|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Aug 21 2002
The Western Mail
WHITE farmers, ordered by Zimbabwe's courts to leave their land by the end of the day, loaded their belongings onto trucks and pulled out by nightfall.
One of their leaders described the sad exit as "ethnic cleansing".
Farm vehicles carrying household goods and furniture headed toward towns to obey orders to stay away from contested farms, the Commercial Farmers Union said.
Nearly 200 white farmers have been arrested since Thursday for defying government eviction orders. Most were freed on bail and told by district courts to pack up and leave or face arrest again, said union officials.
Some were staying with friends or relatives. Others booked into hotels.
Colin Cloete, head of the union representing 4,000 white farmers, was among those arrested who appeared in court on Monday.
Cloete, a moderate who led union attempts to negotiate with the government, was ordered to leave his land in the Selous tobacco and corn district, about 45 miles west of Harare, said district union official Ben Freeth.
Freeth said at least 21 farmers in his district including Cloete were released on bail on Monday on condition they vacated their homesteads.
"It is a desperately sad situation. People are loading up their assets to move out. Many have nowhere to go and are looking for places to stay," he said.
Of 96 white-owned farms in the district, three were still operating yesterday, Freeth said. Most of the displaced farmers owned a single property but were forced off their land despite promises by the government none would be deprived of their only homes or livelihood.
These risk turning a drought into a famine affecting half the population - six million people - said Andrew Natsios, head of the United States Agency for International Aid (USAid).
It is madness to arrest commercial farmers in the middle of a drought
Andrew Natsios, head of USAID
This brings total US food assistance to the region to almost 500,000 tons - half of the total requested by the World Food Programme.
Mr Natsios also said that the row over genetically modified (GM) food aid for Zimbabwe has been solved.
The announcement of the donation follows a warning by the head of the international children's fund, Unicef, that the world was ignoring the food crisis in southern Africa.
At least 13 million people are facing the threat of famine in the region as a result of drought, crop failures and political instability.
The six worst-affected countries are Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's mechanised and irrigated white-owned farms were an "insurance policy" for Zimbabwe and the rest of southern Africa, Mr Natsios said.
Despite the drought, reservoirs on these farms were full of water, which was not being used, he said.
But he blamed several different policies for worsening the food crisis:
Mr Natsios said that people close to the president were benefiting from the redistribution of land, "so they're not exactly turning these over to poor people".
"It is madness to arrest commercial farmers in the middle of a drought, when they could grow food to save people from starvation," he said.
Criticism of Zimbabwe's policies also came from the US State Department's African affairs chief, Walter Kansteiner.
He said that the United States did not recognize him as the democratically legitimate leader of Zimbabwe and that the US needed to work with Zimbabwe's neighbours to encourage "a more democratic outcome" in the country.
Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique are all concerned that some GM food aid could be planted, contaminating their own crops.
But Mr Natsios said that 17,000 tonnes of US GM maize would be exchanged for a similar amount of Zimbabwean maize.
Zimbabwe would then mill the GM maize at its own expense, to ensure that none of the maize was planted.
From BBC News, 19 August
Transcript of a programme shown on BBC2 Newsnight
Zimbabwe is now in crisis with millions starving as a result of Robert Mugabe's land grab policy. Almost two hundred white farmers have been arrested for defying Mugabe's instruction to stop farming. And where farmers have fled or been forced out war veterans and Zanu PF supporters have let fertile fields and crops rot, planting nothing and creating a wasteland. Foreign and local journalists continue to be harassed and even jailed for reporting what's going on and the BBC is banned from the country. However our reporter Sue Lloyd Roberts entered the country posing as a tourist and armed with a small video camera.
Sue Lloyd-Roberts: Zimbabwe can boast some of the most magnificent sights in Africa, but there are few tourists here today to admire them. News of machete-wielding war veterans attacking whites is having its effect, and the wildlife go about their business unnoticed. Because the BBC is banned from the country, I entered as a tourist, in itself a challenge given that the tourist is about as rare today as the white rhino. I set off to hunt for the white farmer, who was also becoming an endangered species in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. I started in Mashonaland near Harare, the area traditionally most loyal to the president and which has seen the biggest exodus of farmers. This after-church gathering was once attended by some 100 farming families. Today only four are left to exchange the latest tales of police harassment, like being arrested for using a video camera on his own farm.
