Land Grab


First Lady Grace Mugabe has courted controversy by allegedly pushing for the eviction of more than 50 resettled farmers close to her orphanage in Mazowe to make way for a game park.

This is the second time Grace has had resettled farmers forcefully evicted in Mazowe after first kicking farmers out to make way for the construction of her orphanage last year.

Residents were furious that Grace invaded already developed and legally acquired land to erect her orphanage instead of looking for virgin land like that they were forcefully relocated to. The evicted families have expressed outrage that they were not given alternative plots but were just being told to go back where they came from.

“We have been around this place for a long time only to be told to leave without being offered alternative land or compensation,” said a disgruntled farmer speaking anonymously. “How does she expect us to build our homes without compensation? The Mugabes have a penchant for grabbing. They grabbed farms and now it is our land. We do not know where to go now because we left our original villages years ago.”

Last year some residents who bought stands in 1998 were issued with eviction letters and promised alternative accommodation and compensation, but nothing has materialised to date. Even Justice Ben Hlatshwayo has also been a victim of eviction by Grace.

Regis Chikowore, a director in the Media, Information and Publicity ministry, said his office is not aware of the evictions.

“Our office is not aware of such evictions but if there is anything going on, the affected farmers have to seek advice from their provincial resettlement board,” said Chikowore. “I think they were issued with notices a long time ago,” he said.

Many resettled farmers are now facing fresh evictions spearheaded by chiefs, Zanu PF politicians and senior government officials countrywide.

Last month Mugabe and the Zanu PF politburo were forced to intervene after senior party officials, war veterans and army generals invaded the Save Conservancy.

(Source)

Zimbabwe’s farm seizures have met their first resistance at a firm supplying British supermarkets, writes Peta Thornycroft in Odzi.

Thousands of Zimbabweans who grow vegetables for British supermarkets are fighting attempts by a cabinet minister to confiscate the land they work on.

The rebellion by 6,000 black workers is the first in nearly four years of state-sponsored terror on the country’s white-owned farms.

Kondozi’s 1,500 profitable acres provide huge quantities of runner beans, mange tout and red peppers for stores including Safeway, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

But the minister for agriculture, Joseph Made, wants the business for himself. A few weeks ago, he arrived at the farm with colleagues and ordered out the workers and the white owners.

A fortnight later, scores of ruling Zanu-PF party loyalists were sent in but around 200 women workers fought back with broken tiles, stones and broken bricks. Shots were fired, apparently by pro-government thugs, but they were forced to flee. Mr Made was not available for comment.

Many of the workers are themselves farm invaders who have arrived during the past four years. The owners, the de Klerk family, reached an accommodation and taught them to cultivate crops as registered “outgrowers”.

With the de Klerks running the export business, Kondozi has since prospered and expanded while murderous raids on Zimbabwe’s largely white commercial farming sector continued elsewhere.

One worker, who led the first squatters on to white farms four years ago and was a teenage guerrilla during the Rhodesian war, pointed to the horizon where the government’s Agricultural Rural Development Authority, ARDA, owns more than 50,000 acres.

“Look there, nothing is growing on ARDA land. They couldn’t even pay their workers at Christmas.”

For his own safety, he cannot be named. “We needed land reform. OK? OK, you hear? But now it is gone too far by politicians. We don’t want Joseph Made or the local MP to come here.”

Chris Mushowe, the local MP and deputy transport minister, has seized one of the homesteads on the estate, after Jacobus de Klerk and his family were beaten up, barricaded for four days inside their house and finally violently evicted. Nothing of value grows on his land.

The workers are now travelling widely in buses and trucks telling people to warn their chief that President Robert Mugabe and his cronies should “go away and let us work”.

Patricia Macharaga, 38, a mother of four, was part of a bean-picking team.”We are going to see the chief,” she said as they prepared to leave.

“If the government takes this place, they will keep only 400 workers. We will have nothing. I have a job, a house, school for the children, food. I can’t lose it.”

The de Klerk family share common ancestors with South Africa’s last white president, F W de Klerk. The eldest son, Piet, whom Mr Mugabe has publicly threatened, has fled to Harare.

The major shareholder in the de Klerks’ vegetable export business for the past eight years is a black entrepreneur, Edwin Moyo, who has been labelled a “sell-out” by Mr Mugabe’s clique.

“They are just greedy, bloody greedy,” Mr Moyo said of those seeking the remainder of Kondozi, which includes acres of pack sheds, store rooms, equipment and more than 120 tractors, refrigerated trucks and buses.

Britain’s major supermarkets made clear yesterday they would not buy produce from any farm that had been illegally seized in Zimbabwe, or anywhere else.

