"The Zimbabwe Situation" news page

Back to the Top
Back to Index


10 August 2000

In today's issue :

From The Star (SA), 10 August

Zim farm workers left destitute by evictions

Harare - The violent occupation of white-owned farms by ruling party militants has impoverished hundreds of farmworkers and their families and threatens to devastate thousands more, the workers' union says. The situation will only worsen if the government continues with its program to nationalise the white-owned commercial farms without making provisions for the hundreds of thousands of people who work and live there, according to the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union. Farm disruptions by the militants have driven about 5 000 workers from their homes in the past six months, said Philip Munyanyi, the union leader. At least another 10 000 jobs were in immediate jeopardy on hundreds of farms that the government plans to seize and redistribute to landless blacks over the next few weeks, he said.

In most districts, workers were told they would not receive any of the redistributed land. Around the town of Bindura, 80km northeast of Harare, militant squatters on the occupied farms seized workers' houses for themselves, forcing the displaced to erect makeshift shelters of plastic sheets and straw. Police mostly failed to restore order and farm owners were powerless to intervene, Munyanyi said. "Many people have no place to stay. They are desperate, they are just wandering about," he said. The CFU, which represents most of the country's white farm owners, said government officials told them that 214 white farmers were scheduled to receive confiscation orders by the end of the week. Those properties will then immediately become state land. Though the government has refused to pay compensation for the land itself, the owners will have 90 days to make claims for compensation for buildings and other improvements they have made. At the end of that period, they must abandon the land.

Some demoralized farmers were already considering moving out sooner, said Steve Crawford, a CFU official. Under existing labour laws, departing farmers were not obliged to pay off their workers, Munyanyi said. New occupiers were required to take over responsibility for the workers. "This has not been addressed at all. We must have legislation to provide for workers," he said. The government has listed 800 white-owned commercial farms it has targeted for confiscation and announced earlier this month it is selecting another 2 300 properties, comprising about half the nation's white-owned land, for resettlement by landless blacks. That plan threatened the jobs of at least half the 700 000 workers employed by white farmers, Munyanyi said. "While there has been talk of compensation to farmers, there has been no talk of compensation for workers," he said.

From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 10 August

Land grab 'winners' face a harsh reality

VLAKFONTEIN Farm was resettled by blacks yesterday as part of what officials describe as a "fast track" land-reform programme launched this week. Paulos Viljoen, the former owner at Vlakfontein, left the 2,000-acre cattle ranch after it appeared among the 804 properties listed for "compulsory acquisition" in June. No compensation is being paid for the land. About 200 farms are to be resettled initially. The government says it plans to take over nearly half of the 30 million acres owned by about 4,500 white farmers who comprise about one per cent of the national population.

A vast expanse of grassland greeted the 14 settlers yesterday as they arrived at their new home, 250 miles south-west of Harare. Smartly dressed in their best clothes, the 10 men and four women were transported from Gweru, the nearest town. As they gathered to hail the first seizure of a white farm in Midlands Province since the current land grab began, they sang: "We Thank Our Ancestors for Answering Our Prayers." Cephas Msipa, the provincial governor, told the group: "This is a historic day. After 20 years, land is coming to the people today. We are giving you something you can call your own." Mr Msipa promised to resettle another 120 Midlands farms, adding: "We will not stop there." The audience applauded and joined him in chanting the ruling Zanu-PF party's slogans. Then they turned to their dry, remote and ill-equipped new property.

Although Vlakfontein is in the heart of Zimbabwe's cattle country, all but two of the settlers have no cows. No water points or boreholes have been provided and there is no housing. The settlers will have to build their own, and will find themselves isolated. The nearest main road is a 10-mile drive along a bumpy track. Gweru is another 30 miles away. Each settler will be given 140 acres on which to support his family. Without cattle, they will be able to make use of only a tiny fraction of the land where crops can survive. Mr Msipa admitted that most of Vlakfontein would be unused unless cattle were donated. He called for help from international donors.

The committee responsible for choosing the beneficiaries of land reform in the Midlands is dominated by Zanu-PF functionaries and leaders of the War Veterans' Association. Mr Msipa denied that land would be given only to government loyalists, yet all of Vlakfontein's settlers were supporters of Zanu-PF. Self-styled veterans of the war against white rule in the Seventies were present at the handover ceremony. Such veterans led a wave of invasions of white-owned farms this year, and have been blamed for much of the violence in the campaign for June's parliamentary poll which claimed 37 lives. Opposition supporters are fearful of even applying for resettlement, while many of the successful applicants have no farming expertise.

