Life Is Sweet As ZANU PF Thugs And Soldiers Steal Sugar

Harare, Zimbabwe, 21 September 2009

Out in Chiredzi, a disturbing thing is happening.

Most of the farms in the area, which was established by Ian Smith's Rhodesian Government as the base for Zimbabwe's massive sugar-cane industry, have already been acquired by the government and cut up into pieces to be given to black farmers.

Now, these same black farmers are waking up everyday to find their sugar cane fields harvested and the cane is being sold openly to the Sugar factories based in the area.

It is understood that a Colonel, a Lieutenant in the Zimbabwe army, together with ZANU PF officials in the area and some as far away as Masvingo, are behind most of these thefts.

The reason is that, apart from maintenance, once you have sugar cane, you do not have to do much planting, buying of seeds or even ploughing. You just make sure that your field is kept in good order.

These people who are stealing the sugar have been given farms elsewhere, but those farms require some work, as in - farming. Maize, tobacco, soya and all the other crops can only be grown by dedicated farmers who till the land, buy the seed and fertiliser, plant and see to the weeding of the fields.

But that is too much work for these people.

The farms that they invaded in the first instance, those maize and tobacco farms, already had crops in them, planted and reared by the original owners. The "New Farmers" simply walked in and harvested where they did not sow.

Now, being too lazy to plant their own, they are shifting attention to farms that need minimal attention.

This explains why the Chegutu farmer, Mike Campbell and his son-in-law Ben Freeth are now having their houses burnt down and are being kicked off their farm.

That farm grows fruits such as mango and oranges.

Looking at the orchards, Nathan Shamuyarira, Mugabe's Party Spokesman, thinks these are easy pickings: the trees are established and ready to bear fruit. In fact some continually do so. Shamuyarira thinks that, once he takes over the farm, all he has to do is walk in and start harvesting, without any capital outlay at all.

Of course, we can bet that, should he get his hands on the farm, those trees will be neglected, pests and disease will take root and the mangoes and oranges won't be so sweet anymore.

He will abandon it and look around for another farm where a farmer has done a good job.

This is not about Land Reform. This is about greed.

Which explains why the farmers in Chiredzi, black beneficiaries of the Land Reform Exercise, are now being targeted. There is no excuse for it at all.

But the companies that are buying this sugar cane and making sugar out of it (some of the sugar is to be found in Zambian, Malawian and Mozambican shops), should really be ashamed of themselves because they are destroying sustainability.

Some years back, when the news "politician farmers" invaded flower farms all over Zimbabwe and sought to harvest the flowers on there for sale in Europe, the company with which the original farmers had contracts for the sale of their flowers simply put in the provision that anyone wanting to sell flowers from Zimbabwe had to present the title deeds for the farm on which the flowers were grown.

That quickly put a stop to this thing.

The sugar factories should do something similar, perhaps ask for the offer letter from anyone who is bringing in sugar cane for sale.

Otherwise, we will watch as our agriculture industry fails to take off, with real farmers discourage by the impunity of the politically connected who steal, reaping where they did now sow.


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