying that this deal is a breakthrough. On the ground nothing has changed I can assure you. Yesterday while the meeting was going on in Harare a farmer was attacked in Karoi. The world should never trust Mugabe.
Jack, Zimbabwe

In order to maintain the support of his followers, Mugabe's redistribution programme is to break up the large commercial farms and give small parcels of land to what are effectively subsistence farmers. This is a recipe for disaster. Who will then provide food for the townsfolk? Within two or three years we will witness requests for "humanitarian" food aid as a result of this self-seeking policy.
David St John, UK/Overseas

Mugabe will never keep his word - full stop. Even if he did the proposal amounts to nothing more than extortion on a grand scale. What Britain should be doing is sending in the Army and RAF to kick him out before he completely destroys the place. But there's probably some pathetic, appeasing international 'law' forbidding this - the British Government would never have the stomach for it anyway. Shame.
Clive, Australia

Does Tony Blair model himself on Neville Chamberlain?

Blair Sparrow, British, now in USA
And so Mugabe the dictator is appeased with British money. History has similar examples to draw upon. Does Tony Blair model himself on Neville Chamberlain? What a shame. Winston Churchill would have been a more appropriate role model in this instance.
Blair Sparrow, British, now in USA

It seems to me that if this problem had been solved in 1980, we wouldn't be talking about it in 2001. Certainly at some point, Britain decided not to continue paying compensation to the white farmers and without that decision, this situation couldn't have developed. On the issue of Mr Robert Mugabe politicising the judiciary, army and police, let's not forget that he was preceded by a white Rhodesian rebel, called Ian Smith. And what a paragon of democracy he turned out to be.
Alex, The Netherlands

Can I take my Zimbabwean birth certificate to the nearest British consul, US government office or the UN and receive a cheque for US$250 000? That would be just compensation from the clowns who put Bob and ZANU(PF) in power. Remember Rhodesia was not defeated, they ran out of money.
A. Brooks, USA

It saddens me when I read about Britons who say that no tax of theirs should be used to compensate white farmers

Gabu, Zimbabwe
As a young black Zimbabwean I am glad that no tax money of mine will be used to pay for (African) land that wasn't paid for in the first place. It saddens me when I read about Britons who say that no tax of theirs should be used to compensate white farmers. My question to them is, "Have you ever thought about what your precious country would be like today had you not plundered Africa's material and human resources during the colonial era?"
Gabu, Zimbabwe

This is another Bosnia in the process of coming to fruition. More things are happening in Zim than are being reported. Leaders talk and promise and the West appeases and clings to every promise made. Meanwhile, the very people that they are supposed to be helping are continuing to be hurt.
David Heale, S. Africa

I'll give twenty-to-one odds to anyone wishing to wager that once the farms and other productive lands are turned over to Mugabe's political supporters that Zimbabwe's GDP will increase or, indeed, even remain positive. I'll bet that in ten years time the country will be at the head of the line begging for "humanitarian" financial aide from Brit taxpayers. Any takers? Will Brits remember who set this mess up in the first place in ten years time? I doubt it.
Clark Petrie, Dallas, Texas, USA

Zimbabwe is going nowhere without cohesion of all peoples

Ngwarisai, New Zealand (ex. Zim)
The problem with Zimbabwe is that it is a divided country. When people are divided, monsters like Mugabe can prey on you individually and know that one group will never stand up for another (black, for white and vice versa as in Zimbabwe's case). When the Matebeleland killings were going on, the white people saw it as a black thing, the Shona as none of their business because they weren't being persecuted. Now, everyone is being attacked. People like Ian Smith are ultimately to blame, as their acts led to the rising of these freedom fighters who are martyrs to some. Now, their children must suffer because of their lack of vision, a vision that points out the fact that things change and you cannot oppress a man forever. This is not to justify what Mugabe is doing, merely to make people aware that Zimbabwe is going nowhere without cohesion of all peoples. That is what nationhood is all about.
Ngwarisai, New Zealand (ex. Zim)

Jack Straw has to be prepared to announce that he's reneged on his part of the deal and therefore that Zimbabwe will be expelled from the Commonwealth if not dealt with more forcefully. I hope he's made clear what would make him do that.
Richard, Kansas City, USA

