|Abducted farmer escapes death|
12/12/00 7:46:29 AM (GMT +2)
LANCE Kennedy, the
Nyabira farmer abducted from Sigaro Farm on Wednesday last week, and his
parents, narrowly escaped death when unidentified gunmen shot at their truck
along the Old Mazowe Road in Marlborough last Thursday night.
The gunmen allegedly shot
at Kennedy's truck as he was returning home from picking up his father, Joe, at
the Harare International Airport.
Joe said: "We turned two kilometres into Selby Road. A car which was following us flashed its lights and we thought the driver wanted to overtake, so our son pulled off to the left side of the road.
"The car, a maroon Mazda 626 - came to our side and one of the three men in the car stuck his head out through the window.
"My son, sensing danger, made a U-turn and the maroon car did the same.
After about a kilometre, we sustained one bullet on the rear of out truck," Kennedy said.
"It was followed by another bullet. The vehicle was moving faster and my son was maintaining our position by swerving from side to side all the way to the Westgate roundabout until we got to the police station and the car disappeared into a side road."
Kennedy is the managing director of Sigaro, Parklands Farm and the National Tested Seeds, one of the leading producers of horticultural seed in Southern Africa.
Attempts by the police to track the car were futile. "I must say, however, the police were incredibly helpful," Kennedy said.
Police spokesperson, Inspector Tendai Nembire said on Friday she was not aware of the incident.
Kennedy said it was not clear whether or not the shooting was linked to his son's abduction.
"I can't say yes or no because we don't know whose vehicle it was."
Lance Kennedy was abducted and forced to drive to State House by war veterans following an argument over a piece of land at Sigaro Farm.
The war veterans said they wanted President Mugabe to resolve the dispute.
They were allegedly turned back by the police after waiting at the entrance to State House for nearly two hours, without seeing the President.
|Lawyers deplore repeated attacks on the judiciary|
12/12/00 7:44:27 AM (GMT +2)
THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights (ZLHR) has deplored repeated attacks on the Judiciary by government
officials, war veterans and activists of the ruling Zanu PF.
They want the Law Society
of Zimbabwe to discipline lawyers who collaborate in the campaign and try to
justify the government's repeated breach of the rule of law.
In a statement to mark International Human Rights Day, the lawyers called on all lawyers to defend the Judiciary and press the government to obey court orders.
International Human Rights Day is commemorated worldwide on 10 December.
On Friday, about 30 Harare-based lawyers marched through the city centre to commemorate the occasion.
Tawanda Hondoma, the ZLHR spokesperson, said: "We are concerned about the human rights situation and the rule of law in Zimbabwe. We are taking a stand against dictatorship and all we want is a society run according to the rule of law."
The calls come at a time when the government seems to be condoning lawlessness on the commercial farms in defiance of a Supreme Court order to stop the government's fast-track land reform programme.
The Judiciary has also been attacked by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters.
Last week, Patrick Chinamasa, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, attacked Supreme Court judges for serving what he described as the interests of white commercial farmers. War veterans have given the judges an ultimatum to resign.
|Concession farm workers released|
12/12/00 7:48:55 AM (GMT +2)
ABOUT 200 farm workers
at Duncombe Farm in the Concession area of Mashonaland Central province, held
hostage at the farmhouse by Zanu PF supporters and war veterans, were released
Malcolm Vowles, the
Commercial Farmers Union spokesman said: "We have reports that the workers were
released but they are not allowed to do any farming activities."
The officer commanding Bindura district, Chief Superintend Lawrence Manamike said: "The information I received from the officer-in-charge of Concession Police Station is that the situation is now calm. I do not know whether the war veterans are still on the farm or not."
The invaders indiscriminately slashed a 10-hectare tobacco field and brought to a halt all farming activities.
In its national weekly report for last week, the CFU reported there has been an increase in the number of invaders planting their crops on top of other crops.
The tractors, though, are quiet. The fields are empty of workers. Farm owner Robin Marshall is sipping coffee on his back porch and anxiously watching clouds drift across the wide African sky, like grains of sand through an hourglass. Each is a reminder that precious days are slipping away before the first rains fall this month.
If he tries to put one seed in the ground, he will be beaten up, maybe killed, he fears.
That's the threat from the several dozen squatters who invaded his farm this month with the government's backing.
On Nov. 4, a caravan of more than 50 trucks and cars wound its way up the gravel road to his front gate. Veterans of Zimbabwe's long war for independence of the 1970s, peasants, and government officials danced, sang, chanted and then held a brief ceremony to declare that Marshall's land was no longer his.
They offered no title deed. No court decision. No paperwork. It was more a case of mob rule, Marshall says.
"The law doesn't seem to mean an awful lot at the moment," Marshall says wryly.
Law or no, farm invasions like this are the centerpiece of President Robert Mugabe's often violent effort to correct the racial imbalance of land ownership in the country of 12 million.
