Durban, South Africa on Monday, 3 September, 2001

Madame President,
Mrs Nkosazana Dhlamini Zuma Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Madame High Commissioner,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Participants
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I join other delegates who have spoken before me in conveying to President Mbeki and the people of South Africa our deep felt condolences at the passing away of Govan Mbeki a great freedom fighter and son of Africa.

On behalf of the Zimbabwe Delegation I extend to you Madame President, our sincere congratulations upon your election as President of this Conference. The expectation of all of us is that you meet the challenge of guiding the deliberations of the conference to a successful outcome. This conference is too important an event and we cannot afford it to fail. I also take this opportunity to thank firstly the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and her staff for organizing this conference and providing us with such excellent conference facilities, and secondly the government and people of the Republic of South Africa and the City of Durban for hosting this conference.

Madame President, it was most befitting that South Africa was chosen as host to this conference. It is in this country that rabid racism and apartheid was, by law, institutionalized into every fabric of society and every facet of life. It is in this country that systematic gross violations of human rights and crimes against humanity were committed against Africans whilst the rest of the world, and the so called civilized Christian world either watched helpless or actively participated in the commission of the violations in order to reap material benefits. In order to clear our consciences there should emerge from this conference a clear, categorical and unambiguous statement committing us to a process towards the complete eradication of racism the world over.

To fellow South Africans who have fought so gallantly against apartheid and racism I have one piece of advice to you. You won a battle and not the war. You must begin a more difficult battle to redress the mountain of injustices of the past to level the playing field so that you can compete for access to the resources of your country with other nationalities on an equal footing. I pray you do not sit on your laurels.

My delegation dares and presumes to speak on behalf of all Africans on the continent and those in the Diaspora and on behalf of black people everywhere, wherever they may be. We do so because we are living victims of both colonialism and racism. The evil legacy of colonialism and racism is still with us 21 years after the attainment of our independence in 1980. We still suffer from the skewed and racially based land ownership reality which is a legacy of these two evils. We feel the pain that you have gone through or are still going through. In the struggles against colonialism and racism, Zimbabwe can be counted on and indeed commits itself to be on the front line and never to abandon its post.

The Declaration and the Plan of Action to emerge from this Conference should reflect the seriousness of the subject matter at hand by adopting the following core positions:

It has been argued in some quarters that slavery, the slave trade and colonialism cannot be branded crimes against humanity because when those evils took place, the phrase "crimes against humanity" had not yet come into vogue and cannot therefore be applied retroactively. This argument is put forward notwithstanding the fact that when this phrase was first used at the Nuremberg Trials in the 1940's it was being retroactively applied to crimes that had been committed as far back as 1938. We therefore reject these arguments as mere excuses to avoid responsibility. We view the reluctance and equivocation over these fundamental issues and the denial problem as evidence of inherent racism.

As for our call for reparations to be paid to victims of slavery, the slave trade and colonialism we draw the attention of this Conference to the fact that the issue of reparations is now internationally recognized as part of our legal jurisprudence: German reparations to the State of Israel, for the Holocaust; United States reparations to Japanese Americans for illegal internment and reparations by the people of New Zealand through their government to the Maori people. And I ask a poignant question, why reparations to Jews, American Japanese, and not to African Americans and Africans? Why the double standards. Is the message we are to take back home that weak nations and weak peoples have no place in the sun? Please look us in the eye and answer these questions honestly.

Madame President, the Zimbabwe Delegation is not here at this conference to engage in mere academic debates. We do not take for granted the rights we presently enjoy. The right to walk on a pavement, to reside in a place of our choice, to go to a school or hospital of our choice, to pray, in every church, to elect a leadership of our choice, all these rights have had to be fought for over a protracted period.

