Lancaster House Accords: What Britain owes Zimbabwe

I have written several articles that have addressed Zimbabwean Human rights and rule of Law, as well as South African Foreign Policy.

By Ken Sibanda

I now turn my attention to Zimbabwean legal constitutional history and in particular section two that says Britain will compensate any Zimbabwean land redistribution program. I am not Mugabe’s lawyer, neither am I Britains’. For an effectve peace process in Zimbabwe, this piece of the puzzle has to be addrressed – the land redistribution.

In 1979, the Lancaster House Accords signed by Lord Carrington agreed to an equitable compensation in the distribution of farmland. At present, the British government has stated that it’s unwilling to meets those promises for compensation.

Ken Tecumseh Book_Lancaster House AccordWhile I remain critical of Mugabe’s rule and government on the basis of human rights, I concede that Mugabe is in some instances heroic and right on issues Africans face in general. Issues such as racism, marginalization, lack of international credit, lack of representation and breached promises. Mugabe is in no way a misdirected comet in the African sphere but is an unsentimental man whose manner of addressing issues is sometimes blant. He is the anti-Mandelda in that sense, where Mandela is a statesman, Mugabe has refused such a title will age as a consummate politician: fighting right to the end for principles and rights, Some that will outlive him, more specifically African land claims.

On this point Robert Mugabe is correct – the British do owe the Zimbabwean people assistance with the land redistribution program. For the simple reason that the British government government of 79’ agreed to assist Zimbabwe’s land program regardless of Mugabe’s Human right record or misrule. That agreement was not conditioned on good governance. The breach of treaties such as this one that was signed by six people has its redress in international bodies such as the United Nations, and this would be morbidly embarrassing for a country, like Britain, that was at the center of criticizing Mugabe as a lawless ruler; to be brought before an international body for its refusal to respect what is in simple terms a private international law document between Britain and Zimbabwe.

Why Britain Needs Zimbabwe

My thinking is that British upholding its promise will trigger an equally democratic process in Zimbabwe. Undoubtedly the two countries, Britain and Zimbabwe, need each other if not for the kindred in spirit, the espirit de’corps but for the joint pursuit of common projects that might require African geography. It say Britain does not need Zimbabwe is to put the cart before the horse, who is to say what needs Britain is to have in the near future. It is given this very real environment of international coexistence what Metternich noted as a diplomatic arena, that Britain must revisit this issue of compensation, outside of a discussion and dislike of Mugabe. Mugabe himself is not without some marked achievements in Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans have the highest literacy in Africa, higher than South Africa. And why is this important, because literacy helps society to learn new principles and concepts. It helps a country to understand the dangers of xenophobia for example; the skills for language assessment needed in international trade; the technical development of companies and the value of ideas. All essential for growth and industrialization. How else can a society grow unless it reads, and reads well.

The white farmers might be able to perhaps get money from Britain directly. What Zimbabwe does with its land is surely an internal question. Be it corrupt or not, the distribution of Zimbabwean land is best resolves by Zimbabwean people but as for the severing of this difficult umbilical cord shared with Britain in regards to the land, Britain must bare the cut of the surgeon. It must break from Zimbabwe but in a humane and friendly way. Of all its colonies, Zimbabwe has been one of the most tenuous for Britain Besides the United States in 1776, Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia, also declared independence on Britain in 1961.

Zimbabwe is a small country, the size of Montana, but equally a country of tremendous potential if allowed to grow unencumbered. Its greatest asset is its land capable of feeding the whole of Africa. My mother who was born in Zimbabwe always reminded me that Zimbabwe was the bread and South Africa – the wine. Both are needed for Shabbat.

When Mugabe moved forward with redistribution he was told By Blair and the Labor Party that they would not compensate the victims because they had no faith in his government citing human rights abuses and the lack of democracy. At the root of their argument is that it was the conservatives who entered into the agreement for a new Zimbabwe and not Labor. This is not a new argument. The descents of slaves are yet to see a cent because each subsequent government refuses the pledge that was made during reconstruction. While this is a valid defense for a government to refuse to honor its past National covenants to its domestic subjects it is unacceptable, unethical and inexcusable to try and extend this to foreign countries. The agreement of a government, in this case a treaty/accord takes priority ahead of change of party policy. A winning political party cannot wish aware treaty obligations and responsibilities made in the name of the Crown. For uniformity in the international system accords are binding on countries and especially on the Crown.

It is incumbent on the modern jurists to put pressure on Great Britain on this issue. Curious enough, Robert Mugabe feels betrayed by this breach of constitutional promise, as betrayed as the last bastion of Rhodesian rule Ian Smith felt when he wrote his ridiculous memoirs entitled, “Betrayed.” In Ian Smith’s case he argued, rather unconvincingly, that Britain betrayed democracy in Rhodesia by granting majority rule. In Mugabe’s case, he does have a point – is the black government supposed to address colonial damages all on its own; does Britain get to walk aware from its moral obligation in the name of bad governance.

Good governance has nothing to do with the Lancaster Accords of 1979. What is real is that the agreeing parties must respect the conditions, history and ethics of their agreement.

Ken Sibanda is an American Constitutional Lawyer, born in Transkei South Africa.  A much sough after speaker on human rights and the rule of law. The above is taken from a forthcoming book entitled: Lancaster House Accords: What Britain owes Zimbabwe. This article was first published in The The Jerusalem Post