Letter from Home – In memory of Paul

BY LITANY BIRD


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Dear Family and Friends,


There has been a lot of talk this week about an article in an English newspaper, which said that white commercial farmers were about to be given the chance to lease back farms that were seized by the government over the past six years. It is an article in which sources aren’t named, quotes aren’t given and Ministers were “not available for comment” but everyone knows there is no smoke without fire so something is very likely going on.


Almost as soon as the article appeared in print there was a flurry of denials from Zimbabwe. On Thursday night on State TV, Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa poured scorn on the article saying it was “nonsense.” The Minister went on to say that any whites still on their farms were actually there illegally and should immediately come forward and ask the government for permission to keep growing food.


The Commercial Farmers Union then stepped into the fray and issued a statement to “the government and people of Zimbabwe.” I am not sure who the Commercial Farmers Union represents, now that 90% of the country’s farmers have had their land seized by the government.


However, they obviously thought it was a good time to do a bit more grovelling. Calling for the government to “bring all stakeholders together,” the CFU said, and I quote: “Whilst current conditions are indeed tough and testing, it is not the time for recrimination or going back – it is the time to draw the line and go forward, learning from the past.”


It took less than a day for Zimbabwe’s Minister of Agriculture to trash the CFU’s statement and spit on the hand the CFU were holding out – if that is what they were doing. Minister Made said that only dreamers would make such calls and said: “The white farmers have suddenly realised their irrelevance in the current agricultural set-up and have decided to write statements instead of accepting reality.”


To complete the confusion, the week ended with a statement by Justice for Agriculture – the organisation whose name describes their function. JAG said they “noted with concern” the CFU statement. JAG had the guts to do what the CFU didn’t do.


JAG spelled out the facts that every Zimbabwean is only too painfully aware of – 90% of seized farms were lying idle and this year’s national production levels would be the lowest ever recorded, despite an excellent rainy season. JAG said there continued to be a breakdown of law and order in farming areas, no respect for property rights, moveable farming assets, livestock, crops and personal household effects in farming areas.


JAG also pointed out one critical fact that almost all these media reports leave out. The fact that it wasn’t just 4000 white farmers who were dispossessed when the government grabbed the farms, it was thousands of farm workers together with their wives, children, unemployed relations and members of their extended families.


I write my letter this week in memory of Paul who died at 4am on Monday morning. Paul’s life began to fall apart three years ago when he lost his job in the land seizures. I pray he rests in peace and am glad he has been released from the struggles of pain, hunger and penury he endured these last three years. Until next week, Ndini shamwari yenyu

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