HARARE (GIN)–The British official who chaired Zimbabwe’s independence process has called on the UK government to meet its promises in helping pay for land resettlement and agricultural reform that has been at the center of controversy in this southern African country.
Lord Peter Carrington says money set aside at the time of the Lancaster House negotiations at independence should be used to compensate the resettled White farmers. The British government has, however, rejected the proposal, although it is reportedly sitting on a pot of 36 million pounds offered to Zimbabwe last year.
When Zimbabwe gained independence in 1979, the London government promised to help with the cost of resettlement, but it transferred to Harare only 45 million pounds before the program ground to a halt in 1996. Despite two attempts to restart it, the British fund has remained frozen.
Mr. Carring-ton said the program was started in good faith, but halted amid suspicions over how the funds were used. He said suspicions arose that Mr. Mugabe was confiscating lands from White farmers, not paying them anything, and giving the land to his allies. So the British government at the time decided to cut the funding for land resettlement.
The British government blames the Mu-gabe administration for failing to ensure orderly resettlement. However, some campaigners criticized the British government for making unrealistic conditions.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) President Colin Cloete and Director David Hasluck have resigned as divisions within the White farmers group widened.
Messrs. Cloete and Hasluck recently announced their resignations in separate statements. The CFU has witnessed internal bickering about how to respond to Pres. Mugabe’s controversial land resettlement program that seizes land from White farmers and resettles it with Black peasants and war veterans. The land is confiscated without compensation.
While the union has been vacillating between dialogue with the government and confrontation in the courts as the best way to resolve the land seizure issue, Mr. Hasluck raised eyebrows recently when he criticized Britain for failing to help pay compensation to White farmers who have been forced off their land as Britain had promised the Mugabe government.
Pres. Mugabe has accused Britain of reneging on the promise, but Britain rejects the accusation, saying it will only support land reform that is fair and transparent and reduces poverty.
So far the government has forcibly acquired 9154 White-owned farms covering more than 40 million acres. The government says it has resettled 300,000 landless blacks on the land.
In Cape Town, South Africa, British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon withstood a scathing attack on British policies toward Zimbabwe by ruling party African National Congress (ANC) MPs.
During a briefing to Parlia-ment’s defense and foreign affairs committees, the MPs said Britain is to blame for the situation in Zimbabwe, not Pres. Mugabe.
Mr. Hoon said Britain was ready and willing to provide funds for land reform in Zimbabwe, but insisted it must be undertaken in terms of the rule of law. He said Britain was not prepared to hand over money that would end up in the pockets of those exploiting the situation.
The MPs accused Britain of having contributed to the “demise” of Zimbabwe and of having “reneged” on Lancaster House undertakings.
(Final Call wires contributing.)