August 28, 2003

New farm evictions reported

The few white farmers still remaining on the land yesterday, August 27, accused the government and suspected ruling ZANU PF supporters of launching a fresh blitz of evictions against them in the last two weeks. Some of the farmers interviewed by the Daily News said the new wave of evictions appeared aimed at driving the about 400 remaining white farmers off the land.

Lands and Agriculture Minister Joseph Made could not be reached for comment on the matter by the time of going to print last night. But Made told the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation yesterday that the government was still acquiring more farms for redistribution to landless blacks despite the government announcing in August last year that it had completed its controversial land reforms.

Both the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) and the Justice for Agriculture, (JAG), which represent the country's remaining white commercial farmers, yesterday said that close to 200 farms had been listed in the last two weeks. The two groups also said that disruption of farming operations had picked up during the last fortnight, with some farmers reportedly forcibly driven off their properties. The new wave of evictions and destabilisation would almost certainly derail preparations for this year's tobacco planting season, which is expected to begin next Monday.

CFU president Doug Taylor-Freeme said, "There has been a serious intensification (in evictions) in the past two weeks. Over a hundred farms are being listed each week but there seems to be more of this jambanja (violence) element involved. "A lot of farmers are being given less than 24 hours to leave their farms. We are also aware that some senior government officials are involved behind the scenes to push farmers out completely using this renewed jambanja. All the Mashonaland provinces are affected, and pockets of Manicaland as well."

JAG director Hart Wynand said: "We understand that the operation (to evict farmers) emerged from the top offices and is code-named Clean Sweep and it has affected farmers who already have a crop on the ground and those who were just about to plant. "Most farmers who were supposed to prepare for the tobacco season have had to put everything on hold because of the high activity taking place. They want to kill off agriculture completely."

Taylor-Freeme predicted a sharp fall in tobacco production this season, saying some growers of the golden leaf had abandoned preparations for tobacco planting after being driven off their farms. The CFU boss said this year's crop was likely to fall below 50 million kilogrammes. Tobacco output has been in freefall since the government began its controversial land reform programme in 2000 and has plummeted from over 200 million kgs three years ago to a paltry 85 million kgs last year. Tobacco is hard-cash-starved Zimbabwe's biggest foreign exchange earner. Taylor-Freeme said: "Unless a miracle happens and all this violence is stopped this week, then we are going to miss the next (tobacco) season. "We are fast coming to a situation where agriculture is being driven into irrelevance as far as this country's economy is concerned. The government should immediately remove all this conflict from agriculture, if we are to salvage this sector."

Meanwhile, Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano reiterated in Harare on Friday that a fair redistribution of land and its correct utilisation are essential aspects in the fight against hunger and poverty in Africa. Speaking during the official inauguration of the Agricultural Fair in Harare, Chissano said that this is why he wishes that the government of President Robert Mugabe be well succeeded in allowing all the people access to land, without any kind of discrimination. During a ceremony where Mugabe did not speak, Chissano said that time has come for Africa to face agriculture as an important instrument to promote development. (Daily News, Harare / AIM, Maputo)


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