Land report


A report by the Africa All Parliamentary Group – December 2009

Land in Zimbabwe: Past Mistakes, Future Prospects is The Africa All Party Parliamentary Group's report into land and land distribution in Zimbabwe. The report concludes that there is no historical basis for allegations that Britain ‘betrayed’ promises made at Lancaster House to fund land reform. The report recommended that the British government, should mobilise a multilateral team of donors to plan to provide new aid for land reform and rural development in Zimbabwe as soon as political conditions allow. The report received from the Zimbabwean government, under ZANU-PF.

Timeline of Events

1979 May Conservative party wins U.K. general election.

September Lancaster House talks begin.

October An impasse over land reform emerges at Lancaster House. The United States seeks to

break the deadlock.

December Lancaster House talks end with a constitution, including a ‘sunset clause’ that precludes any changes to the constitution for 10 years. Land resettlement set up on a ‘willing buyer-willing

seller’ basis.

1980 March Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF win a decisive victory over rivals Joshua Nkomo and PF-ZAPU in Zimbabwe’s first free and fair election.

1981 March International Zimbabwe Donor’s Conference (ZIMCORD) held in U.K. to raise funds for


1988 September An Official Development Administration (ODA) preliminary evaluation of the Land Reform Programme is published. The report is broadly positive.

1989 Minister for Overseas Development, Lynda Chalker MP, writes to Zimbabwean Ministers of

Land and Finance to inform them that not all the aid pledged had been claimed.

October An article in the Economist calls Zimbabwe’s land reform programme ‘one of the most

successful aid schemes in Africa.’

1990 President Mugabe passes the Land Acquisition Act, changing the Zimbabwean constitution.

This granted the government more power to redistribute land.

1996 End of the first phase of Zimbabwe land reform. £3m - £3.5m unspent (depending on accounts)

March Presidential elections held in Zimbabwe. Land reform is a key issue during the campaign.

June Zimbabwe Ministers for Land and Local Government arrive unexpectedly in London

looking to reopen the Lancaster House land settlement.

1997 May A general election in U.K. results in change of government from Conservative to Labour.

October New prime minister Tony Blair meets President Mugabe at the Commonwealth Heads of

Government meeting. Blair downplays Britain’s responsibility for past, infuriating President


November Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, writes to President Mugabe invoking her Irish heritage, provoking a negative response from the Zimbabwean President.

1998 September A donor conference is held in Harare. Inception Phase Framework Plan (IPFP) is discussed.

1999 Inception Phase Framework Plan (IPFP) receives modest support from donors, but EU and U.K. hold back from offering support without assurances from Zimbabwe that it will meet their conditions.

2000 February MDC defeats ZANU PF in a referendum proposing changes to the constitution.

February onwards ZANU PF makes land repossession a central part of its election campaign.

March DFID publishes leaflet saying Britain will support land reform through civil society

challenge fund, bi-passing the government of Zimbabwe

April A constitutional amendment provides for expropriation without an obligation for the state

to compensate for the land.

June A general election in Zimbabwe. ZANU PF narrowly wins over rivals MDC.

2001 September At the Abuja Conference a group of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers meet to

discuss Zimbabwe. The government of Zimbabwe agrees to prevent further occupation of farm lands and restore rule of law.

July Finance Minister Simba Makoni publicly acknowledges economic crisis. Western donors

- including the World Bank and the IMF - cut aid because of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme.

November Land Acquisitions Act is amended to allow reallocation of land without the owner’s right to contest.

2002 February European Union imposes sanctions on Zimbabwe.

March President Mugabe is re-elected. Commonwealth suspends Zimbabwe from its Council for one year amongst reports of election violence.

April State of disaster declared in Zimbabwe. Food shortages threaten famine. Though the

government of Zimbabwe blames drought, the UN's World Food Programme says disruption to

agriculture is a contributing factor.

2006 May Year-on-year inflation exceeds 1,000% in Zimbabwe.

2008 March Presidential election in Zimbabwe leads to a run-off election between President Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

June Morgan Tsvangirai pulls out of the run-off election citing ZANU PF violence towards MDC supporters. Running alone, President Mugabe wins the run-off election.

July Z$100 billion banknote is introduced in response to official year-on-year inflation rate of


September The government of Zimbabwe and MDC enter into negotiations for a power-sharing


October Annual inflation rate hits new high of 231 million% according to official figures.

2009 January Soon after issuing a $1 trillion note, acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announces a suspension of the national currency in order to curb inflation.

February Morgan Tsvangirai sworn in as Prime Minister of the unity government of Zimbabwe.

April National currency suspended for at least a year following the legalisation of foreign currencies.

June Constitutional review begins. Prime Minister Tsvangirai tours Europe and US to drum up

donor support.

July The IMF refuses Zimbabwe a loan until it settles $1bn debts. The government estimates it needs

$10bn in foreign aid to rebuild the economy.

September One year after power-sharing deal, progress is slow. MDC continues to allege persecution and violence against members. Arrival of EU and US delegations seen as signs of thaw in foreign relations. Both maintain stance on targeted sanctions.  IMF provides $400 million support as part of G20 agreement to help member states.

October President Mugabe calls for new start to relations with West.

November Commonwealth Heads of Nations meeting announces that it will offer a seat to Zimbabwe in two years if the unity government carries out a wide range of reforms.


The Royal African Society works to further understanding within (the British) parliament of African and pan-African matters to promote African voices and development agendas by supporting the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). The Royal African Society provides the full-time support of a Policy & Research Co-ordinator based in UK Parliament.

The Africa All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), established in 2003 by Sir Hugh Bayley and Lord Lea of Crondall, is one of the most active All Party Groups in Parliament, with 195 Members from both Houses and across all Parties. 

The Group is chaired by Chi Onwurah MP and Lord Chidgey as the co-Chair from the Lords and focuses on structural issues that affect the continent as a whole, across a range of policy areas including approach to foreign affairs, economics, trade, business, industrialisation and politics.

The APPG’s activities include briefings and meetings with leading figures working on African issues, research inquiries and policy reports and arranging delegations of members to African countries. The APPG also publishes a regular Westminster bulletin 'Africa in Parliament' and works as part of the informal coalition of International Development APPGs.

All-Party Parliamentary Groups are informal groups of Members of both Houses (the House of Commons and the House of Lords) with a common interest in particular issues.