From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LWF calls for dialogue in resolving Zimbabwe's land crisis

Date 20 Apr 2000 12:35:27

HARARE, Zimbabwe/GENEVA, 20 April 2000, (lwi) - The general secretary of
the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Dr. Ishmael Noko, has called upon
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to guide the nation and its people
towards dialogue and reconciliation as a way of resolving the current
political violence and other developments surrounding the land
redistribution controversy.

In a letter addressed to the Head of State mid-April, Noko, a Zimbabwean
theologian, urged Mugabe to steer the people away from "violence,
exclusion and oppression, and to ensure that every citizen of our
country may enjoy equal protection of the law."

The general secretary described the political violence that has taken
place in the capital Harare and related incidents elsewhere as a tragedy
both for the nation and Mugabe's own legacy as the first leader of an
independent Zimbabwe. "Your early role in taking up the leadership of
our liberated nation provided many examples of effective promotion of
reconciliation and nation-building," Noko pointed out and added that
this legacy was being diminished by the recent events in the country of
some 12 million people.

"These developments have also undermined the rule of law, which the
struggle for independence sought to establish in our country," Noko
said. Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, celebrated its 20th independence
anniversary on 18 April 2000.

Noko, an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe
(ELCZ) pointed out that land redistribution in the southern African
country is a crucial political and public concern that calls for
resolution. He recalled that inasmuch as it was a matter that was
recognized but not resolved by parties in the Lancaster House
negotiations for independence from the former British colonialists, "20
years later, justice still demands that the issue be addressed."

He added that the recent developments involving "illegal occupation of
properties, violence and intimidation cannot, in my view be condoned.
Such a difficult issue must be addressed by calm and careful dialogue
and consensus building, rather than through illegal acts and violence."

Noko also regretted that lives have been lost as a result of the violent
acts emanating from the longstanding land redistribution issue. In the
ensuing incidents, two white farmers and two black members of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were killed while
several other people were beaten up.

The occupation of hundreds of white-owned farms, a move that is backed
by the independence war veterans and supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe
African National Union (ZANU) party began last February after voters
nationwide rejected a new constitution that would have allowed the
seizure of tracks of commercial land without any compensation. White
farmers opposed the proposed constitutional amendment and many openly
supported the opposition.

According to J. W. Msika, chairperson of Zimbabwe's land acquisition
committee, the government's Land Reform and Resettlement Program is a
process of which the aim is not to acquire all the land originally
seized by the British settlers but only half of the good agricultural
land in the hands of nearly 4,000 white farmers.

In a statement issued on 14 April, Msika said the government would pay
full compensation for all the improvements that the mainly commercial
farmers have made to the land required for resettlement.

Meantime, Mugabe, who in a televised state address on 18 April, referred
to white farmers as "enemies of Zimbabwe", mediated a meeting on 19
April between representatives of thousands of squatters occupying
white-owned farms and leaders of the union representing most of the
country's white farmers.

Chenjerai Hunzvi, leader of the war veterans reportedly said after the
meeting that the parties had agreed that hostilities should cease and
efforts should be concentrated on finding a solution. Tim Chenwood, on
behalf of the Commercial Framers Union, said the meeting had enabled all
concerned to see each other's point of view, and he looked forward to a
satisfactory result in the interest of national unity.

(The LWF is a global communion of 128 member churches in 70 countries
representing nearly 59.5 million of the world's 63.1 million Lutherans.
Its highest decision-making body is the Assembly held every six or seven
years. Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by a 49-member Council,
which meets annually, and by its Executive Committee. The LWF
secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)

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Lutheran World Information
Assistant Editor, English: Pauline Mumia

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