Neither Safeway, Sainsbury’s nor Tesco had been told of attempts to seize Kondozi but their spokesmen said they would not take its produce if there was an illegal change of ownership.

Sainsbury’s said it never bought goods from illegally seized farms. A spokesman for Tesco said: “If such a seizure were to happen we would switch sourcing to other places either in Zimbabwe or elsewhere.”

(Source)

“My farm is taken!” That phrase is almost as terrifying as the word “Cancer”. On Tuesday 24th April, while I was busy cutting silage, four smart vehicles came racing into my farm yard, and out jumped about twenty big black men, dark with anger and seething hatred. I walked over to them and greeted them in a friendly manner, receiving only mumbled replies. The leader, the lands commissioner, started. “You are aware that the government has acquired all farm land and that you are living illegally on this farm.” “Oh,” I replied. “Well,” he continued, “We have a new owner whom we wish to bring here and introduce to you.”

He asked if there was a place where we could sit down to talk, and once we were seated (sprawled out) on our verandah chairs the intimidation started. “We expect you to co-operate with the new owner. We want the transition to go smoothly.” A particularly large individual added his piece, deep hatred glaring from his face, “If you don’t co-operate we will send our boys to you and you will be chased off without anything – not even your clothes. You will take nothing with you.”

Another man then asked me, “Do you know who I am?” I answered that I did not. He said, “I am mr *** (I can’t remember what his name was), and I can get people off their farms is two hours!” He held his two fingers up and repeated forcibly, “TWO HOURS!”

I had been rather quiet up to this point, but then gently replied, “Mr ***, I want to tell you something that I want you to hear.” “What is it?” he gruffly asked? Pointing my finger to him I said quietly, “I do not fear you, I only fear God. You and I will both die one day, and in our own shoes we will stand before God and answer to Him for what we have done in this life, you for your actions, and me for my response to those actions.”

That seemed to rattle him considerably.

With many other threats they left as fast as they had arrived, promising to return in the afternoon with the new owner to introduce to me.

When they came there were fewer of them and only two cars, and I had had time to get my composure. The man (his name is Philemon) asked me how much time I needed and I said, “Ideally six months to take me through the winter.” He replied that that was too long, so I asked him how much time he would give me, and he replied, “Three months”. I knew this was very gracious indeed in comparison with what other farmers had had, so I accepted. And in a matter of hours the deal was done and I had lost my farm, my lovely house and place of abode, with nowhere to go!

But the Lord had prepared me for this day. Over the past two years the Lord had been speaking to me very often about my own heart’s attitude, and much cleansing had taken place. The last three months or so, particularly, He had often put the thoughts in my heart that I was going to lose my farm, so I knew that a test was coming in my life and that He was expecting me, His child, to respond in the way He would. When the vehicles came racing in on Tuesday I knew immediately that the time had come. You see, there’s nothing that happens to us in this life that catches our Heavenly father by surprise. If we are His children He has our lives safely in His hands. If we listen to His voice, and do what He tells us, then there is no need to fear what man may do to us, nor to fear the future.

And what does He tell us to do when this type of thing happens to us? Are we willing to apply is words to our lives? Mat 5:44 “But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you, so that you may become sons of your Father in heaven…’”

Are these Jesus instructions to us or are they not! Why do I see so many Christians with such deep racial hatred and bitterness boiling inside them? Are we not to be sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, emanating His godly character. What witness do we portray if we respond with seething anger, In what sense are we better than the world?

When I met Philemon the next day he was still just as nervous as he had been the previous day – sitting on the very edge of his chair. I said to him, Philemon, as much as I have nowhere to go, and you have taken my life-long dream away from me in one day, I am not going to be bitter or angry with you. I want to bless you as you come onto this farm. I will assist you wherever I can. I want you to enjoy this farm as I have enjoyed it. He responded positively to that and gave me more amazing concessions. “You can take anything you want off the farm, and if you are willing to leave anything I will pay you for it,” he said. We shook hands and parted as friends.

The Scripture says that, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20) We have to see the bigger picture and not hold so tightly onto the few earthly possessions that we have. Our Heavenly Father is well able to supply our needs, and if we hold onto earthly things with an open hand He is able to both take out and put in at His will. Not even a sparrow falls down without Him knowing it. Can He not supply my need for a home and a place to milk the cows? Of-course He can! Why then should I allow my heart to be filled with hatred for a man for whom Jesus died? Rather I would like to see this man and his violent friends brought into the kingdom. You will never win the racial hatred battle with hatred. It can only be won with love and forgiveness. The most powerful force in the world is love with humility. Did He not say, “The humble will inherit the earth!” Don’t underestimate to enormous power of simple humility – where we say, “Not my will but Yours be done.”

