Police in cat and mouse game with farm invaders

Villagers camped in mountains in Masvingo will be arrested if they continue to defy police orders, the newly appointed minister for Masvingo provincial affairs, Kudakwashe Bahasikiti, has warned.

Bhasikiti said government would not tolerate people who just invaded farms without following proper procedures.

“All those who need land should use the proper channels to get it and we cannot allow haphazard occupation of farms,” he said.

“Those who are defying police orders… risk being arrested as we move out to try and put some order in the occupation of farms,” he added.

It is now a cat and mouse game between villagers who invaded black-owned farms in Masvingo East and the police. Villagers have vowed to stay put and most of them camped in mountains.

The estimated 1,000 farm invaders have refused to leave the properties, arguing that the new black farmers were puppets of the former white owners. They say they have been occupying the farms for more than 10 years and have nowhere else to go.

The issue of illegal farm occupation in Masvingo came to a head immediately after the July 31 election when riot police descended on several farms and evicted illegal farm invaders.

Those evicted argued, however, that they occupied the properties at the height of farm invasions and therefore could not be removed.

“We are prepared to fight with anyone because, as we speak now, we have nowhere to go,” said one of the farm invaders.

“We moved onto these farms at the height of farm invasions like everyone else, so why remove us alone?” asked another.

According to government officials, in Masvingo province alone an estimated 3,000 people need to be removed from farms and sanctuaries after occupying them illegally.

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