The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Morgan Tsvangirai, president of the Movement for Democratic Change, pleads with an armed policeman to escort them after their motorcade allegedly came under attack from ruling party ZANU (PF) supporters. Tsvangarai was on his way to address a pre by-election rally in the Bindura area, 120km north of Harare. (AP Photo)
23/07/2001 13:45  - (SA)
Tsvangirai's car ambushed

Harare - A convoy carrying Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was ambushed on Sunday by supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party, resulting in five people being injured, it was reported on Monday.

Police confirmed the injuries and said shots were fired from one of the vehicles of the pro-democracy Movement for Democratic Change when they were attacked by ruling party supporters. A spokesperson, Wayne Bvudzijena, said an MDC vehicle was destroyed by fire.

Neither Tsvangirai nor any of the senior party officials with him were injured during the attack by about 150 Zanu-PF supporters, although their vehicles were damaged when they were pelted with rocks and came under fire from steel bolts fired from catapaults, reported the independent Daily News, which had a reporter following the convoy.

The incident occurred in the Musana communal area about 100 kilometres north of Harare where Tsvangirai was campaigning ahead of a crucial by-election this weekend in the parliamentary constituency of Bindura, which fell vacant in April this year with the death in a car accident of Zanu-PF warlord general Border Gezi.

The MDC says the attack was part of a campaign of violent intimidation mounted by ruling party militia in the area in the run-up to the by-election where hundreds of people have been assaulted on suspicion of supporting the MDC.

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Down but not out

NOT many people have the quiet determination to sit down and look terror in the eye. And even fewer people can determine right from wrong while an irrational mob screams grotesque abuse at them. The truth is sadder still: many people, far less threatened than Iain Kay, would have acted with far less principle than he did last week. Sadly, many have…

The stupidity of the Kay invasion is truly astounding. Workers were abused, assaulted and robbed, damage was done to the tobacco seedbeds and the Kay family home was invaded by rampaging thugs. The reason for all this has little to do with a desire to own the Kay's farm, which is neither particularly large nor hugely wealthy. It is because Mr Kay is a staunch supporter of the Movement for Democratic Change while his wife, Kerry, does a huge amount of voluntary work with Aids victims and orphans.

These are fundamentally good people, accepted by their entire community - black and white. They live their lives they way Zimbabweans should live their lives, without prejudice, arrogance or greed.

In other words, they're the antithesis of Mr Mugabe's portrayal of white Zimbabwean farmers - and that's a good enough reason to drive them off the land.

Neither hugely wealthy nor powerfully influential, people like the Kays have stood up to tyranny and refused to be pawns in the political maelstrom that Zimbabwe has become. If they have faith in anything, it is in their own strength to stare down the threat they face. It is a serious threat. In less than a month, the family is likely to suffer another, possibly even more threatening invasion. Their first saw Iain Kay savagely beaten and lucky to escape with his life; their last saw people with no legal authority give them 30 days to leave the farm Iain Kay was born on.

Zimbabwe's strength lies in the fact that the people deciding the country's future do not understand that there are hundreds of thousands of people like the Kays. They're not all farmers, but their resolve is the same and their hatred of tyranny burns just as bright.

Instead, there's dialogue and negotiation in the corridors of power while the "small people" suffer sleepless nights of untold terror. Whether those small people are residents of Chitungwiza curling up under the baton blows of the police and military, or people like Iain Kay standing tall to hurl his breakfast condiments in the face of ruling party hoodlums makes little difference. The effect will be the same, because negotiations that do not consider the majority will bear bitter, sterile fruit.

So far ZANU-PF has listed 95% of Zimbabwe's commercial farms. Going against all logic and previously stated conviction, the only farms deemed safe belong to foreign land owners, often fabulously wealthy people with little or no conviction in the country. The ruling party's plan, such as it is, is clear: it is content to see Zambia 1974 unravel this side of the Zambezi, a situation where the large and cash rich estates remain alongside lesser farms owned by the party faithful. The rest, the so-called "little people", can go to hell in a handcart.

Still, having a plan is one thing, implementing it another. Fortunately, Zimbabwe will never become another Zambia and Mr Mugabe will have less success than his former and far less dictatorial counterpart, Dr Kaunda. That's because the little people far outnumber the well-lunched, well-heeled would-be players who're now deciding Zimbabwe's future, though all the deciding in the world will come to naught unless it is universally accepted. And universal acceptance means that it must be popular in Budiriro and Brussels, because those are the places that count.