Some of Vlakfontein's settlers had no intention of living on their newly acquired land. Kudokwasha Sango described himself as an auto electrician from Gweru. He said: "I want this land as a money-spinner. I have no cattle, but I will work hard." Cornelius Ferro, another settler who is a clerk in Gweru's law courts, also owns no cattle, but pointed out: "We need to prove to the world that we are good at farming." Vlakfontein once exported beef and earned hard currency for Zimbabwe's crisis-hit economy. At least 15 families lived on its land and worked for the farmer, so the number of winners is almost exactly matched by the number of losers. Previous resettlement schemes have been crippled by a lack of skills and support. Bob Vaughan-Evans, from the regional office of the CFU, said: "They [government officials] have to be seen to be moving people on to the land as fast as possible, but they're starting with no resources. It's a great risk. Without more help, they won't succeed as farmers." The plains of Vlakfontein will be a harsh place to learn.

From the Financial Gazette, 10 August

Danes demand full land compensation from govt

DENMARK said this week it will demand full compensation from the Zimbabwe government if commercial farms in the country owned by Danish citizens are expropriated for the resettlement of peasants. Danish ambassador Erik Fiil said his government would press for full compensation, including the value of the soil in line with an investment protection agreement signed between Zimbabwe and Denmark in 1996. The government has repeatedly said it will only compensate farmers for improvements made on the farms and not for the value of the land, a stance which has put Zimbabwe on a collision course with several key Western donors, including Denmark.

Fiil said the provisions of the investment protection agreement would be invoked if any of the farms owned by Danish citizens were seized for resettlement. The ambassador had been asked to confirm comments by Danish Aid Minister Jan Trojborg to that country's parliamentary foreign affairs committee that Denmark would demand compensation from Zimbabwe if farms owned by its citizens were expropriated. "Based on the investment protection agreement between Denmark and Zimbabwe, it must be expected that in the event of expropriation, Denmark will be able to invoke the provision of the agreement providing for full compensation for potential expropriation of Danish-owned property," Trojborg had said last week. The minister said two Danish-owned farms appeared on the Zimbabwe government's list of farms that were earmarked for seizure in June. One of the farms is owned by a Danish citizen and another by a Danish corporation based in Zimbabwe.

Fiil said he did not have details of Danish farms targeted for acquisition, although he was aware that Danes probably owned about 10 commercial farms in Zimbabwe. The investment protection pact was signed in October 1996 by then Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa and Danish Minister of Development Paul Nielson. Presidential spokesman George Charamba said the government was not targeting investment projects in its land acquisition plan and thus the issues raised by Denmark did not arise.

From The Financial Gazette, 10 August

Welshman Mabhena's farm invaded

BULAWAYO - Welshman Mabhena, the sacked governor of Matabeleland North, said yesterday that suspected independence war veterans and villagers had invaded his 100-hectare farm near Nkayi. Mabhena, fired by Pre-sident Robert Mugabe last month for allegedly being too critical of government policies and allowing the opposition MDC to launch successful campaigns in rural Matabeleland North, said the invaders were threatening to start parcelling out his farms to land-hungry villagers. "The invaders arrived on Tuesday. Those I spoke to said they were sent by their leaders in the province to invade the farm," Mabhena said. "There are two men who seem to be in charge of the operations there."

Independent sources, speaking form Nkayi, confirmed that Mabhena's Kellegar Farm had been run over by rag-tag war veterans, jobless youths and villagers who said they were landless and wanted to be given pieces of plots on the farm. Mabhena said two other farms near his property had also been invaded. The two are said to belong to a Bulawayo High Court judge and a wellknown business family here. "It looks as if I am being targeted," said an emotional Mabhena, whose sacking as governor has sparked an outcry in Matabeleland. "I am being treated like a Boer," he said, referring to South Africa's once dominant and ruling tribe which lost power in that country's first all-race elections in 1994.

But Obert Mpofu, the new governor for the province who has been at loggerheads with Mabhena over a range of issues, said he was unaware of the invasions. Police in Inyathi district, which is close to Nkayi, yesterday said villagers had mistakenly thought that Mabhena's farm belonged to white commercial farmers whose land the veterans, with government support, have been seizing across the country since February. "The people who went into Mabhena's farm thought it belonged to a white farmer in the area but it was later explained to them that it belonged to the former governor. They have since left the property and moved onto two other farms," a police spokesman said. The Financial Gazette was unable yesterday to visit Mabhena's farm or the other two that have also been reported to be under occupation.

From The Star (SA), 10 August

Zimbabwe banks threaten to pull farming plug

Harare - Zimbabwe's emergency economic recovery plan was jolted on Wednesday when the country's bankers warned that they would not fund farming this year unless President Robert Mugabe's government stopped violence on white commercial farms and guaranteed the future of the key agricultural sector. The Zimbabwe Bankers Association said the country's financial institutions might not be able to provide financing to farmers in the 2000/2001 season because of disruptions to cropping and the government's controversial land redistribution plan. The Financial Gazette said the bankers' warning fuelled fears that Zimbabwe could be headed for severe food shortages next year and added to the woes piling on new Finance Minister Simba Makoni as he tries to turn around the country's teetering economy. Makoni is in charge of the implementation of the emergency Zimbabwe Millennium Economic Recovery Programme, an ambitious 18-month plan aimed at pulling the country out of a crisis manifesting itself in record high interest and inflation rates, and runaway poverty and unemployment.