It is a program pushing the country closer to disaster by undermining the nation's agriculture industry, the backbone of its already weak economy. Hundreds of commercial farmers find themselves unable to plant their crops and wonder what the future holds.
Land reform has been an emotional issue in Zimbabwe since the black majority overthrew white minority rule in 1980, after more than a decade of fighting.
During colonial times, white settlers who came to what was then called Rhodesia to seek their fortunes in agriculture and mining forced blacks off ancestral lands.
Today, whites make up less than 1 percent of the population, but they own about one-third of the nation's best farmland. About 4,500 white landowners farm about 28 million acres, while 1 million black peasant farmers share 40 million acres.
Mugabe intends to resettle about 12.5 million acres owned by white farmers with some 500,000 war veterans and peasants by the middle of next year. So far, more than 2000 farms have been resettled and staked out with no compensation to the owners.
In November, Zimbabwe's Supreme Court declared the land invasions illegal, but Mugabe's government has ignored orders to remove the occupiers from the land.
Although Mugabe insists he is trying to correct the wrongs of Zimbabwe's colonial past, opponents say the land reform program is Mugabe's desperate bid to stay in power as his popularity wanes and his country unravels.
About half of the nation's working population is unemployed, inflation has soared to 60 percent, fuel and power shortages are commonplace and families are struggling to feed themselves.
When his one-party government faced its first serious opposition in parliamentary elections this year, Mugabe tried to ignite racial division by urging his people to reclaim the land from the white farmers and for whites to pack their bags and head to Britain.
The strategy, opponents say, was to strike a blow at the white farmers who were supporting the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change.
Mugabe's land reform program "has nothing to do with maintaining the land. It has do with maintaining power," says Mike Auret, an opposition party leader.
War veterans and Mugabe supporters invaded 1,000 farms in the months leading up to the elections in June. Five white farmers were killed. The opposition movement then won a third of the seats in Parliament, a defeat for Mugabe's one-party government.
Marshall's farm was one of those taken over in April. About 300 people, who said they were veterans of Zimbabwe's war of independence, overran his property, built a bonfire in his back yard and spent several days banging on drums until Marshall agreed to leave.
Marshall moved to a neighbor's house. He waited three months, until after the election, when most of the veterans drifted away. Then he returned with armed guards.
The aim the land reform in Zimbabwe has been to develop a new class of independent black commercial farmers. But the land issue has been more political than economic.
Britain, the former colonial power, has put up $70 million to redistribute the land on a willing seller/willing buyer basis. Mugabe, however, has been accused of using the money to hand out land to political cronies and business people - not the peasant farmers.
At an international conference on land reform in Zimbabwe held in 1998, donors agreed to support legal, gradual land reform that would target the landless blacks. But Mugabe never acted on the offer.
Now Mugabe is trying to accomplish in a matter of months what he has failed to do during 20 years in office, critics say.
Under Mugabe's program, farmers will be allowed to care for the crops they have already planted. For Marshall, who planted 10 percent of his seed maize crops, that means that 90 percent of his land will be turned over to settlers. He will receive no compensation for his land, only money for the improvements on the land such as his house, barn and storage facilities.
As each day passes, Marshall says he is debating whether to ignore the threats of his occupiers and continue planting. "I think it might be worth the risk," he says, noting that all his savings are invested in his farm. Without it, he'll be destitute.
His land was invaded despite the fact that it met none of the criteria for land acquisition set by the state. And though he says he agrees that a gradual, legal land reform program is needed, he does not like to be lumped with white colonial farmers.
Marshall, whose father moved to Rhodesia in 1947, was born and raised in Zimbabwe but spent much of his life working as a farm manager saving to buy his own land. In 1990, he bought his farm with the government's blessing.
"We didn't steal the land from anyone. We paid the market price," he says.
Across the road from Marshall's farm, a group of about 20 war veterans and Mugabe supporters has been camped out at the local school. Some have been living there since the first farm invasion in April. Others arrived this month. They sleep in the classrooms at night and clear out during the day to allow classes to continue.
On a recent afternoon, the supporters sat on the school grounds by a fire keeping a watchful eye on Marshall's farm. The group refused to discuss the occupation with Marshall or with visitors. When a visitor asked to speak with them, a middle-aged woman reached for a steel pole and said she would not answer any questions.
The government defends its approach as being one of the country's own devising rather than a plan imposed by international agencies. It also asserts that most accounts of violence have been exaggerated by white farmers, and that police have matters well in hand.
"If war veterans do interfere with operations on a farm, the farm must lodge a complaint," says George Charamba, one of Mugabe's spokesmen.
Marshall said he has called the police and they have offered little protection. They had advised him to avoid confrontations with the land occupiers at the risk of otherwise being killed.