People like Iain Kay know they have to hang on until next year's presidential election. They know that the Zimbabwean Crisis has nothing to do with their farms, nor much to do with land, but everything to do with a hare brained scheme to cling to power at any cost. It is a political crisis shrouded and hidden by rhetoric - but rhetoric has no substance, whereas courage and tenacity can be measured and will triumph.

Which is not to say that dialogue is a mistake. The only mistake that might be made is that naivety - and possibly greed - might detract from the wishes of the majority of Zimbabweans. Naivety because farmers would be a little silly to think that they can resolve anything without national consensus, and national consensus means that the people of the townships, the opposition, the unions and all civil society must agree with any proposal they make. If they don't agree, then there is no progress because the ruling party no longer enjoys a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the people.

Greed is altogether more worrying, though there's no suggestion yet that it's playing a part. It mustn't, because if a disunited farming community sees large operators dismissing the importance of the average farmer, then all is lost for all time. That, this magazine said at the beginning of this crisis, was the intention of ZANU-PF all along and it must be guarded against rigorously.

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From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 23 July

45 Zim farmers flee, leave crops to perish

Harare – Forty-five commercial farmers in the rich Karoi farming area of Mashonaland West province have abandoned operations as a result of a recent wave of threats by war veterans. Zimbabwe faces an imminent food crisis because war veterans and Zanu-PF supporters have disrupted farm operations since February last year. The war veterans have forced at least 45 commercial farmers in Karoi to cease operations on their farms. Some of the farmers have already fled their farms and are living elsewhere. One of the affected farmers, Headly Lilford of Dixie Farm, said about 48 war veterans descended on his farm a month ago and established a base. They ordered him out, saying they had taken over the farm. Lilford identified the leaders of the war veterans only as Matenga and Munyanyi. The settlers pegged the farm and parcelled out plots among themselves with the assistance of the government’s Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services officials. The district administrator for Karoi, Jasper Munetsi, told the farmers the matter was political and he could not offer any help.

At Dixie Farm, the war veterans on Wednesday pounced on the farmer and held him hostage in a workshop for two hours after accusing him of illegally continuing to work on the land. "They have pegged all the prepared land, where I wanted to plant and that effectively means that I cannot do any more farming now. They have told me to stop all work on the farm," said Lilford. Lilford’s foreman and farm workers have teamed up with the ex-combatants in the land grab. It is alleged that the foreman has refused to hand over the keys to the workshop, while his shopkeeper holds on to the keys to the farm store. At other farms, the war veterans have destroyed tobacco seedlings and other crops, allegedly to force the farmers to leave. Reports say that the invasions have becoming increasingly violent. Tobacco is one of the country’s major foreign currency earners. "We have not been allowed to work on large hectares of crops such as coffee and wheat and, as a result, some of the crops have started wilting, while others are already a complete write-off," said Thomas Humphrey, who has abandoned his farm.

From The Daily News, 23 July

Police inspector says war veterans assaulted villagers

Inspector Ngonidzashe Zvinawauya, the officer-in-charge for crime at Mberengwa police station, on Friday told the High Court war veterans assaulted and forced villagers in Mberengwa to occupy farms in the district in the run-up to last June’s parliamentary election. Zvinawauya was testifying before Justice Ben Hlatshwayo in an election petition in which Mfandaidza Hove of the MDC is challenging the victory of Joram Gumbo, the Zanu PF chief whip, in Mberengwa West.

Zvinawauya, brought to the court by Gumbo, denied knowledge of the political affiliation of the war veterans. He said: "I am aware of people being forced from their homes by ex-combatants to go and invade the farms. People told us they were assaulted and taken to Texas Ranch against their will. We arrested the war veterans in all the cases reported to us," he said. Under cross-examination by Hove’s lawyer, Selby Hwacha, Zvinawauya said the victims did not disclose their political affiliation when they reported the incidents of violence against them. "The political affiliation of people was not part and parcel of what happened, but people were forced by war veterans to occupy the land," he said.