Of-course what they have done is illegal. I can win the case should I take it to court. But at what cost? With more hatred, with intimidation and violence against my workers, and terror to my dear wife! No, a farm is not worth that. I will not pursue a piece of land and thereby endanger and terrify my precious wife. She is worth far more than a farm.

As it stands right now I have nowhere to go. Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “Where are you staying?” His reply was, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” I kind of feel that I am in good company ! But I have an absolute supernatural peace and confidence that my Heavenly Father has something much better for me than what I had. He is closing one door, only to open another much bigger door.

So to those who have heard about our farm grab. Please don’t on my account fan the flames of racial hatred and bitterness. Rather put your own trust completely in our dear Heavenly Father, and wait to see how wonderfully He is going to turn this situation for His glory !!

With special love to you all,

Henry Jackson

(Source: via email)

The bulk of imported maize being supplied to hungry Zimbabweans is coming from former white commercial farmers evicted during the 2000 chaotic land invasions and now farming in Zambia.

Recipients of the government’s grain loan scheme in Matabeleland were last week shocked to discover that the names on the stickers on the grain bags were of former white farmers.

The Zimbabwe government has imported 300,000 tonnes of maize from Zambia to feed millions of its citizens who are facing starvation.

Following the chaotic land seizures, most white commercial farmers, who were dispossessed of their farms fled to Zambia where they bought new farms. Since then Zimbabwe, which used to be southern Africa’s bread basket, has been buying most of its maize grain staple from Zambia, to augment available stocks.

“Last week I received two bags of maize grain under the grain loan scheme from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depot in Insiza. One of the bags had a green sticker inside written, ‘supplied by Michel Handris’, a former Karoi commercial farmer. The sticker had also the contact details of Handris, who is now farming in the southern parts of Zambia,” said Edmore Ndlovu.

Villagers who spoke to Radio VOP, in Umguza, also confirmed receiving maize bags with stickers bearing names of former white commercial farmers.

 “We are now required to destroy all the Zambian bags and repackage the grain in our local bags,” said a GMB source.

He said that the fact that some former Zimbabwean farmers were supplying maize had angered some senior Zanu (PF) officers and the minister of Agriculture.

Zimbabwe faces a one million tonne maize deficit due to drought, with nearly half of the national crop coming up for harvest this month failing due to poor rains.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made recently said nearly 45 percent of the maize crop that was planted last farming season was a complete write-off.

The country needs at least 2, 2 million tonnes of maize to feed itself annually but Made said Harare currently has only 400,000 tonnes of maize stocks, which must be complemented by imports to prevent hunger.

Donor organisations say they are re-assessing their assistance to Zimbabwe to see how they can cope with the shortfall in both crop and funding. Last year the United Nations said it would raise nearly $200 million for aid efforts in Zimbabwe with half going to food security for more than 1.4 million people. But a funding shortfall affected the donor groups’ efforts to assist.

(Source)

Vusi Mavimbela, South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, has attacked President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF over its continued invasion of South African-owned farms and over the mounting rhetoric about the seizure of foreign-owned mining companies under the indigenisation law.

Observers see the tough talk of Mavimbela, former director general in the South African presidency, as the out­ward expression of a major shift in relations between Pretoria and Harare under President Jacob Zuma, who is clearly turning up the heat on the 87-year-old Mugabe in a bid to force him to rein in lawlessness by members of his party.

Political analyst Trevor Maisiri said: “The ambassador’s sentiments are a clear indication of a changing of the guard in Pretoria.”

Mavimbela, quoted in the state-owned Herald after meeting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at the weekend, said: “We are not happy with the farm invasions that have been taking place in the country and South African farmers being evicted from their farms.

“Scores of farmers came to our offices for assistance and the majority have been rendered destitute, save for a few who have been taken in by friends.”

Earlier this month, ZANU PF youths in Nyazura evicted two South African farmers — Koos Smith of De Rust farm and Tienie van Rensburg of Rueben farm — giving them an hour’s notice to pack up their belongings and leave.

It is understood that the South African envoy has been irked further by Harare’s disregard for a 2009 bilateral trade agreement between the two countries, intended to protect South African investments in Zimbabwe.

Matters beyond
Mavimbela said that some matters “have gone beyond the level of the embassy and the situation now needs state-to-state dialogue”.

ZANU PF national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo shrugged off Mavimbela’s comments. “The South African ambassador does not answer to ZANU PF and so there is no way that ZANU PF can deal with the issue. It’s a matter between two governments,” Moyo said.

