Shootings, Livestock Held Hostage and Starved As Mugabe Ramps Up Farm Invasions

Harare, Zimbabwe, 02 November 2009

This must surely be an "outstanding issue" s far as the MDC-T is concerned?

Edward Mashiringwani, a Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, has resorted to holding cattle, crocodiles and pigs hostage at Friedawil Farm in Mugabe's home province, in an effort to drive out farm owner Louis Fick, A South African and Vice-chairman of the Commercial Farmers' Union.

Last week, the Deputy Governor sent in thugs, including one character calling himself Tichiona, who was armed with a gun loaded apparently with rubber bullets. This character tried to scare the farm workers by firing into the air. They ignored him. So he fired into the crowd. The result was five people injured, one seriously (he has been taken to Harare for treatment is apparently still in hospital at the Avenues Clinic.)

Mashiringwani will not allow Fick's workers to feed the crocodiles and the pigs in their pens. He has also used about 50 thugs hired specially by him for the purpose to block the release of Fick's cattle from their pens so that they can go and graze.

This is disruption of farming activities. If there is a dispute in place, the farmer who is on the land should really be allowed to stay on while he exhausts his legal options, so that when there is finally a court order for him to vacate the land, a messenger of court goes and enforces it, not thugs hired by someone who clearly has no idea what farming is all about.

Right now, it is not the courts sending messengers of court to evict farmers. Instead, ZANU PF and MDC bigwigs are using offer letters from government to evict the farmers. This is what the world means when they talk about a breakdown in the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

The Farmers' Union itself is now warning of massive food shortages next year because of these disruptions on farms. "Production is at a standstill," says the CFU, mostly because the remaining farmers are too busy fighting either for their lives or in court fighting for their properties.

These reports of intensified farm invasions are coming from an area that has proved to be the most brutal and unforgiving in dealing with the remaining white farmers. Throughout this year, farmers in Chegutu, which is in the same province, were harassed, beaten up and terrorised in the middle of the night by very senior government officials as they sought to evict them.

The province is particularly sensitive (and violent) mostly because it is Mugabe's home province. Whenever he is Zimbabwe over weekends, Mugabe drives to the his rural home in the province, where he has built a sprawling complex of red-roofed bungalows that are tightly guarded 24 hours a day at taxpayers ' expense.

The farmers who are left in the province do not know that their problems started last year, around September 2009, soon after the signing of the Global Political Agreement. Mugabe was driving to his rural home when he saw farms starting about the Norton area. He asked his guards who the farms belonged to and they soon found out and told him.

The president is said to have asked what white farmers were still doing "mumusha wedu" - in our home (or village).

Soon after that, a document was circulated in cabinet advising that farm invasions must be intensified, to show the farmers that Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC-T, even if they were not going to be part of government, could do nothing to protect the white farmers.

Mugabe himself used a well-known Zimbabwean phrase in approving this latest upping of pressure, saying  the farmers would see that Tsvangirai had taken fools' money "akadya mari dzemafuza". 

It is true that the Prime Minister got a lot of financial support from white farmers in Zimbabwe, who hoped that he would get into government and prove more level-headed and understanding than Mugabe, letting them continue unmolested on their farms.

Mugabe was determined to ensure that this did not happen. That is still his position. Which is why the police do nothing. Just over a month ago, another farming family in the same Province, the Campbell/Freeth family, who had resisted heavily being evicted, eventually had their farmhouse burned down, together with all the property that was in it.

Tsvangirai himself has become very silent on the issue of the continuing farm invasions, wary of ruffling the feathers of the military establishment in Zimbabwe, who remain implacably opposed to the MDC-T president and Zimbabwean Prime Minister.

The army consider land reform their very own pet project, saying that they fought for the land and will not allow anyone to block the redistribution of the same to "the people". Tsvangirai is keenly aware of this, which is why he has recently proposed that the army leadership be diluted by the injection of younger leaders who did not fight in the liberation war. The object for him is to get people in the army who are not tied with an umbilical cord to the liberation struggle and who would not have a problem saluting and respecting a Prime Minister with a substantial support base amongst the white farmers of Zimbabwe.

But, as long as Mugabe is in the driving seat, nothing will come of this. And military establishment will make sure that they keep Mugabe in power and in office until he breathes his last. At which point they will cast around for someone else from the liberation war to fall behind and continue business as usual.


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