But Hwacha accused Zvinawauya of fearing to testify against Gumbo and Zanu PF by refusing to say the victims of violence in the farms were MDC officials, taken onto the farms and tortured by war veterans led by Wilson Kufa Chitoro, alias Biggie Chitoro. Zvinawauya told the court the land occupation was a government policy and the duty of the police was to maintain law and order on the occupied farms. He brought to the court four axes and a teargas canister he recovered from MDC supporters who had been abducted and beaten up by war veterans. "The youths had some injuries which indicated they were assaulted," he said.

He told the court he had to negotiate with the war veterans before the youths were released. Zvinawauya said the MDC youths were taken to the farm after the war veterans allegedly found the weapons in a vehicle belonging to Sekai Holland, the MDC candidate for Mberengwa East. He said Holland’s vehicle was burnt. "I do not know the owners of the weapons," he said. The hearing continues today when Chitoro, the district war veterans' chairman, is expected to testify. Chitoro is in Zvishavane prison on allegations of murdering Fainos Kufazvineyi Zhou, an MDC supporter, at Texas Ranch last year.

From The Zimbabwe Standard, 22 July

Churches rap Zanu PF

Nation crying for a principled and prophetic leadership

Victoria Falls - Government leaders, in a bid to prolong their stay in power, have plunged the country into de facto warfare, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has said. The ZCC, which has a membership of 20 churches - mainly from the Protestant movement - nine associate members and two observers, had been criticised for being docile while the government exterminated the rule of law. But last week’s retreat in Victoria Falls marked the beginning of a hardline stance against the Robert Mugabe regime, which it accused of reducing the country to ashes.

Heads of church denominations meeting here said the country was facing a leadership crisis resulting in the breakdown of its political, social and economic facets. The country’s populace has also been reduced to a state of destitution through economic mismanagement, the churches said. "The situation is no better in the political sphere, where violence, rape, and intimidation seem to have become the rule of the day. Many parts of the country have been plunged into a de facto state of warfare, often at the instigation of the very leaders who are supposed to defend the lives and rights of the people."

"Land reform, universally agreed upon as a matter of utmost urgency, has been twisted into a fast-track to further the self-aggrandisement of the chefs and the misery for the masses. What should have improved the lot of every Zimbabwean is now viewed as irrevocably partisan, and is associated with disorder, violence, and displacement," said the church leaders in a communique. The clergymen said the current economic recession pointed to a leadership crisis in the country. "Our economy, formerly one of the strongest in the region, is in tatters. Production levels have dropped drastically, unemployment has soared to new levels, prices of basic necessities go up almost every week, and our health and education systems have deteriorated to new lows."

"Collectively, all of this has left the average Zimbabwean on the verge of utter destitution and hopelessness. All of this points to a very obvious deficiency in the leadership and governance of our country. Those who have been entrusted with authority have abused it. The various arms of the state have become rotten with corruption, nepotism and political self-interest. The law has become a farce, used only to further the interests of a selected few," said the ZCC.

The church leaders summoned to its retreat four cabinet ministers; Jonathan Moyo (information and publicity), Patrick Chinamasa (justice legal and parliamentary affairs), John Nkomo (home affairs minister and Zanu PF chairman) and Joseph Made (lands and agriculture) to explain the country’s current problems. The church leaders were frank when voicing their concerns to the politicians, prompting Nkomo to erupt into a fit of rage after a delegate told him that Zanu PF should stop "privatising" the liberation war as most Zimbabweans, including non Zanu PF supporters, had participated in the struggle. "I am 66 and someone tries to lecture me. I won’t take that," said a furious Nkomo.

Chinamasa refused to give assurances that government would provide the mechanisms to stop violence but said the country was on the brink of a war because of the land invasions. He said violence was the necessary tool of any revolution. Moyo dismissed the churches’ claims of a leadership crisis saying the assertion was a concept borrowed from the World Bank which in 1989 said Africa’s problems were the result of a leadership crisis.

Said the church leaders: "People are becoming frustrated and desperate, they do not see that they have anything to lose. As the crisis deepens, they are less likely to heed calls for peace. In this prospect, our nation as a whole is crying for principled and prophetic leadership." "We need leaders who can animate our desire for good governance and prosperous lives. We need individuals and groups who are not afraid to stand up to evil of the sort we are facing today, and who will not choose the wide road of corruption, self interest and greed. We need the guidance of people who will promote the basic rights and dignity of all Zimbabweans, and who can lead us away from this darkness into a better, more peaceful future," said the ZCC.

