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|African Tears: The
Zimbabwe Land Invasions - Catherine Buckle
Click here for Cathy's recent poems
Below are letters from Cathy Buckle, giving updates on what's happening out there in Zimbabwe
right now ........
Letter 1 - 8th June
Letter 2 - 16th June
Letter 3 - 26th June
Letter 4 - 30th June
Letter from a Zimbabwe farmer - 6 July
Letter 5 - 7th July
Letter 6 - 9th July
|LETTER NO 1
8 TH JUNE 2001
Dear family and friends,
This week's letter is not going to be a documentary of what's been happening politically in Zimbabwe this past seven days. It is going to be about farms and farmers and about the death, this week, of the man who has been one of the prime movers in ensuring that thousands and thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans will soon be looking starvation in the face. When Chenjerai Hunzvi died I sent out a letter saying that I did not rejoice at the man's death and I had many angry letters in response to my sentiments. I still do not rejoice at his death. I feel incredible sadness that any human being could allow themselves to be used the way Hunzvi has been used this past 16 months. Used and paid to rape, torture, beat, burn and kill. Used and paid to cause suffering and misery. Used and paid to ensure crops were not planted. Used and paid for a political cause which will never feed the thousands of people now jobless and homeless. Used and paid to lead 13 million people to starvation. Perhaps it is as well Hunzvi died before 13 million people got angry enough to ask him why he had done this? I do not know how Chenjerai Hunzvi will rest in peace, I do not know how he will face his God.
As a white person, and an ex farmer, I am not alone in my conviction of approaching starvation. BBC's Veronique Edwards asked a high profile black, non farming Zimbabwean this week about the threat of starvation. When he told her about wheat not being planted, a grossly insufficient maize crop and no foreign currency to import food, Ms Edwards suggested the man was exaggerating the situation. Tendai Biti angrily retorted that he lived in Zimbabwe, he saw the situation on the ground with his own eyes and rightly said that he found Ms Edwards accusation as extremely insulting. It is equally insulting to hear people calling black Zimbabweans Uncle Tom if they dare tell the truth. It is insulting in the extreme to black Zimbabweans and merely perpetuates a racist, colonial mentality that we left behind two decades ago.
I wish I could tell you what has been happening on Zimbabwean farms this week since the death of war veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi. I wish I could tell you of the terror being experienced by farmers this week when huge groups of men have gathered at the farm gates, shouting, whistling and drumming. I wish I could tell you of the terror a woman went through when she was abducted this week. I wish I could tell you of the horror of having the farms gates smashed down by youngsters calling themselves war veterans this week. I wish I could tell you of the nausea and horror of seeing fields being burnt down, cattle being slaughtered, people being barricaded into their own homes, people being told to get out of their own homes or they would
be killed. I wish I could tell you but I cannot. I cannot tell you because if I do, the farmers say, tomorrow 'they' will come back with reinforcements.
Less than a year ago I was on a farm, I know what it is like to have 'them' shouting at the gate. I know what it feels like to see three hundred people chanting and waving their fists on my land. I know what it feels like to see a bloated, slaughtered, decapitated cow lying,in the field covered in bloodied, frenzied flies. I know what it feels like to be threatened, sworn at, scared, watched. I know what it feels like to have a tree cut and strewn across my roadway so that I cannot get out. I know what it feels like when the police do not come because 'it is political', do not come because they 'have no transport'. I know what it feels like to be told I have two hours to get out of my own house. I know what it feels like. For almost a year I lived it. For almost a year I told the world about it, week after agonising week, terrified of repercussions, I told about it. Around the world, and worse, in Zimbabwe, everyone thinks that because it is no longer all over the newspapers, the terror on the farms has stopped - it has not. Day after agonising day it goes on and yet everyone is silent. This week another 3 Zimbabwean farmers in one small area, threw the towel in, packed in their dairy operations and are leaving. It has not stopped. It is still not about land. It is still being done by men who are being used and paid. It is still purely about politics.
When I wrote the story of my farm I was terrified of repercussions, not just scared but terrified, paranoid. It took a wonderful black man, some may call him an Uncle Tom, to make me see sense. He showed me, by his own actions, that fear is all consuming. He told me that if I allowed fear to continue ruling my life it would mean that 'they' had won, that I had allowed them to rule my life. Nothing in Zimbabwe is now as it seems.
Mid week police moved in and evicted squatters from Gadzanga farm on Central Estate in Mvuma. Why did they do this? Central Estate is owned by Nicholas Hoogstaten, a well known, self professed financial backer of Zimbabwe's ruling party.