Gerry Davison, a spokesman for the Commercial Farmers Union, which represents about 4,500 farms, says he handles dozens of reports of farm violence and threats from occupiers each week.
On a recent morning he received a call from a farmer who was stopped from plowing. The farm invaders forced the farmer to stay on the tractor and then piled sticks and dry grass beneath his tractor and threatened to set it on fire if he did not agree to stop plowing.
Although the recent Supreme Court ruling declaring the invasions illegal was a major victory for the farmers, it is not expected to change much, Davison said:
"All we can do is stay within the law, whatever defense it offers. As long as the government is operating outside the law, the victories we win in court are hollow."
A Very Bad Year For Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)
December 10, 2000
Cornelius Nduna and Paul Nyakazeya
As the curtain comes down on the year 2000, there are few doubts that the year will go down as one of the most eventful in many years. Notable events range from natural disasters in the form of Cyclone Eline to man-made disasters, such as Zimbabwe's bloodiest ever parliamentary election campaign trail which left 34 people dead.
The year will leave an imprint on the minds of many-and for the wrong reasons. The year can be summed up as one dominated by the rejection of a proposed draft national constitution-by farm invasions, political violence, foreign currency shortages, the onset of Cyclone Eline, high inflation, soaring prices, fuel shortages and a rise in the country's global corruption rating.
The Zimbabwean econo-my continued its downward slide with inflation reaching an all time high of 70%.
Interest rates and the fall of the local dollar against major currencies combined with other factors to drive the prices of basic commodities through the roof.
Consumer anger at the harsh economic conditions manifested itself in riots against food price hikes in some urban centres, the latest of which occurred in Harare and Redcliff last month.
These spontaneous riots lasted for three days and were characterised by road blockades, looting of bread vans and the burning of commuter omnibuses. Government reacted by using maximum force to crush riots which many had predicted would last several weeks.
Fuel shortages continued to be the order of the day, leading to the loss of many working hours as many motorists joined snake-like queues, several kilometres long, around those filling stations which happened to have stocks of the now rare commodity.
The increase in the price of diesel and petrol by more than 70%, this year alone, added to the already gloomy picture of Zimbabwe's economic outlook. So dismal was the country's economic performance that a few months into the year and analysts had given up on their forecast of an economic growth of 3,2% and instead predicted a negative growth rate.
Said a respected economic analysts from a local stockbroking firm: "The forecast economic growth rate of 3,2% has now become an impossible target and economists have predicted a contraction in the gross domestic product (GDP) and growth rate of between 5 to 10%."
Fiscal indiscipline continued unabated, pushing the budget deficit to about 20% and government's domestic borrowing capacity shot up to above $100 billion. Economist John Robertson summed up the effects of these developments: "It is the ordinary man on the street who suffers the most. The government should concentrate on more serious issues to avoid a year like this one."
On the political front, Zanu PF received its biggest drubbing ever in a parliamentary election when in June, it lost to the opposition MDC, 57 of the 120 contestable seats.
Political violence during the run-up to the elections dented a process that would otherwise have been hailed by the international community as 'free and fair'. Thirty-four people were left dead in a trail of election violence. Disaster struck again on 9 July, when 13 people were trampled to death at the National Sports Stadium following the unleashing of tear gas on thousands of soccer fans who had come to watch a World Cup qualifier against South Africa. Police said they were trying to contain a riotous situation, but many dismissed this as a lame excuse intended to cover up a vengeful act against a crowd that had openly shown its support for the opposition MDC.
The dismal performance by the national Olympic team was symptomatic of the deep-seated problems besetting this country, once regarded as "the jewel of Africa".
The farming sector, undoubtedly the backbone of the country's agroindustrial economy, entered its darkest period this year with the onset of farm invasions by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters.
Ahead of the June parliamentary elections, government endorsed the invasions of farms by war veterans and embarked on an ambitious land reform programme to resettle 150 000 families on five million hectares of commercial farm land. The programme, however, earned Zimbabwe the wrath of its many international benefactors, most of whom withdrew assistance to the country, citing the lawlessness characterised by the farm invasions.
As the year closes, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) is predicting massive food shortages in the coming year, due to the invasion of many productive farms. The Bankers Association of Zimbabwe compounded the situation by its bombshell announcement that it would not fund cropping on about 3 000 farms targeted for compulsory acquisition.
MDC spokesman, Learnmore Jongwe, admitted that this year was one of the most difficult ones for Zimbabwe.
"Things got bad as the year went by. It is a sad thing that some people are destroying this beautiful country. There is every need to make sure that the ordinary man does not continue to suffer.
"It is also high time that some people admitted that they have failed and leave before things get any worse." Finance and economic development minister, Simba Makoni's national budget coming as it did towards year's end did no more than leave many pondering a future Zimbabwe reduced to a nation of cyclists and drinkers. The notable reductions in customs and excise duty were for bicycles and beer respectively.