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Home | ZimCrisis#111 -- Zimbabwe Farmers Down Tools

Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2000 14:45:18 -0700
To: "Zimbabwe Crisis Mailing List":;
From: Zimbabwe Crisis
Subject: ZimCrisis#111 -- Zimbabwe Farmers Down Tools

Workers are being laid off as farmers stop production.
By Grant Ferrett of the BBC in Harare

A growing number of commercial farmers in Zimbabwe are stopping work in protest at the continuing illegal occupations of white-owned land by squatters.

They say they will not resume work until the rule of law is restored, possibly inflicting further damage on the already dangerously weakened economy.

The government has said it will ask the squatters to move, but has done little or nothing to enforce the decision.

But as more and more land is occupied, fears are growing that other farmers will follow suit.

In Glendale, an hour's drive north of Harare, farmers keep in touch by radio as they watch yet another farm invasion taking place.

The farmers have been reduced to the role of spectators as hundreds more properties have been illegally occupied since last month's parliamentary elections.

Far from easing, tension surrounding the land issue has heightened in recent weeks. The farmers have had enough.

One, Sean Elliot, describes the situation as "untenable" following the eviction of a local Farmer's Association chairman.

"The rest of us in Glendale have stopped in sympathy with him to try to get the police to do something about our plight," he says.

Mr Elliot is one of nearly 50 farmers in the region who have suspended operations until the rule of law is restored.

"War Veterans seem to be a law unto themselves," he says.

"They've stated to us categorically that they don't listen to the government or to the police, but only to themselves.

"We understand land redistribution needs to happen, but we cannot see how it can happen in the current lawless environment."

Everson Mwashita is the man the farmers have been watching as he marches through the fields, pacing out plots for immediate resettlement.

"Today we are going to give people land - villagisation, whereby we are giving them 12 hectares, with immediate effect. We are doing what we call 'fast-track'," he says.

Although he is a member of the War Veterans' Association that led the farm invasions during the election campaign, he says he is not acting on anyone's orders but his own.

"We have seen that the government is not with us. It wants to tell us that we should be out of the farms. Now what we are doing is to give people land."

"We've got nothing to do with the government, nothing to do with politics. All we want is to give people what we did promise during the liberation struggle here in Zimbabwe. It's our own action."

The mood among the squatters is celebratory. Not content with seizing the land, they are singing at the gates of the farmhouse itself, which they are intent on occupying and looting.

Watching from just across the road are hundreds of farm workers. With operations on their farms suspended, they have little else to do.

Like their employers, they are completely exasperated by the lack of action from the police and government.

"Our living depends on working on the farms," says one man, wishing to remain anonymous, fearful of reprisals by the war veterans.

"With no work, that means there is no food. Everyone is thinking what will happen to me tomorrow because there'll be no food, nothing, no water to drink," he adds.

"That means we have to find another means of surviving, which has put us in a difficult situation that worries everyone."

The chaos on Zimbabwe's farms is rapidly undermining whatever confidence was left in the economy.

The country desperately needs to earn hard currency, but its highly lucrative agricultural sector is grinding to a halt. The authorities seem at best indifferent, and at worst actively encouraging its collapse.

The consequences could prove to be explosive.

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Brief list of helpful sites on the issue:
- Zimbabwe Crisis mailing list archives -- http://www.niner.net/zimcrisis
- Comprehensive news updates -- http://www.1freespace.com/beetee
- Offers of and requests for help for Zimbabweans -- http://pub9.ezboard.com/boffersofhelp
- Commercial Farmers' Union -- http://www.mweb.co.zw/cfu
- Movement for Democratic Change -- http://www.in2zw.com/mdc
- Zimbabwe Democracy Trust -- http://www.zimbabwedemocracytrust.org
- BSAP Pursuit of Zimbabwean Criminals -- http://www.bsaphq.f9.co.uk