Bill Pace: He did confiscate the tape. I was grilled for three hours with a CIO bloke breathing down my neck, who wanted to confiscate my British passport. They have told me that if there is anything untoward or if they think there is anything nasty in there, I will be arrested for sedition and conspiracy. I asked one of the farmers to show me an occupied farm.
Lloyd-Roberts: I accompanied one farmer back to her farm where she’s packing up.
Kathy Kirkman: I feel so sorry for most of the settlers here because they seem to be so conned and they have been told such a different story as to what is actually happening.
Lloyd-Roberts: Kathy took me to her farm, where the settlers - they have been told they mustn't use the word "squatter" - moved in two years ago. She says they don't stand a chance of making a going concern of it. They have cut down trees, killed the cattle, planted nothing, and as one of them approaches us with a knife in his right hand, don't make friendly neighbours.
Kirkman: We used to grow maize and wheat. Please put the camera down quickly.
Lloyd-Roberts: I hid the camera as the people who now want to take Kathy's house came up to talk to her.
Kirkman: They told me if I was still in our house by Friday, I would be made a martyr. I said what did that mean and they laughed.
Lloyd-Roberts: Kathy and her husband bought the farm they have now been told they have to vacate after independence in 1980, and only after checking with the government that it had no interest in the property.
Kirkman: All the family photos are out.
Lloyd-Roberts: Their plan had been to move the valuables out and live in town until the current troubles pass. But now that she has been physically threatened, and with the thought of the children returning to the house, she is not so sure.
Kirkman: It is difficult to see what you work for, for 10, 13 odd years just possibly disappearing in front of your eyes. It is hard to see all that going. But we still hope to be here. I still feel that we will come back and we will pick up the pieces and carry on.
Lloyd-Roberts: Is that realistic?
Kirkman: Maybe not.
Lloyd-Roberts: The white farmers of Zimbabwe may face an uncertain future but at least they have escape routes. If their situation becomes untenable many have told me they have families and friends standing by in the cities and the country who are prepared to take them in. Others don't like to admit it publicly but say they are planning to farm in neighbouring Mozambique or South Africa or maybe as far afield as New Zealand. But faced with famine and drought the majority of blacks in this country have nowhere to go. In the village of some 200 people in the Midlands, between Matabeleland and Mashonaland, they have just 20 kilos of maize, the staple diet here, left to last until the next harvest next June. This lady says her family's supply will probably last another week. She prepares the one meal of the day - cow's intestine and a tomato. The problem is, it is to feed a family of 16. Her father, Sema Deya, like thousands of black workers, was laid off from a commercial farm. Now he says the family will starve.
Sema Deya translation: I have two cows left. And then nothing. Life was good when I had the wage. It was not a good idea to invade the white farms.
Lloyd-Roberts: During the election earlier this year, the village made the mistake of supporting the opposition party, the MDC – the Movement for Democratic Change. Now they are being punished. This family is fairly typical. The father has died of AIDS and the family is now living on wild nuts. Food analysts say Zimbabwe only has enough food left to feed half its 13 million people. The government is making sure that the opposition starves first. At a human rights organisation in the neighbouring town, I am shown the names of over 1,000 heads of families in one region who have been deliberately denied food. One of them explains why.
Ezra Ncube translation: When the food truck arrives in a village, everyone chants Zanu PF slogans like, "Long live Robert Mugabe", "Down with the whites", "Down with the MDC." Anyone who does not have Zanu PF membership card is accused of being in support of whites and Tony Blair and told to get their food from Number Ten Downing Street in London. Most people don't even know where London is. I tell you that people are starving and dying.
