Evicted commercial farmer accuses unity gov of betrayal

charles_lockA farmer in the Headlands District, who was forcibly evicted from his land more than two weeks ago, on Friday said the unity government has betrayed him, by allowing the invasion on his farm to continue. (Pictured : Charles Lock)

Charles Locks Karori farm has been completely taken over by soldiers, hired as land invaders by Brigadier General Justin Mujaji. The gang, under Mujajis leadership, have plundered the farm of valuable produce worth more than US$1 million and because of the violent threats and intimidation by the soldiers, the land has become a no-go area. Police officials have repeatedly been called in to enforce numerous courts orders against Mujajis illegal occupation of the farm, but they have been chased off the farm and threatened.

Last month, Lock and his staff were forcibly evicted by the soldiers who beat some of the workers and raped one woman. Lock has previously argued that police are now too worried to get involved in affairs concerning the army, saying they have no power against the soldiers. But he explained on Friday to SW Radio Africa that this is just an excuse being used by the police to allow events to keep unfolding on the farm. Mujaji meanwhile, who is related by marriage to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, has also threatened to shoot Lock, his staff and even some police officials for trying to stop the theft of the farms maize and tobacco stock. But his government connections clearly mean that court orders against him, and even an outstanding arrest warrant, will not be enforced.

Mujaji and his soldiers are a law unto themselves and they know they can act with absolute impunity, Lock said.

The situation has prevailed this week despite a letter written by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to the Defence Ministry about Mujajis actions on the farm. The Prime Minister reportedly wrote the letter to Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, quietly requesting that the Defence Minister stop the Brigadier General from his illegal occupation of Locks farm. The letter was sent, and subsequently ignored by Mnangagwa, after a written protestation by the German Embassy over the seizure of the farm. That letter, addressed to Tsvangirai, called for the immediate restoration of law and order on Locks farm, which is part-owned by a German investor. Germany has argued that the invasion of the farm by Brigadier General Mujaji is in violation of the bilateral investment protection agreement between the two countries.

Lock explained on Friday that he has not heard of any letters being sent by the Prime Minister about his farm, explaining instead that Tsvangirai has openly ignored two previous letters hed written. Lock continued that while he is not surprised that the Defence Ministry has ignored the Prime Ministers letter, he feels betrayed that the government has not done more to protect him.

The unity government promised us that they would deal with these issues and that the rule of law would be respected, but nothing has been done, Lock said.

The situation on Locks farm meanwhile highlights that the current offensive against the countrys remaining commercial farmers is being driven by greed, not land reform. Lock voluntarily gave up his own farm to the State for the land reform programme in 2002 and moved on to his father-in-laws farm to head operations there. In 2004 Lock and his father-in-law were both arrested and charged with being on state land illegally, after they had been asked to give up yet more land the year before. Charges against them were dropped and at the time, both the Rusape Governor and the Land Task Force, acknowledged their legal right to the property. But all this has come to nothing, with Mujaji clearly deciding for himself that the property is his.

Meanwhile, Lock has managed to obtain yet another court order against Mujaji, but with no law enforcement, it is highly unlikely the legal route will result in any positive action. Lock explained on Friday that the legal route is the only option he has.

It wont come to anything now, I know that, Lock said. But hopefully one day there will be a day of reckoning and I will be prepared for that day.

SWRadio Africa

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