From The Zimbabwe Standard, 22 July

Poaching, invasions threaten tri-nation conservation park

Bulawayo - The viability of Sentinel Ranch in Beitbridge District - a core area in the proposed Peace Park project - has been dealt a blow following serious poaching in which eland worth US$15 000 have been lost in the last three months. This development is likely to dent Zimbabwe’s chances of creating a second Trans-frontier Conservation Area (TFCA), The Standard has established. The 32 000 hectare ranch, located on the southwestern corner of Zimbabwe, is one of the two large properties with abundant wildlife in the arid Beitbridge area. The ranch, listed for acquisition by government in 1997 then delisted only to be further relisted last September, also has important archaeological sites boasting at least 15 dinosaur fossil sites dating back 240 million years.

Poaching and the recent invasion of the ranch by settlers grazing their cattle, has compromised the tourism prospects of the ranch ahead of a Peace Parks stakeholders meeting in Pretoria, South Africa next month. Zimbabwe is set to benefit from the creation of a huge national park incorporating Botswana and South Africa. This increase in poaching activities on Sentinel Ranch and the neighbouring Nottingham Estates, comes at a time when negotiations between the government and other stakeholders of the three countries are at an advanced stage. This proposed Peace Park is a conservation initiative included in plans for the development of the Trans-Limpopo Spatial Development project.

An official of Sentinel Ranch, Vanessa Bristow, told The Standard that war veterans occupying the properties had brought in hundreds of cattle, further threatening the ecologically sensitive and drought-prone landscape which was not spared the devastation of Cyclone Eline last year. Bristow said the properties had been listed for resettlement and earmarked for cattle grazing by government despite the lucrative Peace Park initiative, which is set to economically uplift impoverished communities in the district.

"The Peace Park project has huge tourism potential and a meeting will be held in Pretoria at the end of next month to finalise a Draft Memorandum of Agreement to be presented to the governments of the three countries. The area has been earmarked for cattle grazing even though 30 years of commercial cattle farming has not yielded dividends in this drought prone area," said Bristow.

Minister of environment and tourism, Francis Nhema, whom Bristow petitioned in April this year, referred the owners of Sentinel Ranch to the Matabeleland North governor, Obert Mpofu, in a letter, which coincidentally seems to be a form letter sent to other safari operators in the western part of the country. "Our letter to the minister was met with a "standard response" letter which, though signed by him was identical to a letter received by other safari operators in Matabeleland North. The letter insists the safari operator look to governor Mpofu for assistance, which is an anomaly because in our case Sentinel and Nottingham are in Matabeleland South province," said Bristow.

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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK
Zimbabwe hit by rising grain prices
Zimbabwe's so-called 'war veterans' barricade a farm they have claimed for resettlement
Zimbabwe's maize crop has been hit by the land resettlement programme
Zimbabweans are facing the threat of spiralling prices for maize, one of the country's staple foodstuff.

This year's crop in regional powerhouse South Africa looks set to fall well short of last year's bumper levels, pushing up prices.

To head off civil and political unrest - triggered in the past by prices hikes - Zimbabwe's government has been pushed into re-establishing price controls.

Official predictions in July set the South African harvest for 2000-2001 at 7.193m tonnes, well below the 10.1m tonnes seen last year.

With about 2m tonnes left over from last year, domestic South African consumption of about 7.5m tonnes should easily be covered.

But in Zimbabwe the ongoing land resettlement programme has hit the local maize harvest, with local supplies set to run out by February 2002, international food officials say.

The likelihood of a shortfall has forced up the price of South African maize futures to levels almost 50% above last year's.

Sliding output

Zimbabwe's land programme has cut the area under large scale commercial maize cultivation by more than 50% this year, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

President Robert Mugabe's government is facing severe maize shortages
Mugabe: imposed grain price controls
Smallholdings make up some of the difference, the FAO says.

But overall, maize production at 1.57m tonnes is likely to be down more than a quarter this year, and imports might be as high as 450,000 tonnes.