Lloyd-Roberts: The politicisation of food extends to the millions of pounds of aid now entering the country. The British are offering £30 million a year to the government to help buy food. Zimbabweans fear that that money will go straight to Robert Mugabe's supporters. Food shortages and fear are now stalking the country. I was advised to take pictures of the queues you see everywhere through tinted car windows. You can be arrested for recording reality in Zimbabwe today. In the supermarkets there are queues but no bread, in this the country that was once the bread basket of southern Africa. For the whites, the absurdity is that the land feeding the country is being handed to those who are ill equipped for the job.
Peter Rosenfels: Many of the settlers don't actually live here. They have jobs in the city and come out for weekends.
Lloyd-Roberts: Peter Rosenfels' farm is some 300 miles to the west in Matabeleland where nearly every white farm has been invaded. Hundreds of acres lie fallow as he has been prevented by the settlers from planting.
Rosenfels: Zimbabwe is the most amazing paradox at the moment. The country's government ministers are getting around the world begging for food. At the same time they have criminalised those who are growing the food.
Lloyd-Roberts: His family has been here since his great great grandfather, Omagh, crossed the Limpopo in 1894.
Rosenfels: We have been declared enemies of the state. We have been told we must give up everything we have owned and leave. To where? I am a Zimbabwean and I have nowhere else to go.
Lloyd-Roberts: He has laid off 30 workers and the only thing making any profit is his small pickling business. What do the remaining workers think of the settlers?
Female worker translation: They don't help the country and they are not productive. They just sit around doing nothing.
Lloyd-Roberts: Are you saying that just because the boss is listening?
Female worker translation: I am speaking the truth.
Lloyd-Roberts: In all, some 3,000 white farmers and half a million of their black workers could be displaced, but could this have been avoided if the white farmers had done more 20 years ago at independence to bring the blacks into commercial farming?
Mac Crawford: Yes, there were injustices. Yes, there were imbalances in the past. But that should have been corrected and done properly. Asking me to stand up and defend or asking me to correct it is wrong. I have my own life and my family's and I want to live a normal life.
Lloyd Roberts: But those left in Zimbabwe are now well aware that life can never be normal again.
Rosenfels: The day to day life is very tense. Early morning and early evening there is a roll call duty around the district. Everyone calls in on radio to make sure everyone else is fine and we carry on our lives like that.
Female voice over radio: Everything is quiet this side, thanks very much.
Rosenfels: Cheers, out. It is similar to the way it was during the height of the bush war and we have gone straight back to that type of life where you are living right on the edge.
Lloyd-Roberts: For the whites it is the end of a lifestyle. Most blacks live in fear of their lives. These are the feet of a person who had burning logs held to his feet... Another human rights organisation showed me recent pictures of MDC supporters tortured and killed for the wrong political affiliation. There is no-one these people can appeal to. The police act as agents of a brutal government.
Ncube: I know I am going to die but this country should change. I know my children are suffering at the present moment. If the police arrive at my home my children run away screaming, saying "They are coming to kill my father." You can't live in a country like that. It is very difficult.
Lloyd-Roberts: Many blacks say it is a lottery as to what will finish them off first. Mugabe's henchmen, AIDS or starvation.
Comment from ZWNEWS, 21 August
Beware the U-turn
Despite the arrests of hundreds of whites in Zimbabwe for daring to continue trying to grow crops or even occupy family homes, no one should be surprised if a sudden apparent U-turn is announced by Robert Mugabe's regime on the issue of whites and land. It would be a gross misreading to interpret this as "readiness to be conciliatory,'' or a triumph for "quiet diplomacy by African brothers,'' or surrender in the face of famine and diplomatic pressure. The fact is that though Mugabe was forced to retreat from imposing a one-party state on Zimbabwe in the 1980s, he has never given up the idea of removing everyone's autonomy by having their family's livelihood depend on the goodwill of himself and his party. There are already the first signs of a coming announcement that suitably qualified whites will be permitted leases alongside black agricultural graduates for farms that comply with maximum specified holding sizes in the various agricultural regions. Sizes range from a few hundred hectares in the better-watered Region One (near Harare) to over a thousand in the arid west that is generally thought suitable only for extensive ranching. It will be announced that, as a refutation of detractors who say he was out to ethnically cleanse whites from Zimbabwe, whites will be able to obtain leases on exactly the same terms as black citizens. What could be more reasonable?
