War vets invade black-owned farms

Suspected war veterans here have invaded commercial farms owned by fellow blacks in a move that flies in the face of Zanu (PF)’s purported empowerment drive.

Midlands Provincial Chief Lands Officer, Joseph Shoko, confirmed receiving reports of the invasions.

“We have ordered everyone who has illegally settled on the commercial farms to vacate the plots as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Shoko added that it is not the policy of government to forcefully occupy resettled farms.

Sources in the Chemagora smallholder farming area in Zhombe told The Zimbabwean that the war veterans were threatening the farm owners with unspecified action if they refused to vacate their properties.

“I have a lease for about 400 hectares of land here but the war vets have gone on to occupy it all,” said a farmer who refused to be named.

“What is surprising is that the invaders are not being arrested despite the fact that we have reported the cases to the police,” said another farmer.

Scores of other farmers said they were terrified by the levels of harassment coming from the former liberation war fighters.

The Zanu (PF) led government in 2000 embarked on a hurried land redistribution programme that displaced more than 4 000 commercial white farmers.

President Robert Mugabe’s government then claimed that the programme was necessary to empower thousands of black farmers who were landless.

However, political opponents and critics accused the government of using the land redistribution exercise as a populist vehicle to regain support following the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change that was threatening Zanu (PF)’s hold on power.

Most of the prime land that was grabbed by powerful Zanu (PF) functionaries, while poor communal farmers were resettled on unyielding land, a trend that forced some of them to retrace their footsteps to their old homes.

Zanu (PF) activists who were used as foot soldiers have also invaded conservancies, sugar plantations and woodlots.

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