This is just a void agreement. The President may agree to it in the short term for only two reasons. Firstly, that he will be allowed to go to Brisbane as he loves to be seen. Secondly, he will be happy with the money as it would boost his campaign and war in the DRC.
Brighton Mawodza, Australia

Let's hope Britain is paying his own game and will call his bluff

Priscilla D'Almeida, Zimbabwe
Robert Mugabe asked the whites to stay on and help build a new multi-racial state. For almost twenty years his government permitted free trade in land, they had ample opportunity to purchase millions of acres. When his own people said 'no' to him through the ballot box - he realised the game was up. He and his cronies lifted their snouts from the trough to create the 'land issue.' His own people hate him. There is no land issue. Britain colonised this country, Britain helped 'choose' the communist darling Mugabe - let's hope Britain is paying his own game and will call his bluff.
Priscilla D'Almeida, Zimbabwe

I am sorry to be such a sceptic but as an Africa watcher for several decades I have to say that Mugabe is just another in a long line of brutal and corrupt African leaders who inevitably will destroy his own country. Remember in 1980 we all said that Zim had a chance as it was different from the rest of newly independent African states. It had more administrators, engineers etc. It had a developed social and physical infrastructure. It was the bread basket of Africa. It had means to generate foreign exchange. Well sorry this means nothing in Africa other than it takes just a bit longer to destroy the place.
Scott Mackenzie, Hong Kong

This means nothing for the Zimbabwean people. Mugabe will come up with another strategy to stay in power. The real issue here has not been touched.
Ibro, Nigerian in DC

Mugabe will say what everyone wants to hear, get the money, abuse it with his cronies and the black and white Zimbabweans will see nothing of it. This is not going to work.
Karen, UK

Of course one wonders whether the compensation will go to the farmers or straight into Mr Mugabe's Swiss account.
Fredrik Johnson, Sweden

This is a tactic to buy time

Mutombo, USA

The British seem not to learn from their past mistakes. Mugabe will NEVER honour that agreement. He just wants to hood wink the whole world into thinking that he has changed overnight. This is a tactic to buy time till after the Commonwealth meeting, then you`ll see his true colours. The selective sanctions against him and his boys should still be implemented.
Mutombo, USA

The Zimbabwean foreign minister has just said "Zimbabwe has no policy of intimidation and no policy of violence and will continue to ensure that there is no violence or intimidation". I guess their commitment to the deal will be about the same as their understanding of the truth as illustrated by the above statement.
Adam Greaves, Briton in Saudi Arabia

The problem of land redistribution could have and should have been resolved in the past through legal and peaceful means. Mugabe has had many opportunities to do so. Britain has already given millions which have been misused by Mugabe's corrupt and incompetent Government.
Ivan , Thailand

Why involve foreigners again?

Ani, India

I do not understand why the UK and other countries should compensate the farmers in Zimbabwe. Isn't Zimbabwe an "independent" state? Is Zimbabwe incapable of solving the problem of her citizens? Why involve foreigners again? If you allow foreigners to play a role, then you might lose your independence.
Ani, India

In politics, what we hear and what is actually taking place are usually not related. I can only hope that the land question can be settled once-and-for-all so I can get on with living and join everybody in building up the country once again.
Garth, Zimbabwe

I think the farmers should leave of their own accord. They took a "commercial" risk in staying on and I do not see why they should be compensated by anyone other than Mugabe's crowd. Do not reward this animal.
Alan, Poland

The crisis will continue

Adrian, Zimbabwe

Mugabe will never honour his side of the agreement. It is one of his ministers who 'negotiated' the deal to try and buy time and we know, from previous 'statements' made by his cronies that it carries no credibility whatsoever. Mugabe's silence on the matter speaks for itself. The position on the ground will not change and anybody who believes otherwise at this point is a fool. The crisis will continue. to accelerate.
Adrian, Zimbabwe

Mugabe has not kept to many previous agreements. He has flouted the law - including his own laws - and is responsible for gross human rights abuses. He is not to be trusted. I believe this is a stalling tactic.
Peter, South Africa

How can the British Government pay money from my taxes to Mugabe? This is just the same as giving in to blackmail or paying a ransom. What we should be doing is sending international troops in to arrest him and restore civilisation to the country.
Michael Woods, UK

Has the British government considered that by financing the land redistribution, they are aiding Mugabe's likelihood of re-election and thereby assisting him in continuing to ruin Zimbabwe.
James, London, Britain