As Mugabe put it at the annual Heroes Day ceremonies on August 12: "We shall always welcome and respect loyal citizens or residents who co-operate with government and respect our people, policies and decisions.'' "All genuine and well meaning white farmers, who wish to pursue a farming career as loyal citizens of this country, need not go without land," he added. Only those who want to "own land for Britain" who would have to pack and go. For them "the game is up.'' The key to understanding what Mugabe and his Zanu PF party are up to - for blacks as well as whites - is the word "leases.'' The ruling party moguls, security force chiefs and 54 000 others getting so-called "model 2" holdings, capable of being farmed on an individual basis, will not be granted the freehold their 5 000 white predecessors had (The first 2 900 seizure and eviction orders fell due on August 9 and scores of whites were detained over the past weekend for defying them, although their constitutional validity is heavily in doubt). At the first sign of political disloyalty the "new farmers", as Mugabe calls them, will be liable to instant eviction.
"Owning land for Britain" means supporting civil society, or talking to human rights groups critical of Zanu PF, or voting for an opposition party. Mugabe showered praise on his ruling party youth militia, now commonly known here as the "Green Bombers". Their fraudulent claims to be ex-guerrillas from the 1972-80 bush war in Rhodesia were exposed in the early days of farm invasions, after the February 2000 constitutional referendum. It was the crushing defeat of Zanu PF in that referendum that caused Mugabe to unleash country-wide violence under cover of agitation for land reform in order to ensure a semblance of victory in the June 2000 parliamentary elections and the March 2002 presidential poll. This campaign of terror Mugabe calls the "Third Chimurenga" or civil war. "The Third Chimurenga has yielded a New War Veteran: these young men and women who slugged it out on the farms in support of their elder veterans…We are not apologetic about our national youth service programme…it is mandatory, it is national, it links to the politics and defence of our country…It seeks to and will build a new national cadre who is self respecting, adequate, assertive and patriotic and thus does not apologise for being black,'' he said. Mugabe sees his enemy as "White-ism" – the route ``through which the forces of imperialism and neo-colonialism enter.''
Mugabe either does not know that it is impossible to run commercially viable farms on the lord-and-vassal system he is imposing, or feels that the economic costs are more than offset by the blessings of "political stability" (i.e. he gets to stay in power until he can hand over to his children). Commercial agriculture here only prospered by being keenly responsive to world market trends. In the 20 years since the state monopoly, the Minerals Marketing Corporation, was created, millions have been lost through the tardiness of bureaucrats in responding to potential orders – they are paid for loyalty, not for initiative. Doris Lessing, a founder member of Rhodesia's long defunct Communist party, concedes that her father's Kermanshah Farm at Banket (one of the 2 900 now being seized, although her family sold up 60 years ago) was hopelessly sub-economic at 400 hectares - and those were the days of ox-ploughing. To maintain competitive edge in an age of mechanisation, farmers need security of tenure, title deeds that can be lodged with financial institutions against loans. A viable farm here usually needs a proportion of irrigable land (with a sufficient catchment area and its own dam) that can be worked in conjunction with "dry land" crops and grazing.
Agronomists suspect many of the moguls getting a few hundred hectares have no intention of working them commercially. They will be "cellphone farmers" developing retirement homes and weekend retreats where they can run "bush" cattle with 1 to 2 percent annual offtake. Unlike their urban counterparts who vote for Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, many of the moguls are polygamists, and rural holdings are useful dumping grounds for superannuated wives. Without skills or capital, such women scratch a living with no hope of a profit. Mugabe's "land reform" does not just mean bringing a few remaining whites to heel economically or ideologically. It means a defeat for women's rights and children's rights, a return to witch hunts and intellectual sterility in all aspects of national life. All should think hard if they hear the news of a "breakthrough.''