Zimbabwe farmers continue to fight for their land

Hundreds of Zimbabwean farmers have quit production, but continue their fight against land grabs. Justice for Agriculture (JAG) representative John Worswick said on Thursday that only about 200 commercial farmers were still trying to keep producing this season although about 600 commercial farmers were still on their properties.

“Many farmers are no longer able to farm and thousands of their employees are unemployed, homeless and destitute and over six million Zimbabweans face starvation,” JAG representative Jenni Williams added.

So far approximately 500 of the 2 900 commercial farmers issued with eviction orders have successfully challenged their validity and more cases are pending. JAG would also launch a court challenge on the basis of unconstitutionality once President Robert Mugabe promulgated another amendment to the Land Acquisition Act, making it easier for the government to seize farms.

“Most farmers are committed to a depoliticised agrarian reform programme based on sound economic principles and where commercial production is not compromised.
Many who have left would not need more than one invitation to return to rebuild an integrated farming sector,” Williams said.

This week the Harare High Court nullified 11 more eviction orders issued to white commercial farmers in Mashonaland because they were not properly served and last week the Bulawayo High Court issued a provisional order that all Matabeleland farmers forcibly and illegally evicted by the Zimbabwe Republic Police be allowed to return.

About 75 Commercial Farmers Union members brought the urgent court application on the basis the evictions were unlawful because some of the white farmers removed from their farms had not been issued with eviction notices although the ZRP had allegedly forcibly evicted about 90% of white farmers in the province by the end of last week.

The High Court gave the two most senior police officers in Matabeleland 10 days to file opposing papers if they wished to contest the order. Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa has been quoted in Zimbabwean media as saying his annual budget next month would concentrate resources on helping the

300 000 blacks being resettled on the confiscated farms.

But Oliver Gawe, representative for the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, presented a paper to parliament last week in which he said the land redistribution program was badly damaging the tobacco industry. The industry used to account for 30% of Zimbabwe’s foreign exchange.

Gawe rejected government claims that the 300 000 black Zimbabweans to be resettled on the land could speedily restore production levels.

“From our experience dealing with smallholder farmers, it takes five to six seasons for a farmer to master the crop and get the quality right,” he said. - Sapa

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