Farmer's wife used as bait as police continue to support land invasions

farm_invasion.jpgThe intensity of the recent wave of farm attacks sweeping the country has been taken to new levels this week, with the wife of a Chiredzi farmer being used as bait by local police to lure her husband out of hiding.

Teresa Warth was arrested on her Wasara Ranch in Chiredzi on Monday,
and was told by police that she was being used as bait'. Her husband
Gary has been in hiding for six weeks and police hoped her arrest would
flush him out of hiding to face arrest and prosecution. Teresa was
forced to leave behind her frail parents-in-law as well as their
animals, including three tame elephant and a herd of cattle. The
Warth's property has come under brutal attack before and many of their
animals have been slaughtered by land invaders, in an act of cruel
intimidation. Teresa was later released on Monday night but is expected
in court on Wednesday to face, as yet, unknown charges.

Gary Warth is just one of many farmers that have been forced into
hiding as a result of the fresh wave of attacks aimed at removing the
remaining commercial farmers off their land. The land invasions and
fast-track prosecution of farmers began in earnest in February, after
Attorney General Johannes Tomana instructed local police and
magistrates to support the attacks. In all cases, court orders and
other legal protections on the farms are being knowingly ignored, and
with the police supporting the attacks, farmers have no assistance or
protection. It was also known that arrest warrants had been issued for
the farmers.

The arrest in Chiredzi meanwhile comes as Chegutu famer Ben Freeth and
his family are still defending their land from a gang of invaders who
have also been clearly supported by local police. The offensive on the
Mount Carmel farm started on Friday when a group of around fifteen
thugs arrived on the property and demanded that Freeth and his family
leave. The gang of men also returned on Saturday morning, only to be
forced off the property by the farm employees and workers from other
farms in the area, who united against the invaders. But the invasion
turned violent on Saturday night when the thugs returned and assaulted
six of the family's farm workers. One worker was left with a fractured
skull after the beating and has been forced into hiding with the rest
of the staff.

The family once again came under siege on Monday night, this time by a
group of armed policemen, who not only threatened to arrest Freeth's
wife, but also hauled away yet another innocent farm worker. The police
action occurred while the land invaders were on the property
threatening the family, but police completely ignored them in another
clear sign of their support for the farm attacks. At the same time,
eight of the farm workers are still being kept behind bars on trumped
up charges and Freeth explained on Tuesday that they have all been
tortured while in custody. He called the situation total anarchy' and
explained that the family can't even reach some parts of the farm
because the invaders have settled in.

A report by a London-based analysis group warned this week that the
fresh farm invasions not only threaten the fragile stability of the
unity government, but are also likely to lead to further social unrest.
The Economist Intelligence Unit this week ranked Zimbabwe has having a
high risk profile for political upheaval and public unrest, saying the
situation is further fuelled by the extreme poverty facing the

A constitutional review process, rampant corruption in government and
a general breakdown of the rule of law has deepened Zimbabwe's exposure
to social and political tension, putting at risk the stability of the
coalition government, the EIU report noted.

The unity government, despite being bound by the terms of the Global
Political Agreement that pledged to encourage food production on
farms, has done nothing to prevent the attacks from continuing –
attacks that have seen all work on farms grind to a halt. Prime
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last week told media that the Joint
Operation and Implementation Committeee had been tasked with dealing
with the land issue, not long after vowing that the perpertrators of
the land invasions would face arrest. But it is clear that the Prime
Minister's words have been ignored and he does not have the power to do
anything about it.

SWRadio Africa

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