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Burning  next year's food
Date: 21 August 2000 05:44

Dear Family and friends
Well first it was 804 farms that the government wanted, then it was another 2237 and this week, in what seems like yet another fit of infantile rage, the government announced a further 229 fams to be taken. So now the total number of farms to be taken from productive farmers and given to "landless peasants" stands at 3270. On Tuesday the Minister of Home Affairs announced that all war vets were to be moved off all unlisted properties and in a fit of temper, or spite, or perhaps to just demonstrate who really is the boss, the next day the President announced the need to take a further 229 farms.
Now it's just got really silly and to make matters worse, no one yet knows which the affected farms are but with only 4000 commercial farms in Zim, there are only 730 farms which are going to be spared. Our leaders in the Commercial Farmers Union have gone deafeningly quiet, have not offered any of us any advice, have not managed to get hold of these huge lists of farms to be taken and in fact have said absolutely nothing. So those farmers who were still clinging on to the CFU have realised at last, as we did four months ago, that this is now a case of every man for himself. Perhaps the really big players in agriculture in Zim will survive but for the rest of us, the tumble has started.

Our little neighbourhood has collapsed this last fortnight. First a neighbour left, just walked out; then Ian and I made the decision to be off by mid October, then next door decided likewise, then the thriving little butchery over the road, then a farm 4 kms from here. The neighbourhood has crumbled and with it has gone one's tobacco and maize, another's beef and eggs, our beef ,lamb, milk and timber, the butchery's meat, another's milk, cheese, butter, chickens and maize. I can't say what's happening in other areas but everyone we know of is at the point of closing down. Perhaps the worst thing of all is all our workers. Ian and I only have seven people working for us but they all have wives and children and unemployed dependants so probably at least 40 people depended on us for survival.
When I called them together on Tuesday to give them all a month's notice, I broke down openly in front of them all, crying for our loss, for their loss, for their children destined to stay in dusty homelands, never to go to school, dressed in rags as their parents try and scratch out a living.
One by one I asked them where they would go, what they would do. All have the same answer - we don't know. These men are all farm workers, their chances of getting jobs in agriculture now are absolutely zero. Even worse, their chances of being given land in the resettlement of "landless peasants" is equally zero. Every day this week we've seen TV coverage of people being given plots on farms. 220 workers and their families (possibly up to 700 people) thrown out, 52 people resettled in their place. What kind of madness is this?

I want to get up on my soap box and scream and shout at this nonsensical "master plan" but know that no one's listening any more. With the death of our neighbourhood goes the vast sums we pay in rates to the rural council every year - hence the upkeep of the roads. With our demise goes the huge fortunes we pay to the telephone and electricity companies; the endless levies and charges we pay to the employment council, the standards development fund, the agricultural research boards, the NSSA workers pensions and insurance funds etc etc etc. For Ian and I alone this amounts to a figure in excess of $100 000 a year. And what about the $1.5 million we spend every year on stock feed?
If someone can tell me, categorically, that these amounts will be realised from the "landless peasants" that are resettled on our farm, then I'm OK with it as I know the economy and country survives but, as we say in our house, pigs might fly.

"Mealie madness" has already begun to take hold on our little farm. All week people have been wandering in and out, cutting down trees and erecting their huts. On Wednesday in open view in broad daylight, six men with a pack of hunting dogs marauded through our lands, through my paddock full of sheep, rousting out the last guinea fowl, steenbok, hares that have managed to hide until now. They are cocky, arrogant people who should be locked up but know no-one dares. They finished their little hunt by parading with yapping, half starved dogs, right along the security fence that surrounds our house, calling out, shouting and laughing as I stood helplessly watching. On Thursday a gang of six men came to the gate of the house, demanding Ian accompany them to the field where the latest hut has been built. Demanding to know who we have allowed to build a house there !
They are in charge, they said, who is building there without their permission.
I wouldn't give Ian the keys to let him out the gate and the six men laughed in my face.
"You think we're going to ambush him, beat him" they jeered.
I did, I do.
On Friday afternoon a great cloud of yellow smoke went up down in the fields. They have started burning the fields in preparation for planting. The fire got away from they though and a man ran out from our fields into the road, waved down a neighbour and begged that he called the fire brigade. We didn't, we watched our farm, their farm, burning - they want to be farmers so let them get on with it. An awful thing to say, to think, but enough is enough. They are burning the fields that would have fed 200 cattle for eight months, burning next year's food. When will they see that this is not a cropping farm?

On a personal note, Ian and I have found a beautiful little house in Marondera. The owners, also farmers, are emigrating to UK and want to sell for 1.6 million but we have managed to persuade them to rent it to us for a while with an option to buy. Basically until and unless we can get something, anything, for our farm, we can't even afford to buy a plastic shack. We are aiming to be off the farm by the first week in October and can only hope that by then the gvt have either taken our farm or we've found someone to rent or buy it. (Pigs might fly !)

Until next week,

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BBC: Saturday, 26 August, 2000, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK

Fuel crisis hits airport

By Grant Ferrett in Harare

Zimbabwe's long-running fuel shortage has worsened dramatically, with the country's main airport in the capital Harare running out of aviation fuel.

International airlines have been forced to divert their aircraft.

The country's major fuel supplier temporarily halted deliveries last week after Zimbabwe failed to make payments because of a serious shortage of hard currency.

The controversy surrounding the government's land reform programme has exacerbated the economic crisis.

Motorists in Zimbabwe have become used to going without fuel since shortages first developed last December.

An almost complete absence of foreign currency means the country simply does not have the money to pay for essential imports, such as fuel and electricity.

Until now, though, supplies of jet aviation fuel have been maintained.

But in the past week, flights from South Africa, Egypt and Britain have all been diverted in search of fuel.

The British Airways flight from Harare to London is now stopping off in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in order to refuel.

Other airlines, including the Australian company, Qantas, had already announced that they were planning to stop flying to Harare because of a fall in passenger numbers.

Zimbabwe's tourism industry, which had been the fastest growing part of the economy, has slammed into reverse because of the economic and political crisis of the past six months.

Hotel bookings are down about 80% on last year.

The picture is unlikely to improve significantly until the International Monetary Fund resumes financial assistance to Zimbabwe.

Given President Mugabe's hostile rhetoric and his government's continuing refusal to enforce the rule of law, there is no sign of that happening in the near future.

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