Earlier in July the situation forced the government, led by President Robert Mugabe, to call for food to be donated to forestall shortages.

And this week the government announced price controls on maize through a state-run Grain Marketing Board which economists say could encourage farmers to hold off from growing maize next year.

In turn, that would exacerbate the food shortages as the country heads into a presidential election in which Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party will try to extend his term into a third decade.

Falling gold and tobacco production and a rapidly sliding exchange rate mean Zimbabwe is extremely short on foreign currency for agricultural imports.

Slim foreign exchange reserves are being further depleted by the heavy burden of importing $40m of fuel a month both for domestic purposes and to support the ongoing military presence in Congo.

On this front, reports in the country's Financial Gazette newspaper suggest that Libya has stepped in with a lifeline, offering Zimbabwe Government fuel worth $360m a year in exchange for exports of Zimbabwean products.

The reported deal follows a recent visit to the country by Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi

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Church Holds Answer to Pandemic, Says First Lady

African Church Information Service


Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe's First Lady, says the Church holds the answer to challenges facing the nation, particularly the AIDS pandemic ravaging this southern African country. She was addressing the annual general meeting of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches on July 4.

Mrs Mugabe said: "I believe the Church holds the biggest answer to the challenges that confront us. Running through all the anti-AIDS messages is the call for behavioural change. I am sure you will agree that to a large extent, this is something achievable only through preaching of the Gospel.

"Our message of mutually faithful, lifelong relationships can only succeed when society as a whole (promotes) God-fearing living".

The latest UNAIDS epidemic report shows that about 70 percent of adults and 80 percent of children living with HIV are in Africa, mainly in southern Africa. Zimbabwe is considered to have one of the fastest rates of HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa.

The number of AIDS orphans also is growing. About one million children are orphaned by AIDS, according to UNAIDS statistics. More than 1.5 million Zimbabweans are infected with HIV, and according to Zimbabwe's Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, some 2,000 people weekly are succumbing to related diseases.

The nation's public health system, overwhelmed by rising numbers of patients with HIV-related illnesses, is failing to cope. The health crisis has been worsened by the chronic shortage of foreign currency and the subsequent scarcity of essential drugs. The First Lady said the health, social and economic implications of the disease were staggering and could not be mitigated by a single organisation or the government alone.

The nation's public health system, overwhelmed by rising numbers of patients with HIV-related illnesses, is failing to cope. The health crisis has been worsened by the chronic shortage of foreign currency and the subsequent scarcity of essential drugs.

Mugabe said the health, social and economic implications of the disease were staggering and could not be mitigated by a single organisation or the government alone. However, mission hospitals have complained about the low rate of funding supplied by the government.

Father Walter Nyatsanza, secretary of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, said: "The Ministry of Health budgeted a large portion of funds to government hospitals, especially those in urban areas, while giving a small fraction of the budget to mission hospitals (in rural areas). Paradoxically, the majority of the people are in rural areas".

The advent of the pandemic had caused the re-direction of resources at the household, community and national levels. It has erased the gains made in the fight against poverty, said Mugabe.

"Yet the sad news is that poverty is associated with an increased risk of HIV infection and a poor prognosis among infected individuals," she said. Orphaned girls from poor households had become easy targets for sexual exploitation, and often girls were the first to drop out of school to tend to parents who fell ill, she said.

Mugabe accused unnamed churches of going against God's word. "It is shocking to listen to some of the hatred and malice that is preached by some of the church organisations in our midst," she said.

"There clearly have been discordant noises from some churches which have been at variance with God's commandments". She specifically mentioned the government's controversial land reform programme, supporting her husband's hard-line stance against white commercial farmers.

"It is possible that we can finally stop talking about poverty alleviation, and instead, speak about creating livelihoods, creating and distributing wealth," she said.

"Often in our criticism, we overlook the fact that the programme does not envisage leaving anyone landless. The programme simply exhorts us to share. And nothing could be more Christian than this!"

President Robert Mugabe's government intends to acquire more than 3,000 farms owned by whites to resettle landless blacks. The programme drew support from African Ministers meeting in Lusaka, Zambia on July 8 for a summit of the Organisation of African Unity.

Mrs Mugabe said Zimbabweans had failed to develop an incorporated mindset. "As a result, when challenges confront us as a nation, we find it easy to disintegrate into different interest groups, instead of forming a united front," she said.

