Land deal in Zimbabwe

Success: African leaders' intervention aids settlement for lawful and orderly redistribution.

September 08, 2001

WHETHER Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe will honor his commitment to undo violent seizures of white-owned farms, and substitute an orderly compensated redistribution, remains to be seen.

His temptation to foment unrest to help him win re-election next April to another six-year term as president will be great. Despite, or because of, his 20 years in power, few believe he could stave off opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's challenge in a fair and peaceful vote.

But Zimbabwe agreed to the deal under pressure of other African members of the Commonwealth, the former British empire, who convened at Abuja, Nigeria's capital.

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo was particularly influential. Also crucial in the process is President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who is due in Harare Monday to help cement the deal.

Under it, Zimbabwe is committed to evict the squatters who drove white owners and black farm workers from roughly one-third of the 4,600 white-owned commercial farms in the country.

Britain will lead other countries in providing funds to buy out owners and redistribute land to deserving farmers who can maintain it--not Mr. Mugabe's cronies.

A fund for this purpose was established when Zimbabwe gained majority rule in 1980, but then suspended after Mr. Mugabe's corrupt abuse of it.

Mr. Obasanjo, who is trying valiantly to restore democratic law and order to his own country, apparently convinced Mr. Mugabe of the injury that Zimbabwe's anarchy is doing to Africa.

Mr. Mbeki and other southern African leaders are worried about the spillover effects of economic collapse, civil unrest, racial warfare, disinvestment and loss of confidence on their own societies.

So far, this represents African leadership and African inter-dependence working as they should. So far, so good.

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