Yesterday I went to Richie's school for a small show put on by all the students. Depicting fashion across the world, I sat enthralled, often laughing and sometimes with tears in my eyes at these future Zimbabwean leaders. Black, white and brown children, holding hands, singing, dancing, saying (and often forgetting) their lines. This is the true face of Zimbabwe and I am so proud to be able to say that I am not leaving my country. I am not giving in, I am not giving up and - I am not shutting up either. The horror on the farms is continuing. Stories such as those recounted in 'African Tears' are being replayed every single day and while they continue I will keep telling of it.
Until next week,
|LETTER NO 2
16 June 2001
Dear family and friends,
This letter is dedicated to the memory of Zondiwa Dumukani.It's been another tumultuous week in Zimbabwe with more insanity on the farms, more insanity in the courts and an economic announcement by government which has sent the country into a dizzy downward spiral. The farm most in the news this week has been one often referred to in African Tears. Blackfordby Farm on the outskirts of Harare saw plenty of police presence in the first part of the week. The police though were not there to assist the legal owner of the property, they were there to arrest the owner, to arrest the farm workers and to protect the illegal 'war veterans' and squatters. The farm owner was arrested for inciting public violence - workers on the farm had attacked some of the squatters.
The farm owner and 30 of his workers were arrested. One farm worker, 32 year old Zondiwa Dumukani was battered to death by 'war veterans' with a golfclub after being accused of trying to run away from a political meeting on the farm. Witnesses positively identified the four 'war veterans' who beat Zondiwa to death, one of the attackers was a form 3 student from a nearby high school.
On another farm in another district 'war veterans' grabbed the farm manager, surrounded him with hay bales and then set the hay alight -the man is alive but, like so many thousands of others, will never forget. On another property the farmer was told that if he did not vacate his home he would 'have his legs beaten until he fell.' On another, the farmer was visited by army men and interrogated: which land are you going to give us, we want milk, give us meat.
The farm most in the news later this week is one in Chegutu where 100 people are employed to tend tobacco and soya beans. It was invaded by 80 people led by 4 policemen and the District Administrator. The farmer was given 7 days to get off his land and out of his house, the farmer did not wait the 7 days, he fled immediately. This farm is owned and run by a black Zimbabwean, Philemon Matibe. Mr Matibe was not too scared to speak to the press. He has engaged a lawyer to sue invaders for unlawful occupation and he said to reporters: "Mugabe says he is taking land from the whites and giving it to blacks. I'm as black as he is. Now he is taking land from some blacks and giving it to the blacks who support him. ...I've lost everything overnight. Everything I worked for all my life has disappeared."
We will all be paying close attention when Mr Matibe's case comes to court because the infamous 'Protection from Eviction Bill' was gazetted this week. Parliament is in recess, need I say more. This new Bill prevents squatters and 'war veterans' from being evicted from private property. Worse though, the Bill forbids any Court from trying to enforce previously granted eviction orders. I promised myself that I would not mention Hunzvi again but I must. The man may be dead but it is clear that someone else is now being paid to continue the reign of terror, continue where Hunzvi left off. We have not yet been told who will now head the War Veterans' Association.Perhaps it will be Mr Grass Hat who was front page news this week. Mr Grass Hat who was a security guard with the Harare Municipality was pictured emerging in a beautifully tailored suit from his own personal and brand new Cherokee Jeep - worth Z$5.5 million. Being a farm invader is clearly a very lucrative enterprise.
In a move which has put Zimbabwe in total turmoil this week, the government announced an increase in the price of fuel. Not 5 or 10 or even 50 percent, no ! Fuel prices increased 'with immediate effect' by SEVENTY PERCENT on Wednesday. One litre of diesel is now Z$66, petrol is Z$ 76.29. There has been an uproar, the unions have threatened mass stayaways if the rise is not retracted within 14 days. Civil servants immediately demanded pay rises. Bus fares immediately increased by 50-70%. How on earth are we going to survive? Most minimum wage earners are no longer going to be able to afford to get to work. The cost of getting produce off farms and to towns will now cost seventy percent more than it did last week, the cost of food is going to be outrageous and send our present 60% inflation soaring well over the century mark. Even assuming 'war veterans' were to leave all st of their food is going to be beyond the reach of the majority of our population.
Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo was prominently in the news this week. government has decided to 'postpone' the mayoral and council elections there. Minister of Justice, Patrick Chinamasa said the elections had been postponed because the voters roll was 'a shambles'. That really made me laugh - if the roll was in such a 'shambles' why had it been acceptable for parliamentary elections last year? MP David Coltart, who like so many now, just will not give up, was in the Courts immediately. The Judge ordered the postponement null and void and ordered the Registrar General to announce new dates. The Minister of Justice replied by saying he will appeal the null and void ruling. And our government's response to a week of 'shambles' - it was twofold: All foreign journalists must give a months notice when applying for accreditation. All foreign journalists currently in Zim must leave the country when their permits expire. They must re-apply from their country of origin. And the second response to the 'shambles' - 421 farms listed for 'compulsory acquisition' in yesterdays' state run press. So it is clear - when all else fails, when shambles rules - grab another few hundred farms, land, after all, is the answer to everything.
