ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe deferred the land reform programme in 1990 to avoid scuttling negotiations to end apartheid in South Africa, former South African President Thabo Mbeki revealed yesterday.The 10-year moratorium on land reform imposed at the Lancaster House Constitutional had lapsed, but on the advice of the Commonwealth, Government delayed repossessing land for fear of hardening the stance of the apartheid regime.
In an article titled, “South Africa’s Policy Towards Zimbabwe — A Synopsis” (see page 11) Cde Mbeki, who reflects on the relations between Zanu-PF and the ANC, also reveals attempts by the West led by UK to effect illegal regime change, including via military means, in Zimbabwe.
“In 1990 as we began our negotiations to end the system of apartheid, the then Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, engaged President Mugabe to persuade him that the Government of Zimbabwe should not proceed with any programme to implement a radical land reform, given that the Lancaster House Constitutional 10-year prohibition of this had expired,” said Cde Mbeki.
“Chief Anyaoku and the Commonwealth Secretariat feared that any radical land redistribution in Zimbabwe at that stage would frighten white South Africa and thus significantly complicate our own process of negotiations.
“President Mugabe and the Zimbabwe Government agreed to Chief Anyaoku’s suggestion and therefore delayed for almost a decade the needed agrarian reform, which had been a central objective of the political and armed struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe,” said Cde Mbeki, who is using a series of weekly articles to reflect and set the record straight on his time as South African leader.
The establishment of firm fraternal relations between Zanu-PF and the ANC allowed the two parties to interact with each other “openly and frankly”, which would lead South Africa to facilitate political dialogue in Zimbabwe, said Cde Mbeki.
His efforts led to the signing of the Global Political Agreement comprising of Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Professor Arthur Mutambara respectively in 2008, which led to the inclusive Government the following year.
But Cde Mbeki was under pressure to abet regime change in Zimbabwe.
He reflects: “There were others in the world, led particularly by the UK, who opposed our approach of encouraging the Zimbabweans to decide their future. These preferred regime change — the forcible removal of President Mugabe and his replacement by people approved by the UK and its allies.
“This is what explained the sustained campaign to condemn us for conducting the so-called ‘quiet diplomacy’. What was wrong with ‘quiet diplomacy’ . . . was that it defended the right of the people of Zimbabwe to determine their future, as opposed to the desire by some in the West to carry out regime change in Zimbabwe and impose their will on the country!”
He said the UK and the US had imposed sanctions and conditions “to shorten the period of any Mugabe Presidency”.
“Our then Minister of Intelligence, Lindiwe Sisulu, had to make a number of trips to London and Washington to engage the UK and US governments on their plans for Zimbabwe, with strict instructions from our government to resist all plans to impose anything on the people of Zimbabwe, including by military means,” he said. “Accordingly it was not from hearsay or third parties that we acquired the knowledge about Western plans to overthrow President Mugabe, but directly from what they communicated to a representative of our government.”
Cde Mbeki said South Africa had been guided by the philosophy that Zimbabwe was a sovereign country.
“Throughout these years we defended the right of the people of Zimbabwe to determine their destiny, including deciding on who should govern the country. This included resisting all efforts to impose other people’s solutions on Zimbabwe, which, if this had succeeded, would have served as a precursor for a similar intervention in our country!” he said.