The truth behind the forced closure of ‘The Farmer’ magazine in Zimbabwe

via The truth behind the forced closure of ‘The Farmer’ magazine in Zimbabwe Nehanda Radio Apr 25, 2014 by Mike Rook

Early 2002 Zimbabwe’s ‘The Farmer’ magazine that first appeared in 1942 as ‘Vuka’ (the organ of the Matabeleland Farmers’ Union) suddenly disappeared.

The official statement issued at the time by the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) was ‘financial constraints’. The incumbent Director of the Union at that time was David Hasluck. I have been asked on numerous occasions to reveal the true story behind its forced shut down.

Large scale commercial farmers in general and Commercial Farmers Union members in particular continue to query why they were not consulted or even informed of the arbitrary shut down of their only means of communication?

It was a matter of fact that the CFU licence fee was structured to include receipt of ‘The Farmer.’ It would therefore have been courteous and correct for the CFU administration at that time to have facilitated open discussion and debate amongst its members before closure of the magazine, allowing an opportunity to mount a concerted rescue operation. The opposite occurred!

The lame excuse given by the Union and Board of Trustees for the weekly magazine’s demise was lack of viability. Due to the advent of Zimbabwe’s farm invasions ‘The Farmer’ was no longer the Union’s ‘cash cow’.

Despite the Union’s Director trying desperately to stop the accessing of its members’ email addresses a sympathetic Head Office staff member surreptitiously supplied them anyway, and a survey was conducted. The resulting feedback showed that the vast majority of CFU members not only agreed to pay for the magazine, but insisted it continue publishing.

A business plan with an accompanying income expenditure analyses showing a reasonable financial surplus was presented to CFU and the magazine’s Board of Trustees. The business plan was never even considered. It was summarily dismissed and shelved, and conveniently ignored by the Union and The Board of Trustees.

So why was there such perverse skulduggery? Why was ‘The Farmer’ with its proud history of serving Zimbabwe’s large scale farming community for over half a century (through wars, pestilence and droughts) silenced?

The simple answer is that neither the Union nor the magazine’s Board of Trustees was able to influence editorial content or compromise its independence. Being too timid to sack the editor it was decided to remove the publication instead.

To add insult to injury the manner of the closure was a shameful example of duplicity and Machiavellian conspiracy between CFU and the Board of Trustees.

To avoid legal obligations of severance pay due to the enforced redundancies of loyal and long serving staff: CFU and The Board of Trustees connived together to present the Trust as the employer, not CFU.

As the Trust had no reserves of capital this meant staff, some with over thirty years on the magazine, would leave with nothing. A letter I received from CFU’s own lawyers clearly stated the employer as CFU.

The CFU and Board of Trustees were forced to back down and the issue was forcefully redressed, albeit harshly with some malevolence and under duress. ‘The Farmer’ was sacrificed on the altar of expediency by those in trusted positions, that were expected and required to display and implement the highest standards of morals, integrity and fortitude.

Alas! The realisation that it is easier to tear down than to build up came too late to save ‘The Farmer.’

Subsequent CFU administrations on two occasions tried unsuccessfully to launch replacement magazines. The publication AgriZim was launched and managed to publish for awhile before disappearing, and afterwards a second attempt at a magazine with European Union funding never even saw the light of day.

As far as I am aware Zimbabwe’s present CFU administration disassociates itself from the above described actions and decisions of its predecessors made back in 2002.

Mike Rook, Former CEO Publications Division, CFU Zimbabwe 1979-2002, Guildford, Surrey, UK



  • comment-avatar
    former farmer 9 years ago

    I have seen this article some back so clearly there is still a lot of animosity and hurt.

    Michael was an icon of the farming community and the publication was much respected. It is unfortunate and in hindsight we see that the leadership of the CFU have always had different agenda and in my opinion under the guidance of the CIO to a degree, in other words they have played along with the politicians to keep their farms and done so at the expense of the displaced farmers. That is why most did not keep up their membership after a few months following their loss, they felt let down and disappointed by the lack of meaningful action.

    Even as we speak we see that continuing with the small union making decisions on the land issue without consulting the displaced farmers, yet they make decisions such as compensation in bonds from a broke governments. This is more to keep their farm at the expense of all who were forced out of the country.

    Divide and rule is ZANUPF’s key strategy and is works in Zimbabwe.

  • comment-avatar
    roving ambassador. 9 years ago

    For Zanu to maintain its stronghold on the populace, only one organisation is allowed and Thats Zanu . Nothing should grow bigger that Zanu, the churches have to be incorporated and the NGOs harassed and activities monitored.
    All political parties destroyed or Zanufied.

  • comment-avatar
    jamias sibanda 9 years ago

    Well said Former farmer,reminds me of the bamba zonke attitude that there was, if you were not from the mashonaland area you were a goat farmer.I would love to know how much longer these CFU people lasted compared to rest of us, black and white.

  • comment-avatar
    munzwa 9 years ago

    follow haslucks career since he left CFU….

  • comment-avatar
    Dave Wood 9 years ago

    We all noticed a lot of strange characters at the helm of this organization for quite a while. I and many others have always said that we couldn’t trust them, that there was something going on behind the scenes with these dubious characters that wouldn’t have been allowed to happen had us farmers been in control. How many of these individuals were ex farmers that had gone bankrupt and were now telling us what to do or how to deal with the situation during the land invasions. I can name a dozen or more. Plus, we also observed an influx of Afrikaaners in the Organization, including a number at the helm and even worse still, when we were all booted off our farms they were still on theirs. I want to dig and once I finish digging I’m going to start mentioning a whole lot of names. What a deceitful bunch they were and still are!!!

  • comment-avatar
    former farmer 9 years ago

    I know what you all mean, I was on council for a while.