Mugabe's Soldiers Kick Widows Off Farms, Harvest Their Produce

These two young men are guarding a farm in Chiredzi which they had just invaded earlier this year. The original owner is part of Ben Freeth's SADC Group, which won a ruling against the seizure of their farms by Mugabe. Elsewhere, in Chegutu, south east of Harare, widows who benefited from the Land Reform Programme are now being kicked off the farms by "new" owners in a chaotic process immersed in allegations of backhanders and the like

Harare, Zimbabwe, 02 August 2009

A colonel in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is currently harvesting sugar cane on a farm in Chiredzi which he confiscated from a widowed beneficiary of Mugabe's chaotic land reform.

Colonel Makwenjere has benefited from the inexplicable actions of Lands Officer Jacob Chimoto in Chiredzi.

One of the members of the District Lands Committee, which recommends people to be given farms to Agriculture House in Harare, Zimbabwe, is distancing himself from the whole thing. He claims not to know how the list of new names, on which Colonel Makwenjere's name appears, was drawn up.

The Colonel kicked a widow, Mrs Musanhu, from her farm and from the homestead. The Musanhu's were offered the farm in 2001 and have an offer letter. On the basis of this, they have been harvesting sugar cane and selling to Hippo Valley Estates for some years now.

The "new owner" has no offer letter. His recommendation, forwarded to Harare by the local Lands Committee, has not yet been approved.

But the Colonel is in charge now and is busy harvesting that same sugar cane and selling it to Hippo Valley, the sugar manufacturers in Chiredzi.

The widow has now moved into a worker's hut with her six children.

It appears the list of recommended new applicants for offer letters (72 people are on it) was drawn up on the basis that the identified farms are "vacant".

I guess Mrs Musanhu, a mere widow, does not qualify to be classed as a "person" living and working the farm on the basis of a 2001 offer letter.

It is certainly a case of the animal eating its young, although there appears to be at least someone with a conscience at the Ministry itself in Harare who has leaked this travesty to the press.

There are public accusations that Chimoto was bribed by some of the beneficiaries to kick the widows off the farms. And the victims themselves seem to have won out now. They wrote to the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement in Harare to demand that a team be sent down south to Chiredzi.

What we are witnessing here are civil servants who would not otherwise have dared to raise their heads finding their voice, realisation dawning that continued chaos on the land is nothing short of national suicide.

For the Big Fish, such as Nathan Shamuyarira, Mugabe's former Spokesman, this new ethos does not, of course, apply. Shamuyarira is busy at this very moment harvesting fruit and maize (corn) on a Chegutu farm which he is invading despite court rulings.

These people should not get upset when the world speaks of the absence of rule of law.

This petty corruption in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe is nothing compared to what Cabinet Ministers and senior members of all the parties in government are getting up to. These will never be brought to heel.

Instead, a minor functionary in Chiredzi will be made an example of in an effort to hoodwink the world into believing that the Inclusive Government is doing something about the shameless corruption around the land issue.

I doubt many will be fooled. Our eyes remain firmly on those who possess land far in excess of the recommended maximum hectares,, those who continue to harass and evict farmers, (black or white) who have only that one farm.

With dedication and political will, the mess in the bedrock agricultural sector can be sorted out and completely cleaned within a year.

It has taken us 11 years. And I bet this Inclusive Government will also leave in its wake a process not much changed from today's chaos.

Greed is winning out over strategic national vision.


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