The deal should bring peace, political stability and economic recovery, if everyone involved is committed to carry out their obligations

Mabhunu Manyara, Zimbabwe
The deal recently brokered should bring peace, political stability and economic recovery, if everyone involved is committed to carry out their obligations. Firstly the British and others should pay compensation without conditionalities. Secondly the Zimbabwean government should proceed with land reform in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe. The media need to support the efforts of every player through constructive contributions rather than one-sided reports that seek to support the present status quo of racially biased land tenure. There is no way peace and stability can prevail if only one party, the Zimbabwean Government, is continuously being bombarded by people who want to hang on to stolen property and who do not want to apologise for their wrongdoings in the past.
Mabhunu Manyara, Zimbabwe

Mugabe will not fulfil his commitments. The man is only interested in one thing; holding power at all costs.
James Davey, UK

One has to understand the power dynamics in Zimbabwe to assess whether this deal will work or not. In the first instance there is only one person with the power to make it work or will make it fail, that is Robert Mugabe, and nobody else. One hopes that the party in Nigeria had the explicit approval of the 'commander in chief' of the war veterans to make the commitments they made. We have seen too many times in the past when he has just ignored commitments made by his ministers.

What are the chances that he is going to walk away from this deal? Very high, because the deal does not address the reason why he has done what he has done. The man is obsessed with the need to remain in power, and he will do anything. Who says miracles do not happen? May be this is the exit package that he needs to leave office with some semblance of decency. May God bless my country!
July Ndlovu, Zimbabwe

Mugabe has had a history of saying one thing and doing another

Paul, UK
Mugabe has had a history of saying one thing and doing another for the last twenty or so years. Leopards do not change their spots that easily. However like everyone I hope that something good can come out of this. Time unfortunately will tell.
Paul, UK

The white farmers should not just be compensated, but allowed to enter this country if they so wish, to start a new life in a civilised country. Most of them are of British blood after all.
Richard S, Scotland

A small fact that tends to be overlooked is that 70% of the presently white owned farms have changed ownership subsequent to independence. Change of ownership during the post independence era could only take place with the approval of the Zimbabwean Government. The land distribution issue therefore could have been solved a long time ago had there been a willingness to do so.
Panayis Zambellis, UK

It's appalling that Mugabe has received this reward

Andrew Cover, UK
It's appalling that Mugabe has received this reward, paid from our taxes. All we have bought is more time for Mugabe and his vicious cronies. Realising that politicians are obviously wise and honest, I am sure then that all of this money will go where we have been told it will, that Mugabe will proceed with free and fair elections and that the Zimbabwean economy will swiftly recover.
Andrew Cover, UK

I can only echo some of the published comments that the UK government must be very sure that reforms are irreversible in Zimbabwe before handing over any more funds. I still have parents living in Zimbabwe, and their very careful preparation for retirement has been completely negated by the economic crisis in the country. Without our regular financial support, they would not be able to exist, let alone live! The local population are in exactly the same position, merely as a result of the lust for continuing power by Mugabe and his cronies.
Giles Porter, White African in the UK

The same parties to this latest agreement also brought us the 1979 Lancaster House deal which helped put Robert Mugabe on the throne in the first place, over 20 years ago. He has politicised the judiciary, the police and army plus the civil arms of government, so how can any agreed deal be termed transparent? The pressure should be maintained on this man until the country he has set out to destroy reaches some form of peace and normality and in no way should this tyrant or his cronies profit from this destruction and intimidation.
Roger James, USA

It is only right that Britain as the ex-colonial power should pay compensation

Eileen, UK
The fact that a minority of white farmers own most of the productive land is a relic of colonial occupation and land thefts and it is only right that Britain as the ex-colonial power should pay compensation. This should have been sorted out at the time of independence but the White Rhodesians had a powerful lobby behind them. This enabled Mugabe to use what is an obvious injustice for his own ends. White farmers have to accept that they are no longer a privileged group and take the compensation.
Eileen, UK

Nobody is better placed to solve the Zimbabwean land issue than the Zimbabweans themselves. The Zimbabwean land issue cannot be solved through international sanctions without having to come to grips with the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe. I have lived in Zimbabwe before and have relatives there to know the situation on the ground that has the most productive lands concentrated in the hands of a minority white population while the majority of black Zimbabweans are left to eke out a living on crowded and impoverished lands.