In the past, Zim­babwe’s foreign affairs ministry has read the riot act to Western countries over their perceived involvement in the country’s internal affairs. Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi is well known for his brash style with foreign diplomats.

He could not be reached for comment.

This week Hendrik Olivier, the chief executive of the Commercial Farmers’ Union of Zimbabwe, welcomed Mavimbela’s public stance, saying that it would “help influence and hold in check” land invasions.

“Invasions have taken place over the past 11 years, despite Zimbabwe being a signatory of bilateral agreements with many countries, including South Africa.

“It remains to be seen whether the government will take the necessary steps to respect its trade agreements,” said Olivier.

Meanwhile, divisions have emerged over the indigenisation laws in ZANU PF and the coalition government, with the Affirmative Action Group, a militant black empowerment project linked to ZANU PF, splintering over the beneficiaries of the expropriation of foreign business interests.

The action group’s entire executive board, led by journalist-cum-businessman Supa Mandiwanzira, has stepped down, giving way to Philip Chiyangwa, a property tycoon and nephew of Mugabe.

The board has been accused of “having lost its way and put individual gain before mass empowerment”.

There have also been claims that $32 000 has been embezzled from the project.

(Source)

Behind the partying that will be the inevitable accompaniment of Prince William and Prince Harry’s visit to South Africa this week lies a much more sombre purpose. For Harry will be joined by his girlfriend Chelsy Davy as she returns to her homeland to comfort her grandmother following the death of her husband – a victim of Robert Mugabe’s brutal thuggery in Zimbabwe.

George Donald, a landowner in northern Zimbabwe, fell victim to Parkinson’s disease after he watched Mugabe’s men commandeer his farm and raze his house to the ground. He died virtually penniless at the age of 80.

Ian Donald, Chelsy’s uncle (mum Beverley’s brother) recalls how the vets plundered into their parents’ farm and home. “They discovered that their home had been vandalised. The roof was ripped off, every roof-tile had gone, every window had been chiselled out. Not a single thing was left and the farmstead was a shell.” He chronicles how their family struggled to build a second farm, and how the Davy brothers ultimately fled for Australia.

Of Charles Davy’s connection with the Mugabe regime, Ian Donald says Mr Davy has been hugely misrepresented by people who don’t understand how things work in Africa. ‘Or don’t want to understand. He adds that the reason Chelsy’s dad was able to hold onto some assets is due to his foreign investors – American links which the Zimbabwean government thought were too important to destroy.

(Source)

The Commercial Farmers Union is gravely concerned with the recent continued harassment of productive farmers and the failure of Zimbabwe Republic Police to render appropriate assistance in spite of High Court Orders for farmers to remain in occupation

Particular events reported to these offices include the following:

1.      Manicaland – a farmer’s wife was barricaded into her house in the early hours of Tuesday 8th June 2010 and subsequently given 4 hours to vacate the property. She is in possession of a High Court Order to remain in occupation.

2.      Manicaland – a farmer was removed from his property over the weekend, his equipment has been vandalized and the farm foreman was beaten unconscious last night. The farmer is in possession of a High Court Order to remain in occupation.

3.      Manicaland – a farmer in possession of a High Court Order to remain in occupation has been subjected to a long lock-down situation with alleged police protection for an orgy of looting of equipment, farm inputs and crops.

4.      Manicaland – The owners are in possession of a High Court Order for the settlers to be removed. This is a BIPPA farm with Malaysia. It is alleged that a prominent Minister has visited the property and informed all settlers to remain in occupation and that all High Court orders must be ignored.

5.      Mashonaland East – An elderly woman has been removed from her homestead on her daughter-in-law’s farm who has since been told that she is to vacate by Thursday this week. It has been proven that the beneficiary’s offer letter is not correct. The farmer is in possession of a High Court Order to remain in occupation.

The above incidents are not happening in isolation and that similar events have unfolded all over the country which are currently being investigated.

These events have been driven by statements allegedly emanating from a prominent politician who has instructed beneficiaries and officials to disregard Court Orders. Beneficiaries have been allowed to take the law into their own hands to evict farmers without due process. Both farmers and the office of the CFU have received no support from the relevant police stations in affected areas. This constitutes a blatant break down of law and order and the enforcement of High Court Orders and BIPPA agreements.

We are concerned that at a time that Zimbabwe wishes to re-engage with the international community and encourage investment, that these breaches of the rule of law will drive Zimbabwe into further isolation. This will further erode both local and foreign investor confidence and jeopardize economic recovery.

This is happening in Zimbabwe at a time when ALL eyes are focused on Southern Africa for the Soccer World Cup which is due to start this weekend – Friday 11th June 2010. Is this the kind of attention we wish to draw on ourselves at this time?

