Thursday, 25 January 2018


LEAKED list of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s delegation for his historic attendance at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos drew attention, not just for the preponderance of security personnel and bureaucrats over technocrats, but for the inclusion of a delegate not many know about.

Nicole Van Persdone is listed as a representative of an unspecified farmers union, but is unknown to the country’s major farmer representative bodies.
Peter Steyl, the president of the white-dominated Commercial Farmers’ Union, said they did not know Van Persdone.

“She is unknown to us. She is not representing us,” said Steyl.
Paul Zacharia, the chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union, the largest farmers’ body representing both communal and commercial black farmers, said he did not know Van Persdone.

“She probably represents some other farmers’ union. We don’t know her,” said Zacharia.
An internet search for Nicole van Persdone did not return much beyond recent references to her as part of Mnangagwa’s retinue.

One farmer suggested that Van Persdone was based in Zambia, and “has probably never been in the country for the past 15 years”.

Deputy Minister of Finance, Terrence Mukupe, visited Zambia last month to engage white commercial farmers evicted from their land in Zimbabwe.

“I met Zimbabwean farmers who lost their farms during the land redistribution exercise and are now based in Zambia and doing very well there. What was quite intriguing was how they all said they were homesick and wanted to take part in the new dispensation under His Excellency Mnangagwa,” Mukupe said.

Mukupe did not respond to questions sent to him on Van Persdone yesterday. Mnangagwa’s visit to Davos, the first by a head of State from Zimbabwe, is meant to court international investors, promising them that Zimbabwe was now in a new era that respected property rights and the rule of law.

Mnangagwa has promised to compensate white farmers forcibly driven off their land to make way for landless blacks. He insists that he will not reverse the land reform programme.

Zimbabwe is likely to require about US$10 billion to fully compensate more than 4 100 farmers evicted under Mugabe’s regime, which embarked on land reforms to spite former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government which had refused to compensate land reforms in terms of a Lancaster House agreement between the two countries prior to independence in 1980. Financial Gazette


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