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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Nancy J. Powell, Acting Assistant Secretary
Bureau of African Affairs

Testimony Before the House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Africa
Washington, DC, June 13, 2000

As Prepared for Delivery

Zimbabwe: U.S. Policy and Bilateral Relations

Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify on Zimbabwe. As a country that struggled successfully against white minority rule, Zimbabwe was a beacon of hope for the region and the world. The United States made a pledge to help the new state of Zimbabwe and has invested over $750 million since Zimbabwe's 1980 independence to improve the lives of all Zimbabweans. Ethnic violence erupted in the mid-1980's as the government brutally crushed a perceived threat from the Ndebele people in the south. However, for most Zimbabweans, life got better after independence. Services and access to education expanded rapidly, and it appeared that the scars of Zimbabwe's liberation war were healing. As a friend of Zimbabwe, we deeply regret that Zimbabwe's promising future has not yet been realized.

Zimbabwe's commitment to democracy is now being severely tested, as the ruling party faces formidable competition for the first time since independence. As Zimbabwe moves into the final phase of the political campaign for the June 24-25 parliamentary elections, the country's previous reputation as a law-abiding society is in jeopardy. The political campaign has been brutal. Supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) have staged occupations of privately owned farms, and the Government of Zimbabwe has refused to implement court orders calling on the police to evict the occupiers. Farm workers have been forced to participate in "reeducation" camps and announce their loyalty to ZANU-PF under threat of death. The ruling party has expanded its violent campaign beyond the farms to include the beating and rape of teachers, city workers, election monitors, and other professionals suspected of supporting the strongest opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.

While violence has come from all quarters, ZANU-PF's campaign of intimidation and violence is especially worrisome because it appears to have been conceived at the highest levels of the Government of Zimbabwe. Government resources were used to transport war veterans to commercial farms that were carefully targeted for occupation. Respect for property rights, a critical component for any nation's development, has been undermined as criminals take advantage of police inaction to pillage and destroy crops and farm property. Some senior members of the government have encouraged the violence and destruction by ignoring court orders and taking few steps to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of violence. The government has, in effect, abdicated its responsibility to respect and uphold the human and political rights of all Zimbabweans. Instead, it has approached the elections as if all political opponents were traitors who do not deserve the basic protections so critical to the success of democracy. We were appalled when President Mugabe characterized all white farmers as "enemies of the state." The actions of ZANU-PF, endorsed by the government, have polarized society and undermined the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

We have approached the Government of Zimbabwe at all levels to express our deep concerns over the violence and erosion of the rule of law. The U.S. Ambassador in Harare has met with several senior ministers to underscore U.S. concerns. We have issued public statements in Washington and Harare calling on the government to respect court orders, end illegal farm invasions, and prosecute the perpetrators of violence. We have also expressed our concerns directly through the Zimbabwean Ambassador to the United States. The United States has suspended support for Technical Support Unit of the government's Land Reform and Redistribution Program pending a return to the principles agreed upon between donors and the Government of Zimbabwe at the 1998 donors' conference on Land Reform. We have made diplomatic approaches to other donor countries and to Zimbabwe's neighbors in the Southern African Development Community to try to bring an end to the occupations and violence, stressing that events in Zimbabwe have an effect on the entire region.

The Government of Zimbabwe has repeatedly stated that it will impose its own solution to the land reform issue, and it has amended the constitution and supporting legislation to allow it to seize 804 commercial farms without payment of full compensation. It claims that it will not pay for land that was taken from indigenous people during the colonial period, but will pay, over a period of 5 years, for improvements to the seized land. The government has begun to issue notices to the identified farm owners stating that they have until July 2 to appeal the terms of the property seizures, but not the seizure itself. Zimbabwe's approach is dangerous and will discourage investment and reforms critical to the country's long-term future. It is worth noting, however, that to date the Government of Zimbabwe has not confiscated any land without payment of adequate compensation.

The Government of Zimbabwe does not appear to be thinking about the long-term impact that its actions will have on the country's reputation as a beacon of hope for the region and the world. It has used a legitimate issue, the need for more equitable distribution of land as a political tool to occupy farms, incite racial tensions, intimidate rural voters, and brutalize real and perceived opponents of ZANU-PF. The United States has made clear to the Government of Zimbabwe that we recognize the historical inequities in land distribution and the need for meaningful land reform. We want to resume our technical assistance program that we suspended in late March. The 1998 agreement still offers the best prospect for a fair and equitable land redistribution. The government's apparent rejection of this agreement, which it signed after lengthy consultations with all stakeholders, suggests that it may not really seek a workable long-term solution. Instead, it may be creating a crisis designed to benefit ZANU-PF in the June 24-25 elections.