SOURCE: Ecumenical News International, Geneva

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Talk . . . to everyone

THERE is more and more talk in Zimbabwe about the hopelessness of the situation - and an increasing number of people are losing sight of the underlying reasons for the country's crisis. The situation is not hopeless, far from it, but it would be an enormous mistake to attribute the crisis to side issues. And yet a great many people are doing just that after being sucked in by the crude tactics and propaganda churned out by the State.

Land is a side issue, while land hunger is exploited with cynicism by greedy politicians - and the so-called fast track resettlement exercise is nothing short of a contemptuous ploy to wreak havoc on thousands of lives.

According to the Commercial Farmers' Union, there are about 20 000 illegal squatters on Zimbabwe's farms. They represent less than one per cent of the population living there legally and if it wasn't for the fact that they're causing trouble, farmers probably wouldn't even notice them. 20 000 people out of a population of 12 million hardly constitutes land hunger. It also makes a mockery of the ruling party's claim to overwhelming support. So… when Dr Nathan Shamuyarira claims that ZANU-PF will be issuing five million party cards, we can only wonder who the recipients will be. After all, if over 50% of the population is under 15, then five million must represent every voter in Zimbabwe.

Perhaps Mr Mugabe is expecting a massive victory in next year's presidential election, one along the lines of those absurd old Eastern Bloc elections where the winners took 99% of the vote. If that's the case, he is likely to be sorely disappointed. Matabeleland will vote en masse for the current opposition leader, so will most of Manicaland. As for Zimbabwe's cities and towns, they already belong to the Movement for Democratic Change.

Next year's presidential election will not be fought constituency by constituency. It is a national election and the sums don't look good for Mr Mugabe. Since before the constitutional referendum, ZANU-PF has known that it commands no respect in urban areas and that Matabeleland and large swathes of Manicaland belong to the MDC. That left their heartland support in Mashonaland's communal areas - and wavering support on the country's commercial farms. The commercial farms were easy to deal with. An orgy of lawless violence saw to it that two million people dependent on organised agriculture were too terrified to counter the architects of Zimbabwe's anarchy.

But the land on commercial farms was to supply the ruling party with another ruse. It was offered wholesale to the people, giving them an excuse to bring more havoc still - but also to increase ZANU-PF's wavering support. It's doubtful whether the ruling party foresaw the combination of apathy and mistrust their offer of land would induce.

The violence was stepped up - and is likely to be stepped up again before the election - but to limited effect. Now that Masvingo has entered the language as a word to describe the ineffectiveness of political violence, other areas will stand up too.

Which means life is about to get interesting for rural Zimbabweans, though it's probably been too interesting by half for the last eighteen months. Mr Mugabe knows that he must win the election and he knows that with each passing day his chances of winning diminish. That means that each economic crisis to hit the country, from fuel prices to food shortages will be blamed on, successively, farmers, the west and a curious white conspiracy. Rhetoric already suggests that commercial farmers will be blamed for the food shortage that everyone knows exists, but no one really wants to admit to.

And yet there is room for considerable hope. The election will come and go and the troubles farmers are facing now will pass with them. Or should - because now is not the time to lose sight of one simple basic truth: farmers, the government and the developed world already have a plan and an agreement on the redistribution of land in Zimbabwe. That agreement was made in 1998 but the ruling party blew it when corruption was exposed, not for the first time.

Despite the average farmer's understandable despondency, the solution to the Zimbabwe Crisis lies not in the present, but in the past. Most analysts agree that the country is two thirds down the path of lawlessness and economic decline and that nine more months of anarchy remain. That may be too long for some, but having come this far it would be a pity to surrender everything now. In nine months time there will be an election and the events of the last two years could well become irrelevant - so might any agreements entered into, especially if they contradict the 1998 Donors' Conference.

In this sense, farmers need to be planning. While talks with the current government are probably not a waste of time, talks need to be wider ranging than those underway at the moment. What is now the opposition may well, this time next year, be the government and it would be very silly indeed to alienate them now. If you want to know the effect of alienating future governments, look no further than the farming crisis in Britain.

