By John Chimunhu
- “There are scores of destitute elderly former farmers”
Many white farmers evicted from their lands in Zimbabwe have become destitute after the regime of dictator Robert Mugabe refused to compensate them, it emerged.
The government has now gazetted the remaining white-owned farms, numbering about 200, plunging their owners into desperation. Investigations by Now Daily found that many former farmers who have not left the country are living in abject poverty, sometimes sleeping on the streets.
“White-owned farms were gazetted and almost all forcibly seiz
ed,” said the United States government report on human rights released last week. “Title deed holders who lost their homes or properties–where most of their life earnings were invested–were not compensated. Approximately 180 to 230 farmers accepted a settlement worth 5 to 10 percent of the value of their investment. As a result, like their former farm workers whom the new beneficiaries of the farms evicted, there were scores of destitute elderly former farmers.”
Quoting local human rights and humanitarian NGOs, the report says “sporadic evictions continued during the year”.
“In January police evicted approximately 400 families from farms in Mazowe. Media reported the evictions were carried out to accommodate plans to expand the first family’s holdings in the area,” the U.S. State Department global report on human rights said.
The report says:
“Land seizures remained a serious problem. According to the attorney general and Ministry of Lands, every white-owned farm in the country was gazetted (officially announced as available in state media) and effectively state property. According to the Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe, after a property was gazetted, it was transferred to a politically connected individual at the first available opportunity. The exact number of remaining white commercial farmers was unknown; those remaining continued to be targeted, harassed, and threatened with eviction by farm beneficiaries, unemployed youth, and individuals hired by those standing to benefit. Abuse of the land reform laws continued, with invasions and seizures of noncommercial land on the privately owned wildlife conservancies in Masvingo Province and with the collusion of high-ranking government officials and provincial ZANU-PF party structures and leaders.
White-owned farms were gazetted and almost all forcibly seized. Title deed holders who lost their homes or properties–where most of their life earnings were invested–were not compensated. Approximately 180 to 230 farmers accepted a settlement worth 5 to 10 percent of the value of their investment. As a result, like their former farm workers whom the new beneficiaries of the farms evicted, there were scores of destitute elderly former farmers.
Farm allocations continued to be politicized and used as a reward for political support to ZANU-PF. Beneficiaries divided many reallocated farms near cities for sale as small residential lots and sold them for personal gain without any compensation to the title deed holders.
In August 2014 Raymond Ndhlukula, deputy chief secretary in the president’s office, seized a farm near Figtree, Matabeleland South, while police watched. David Conolly, the lawful owner of the property, approached the courts for protection and received a high court injunction against the seizure. When Conolly confronted Ndhlukula about the high court order, Conolly alleged Ndhlukula stated he was a senior civil servant and “white people could not come before the courts of Zimbabwe regarding land matters.” Ndhlukula’s workers camped out on the property, intimidating Conolly and eventually forcing him off the property. Conolly filed an urgent High Court application regarding the seizure of his farm, and Ndhlukula was found to be in contempt of the court order. Ndhlukula appealed the High Court decision, however, and the matter was pending in the Supreme Court and numerous lower courts at year’s end.
There were other reports of farmers forced off their farms, despite being in possession of a court order allowing them to remain on the property, and denied the opportunity to collect their personal belongings. Black farm workers on white-owned farms were beaten, intimidated, or displaced. Police in most cases did not intervene while invaders and looters carried on their activities, nor did police enforce court judgments evicting squatters on illegally seized properties.”
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