END

COMMERCIAL FARMERS’ UNION

09 June 2010

(Source: via email)

THE Zimbabwean Government will have to fork out at least US$70 million – close to N$530 million – should a renewed claim by three applicants against President Robert Mugabe’s government and its “unlawful land-reform programme” succeed in the SADC Tribunal.

Norman Tjombe filed the case on behalf of Christopher Mellish Jarret, Tengwe Estate and France Farm.

They applied to the Tribunal to order the Zimbabwean government to pay not only close to US$70 million but to also interest of 30 per cent on this amount, starting from September 14 2005 to the date of payment.

The applicants also asked for the Tribunal to order the Zimbabwean government to foot the bill for this legal application.

In the voluminous court documents, it is stated that Jarret, a Zimbabwean citizen, had been farming on Luchabi Ranch, a cattle and game farm situated in the Nyamandlovu district, “until it was illegally and compulsorily acquired by the respondent with effect from September 14 2005″.

Tengwe Estate was the owner of Fumeria Estate, a mixed farming enterprise situated in the Urungwe district, it is stated.

“Its title to the property similarly ceased on September 14 2005 as a consequence of the respondent’s unlawful land programme.”

It is further stated that a game ranch had been managed on Woodlands Estate A, owned by France Farm. The game ranch is situated near the Victoria Falls.

“It too suffered illegal dispossession of this property due to the respondent’s unlawful land programme.”

All three these applicants were part of the groundbreaking so-called William Michael Campbell case, of which the latest judgement against the Zimbabwean government was in June 2009.

“It is by now a matter of public notoriety that the respondent has persistently and contemptuously failed to give effect to the Tribunal’s award in the main Campbell case. Also the Tribunal’s subsequent orders are flagrantly repudiated by the respondent.”

The Zimbabwean government has until the end of May to file answering court papers with the Tribunal in Windhoek.

(Source)

The British Parliament’s Africa All-party Group’s latest report, “Land in Zimbabwe: Past Mistakes, Future Prospects” claims that Britain never made nor betrayed any promises on land reform made at Lancaster House as claimed by President Robert Mugabe.

Some of the “most interesting evidence of all” came from ZANU PF and the Zimbabwean embassy in London did not claim that there was a secret deal that the UK would provide funds to pay for land reform.

“It is true that both Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo sought commitments on land reform… but the UK had to broker a deal between Ian Smith and his regime’s military on the one hand and the liberation movements on the other hand, and there was no agreement on land,” said the researchers who undertook the research presented in Parliament by Hugh Bayley, Labour MP for City of York.

At one stage in the talks, Mugabe and the late Dr Joshua Nkomo, who lead the Zimbabwean Patriotic Front delegation to the Lancaster House talks, threatened to walk out, but “a great deal of pressure was put on them by the Presidents of the front-line states, particularly Zambia and Mozambique, which were used by the Zimbabwean liberation movement fighters for their training camps and supply lines.

“Pressure from those neighbouring countries was put on the Zimbabwean liberation movements to agree a deal so that the war might end. The leaders of those movements were urged to compromise, and they did,” he said.

“There is nothing in the Lancaster House agreement promising to pay for land reform, and nothing in our conversations with the principal western Ministers involved at the time – Lord Carrington and Chester Crocker – suggested that there was any secret deal to do so.”

Britain, however, made aid available for land reform on a “willing seller, willing buyer” basis, and by 1986, 71,000 families had been resettled on land formerly owned by commercial farmers in what the Economist described at the time as “one of the most successful aid schemes in Africa”.

However, by 1985, the scheme had slowed down, and in the 1990s it stopped altogether, and when, in 1997, Robert Mugabe was losing support within ZANU PF, and came under pressure from war veterans for pensions, he capitulated to their demands.

But his capitulation did not end the demands.

“The veterans came back with more demands, including demands for land, and in 2000 Robert Mugabe instituted a fast-track land reform process. From that time onwards, Zimbabwe’s relationship with the UK, the European Union and the United States deteriorated,” said Bayley.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group had chosen to investigate this subject because the violence from farm invasions has destroyed the livelihoods of 200,000 farm workers and halved the commercial agricultural output of Zimbabwe, and because because of concern that UK policy is misunderstood in Africa as the UK having reneged on its promise made during the Lancaster House talks.

“Furthermore, many in Africa believe that we oppose farm invasions in Zimbabwe principally because it is white farmers whose land is being expropriated, and many believe that we support the European Union’s restrictive measures because we have political differences with the President of Zimbabwe.