The white farmers should be congratulated for their willingness to give part of their land to black Zimbabweans, just as the government should be congratulated for accepting the offer. Peace in Zimbabwe can only be guaranteed through justice whereby there is a balance between individual property rights and community rights of development of the greater majority of the people. This is the best way forward in redressing historical injustices of colonialism and ensuring harmonious race relations of Zimbabweans of different shades of colour. No one in Africa wishes to drive out whites who have spent most of their lives there. They are part of us.
Anthony Musonda, Zambian student in Germany

First of all, I am sick and tired of people (usually from the undeveloped world,) ranting on about the evils of colonisation by the British! I lived in Tanzania when it was under British rule and quite frankly, the country has never fared so well as then. There was prosperity, clean and safe trains, excellent hospitals and medical care for the Africans and law and order. The same applies to India which owes its giant rail system to the British which for the first time, linked Indian towns and villages together. The British also brought law and order and an excellent civil service regime to the country, so no more Brit bashing, O.K.? As for Mugabe, well when has he ever respected any deals or contracts? He will just take the money and run.
Kay, Canada

When is the rest of the world going to stop having the wool pulled over their eyes? Mugabe is not interested in settling the land problem - having the issue serves his interests very nicely in a number of ways. 1. Focused attention away from the economic meltdown. 2. Served as a potent rallying point to wearying ZANU-PF supporters. 3. Has been the means through which Mugabe has operated his usual "divide-and-conquer" tactics. 4. "Legitimised" the existence of a thug-army and the use of force for political gain. The War Vets will again be his best campaign tool in next year's presidential election.

Time and again leaders have met Mugabe and come away placated by his smooth assurances that things will now change. Things will NOT change - Mugabe has merely suspended aggression until the CHOGM meeting has taken place next month.
Grimbob, Zimbabwe

The most hopeful event in the last two hideous years

Brigid, London
Britain does owe the people of Zimbabwe for its colonial past. It's unfortunate that Mugabe and his corrupt cabinet gives all Zimbabweans a bad name. The deal to end land invasions and violence against the opposition MDC sounds good on paper and is the most hopeful event in the last two hideous years but it remains to be seen whether Mugabe will actually implement any of it. He does not have a good track record.
Brigid, London

Mugabe's government has made any number of betrayals in the past. Let's not forget his talk about reconciliation shortly after independence in 1980. I lived in Zimbabwe under Mugabe for the first 19 years of my life, and that has made me very wary of anything he or his government do or say. Especially when they stand to gain from it.
Charles Nelson, UK

Straw's cautious optimism still sounds too much like Chamberlain's "peace in our time". The press and the UK Government don't understand that the land issue is a side one, cleverly manipulated by Mugabe. The real issue is one of democracy, hence the large number of deaths, beatings and torture of black Zimbabweans, far exceeding the number of whites.
Tim, UK

It is quite clear that this is nothing to do with land redistribution. If it was, then why would black farm workers be thrown out of the farms they have been working on and why are farm buildings, equipment and crops being destroyed? This is purely politically motivated, and so no, I don't think that it will stop the violence and the economic and political disaster. Until Mugabe is removed from power then I'm afraid that there is no happy future for Zimbabwe - a country that with good leadership could have so much to offer.
Simon, UK

They colonised the country and are historically the cause of the problem

Munhurume, UK
The money should not be paid until first steps are taken to stop some of the illegal activities taking place. However, the British government has a responsibility. They colonised the country and are historically the cause of the problem.
Munhurume, UK

African citizens should be embarrassed at the blatant willingness of their leaders to exploit "anybody and anything" in order to stay in power a little bit longer.
Matthew Tattersall, South African living in the UK

It seems to me that the Zimbabwe government has been carrying out a sort of ethnic cleansing and all of a sudden the UK government is indirectly paying that government for carrying out the invasion of farms. The UK government is going mad.
Paul Atkins, UK

So the playground bully gets his way and we pay for it as well. Brilliant.
Gerry, Scotland

Zimbabwe deal: Is it a breakthrough?



948 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Key stories

The vote



See also:

07 Sep 01 | Africa
Text of Zimbabwe agreement
02 Aug 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe targets more white farms

Links to more Talking Point stories