Queries from 'family and friends' in the UK asking why African Tears is not in the windows of bookshops, not on display. I don't know the answer, but it is available. It has been classified as political history, it can be ordered both in bookshops and on the net. Please help me to spread the word about Zimbabwe's plight. I am going to stop now and be a mum for the day - albeit a bleary eyed one. Richard woke me twice with bad dreams, one about falling off a roof and the other about breaking windows. At least his nightmares are now about 'normal' things and easier to explain to him. With my love and thanks, as always, to the hundreds of people write, who care, who continue supporting and encouraging Zimbabweans to keep going.
|LETTER NO 3
26 June 2001
Dear family and friends,
What an interesting week we've had as the forces of nature moved into play and put Zimbabwe back into the world spotlight with the solar eclipse. Our government chose to completely ignore this spectacle of nature until about 10 days before the event and then went completely over the top.
Suddenly we found ourselves absolutely bombarded with the most sickening propaganda as tourists started arriving. We were told again and again in the official media (for the benefit of the tourists) that Zimbabwe is a wonderful country, there is no lawlessness, there is peace and harmony, there is no danger and, don't worry, we'll find a way of making sure there is plenty of petrol available for people to get out there and see the eclipse. The night before the eclipse President Mugabe made an official, televised 'Address to the Nation.' This is the same President who never addresses the nation when people are murdered, when homes are burned and looted, when teachers are raped, when fuel goes up by 70%. His address to the nation can only be described as patronising, gushing and nauseating. He told all Zimbabweans to open their homes to all these wonderful tourists; share your water with them, share your food with them, give them a bed, show them what a great, peaceful, law-abiding country we are.
As a 'thinking' Zimbabwean, all I can say is I found my President's speech extremely insulting and I would hope that 'thinking' tourists share my feelings. Let's not forget that this same President calls all whites 'enemies of the state', he calls all westerners 'neo colonialist, imperialist masters' and has spent the last 16 months telling the whole world to go to hell. Now though it's a complete about face and as always is just a question of money - the tourists have come, lets be nice to them and take their money, we'll go back to insulting them again next week.
Moments after the main evening TV news showed the President's address, they then crossed over to an official statement from the Zimbabwe Republic Police. The Police spokesman told tourists not to go off the beaten track, not to leave their vehicles untended, not to leave valuables in their cars and to stay in groups. Great stuff ! The President gushes about peace and tranquillity and moments later the Police make statements totally contradicting their boss!
I must confess to not being a great solar eclipse fanatic but it did have an enormous impact on me this time - I actually drove into a local garage in Marondera, did not sit in a queue and for the first time in many months managed to completely fill my petrol tank. Absolute bliss except with the 70% rise in fuel prices it cost me almost Z$5000 - a lot of money I was not going to waste in travelling hundreds of kilometres to see 3 minutes of semi darkness! There were no 'solar viewers' to be had at all, anywhere in Marondera so I watched it on telly with Anna, George, Richie, Howard and Linnet. Richie was at home anyway on half term but Howard and Linnet (12 and 7) had been sent home from school at lunchtime, the Headmaster told them "you better all go home now before the weather changes"!
The solar eclipse did also have one other direct benefit for 'thinking' Zimbabweans. For an entire week local television said absolutely nothing about farms, war veterans, landless peasants and giving land back to the people. Sadly though it did not mean that nothing was happening on Zimbabwe's farms - completely the opposite. Tobacco seed beds were burnt on farms in Macheke and Karoi by 'war veterans', prejudicing the owners of literally millions of dollars and ensuring even less foreign currency for Zimbabwe's coffers next year. Cattle were slaughtered on other farms, maize waiting to be harvested was set alight, 'war vets' would only allow a wheat farmer to irrigate his crop if he paid them Z$50 000 first. Many farmers also received calls from 'officials' warning them to pay their annual rates to Rural District Councils.
It seems that even if the government has told you it is taking your property, it is not paying you for your land and you have no legal rights as a citizen of Zimbabwe - you do still have to pay your rates though. It would seem that16 months down the line, officialdom is at last beginning to see the rippling effect of haphazard land redistribution. It hasn't stopped them though, yesterday's state run newspaper listed the next 577 farms to be 'compulsorily acquired'. There are not many un-listed farms left now and I am absolutely convinced that the gvt intends to actually take every single farm in the country and then sort out the mess afterwards.