To set the record straight and to look forwards, the Group sought to establish what was actually agreed at Lancaster House and to document what development assistance has been provided by the UK to Zimbabwe for land reform, and to examine what future land reform policies would re-establish productive agriculture to support rural livelihoods and offer job opportunities for the many farm workers who have lost their jobs through the farm invasions.

They sought and obtained evidence from representatives of the UK Government, the Secretary of State for International Development, the Zimbabwean ambassador in London, and even ZANU PF negotiating teams and their legal advisers, Lord Carrington, academics in both the UK and Zimbabwe; from Chester Crocker, the US Assistant Secretary of State who had special responsibility for Africa at the time of the Lancaster House talks, and many more.

As a result pressure from war veterans the fast-track land reform was introduced, leading to a 60 per cent fall in commercial agricultural output, an economy in free-fall and mounting inflation, with prices doubling every 24 hours at its worst.

Sir Robert Smith, a Liberal Democrat from West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine bemoaned the collapse in productive capacity and said it would be difficult to bring back the productivity without legal title to the new owners which would underpin investment in farming.

“We therefore need to bring back legal stability and a proper legal process to land ownership in countries such as Zimbabwe, to enable investment for the future so that productive capacity can be restored.”

“Willing seller, willing buyer” apparently did not work very well because the seller could not repatriate the money to the United Kingdom or wherever else they wanted to send it, as it was in the mining sector, where Lonrho negotiated a deal enabling it to take mining money out of the country, said Conservative William Cash of Stone, adding that this contributed to generating “a lot of the pressure”.

But said Bayley, since 2000, when political relations between the UK and Zimbabwe became strained, far from penalising Zimbabwe for farm invasions, the UK recognised the country’s growing humanitarian needs and increased aid from $ 20 million in 2000 to $ 89 million in 2008, which, according to independent figures from the OECD’s development assistance committee contributed to the $ 1.128 billion in aid from the UK to Zimbabwe since independence.

(Source)

Zimbabwe’s land issue has generated unprecedented debates both within and outside the country. The debates, which followed the dramatic occupations of white farms by rural peasants in the late 1990s, are generally polarised between those who support radical land reform and those who support market-orientated reforms. The former stand accused of supporting Mugabe’s regime while the latter are generally maligned as neo-colonialists running a smear campaign against ZANU PF.

An unfortunate outcome of these polarities has been the trivialisation of the land issue; land occupations have been depicted as simple acts of political gimmickry; landless peasants who occupied these farms have been branded as agents of agrarian and environmental destruction, and are often considered to be in service to the ‘evil’ regime of Robert Mugabe. Some academics have even gone as far as branding the whole process of land occupations, and the violence associated with it, as an apocalyptic end of modernity.

In academia, supporters of radical land reform are generally in the minority; this has made it extremely difficult to challenge the current neo-liberal orthodoxy, which dominates land and agrarian reform policy making in many African countries. The few scholars, who have openly challenged the ‘hostile’ neo-liberal approach to argue for radical land reform, including Sam Moyo, Paris Yeros, and Mamood Mamdani, have often been accused of colluding with Mugabe’s undemocratic regime.

That Mugabe opportunistically used the land issue to boost his political legitimacy is an undeniable fact. Indeed, the country’s collective memory was conveniently manipulated to fit a set political agenda under guise of the ‘Third Chimurenga’ project. However, juxtaposed to Mugabe’s gerrymandering and manipulation of historical memory is a reality that many critics of Mugabe have so far failed to address.

How can one justify the continued existence of a dualistic land ownership structure decades after independence, in a country whose struggle for liberation crystallised around the land issue? How could such an unjust and medieval property ownership structure be permanently sustained in a country where 60 per cent of the population depends on land for their livelihoods?

Another paradox of Zimbabwe’s independence is the extent to which white farmers emerged unscathed by the raging fires of the liberation struggle. Zimbabwe’s negotiated settlement, which led to independence in 1980, left white farmers constitutionally protected. Like Royal game, they held the entire nation at ransom thanks to Lord Carrington, who secured their private property and political rights before handing over a poisoned state to the blacks.

Mugabe’s reconciliatory rhetoric that dominated the early years of independence led to the general belief among White Rhodesians that independence was ‘business as usual’, with many whites continuing to enjoy colonial era privileges and existing in white enclaves. In the so-called ‘new Zimbabwe’, white commercial farmers continued to dominate the commercial farming sector, a key strategic sector given the largely agrarian nature of Zimbabwe’s economy.

