Rule of law key to fighting Zim hunger

via Rule of law key to fighting Zim hunger | SW Radio Africa by Alex Bell on Thursday, November 21, 2013  

Restoring the rule of law in Zimbabwe has been described as key for fighting widespread hunger in the country, amid reports of white farmers being offered a chance to return to the farms they were kicked off in the land grab campaign.

It’s understood that some white farmers across the country have been called to meetings by officials in the ZANU PF government and told they will be given offer letters for the farms they were kicked off. The farmers are allegedly being told that they will be able to go to the bank and get finance to rebuild their broken farms and buy equipment and plant crops.

These reports coincide with an article by the Herald newspaper on Wednesday, which reported that the government will repossess property from black farmers if they’re found to be ‘fronting’ for whites. The paper reported that, following an investigation, some black farm ‘owners’ in Masvingo had nothing like offer letters to secure their claims. Authorities reportedly concluded they were acting as fronts for white farmers who were trying to keep hold of their properties.

The situation has clearly demonstrated the chaos created by the land grab exercise, which plunged the nation into agricultural failure and only served to benefit ZANU PF cronies, who seized the most profitable farms in the country. Other rural Zimbabweans, who were promised land in the ‘reform’ programme, received smaller, less profitable plots.

The bigger farms have mainly fallen into disuse, and as a result the country is once again facing a serious hunger crisis. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that an estimated 2.2 million Zimbabweans will need food assistance in the coming lean season, while the only ‘success’ recorded in the agricultural sector recently has been in the form of tobacco.

Ben Freeth, the former Chegutu farmer and spokesperson for the SADC Tribunal Rights Watch group, said on Thursday that Zimbabwe is “reaping what was sown.” He said the latest attempt to lure back farmers to their land was due to “desperation.”

“The government is desperate to try and sort this out because it is deeply embarrassing that year after year there is hunger. But it is too little too late, and the missing ingredient is the rule of law,” Freeth told SW Radio Africa.

He continued: “The missing ingredient in the food chain is not poor quality land, poor farmers, scant rain, unavailable seed or fertilizer or any other direct input that may be brought up to excuse the dismal performance of the Zimbabwean agricultural sector since the farm invasions began in 2000. The missing ingredient is quite simply the rule of law. Without the rule of law we are left in a place where it is impossible to plan for tomorrow.”

Ben Freeth’s house on Mount Carmel farm was burnt to the ground in August 2009

The land grab stripped all farmers of property rights, with the government proclaiming that all land was ‘state’ owned. These rights remain unprotected, and even the A1 farmers who received small plots under the land grab, do not have title deeds securing their land ownership.

“Without the rule of law you cannot plan for the future. Farmers who cannot plan for tomorrow will fail to feed the nation and rebuild the economy, however good a farmer they might have been in days gone by,” Freeth said