Britain has reportedly maintained its position that it won’t compensate white farmers who were evicted from their farms during Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme.
The Daily News reported on Sunday that Prime Minister David Cameron’s new Conservative government won’t support any compensation scheme set up to help evicted white farmers in Zimbabwe.
This comes as Britain adjusts to a new political landscape after a shock election victory for Cameron that decimated the opposition in the May 7 elections.
“The UK has never agreed to accept responsibility for compensation but we have always said that we would support a fair, transparent and pro-poor land reform programme as part of an international effort,” British ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing was quoted as saying.
Catriona said the UK supported aspirations for a “more democratic, stable and prosperous Zimbabwe”.
It had been hoped that Cameron’s administration would take a softer stance on the country’s land reform programme after Tony Blair’s Labour party called for sanctions against President Robert Mugabe’s government following the eviction of white farmers from their farms.
Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party launched the land reforms in 2000, taking over white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.
The land seizures were often violent, claiming the lives of several white farmers during clashes with veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation struggle.
In February, London mayor Boris Johnson openly admitted that Britain played a “shameful” role in Zimbabwe’s economic woes.
In an article published in a UK daily, The Telegraph, Johnson stated that Zimbabwe was now the second poorest nation in the whole world, adding that Blair had a hand in the country’s mess.
“… It is vital to recognise that Zimbabwe was not always like this, and did not have to be like this. This [Robert] Mugabe tyranny is no accident – and Britain played a shameful part in the disaster,” Johnson wrote.
In a 1979 Lancaster House Agreement, then prime minister Margaret Thatcher granted independence to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and guaranteed compensation for Britain’s setter farmers.
But in 1997 when Blair and the New Labour came in, the agreement was unilaterally scrapped, with the then overseas development minister, Clare Short, making it clear that “neither she nor Blair gave a stuff about the former colonial farmers”, wrote Johnson.
Johnson said it was that betrayal of Lancaster House that gave Mugabe his pretext to launch his “pogroms” against the whites.
New Zimbabwe.com reported that Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party was delighted by Johnson’s statements, with the party’s UK chairperson Nick Mangagwa saying they had been “vindicated”.