Thursday, April 23, 2009

Zimbabwe Farm Invasions: A Farm Invader's Point of View

The HT spent time with around 15 farm invaders just outside Chegutu who took over Caledonia Farm, a fruit farm that used to earn Zimbabwe about US$2m every year in foreign currency remittances.

As the point of view of farm invaders across the country has not been published by the mainstream media for the past ten years, the HT sought to give the farm invaders a chance to have their voices heard. Below are the excerpts from our interviews.

HT: Why are you doing this? The inclusive government Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, has pleaded with you to cease farm invasions. Why are you not listening to him? Why didn’t you get land in the previous years? If it’s the land you want, why are you taking over farm equipment and property?

Godfrey Mambo, wearing a green, yellow and red bandana, the true ZANU-PF colors, and clad in brown military fatigues, smiled when asked the question. Here at the entrance to an orange farm that he and his cadres invaded, Mambo had no apologies for his ‘illegal” activities.

“This is our land, this is the rich fertile land that was taken from our ancestors,” Mambo told the Harare Tribune in Shona. Mambo, on guard duty, adjusted the AK-47 assault rifle he carried, changing it from one shoulder to the other.

“We are taking what belongs to us, what is wrong with that? The white people are the ones who invaded our land and what we are doing is to right the wrongs that was done to us,” said Mambo, a former National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) engineer by profession.

Mambo and his other ZANU-PF cadres invaded the fruit farm in February but have been forced to take up arms in order to protect it from the evicted farmer whom they told the Harare Tribune was currently holed up in Chegutu.

Investigations by the Harare Tribune revealed that there were several white farmers who were evicted from their farms around the Chegutu area who were now spending their days in the small town, counting their loses and, sometimes, to relieve the stress, playing backyard cricket.

A recent analysis by the Harare Tribune showed that about 23 farms in the vicinity for Chegutu have been invaded by ZANU-PF cadres. The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) told the Harare Tribune that they were only aware of about 17 farms as having been invaded.

Mambo agreed with other farm invaders that Robert Mugabe’s support of their activities was welcome.

“President Mugabe is the leader of the unity government, and he says farm invasions should continue, and for that we support him,” Mambo said. “This is a fulfillment of the promise he made to Zimbabweans during the June 2008 elections, that black empowerment was critical to the development of Zimbabwe,” he added.

“Anybody else in the unity government can say whatever they want, but the message from the true leader of the country is that we should reclaim the land, and that is what we are doing. We answered the call to take back the land and the sooner other Zimbabweans answer the call, the better this country will be.”

Josphat Gumbo, a ZANU-PF ward chairman and leader of the farm invaders that included Godfrey Mambo, told the Harare Tribune that there was consensus around the farm about their aims.

Gumbo: “We are for equitable land distribution. Invading this farm means we have achieved that goal,” Gumbo said as we set on leather sofas that came with the garbled farm house that Gumbo occupied after the farm owners were evicted.

In separate interviews, farm invaders who had already started work to clear trees on the plots they procured following the parceling of Caledonia farm said it was only fair for Gumbo to take over the farm house as he was the one who had led them in their effort to get a piece of land.

HT: “What of the farm workers, where do they fit in your aims? Now that you have invaded this farm and you can’t employ them, what are they to do?”

Gumbo: Gumbo shifted slightly on the leather sofa, and gulped another mouthful of maheu. He stroked his beard and said: “The farm workers, if you took a chance to walk around their hovels, are all people whose parents came from Malawi. The premise of the land reform programme is that land should be returned to those whose ancestors were evicted by the white man. The farm workers do not fit in anywhere.”

HT: “In short, you are saying that though they were born here in Zimbabwe, at least the majority of them, and though they have lived here in Zimbabwe all their lives, they are not Zimbabweans? Where should they live, where can they make a living as farmers without land?”

Gumbo: “My point is that there is no place for Malawian farm workers in Zimbabwe. The best the inclusive government can do is to return them where they came from. I’m sure there is plenty of land back in their homeland in Malawi.”

HT: “What is your response to those who say that you the new farmers can’t produce, the main reason why Zimbabwe has been forced to import food since the land reform programme started in year 2000.”

Gumbo: “I have heard of that story, I mean it has been written everywhere. My answer to those people is: Was Rome built in a single day? People forget that in order the Zimbabwean agriculture sector to develop to where it was by 2000, the white man had spent decades supporting the farmers with both know how and inputs. It is only fair that the new farmer be judged after he has received know how and capital from the government for the next three decades.”

HT: "Why are you taking over farm property, i thought all you want is the land only?"

Gumbo: "This property was bought with money made from this land, the land stolen from our ancestors. By default, the farm property and equipment is ours. "

The views of Gumbo and Mambo, though radical, were shared by other land invaders that the Harare Tribune spoke to in the vicinity of Chegutu. As long as President Mugabe publicly supports farm invasions, the Harare Tribune understands that Zimbabwe has not seen the last of the farm invasions. The farm invasions are likely to continue, in the short term, until 2011.

How come the UK and the USA aren't aquealing about putting targeted sanctions on the Brazillian government.....????


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