6 farm workers arrested as violence escalates on invaded farm

arrestAt least six farm workers are being held at Chinhoyi police station on charges of inciting public violence, in the aftermath of attacks at the hands of land invaders on a farm.


The six workers were arrested the day after five of their colleagues were shot and wounded by a man believed to be an employee of the deputy Reserve Bank governor Edward Mashiringwani. Mashiringwani has for months led a campaign of intimidation against Friedawil farms legal owner Louis Fick, and several weeks ago moved on to the farm with 15 armed guards, forcing Fick and most of his staff to leave. Fick, who now no longer has access to his land, has been trying in vain to secure a court order for his land to be returned to him.

Much of his staff meanwhile, who have stayed on to try and keep the farms numerous animals fed and watered, have faced increasing intimidation and violence. The thugs on the land have repeatedly used tactics of extreme cruelty against the farms pigs and crocodiles to try and force Fick to give up the farm. The animals have been left to go hungry and thirsty, and its understood water on the property was this weekend deliberately shut off, all in an attempt to force Fick to give up his land to Mashiringwani.

Fridays violence is believed to be as a result of an eviction campaign initiated by Mashiringwanis men in the early hours of Friday morning. Scores of Ficks workers were assaulted with barbed wire and sticks during the campaign, and several of their homes were deliberately torched by the land invaders. The shooting that occurred later in the day is also said to be a result of the eviction campaign. In the attack, Ficks cook was shot in the chest, a second employee was shot in the head and a third sustained leg injuries. Another two people, including the cooks wife, were also shot and were rushed to hospital.

Shortly after the attack the gunman, named only as Tichiona, was reportedly beaten in what appears to be a retaliatory attack by other workers, which in turn led to the arrest of six workers on Saturday. Police have never taken any action in response to Ficks months of reports of intimidation, illegal land takeover and animal abuse on the farm. As has now become the norm in Zimbabwe, police are using the excuse that land disputes are political, in order not to get involved in, what is in most cases, rampant theft.

Meanwhile Fick, a South African citizen, has received no assistance from his own government. He is one of 79 farmers who took their case to the SADC Tribunal in Windhoek last year, and his farm is meant to be protected by the Tribunals ruling. The ruling was meant to ensure that the Zimbabwe government protected the farmers from future land invasions, but ZANU PF has refused to abide by the ruling, relentlessly harassing farmers and their workers across the country. The government was this year charged with contempt for ignoring the earlier ruling, but in response, the government announced it no longer recognises the Tribunal.

But neither the South African government nor the South African embassy has made any move to assist Fick, despite South African President Jacob Zuma only recently standing down as SADC Chair. South Africa has made no mention of Zimbabwes snub of the Tribunal and SADC itself has made no move to deal with the matter. Fick meanwhile has kept the South African embassy in Zimbabwe fully informed of the ongoing property rights and human rights violations on his farm. Ambassador Mlungisi Makalima remained unavailable for an interview on Monday, despite numerous requests throughout the day from SW Radio Africa.

Last year, a Pretoria judge took the South African government to task for not protecting the rights of a citizen whose farm was taken over in the so called land reform programme. Free State farmer Crawford von Abo won his court battle against the then President Thabo Mbeki, the Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa, to get compensation from the South African government for not acting on his behalf to protect his rights to his land. Judge Bill Prinsloo noted that the governments excuses for lack of action over the previous six years had been feeble and pointed out that Germany, France and Denmark had intervened successfully of behalf of their citizens who owned agricultural land in Zimbabwe.

But in Zimbabwe, the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA) with South Africa has become a contentious issue as a result of delays in signing the new agreement. It is understood the new deal, set to be signed this month, will exclude any agreements on land protection, meaning South African farmers in Zimbabwe will have no legal right of protection from their own government – and South Africa appears happy to sign, on this basis.

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