We lost both life and limb in our struggles against colonialism and racism. But we have realized that with the attainment of independence we won a battle and not the war. The racially based ownership structure remains intact. In a country with 13 million Africans and about 100 000 thousand white people it is the majority black people who complain of racism and racial discrimination. The legacies of colonialism and racism are difficult to overcome. Racist policies and laws of successive colonial regimes systematically dispossessed indigenous Zimbabweans of their land between 1890 and 1980. Our land and livestock were brutally dispossessed and stolen from us without compensation and we were consigned to arid inhospitable, marginal, infertile and sometimes malaria and tsetse fly infested parts of our country from which we were to eke out a living. The clear intention behind these measures was to decimate us, to subject us to the same fate as befell the Aborigines of Australia, the native inhabitants of the Americans.

Those of our people who resisted the oppression were summarily executed without trial and in the case of one of our gallant chiefs, his head was taken to London as trophy. Despite the brutalization some of our people survived to tell the story and fight another battle. We who are their descendants commit ourselves to continuing the struggle for complete political and colonial emancipation of our people. In the jungle that the world is, it is only the fittest who will survive.

We realize 21 years after the attainment of our independence a grave mistake we made. We laid down our arms. We demobilized our soldiers and sent them home. We did these things on the back of promises and undertakings given by the British and American governments that if we stopped the armed struggle resources would be made available to pay the white settler farmers off the land, to resolve the burning land question. In the context of such undertakings and in good faith we went further to pronounce the policy of National Reconciliation. We even celebrated. Little did we realize that the celebration was premature. We had won a battle but not the war. 21 years on we wake up to the fact, as if from a dream, and realize that the objective for which more than 60 000 of our people died has not yet been achieved. 21 years after cessation of hostilities 13 million hectares of prime land remain possessed by a tiny minority - to be precise 4000 or so white farmers to the exclusion of the rest of the population constituting 13 million black people. The hand of national reconciliation that we extended has been spurned and spat on. Our white compatriots understood reconciliation to mean clinging onto the imbalances and inequities of the past. Foolishly we had understood the policy to give our war torn country to our resolve our land question peacefully and in a spirit of co-operation.

The policy of the Zimbabwe Government is to correct the historic injustice by effecting land redistribution to the generality of the people. The white people resist land reform and do not want to share this finite productive resource with their black compatriots. The resistance by white farmers is aided and abetted by the powerful sections of the International Community and the International Media who have sought to demonize the Government and portray us as the perpetrators of racism whereas we are in fact the victims of a century old racism. The Government will not however, be deterred in its efforts to redress the injustices of the past and, restore the dignity and worth of indigenous Zimbabweans. We have a historic obligation to reassert the peoples sovereign rights over our land. We say no to ruin. We say no to decimation.

We say no to extinction as a black people. We say no to the continuation of ethnic cleansing which started more than a century ago with the advent of colonialism.

The question of compensation and reparations is significant to us in several respects.

For Zimbabwe the provision of compensation and reparations is both relevant and critical to the peaceful and smooth resolution of the land question. Because we have recently come out of colonialism assessment of the level of compensation and the extent of the reparations is mathematically possible. Much of what they did to us is documented and can be traced to archives and records in our possession and in the possession of the British Government. For example the colonial power set up a loot committee chaired by a judge to divide amongst the settlers cattle looted from the indigenous Africans and those records are there. The executions of our heroes and heroines were all recorded, including attempts by missionaries to effect conversions to Christianity at the last moment just before the executions were done. As Government we have provided in our Constitution not to pay compensation for land but for improvements only. If the British Government honours their colonial responsibilities and obligations and make available resources to pay off their kith and kin who are resisting land reform we are confident that much of the resistance that we presently face from white farmers will dissipate. My delegation therefore urges this conference to come out emphatically in support of a declaration on reparations. We urge you to give us a message of hope which we can take back to our people. Remember no society can have a reasonable expectation of peace and stability unless it delivers social justice to all its people.

The existing racially based land ownership in Zimbabwe 21 years after the end of a bitter war which lasted 15 years or so provokes the anger of our people and unless corrected will remain a destabilizing factor. There is enough land for all of Zimbabwe's citizens, black and white. All that is needed is that the white people agree to share it with their black fellow citizens.

I thank you.