But perhaps as important as talking to both political parties is talking to farm workers. There are about 300 000 of them and their futures are the most tenuous of all, though their numbers make them hugely significant in deciding whether organised agriculture has a future in Zimbabwe. There is only one reason for the violence on the farms: two million people live there. That's an immensely powerful political voice and the ruling party is as terrified of it as farm workers are of the ruling party.

Brian Latham
Editor- The Farmer

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Farm seizures totally illegal - Administrative Court
Review exchange rate, plead burley growers
Wheat growers cry foul, but defy odds

Farm seizures totally illegal - Administrative Court

The Zimbabwe government's farm seizures under its controversial fast track resettlement programme cannot proceed legally until law and order is restored, The Farmer has learnt.

In terms of an interdict handed down by Mr Justice Alfas Chitakunye of the Administrative Court, which ratifies the legal process required for the State to acquire farm land, government's continued listing of farms for compulsory acquisition and the issuing of acquisition notification orders is illegal in terms of the law.

Advocate Adrian de Bourbon told The Farmer the implications of the ruling made on 11 July, was to effectively bring to a halt all activities relating to the compulsory land acquisitions until the terms of the interdict are adhered to. "This stops everything because government acquisition of the land was illegal in terms of the law," he said.

Although the ruling, which received little media attention locally apparently because little publicity is given the proceedings of the Administrative Court, but was reported in some South African newspapers, is being interpreted to mean that henceforth, no further legal action can be taken by government to compulsorily acquire farm land until the violence, lawlessness and intimidation of farmers is stopped and law and order restored.

This latest court ruling becomes the third in a series of judgments, two of them from the Supreme Court, which ordered the government to halt the farm invasions and discontinue its fast track resettlement process until a well planned, transparent and orderly resettlement programme is established. The government had been given until 1 July to come up with such a programme but nothing outside its fast track scheme has materialized.

In fact, government has largely ignored these rulings and continued to list thousands of farms, some of them several times over, and has continued to issue Section 5, Section 7, and Section 8 orders which relate to the complex legal process that the government is required to follow to acquire farm land.

According to those privy to the Administrative Court decision, the ruling, which stated that the court would hear no further cases regarding the compulsory acquisition of farm land by the government, confirms that previous court rulings on the issue were now operational.

"There can be no further legal action taken by the government," one senior Zimbabwean lawyer was quoted as saying. "No further Section 5's, Section 7's and Section 8's can be issued," he said adding that a further benefit for the beleaguered commercial farmers is that their legal bills would be substantially reduced, as the lawyers would now "put in one-liners pointing to the interdict instead of having to go into details explaining why the land should not be acquired."

Review exchange rate, plead burley growers

ZIMBABWE's burley tobacco growers face imminent collapse unless urgent steps are taken to align escalating costs of production to dwindling earnings exacerbated by a skewed exchange rate. Cost of production figures show that growing costs increased by some 130% over last year, leaving the grower only three alternatives: to cut production, borrow more money or go out of business.

President of the Air-cured Tobacco Association, Mr Clive Rimmer, last week told the association's annual congress that although US dollar prices of burley tobacco were this year significantly higher than the previous year, the problem had remained that of an unrealistic exchange rate.

"When the grower has to purchase inputs which have been imported at Z$140 to US$1 and only receives Z$55 per US$1for his product, there is no way he can keep going and something has to be done about it," said Mr Rimmer. While most growers were in a position to cover the cost of producing the current crop they will not afford to pay for next year's inputs without a realistic realignment of our currency, he said.

However, while admitting that the Zimbabwe dollar was over-valued in relation to major currencies, the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Dr Simba Makoni recently told a sister organisation, Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, that his hands were tied in the absence of consensus among his cabinet colleagues on the issue of devaluation.

"The problem is with the exchange rate and I am confident that if the grower was receiving an acceptable rate, we would see a recovery of the burley industry despite all the other challenges we are facing," Mr Rimmer said in his report to congress.

He said even though the recent introduction of the a pooled foreign currency account retention scheme to enable the industry to access imported inputs at reasonable prices was a step in the right direction, the best way would be to let the grower benefit from his position as a producer of an exportable commodity.

This could be achieved either by paying the grower in US dollars or permitting growers to retain 60 percent of sales in individual or pooled FCA accounts.