BAZ president Greg Brackenridge told the Financial Gazette that the banks were reluctant to commit themselves to financing the needs of commercial farmers in the face of mounting uncertainty over the future of the agricultural sector in the country. The sector, the backbone of Zimbabwe's economy, faces collapse because government supporters have seized control of white-owned commercial farms which produce the bulk of the country's exports and a large slice of its food. Farming is also being hurt by uncertainty about the number of farms the government plans to acquire for resettling landless peasants.

Mugabe's government added further confusion to an already-befuddled industry last month when it announced it would acquire a further 3 000 farms on top of more than 800 others it had already earmarked for seizure in June. Brackenridge said the bankers had already raised their concerns with the relevant authorities but could not disclose the outcome of these discussions. "There is a considerable degree of urgency that is necessary in resolving this uncertainty because the planting season is already upon us and the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe is actively pursuing this matter with the appropriate authorities." Brackenridge said about 85 percent of the banks' exposure to the agricultural sector was in the form of seasonal finance, which is normally repaid from crop proceeds. He gave no figures, although the exposure is believed to run into billions of Zimbabwe dollars. It is understood that the bankers have already communicated their stance to the CFU, the umbrella body for Zimbabwe's dominant 4 500 white commercial farmers who are at the centre of the land crisis.

From The Financial Gazette, 10 August

ZANU PF plots Mugabe's ouster

SEVERAL senior ZANU PF members are behind a radical plan to overhaul the party's constitution at its special congress in November to allow members to challenge President Robert Mugabe for the presidency of Zimbabwe, party insiders disclosed this week. The plan, supported by many of the party's young Turks, would allow senior ZANU PF members to offer themselves for the 2002 presidential election should Mugabe decide to run again. ZANU PF's present constitution says only the president of the party, who is Mugabe, can contest the national presidential elections on the ruling party's ticket. The November congress is set to officially endorse the party's candidate for the 2002 presidential poll.

Mugabe, his deputies Joseph Msika and Simon Muzenda and ZANU PF's national chairman John Nkomo were the only ones who were re-elected to their positions when the party held its extraordinary congress in Harare last December. According to ZANU PF's constitution, a member elected by congress to head the party automatically becomes the party's candidate in the event of a presidential election. The sources said it was now up to Mugabe to publicly announce whether he will run again in 2002 but some felt that decision could not be left to him alone and were agitating for ZANU PF's constitution to be changed. These senior officials were apparently concerned that the ruling party's governing troika was ageing but showing no signs of relinquishing power.

Their suggestion was that ZANU PF's constitution should be amended to allow any party member interested in contesting the state presidential election to do so without necessarily standing for the party's leadership. "We want the provisions (for presidency of Zimbabwe) to be flexible," one senior party leader told the Financial Gazette this week. "We want a situation where a senior party member can run for presidential elections without necessarily being the president of the party. We will push for those amendments to be effected at the congress," he said.

Many ZANU central committee members are understood to be supporting the amendments that have been preceded by intense lobbying by influential party officials. According to the sources, the proposed amendments are also meant to pressure Mugabe to pave the way for a new ZANU PF candidate to contest the 2002 presidential elections while Mugabe stays on as head of the party. The amendments are also aimed at killing any notion by Mugabe to anoint his successor, the sources said. ZANU PF's information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira said the party's November special congress would clear outstanding party matters. "We don't know as yet what will be on the agenda as the compilation will be done after the principal organs of the party have met and when the time approaches," he said. "Please talk to Zvobgo about anything to do with amendments to the party's constitution. He is the better person to explain to you how it is done and the procedures," Shamuyarira said.

ZANU PF's legal affairs secretary Eddison Zvobgo, who himself has expressed an interest in the state presidency should Mugabe decide not to run, could not be reached for comment. The sources said several formal and informal meetings convened by ZANU PF throughout the provinces as post-mortems of the June parliamentary elections had found a rising groundswell that Mugabe steps down from the 2002 presidential contest to save the party from an embarrassing and crushing defeat. Many party members felt that the ruling party had a better chance to win the presidential election with a new and untainted candidate. Mugabe, however, still commands considerable support among the party's rank and file and its rampaging war veterans, and senior ZANU PF officials fear he may be tempted by this backing to run again in the projected poll.

Back to the Top
Back to Index