Zimbabweans are paying a terrible price. The economy has suffered. Agricultural production and tourism are way down, inflation is over 70%, investment has decreased markedly, and unemployment is up. Foreign exchange reserves are down to one-day's cover, and fuel and other imported commodities are in short supply.

Mr. Chairman, the headlines from Zimbabwe are not good these days, but it is important to keep in mind that there has been a deepening of democracy, as ironic as that may seem, even though the government is trying to manipulate the political process for its own benefit. Democratic forces have matured in Zimbabwe. Millions of Zimbabweans demand change and the vast majority are using peaceful, democratic means to pursue it. In February of this year, a majority of voters peacefully rejected a government-sponsored constitution that would have increased presidential powers and allowed the government to seize farmland without full compensation. Zimbabwe is rich in natural resources and human capital. Zimbabweans are among the most educated and politically active people on the continent of Africa. A vibrant civil society has emerged that can serve as a long-term foundation for democratic development. A new political party has been formed that has significant support and is comprised of all racial and ethnic groups. The United States has a longstanding friendship for the people of Zimbabwe, and we intend to do everything we can to preserve and advance democratic gains, protect civil society, and help Zimbabweans to uphold the rule of law.

To this end, we believe the June 24-25 parliamentary elections are a turning point in the democratic history of Zimbabwe. The government is facing real competition. Political apathy, which had increased in recent elections, has been reversed as Zimbabweans see a chance to change or influence the government using democratic tools. The citizens were heartened that their views were heard during the constitutional referendum in February. U.S. Government programs in Zimbabwe have played an important role in teaching Zimbabweans how to engage and influence their government, and expand the space for democratic growth.

Conditions for free and fair elections do not yet exist in Zimbabwe. Given our concern for a credible process, even though we know the electoral foundation is flawed, we will continue our efforts to make the elections as free and fair as possible. Democracy and governance are the top priorities as jointly conceived by the U.S. Embassy in Harare and USAID for USAID's $12 million a year program in Zimbabwe. For these critical elections, the U.S. Government is funding the training of over 10,000 domestic election monitors. We are also funding training for polling officials of all political parties who will also monitor the June 24-25 elections. We are funding voter education and helping with efforts to audit the voters' rolls. We are helping the semi-independent Electoral Supervisory Commission to cope with the administrative demands of election logistics. The U.S. Embassy in Harare has hosted distinguished international authorities on elections to meet with government and opposition officials to share their experiences on ways to promote credible elections. We are pursuing the assistance of the Network of Independent monitors, a KwaZulu Natal organization that will do "peace monitoring" aimed at mitigating violent confrontations in the "no-go" constituencies. We are funding human rights organizations that are documenting and protesting abuses in the current campaign. We are supporting the participation of observers from the SADC parliamentary forum. The U.S. Government has awarded grants to the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute to monitor the pre-election and election process, and U.S. Embassy officials will also monitor the elections.

We have told the Government of Zimbabwe that the United States wants to help with land reform, but that our ability to assist will depend in large part upon the holding of credible elections and a return to the principles agreed upon at the 1998 donors' conference. U.S. support for Zimbabwe in the International Financial Institutions depends on Zimbabwe's demonstrated commitment to credible economic reform. Our commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law will not waver.

Our long-term goal in Zimbabwe is to help build a sustainable democracy based on respect for the rule of law and protection of human rights. We seek also a market-oriented economy that attracts investment and addresses inequities, and independent institutions accountable to its citizenry. We want to see a robust civil society that can engage and influence the Government of Zimbabwe, stronger leadership in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and more social services to meet the needs of the poorest Zimbabweans. Almost all U.S. Government assistance to Zimbabwe, with the exception of funds to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic, is channeled through nongovernmental organizations. We also seek Zimbabwe's help in implementing the Lusaka Agreement to bring peace to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Zimbabwe has deployed some 12,000 troops. With stable democratic institutions at home, Zimbabwe can once again play a role in enhancing regional stability. We look forward to working with Congress to seek a better future for all Zimbabweans.

[end of document]

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