21. January 2010

Unity government under fire for not intervening on land invasions

The unity government has come under fire this week for not intervening to stop the ongoing wave of farm invasions, which are threatening to further destroy the agricultural sector. The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) and the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ) have both lashed out at the unity structure over the lack of action on the land attacks, which in the past year alone have seen the forced seizure of more than 150 farms. The attacks since February 2009 have also made more than 60 000 people homeless and destitute. With food production virtually halted as a result of the invasions, a further 2 million people are set to face hunger in the coming months. CFU president Deon Theron told SW Radio Africa that his organisation 'deplores' the government's failure to stop what he called 'a few extremists' from violently threatening, harassing and forcibly evicting farmers and their workers. These ongoing acts of lawlessness have been epitomised by violence against farmers and their workers, with complete impunity. Local police have refused to assist farmers, labelling the land attacks a 'political' issue.
Theron explained that the attacks "violate the basic principles enunciated in the Global Political Agreement (GPA)." "What commercial farmers and their workers are being subjected to constitute crimes against humanity. It is time for the GNU to take a principled stand in this regard," Theron said. Theron also emphasised that no foreign investment, crucial for the rebuilding process in Zimbabwe to begin, will be forthcoming until the rule of law and property rights are respected. He said the bilateral investment pacts continue to be ignored, along with court orders and regional land rulings meant to offer farmers protection from invasion. This includes the most recent eviction of a number of South African farming families in Rusape, evictions that came mere weeks after an investment pact between the two countries was signed.
Farmers who kept in contact with their staff also reported that 40% of workers had died since being evicted from their farms. These brutalities have continued, and GAPWUZ say this situation is not being addressed by the unity government in any way. "What further incenses us is the silence of government officials whom we feel should be there to put a stop to such heinous acts which have left thousands of farm workers homeless and in dire need of food, education, water and sanitation," GAPWUZ Secretary General Gertrude Hambira said. (SW Radio Africa)

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