This gave them leverage over government policy, which they used to secure their large estates from potential forceful acquisition. Above all, they voted for Ian Smith’s exclusively white Rhodesian Front political party; a mockery of the ideals of a ‘united nation’ propounded by Mugabe’s nationalist administration. On the other hand, the peasantry in remote rural locations continued to eke out a living on degraded patches of barren land, waiting for the ‘promised’ land that was at the core of the liberation struggle.

However, such promises failed to materialise; macro-economic policies favoured landed capitalists and black elites based in cities that generally enjoyed the patronage of senior politicians. A result of the above was that most of the land ‘recovered’ by the government was diverted to ZANU PF loyalists through patronage networks.

Why then do many people decry the land invasions if history shows that peasants were the major losers at independence? Given Zimbabwe’s history, one wonders why white farmers were allowed to sell land back to the government after 1980 instead of helping to contribute to the land reform programme as a form of reparation for the violence and plunder suffered by many Africans during the colonial era. After all, most of the large farms were acquired under unjust and illegal terms.

Justice would have been better served if after securing independence, Mugabe’s government had thrown away the 1979 Lancaster House Constitution in favour of a just constitution based on the country’s historical experiences. Why hang on to a constitution, which promoted the interests of the very people that supported the wanton destruction of African livelihoods, and the merciless bombing of civilians at Nyadzonya, which to this day have never been fully accounted for.

This would have allowed an unfettered land reform programme that was cognisant of our past and righted the wrongful misdeeds of a few. Instead, a dithering elitist government failed to deliver one of the most precious prizes of our independence: The land. For if so many people died at Chimoio, Nyadzonya and in many operational zones, how could their souls rest in peace if independence only resulted in the perpetuation of the status quo? Why could we as a sovereign nation in the interest of morality and justice not say to Britain and other world nations that so many people died for this land, all they want is a fair share of their heritage?’ Is that not a modest demand given our history?

Mugabe’s rhetoric on land should be given serious consideration, however he should also be held accountable for failing to stand up against neo-colonial tactics that led to unnecessary delays in recovering stolen property and for presiding over a patrimonial system which helped to marginalise a large section of the population.

Much of the socialist rhetoric that appears in the country’s Transitional Development Plan (TDP) was never put into practice, instead an ahistorical Land Reform and Resettlement Programme (LRRP) was adopted. This policy was much influenced by Britain and other agents of western capitalism left too much leverage with white farmers who were able to dictate the pace of the land reform programme, and in the process, distort land markets to their advantage.

The result was that the LRRP was too expensive to sustain for a postcolonial government with limited resources. Moreover, those who were ‘chosen’ for resettlement were given land unfavorable to agriculture with limited support in terms of infrastructure and farming inputs. Mugabe’s government, like its colonial predecessor, was reluctant to extend full property rights to the beneficiaries of the LRRP and instead opted to allow resettled farmers to occupy land under insecure permits while at the same time allowing white farmers to continue owning their land on a more secure freehold basis. This perpetuated a system of insecure property rights in communal areas that had been created during the colonial era within the so-called ‘communal tenure’ system.

An analysis of the arguments against radical land reform reveals a chronic failure by both journalists and academics to provide a balanced overview of the Zimbabwean land issue; the causal factors of landlessness steeped in the country’s history are often ignored. There is a tendency to confuse the land issue with Mugabe’s political expediency and in the process the baby is thrown away with the bath water.

The genuine need for land, which is reflected in many rural areas across the country, is simply dismissed as Mugabe’s political posturing. What is often forgotten is that not very long ago millions of Africans were deliberately disenfranchised by a system of state managed repression, segregation and violence. It is these masses that sacrificed their lives and livelihoods to liberate the country and it is these masses that have the moral right to claim back their land. This legitimate need to right the historical wrongs should never be confused with ZANU PF’s attempts to manipulate history for its own selfish interests.

What is also deeply disturbing about those who have argued against land invasions is their total disregard for the views of the poor and marginalised peasants who invaded these farms. On the rare occasions when peasants are featured in short documentaries or academic articles, they are often depicted as barbaric savages attacking white farmers and ruining productive farms.

In contrast, white farmers have generally been given positive media coverage in the west – sentimental testimonials telling stories of loss and ruin, agricultural equipment destroyed and wildlife poached. These stories are often accompanied by graphic images of dead wild animals, especially endangered species like rhinos, elephants etc. This ‘sadistic’ imagery has generated sympathy for white farmers, by portraying them as hard working people, who became victims of Robert Mugabe’s ‘evil regime’.

The plight of many rural farmers who have struggled to survive since the country was liberated decades ago is generally overlooked. They have no one to tell their stories of survival to and local ‘native’ intellectuals, generally far removed from the village, have failed to inform the world about the peasant’s precarious existence: Landlessness, water shortages and disease. What is often suggested in the studies of fly past researchers is the notion that black peasants have an inherent lack of basic environmental knowledge and that they are incapable of feeding themselves.