But while the farmers attributed the decline in burley production mainly to an unrealistic exchange rate coupled with rampant inflation, farm invasions by so called war veterans and the ravages of cyclone Eline during the last growing season, the government believes lack of viability was the main factor.

"It is sad to note that despite a reasonable growing season in terms of weather conditions, burley production during the 2000/2001 season is estimated at only 5 million kgs, a drop of some 38% from last year. There are a number of factors that have contributed to this decline in production but by far the most important one is the apparent lack of viability in burley tobacco," the Minister of Lands Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Dr Joseph Made said when he officially opened the congress.

Wheat growers cry foul, but defy odds

APPEALS by Zimbabwe's wheat producers for a government assurance that so called war veterans and other land invaders would not disrupt their 2000/2001 winter cropping programme before the start of the season fell on deaf ears, resulting in production falling well below potential.

As part of its effort to secure government protection from the invaders, the Zimbabwe Cereal Producers Association (ZCPA) prepared a "Wheat Business Plan" document which it circulated among government ministers, officials and other stakeholders "in order to publicise the problem and encourage as much production as possible in the interest of food security.

"While we received a sympathetic ear, the bottom line is that we failed to get a categorical statement from government to the effect that farmers were to be allowed to plant without fear or favour," chairman of the ZCPA, Simon Pritchard, told the association's annual congress held at leopard Rock motel in the picturesque Vumba mountains last week.

"Wheat and barley can only be grown cost effectively on a large commercial scale, and it is unfortunate that our production will again fall short of potential," he said.

Mr Pritchard decried continued lawlessness on the farms, saying: "The invasion problem remains with us for this season, and many farmers have been prevented from planting, or were only allowed to do so after protracted negotiations with the invaders.

"Extortion has been the order of the day in many cases, and I commend farmers for staying calm under extreme provocation," Mr Pritchard said.

Noting that the bulk of the winter cereal growing area is in Mashonaland and that most farmers were keen to grow cereals and had largely succeeded in doing so, the ZCPA chairman said it was imperative to get some semblance of order on the ground. "I appeal to government to come to the table with all the parties concerned to solve the land question", he said.

Reviewing production in the current season, Mr Pritchard said in the face of the many problems confronting farmers, estimates showed that a crop of about 52 000 hectares would be produced "which, unbelievably, is 10% higher than last year." The stated area of production, according to Pritchard, should produce 275 000 tonnes of wheat, which although translating to 20 000 tonnes more than the previous year, was still far short of the 325 000 - 350 000 tonne potential.

On barley, Mr Pritchard said production was likely to match last year's level of 5 200 ha producing 30 000 tonnes, which is 10 000 tonnes short of the target set by the National Breweries, for which the crop is grown under contract.

Mr Pritchard also spoke of a host of other problems confronting cereal producers, not least among them escalating input costs, made worse by the country's deteriorating foreign currency situation, the electricity and fuel crisis and difficulties in securing finance for cropping programmes because of the continuing downturn of the economy and uncertainties over the land issue.

"Fuel continues to be a hand-to-mouth situation, but in the face of even bigger problems, farmers have managed to get by," he said.

Fertiliser prices continued to escalate on a monthly basis and now constituted a third of total variable costs of wheat production, while costs of chemicals which are imported were also increasing at a staggering rate. "The latest increase in the price of fuel will push many businesses to the wall, and farmers will not be spared. Sanity has to prevail sooner rather than later or the economy will implode," said Mr Pritchard.

Meanwhile, the controversy over who should foot the bill for the control of the potentially devastating quelea bird continues with the State insisting that farmers should provide relevant funding while the farmers say they see this as a government responsibility.

Mr Pritchard told delegates to the congress: "Quelea has been a perennial pain in the flock ever since cost recovery was instituted in 1997. The government has abrogated its responsibility in this regard, and I implore them to change their stance,"

He noted that before 1999, farmers had, through their association, paid a lion's share of the winter quelea control. "This was always under protest, as we have always maintained that this is a national issue. Since becoming chairman of this association I have taken a stance on funding, and have refused to pay the entire bill for 1999 and 2000." he said

Farmers were prepared to contribute towards quelea control "but not replace government's responsibility in controlling this migratory international pest.

"Currently we are still in negotiations on the way forward with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife management who are mandated with quelea control," Pritchard said.

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