Looking in vain for aid from SA

Special Report: Mugabe's new land grab

Barely 150km from Harare in Chinhoyi, South African farmer Louis Fick was booted off his pig and crocodile farm by deputy Reserve Bank governor Edward Mashiringwani last week.

The Sunday Times visited Fick’s farm this week, but was prevented from entering by thugs hired by Mashiringwani to ensure Fick doesn’t return to the land.

Speaking outside his locked gates, Fick said: “The South African government needs to assist us. If a Zimbabwean opens a shop in South Africa and people come in and start breaking things, they’d be arrested. Why can’t we get that here?”

South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mlungisi Makalima, confirmed this week that he had been asked by a number of South African farmers in Zimbabwe to intervene to protect them.

“We are assisting the South African farmers by using the diplomatic instruments available to us,” he said, adding that this process “hasn’t delivered anything yet”.

A former accountant with Sasol and chairman of the group South African Nationals Farming in Zimbabwe, 43-year-old Fick came to the country in 1993. He has been fighting with Mashiringwani since 2007, when the deputy governor took part of the farm.

“Since then, he has basically taken about 95% of my 400ha farm. His guards won’t let me even get food into the farm for the animals, so at one stage last year I was forced to feed the small pigs to the crocodiles just to keep them alive,” he said.

What makes this fresh wave of attacks more alarming is that it comes despite a ruling in Windhoek last year by a tribunal established under the Southern African Development Community – of which Zimbabwe is part – which said the occupation of farms by land-grabbers was illegal.

It said farmers “have been discriminated against on the grounds of race” and Zimbabwe’s government must ensure no evictions took place. But Mugabe’s government now claims the SADC tribunal ruling does not apply to it – and South Africa has done nothing to bring Mugabe’s government to book for flouting the ruling.

In Chinhoyi, Murray Pott sustained horrific injuries (see video on www.timeslive.co.za) this week when he was beaten with sticks by 13 land-grabbers representing war veteran Tekler Madhuze, who wants his tobacco farm. Pott has already surrendered 750ha of his 1000ha farm, but now Madhuze wants the rest.

“I had a court order stopping them from interfering. But when I asked them to leave, the mob told me the court has no jurisdiction over them – they’re the law of the land and can do what they want,” said Pott.

Pott stood his ground and the invaders are now camping on a neighbouring farm.

“I’m not about to give up. I’m hoping political sense returns to the country,” he said.

Pott, who exports 120 000kg of tobacco each year, says the increase in violent land grabs is because “many of the land-grabbers see the new government and are scared that things will begin to change, so they must act now”.

Even though Pott has seven stitches in his head and bruises all over his body, he and several of his workers were charged with “public violence” by police this week.

In Mount Carmel, land-grabbers burnt a house belonging to Ben Freeth this month in a bid to get him to leave his farm to Zanu(PF) spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira.

Fick and others are simply shown “offer letters” by the government to the individual which say the president’s office “has the pleasure in informing you that your application for land … has been successful”.

In another case, farmer Charles Lock was officially allocated a farm in 2004. But a high-ranking army officer, Brigadier Justin Mujaji, has invaded his farm with the assistance of 15 army members.

“I can’t get back on the farm, despite the fact that I’ve got a arrest warrant for this army general. The police refuse to enforce it, saying it’s a political issue,” he said.

Mujaji has also seized 400 tons of maize and 150 tons of tobacco which Lock had farmed.

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