Across Europe, ignorance about the historical background to Zimbabwe’s land issue among ordinary people runs deep; remarks about how the Zimbabwe government allowed unskilled rural farmers to occupy farms are commonplace. The current food shortages facing the country are simply blamed on incompetent peasants taking over white farms.

It has become fashionable to project Zimbabwe as ‘a bread basket’ before the land invasions and a ‘basket case’ after land invasions. This has helped to support the assumption that without white farmers the country could not feed itself. What is often not mentioned is that the white farmer in Africa is generally an administrator; he does not physically grow crops himself. His black troops produce on his behalf.

However he gets the lion’s share of the profits because he controls the means of production. Moreover, it is easily forgotten that in the early years of colonial occupation in the 1890s, European settlers in Rhodesia survived on grain produced by Africans until The British South Africa Company (BSAC) deliberately destroyed a booming African agriculture in favour of promoting European agriculture after the so called ‘gold rush’ proved to be largely false. Against all odds, Africans have been feeding themselves even during the depression years of the 1930s when the colonial government introduced the Maize Control Act, which helped to distort the grain market in order to protect European farmers.

Apart from the above, there is another argument based on neo-liberal thinking, which says that land reform was supposed to be carried out in an orderly way in order to harness ‘white skills’. This, it is argued, would protect the productive potential of these farms.

The question is why didn’t these white farmers share their skills before the onset of the land invasions? How can one account for the poverty and dislocation of many farm workers who lost their livelihoods once a farmer decided they were no longer needed after many years of hard labour with minimum remuneration?

This argument is also based on a false assumption that black farmers cannot grow crops without white supervision. Most Large Scale Commercial Farms (LSCF) have historically relied on black labour. If LSCF are largely run by black workers who with time have acquired advanced technical skills to operate farm machinery, supervise the large scale growing of commercial crops including tobacco and wheat, why then can blacks fail to do the same for themselves if given the land and the support required to run successful agricultural enterprises?

The image of the black farmer as a permanent subsistence farmer has become part of the official discourse about land and agrarian reform simply because for many decades black farmers have not been given the chance to invest in productive agriculture.

It’s a historical fact that white agricultural success was based on expensive state subsidies, access to cheap labour and extension services, which allowed them to make profits even during the difficult years of economic stagnation. Such services were not accessible to black farmers who had to make do with very little financial and technical support from central government.

While it is true that land invasions did impact on agricultural production; critics of the programme have based their arguments on emotions rather than facts. Since the land invasions took place, no significant longitudinal study based on empirical research has been carried out to justify these arguments. Nobody knows to what extent the land invasions have impacted on agricultural production across the country.

Moreover in trying to access such impacts, one has to take into account climatic factors like recurring droughts, which have historically affected agricultural production. Simplistic arguments biased against the peasantry have led to the trivialisation of an issue that is of paramount importance to Zimbabwe culturally, historically and economically. For land is not only the resource we have in abundance, it’s the only resource that sustains three quarters of the Zimbabwean population.

Given the above, land invasions were inevitable and necessary to ensure peasants ‘got a piece of the cake’. Of course one cannot expect such a radical programme to take place without any form of disruption. While it’s painful in the short term, land invasions have helped a significant number of property-less peasants to not only recover land, but to enjoy a sense of restitution which has a healing effect given the country’s tortured history.

They also helped to break the monopoly of white farmers in commercial agriculture by opening up this key sector to black farmers. Moreover recent research by World Bank economists has proven that large commercial farms are not very productive compared to family operated smallholder farms; they are also a source of political instability as our recent history has demonstrated. Breaking up large commercial farms in favour of more efficient smallholder entities makes economic sense and promotes political stability.

What the Zimbabwean government should do now is to stop dilly-dallying and extend full property rights to peasants settled under the A1 Scheme to provide security and incentives for agricultural investment. It should also offer financial and technical support for those farmers who want to venture into commercial farming. Such a process requires non-partisan support from all those who benefited from land reform. It also requires a mechanism to recover land from those who are hoarding unproductive farms.

This could be achieved through a land audit and a policy restricting farm ownership to a ‘one person one farm’ basis. If the above measures were implemented, Zimbabwe would lead the way as the only country in postcolonial Africa to implement the most radical transfer of property in the 21st century.

It would set an example for Zimbabwe’s neighbours, South Africa and Namibia, which are still slumbering under the stupor of market-driven land reform, with the inevitable risk of political instability as mobs of marginalised peasants are likely to resort to violence to recover land.

(Source)

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