Perhaps this is 'cathy paranoia' but by my estimates there are fewer than a thousand farms un-listed now. In a most peculiar move this week, President Mugabe made a hasty one day trip to Kenya. He took with him the ministers of foreign affairs and agriculture. We were told that the the 3 man team had gone to Kenya to brief regional leaders on the progress of Zimbabwe's land issue and to invite them to come and see for themselves. See what I wonder? To see 18 year old war veterans terrorizing, burning maize and tobacco, tying up farm workers, giving out death threats, breaking down gates, 'liberating' peoples homes. Oh yes please Mr Moi, do come and see.
Now to the most disgraceful event of the week. On Tuesday, 32 teachers and 2 headmasters were 'fired' by war veterans in Buhera and told to "go and teach in MDC schools". The teachers went and reported this to their employer - the Ministry of Education. The Ministry told the teachers that they had 14 days to "sort out" their problems with the war veterans or they would be removed from the government pay roll. The teachers were also advised to go to local zanu pf offices and "denounce the mdc" and then re-apply to the war veterans for re-instatement. War veterans in Buhera said they would then announce which teachers had been "cleared". What can I say except when will we all stand together as one and say "For God's sake enough is enough."
It is Richard's ninth birthday on Monday and I can hardly believe that this time last year we celebrated his birthday inside because a couple of hundred war veterans were down in the field below the farmhouse. I asked him yesterday if nine year olds still hugged their mums, Rich said he wasn't sure about that but, he added, they definitely don't kiss their mums!! On that note I leave you till next week. Much love and thanks as always for the letters and support
|LETTER NO 4
30 June 2001
Dear family and friends,
Thanks as always for your letters in response to mine last week and for all the very touching birthday messages for Richie. We had a lovely but very low key day as flu had overtaken him and I'm delighted to say that he has decided that 9 year olds do in fact still hug their mums! I am going to send this weeks letter out in even smaller and more staggered batches than usual as it seems I have again attracted the attention of what we call "the sunglasses boys". Its been a very frustrating 7 days of outgoing mails being bounced back at me, incoming arriving blank and yesterday the most obvious virus I've ever been sent! I will not give up though and I hope 'they' enjoy this one. For me it is more than ever a case of who is watching who and who is using what they see and hear more constructively!
My letter this week is going to be devoted almost entirely to farms as tomorrow, the 1st of July, is an historic one. Last year in December our Supreme Court made a ruling which comes into effect on the 1st of July. Details of it are in the final paragraph in African Tears (excuse me boring you): "The Supreme Court declares that the rule of law has been persistently violated in commercial farming areas and that the people in those areas have suffered discrimination in contravention of the constitution... the court states that the people in these areas have been denied the protection of the law and had their rights of assembly and association infringed. The Court orders that the Minister of Home Affairs and the Commissioner of Police restore the rule of law in farming areas by no later than July 1st 2001." So there it is, they have until tomorrow to restore the rule of law. I think that none of us are under any illusions, none of us actually think that it is going to happen. It is simply another ruling from the Highest Court in the country that will be ignored. Everyone knows it is imminent though and the farmers have been experiencing total hell this week. Total hell is not an exaggeration. Imagine having 30 odd 'war veterans' literally camped in your garden, sleeping on your veranda, so close that they can even hear you flushing your toilet. Just imagine - 4 days and nights of it, you can't even go outside your front door. It is an abomination which is in contravention of every human right known to mankind and there is a human face on it - there is fear, anger, frustration but mostly, total despair. Last night President Mugabe was on TV speaking at his political congress and he too knows the Supreme Court ruling is imminent. He did not mention it but he did say that "we" would not give up on the struggle for "our land" and he reminded us of his newest law - the Protection from Eviction Bill. President Mugabe did not explain though why he has just given 180 farms in Zimbabwe to foreigners. That's right! The government announced on Wednesday that 180 foreign owned farms had been de-listed. The owners of these farms are signiatories to the 'Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement' and will not now have their farms compulsorily acquired. A government spokesman said: "This will help us show the world that we do not break agreements that we would have undertaken to adhere to and that we respect the rule of law." What can I say, this is an absolute outrage and leaves the most disgusting taste in my mouth. He will allow foreigners to retain their farms but not third or fourth generation Zimbabweans. To all foreigners owning and leasing Zim farms please understand my outrage, this is not a personal attack on you - it is just complete and utter disgust at the hypocrisy, at the blatant bribery and black mail - how low our government has stooped. I pray that all Zim farmers, foreign, local, black and white stand together now and refuse this disgusting outrage. As to the 'cathy paranoia' I refered to last week about my personal belief that every single farm in Zimbabwe is to be listed. It seems I may not be that far from the truth after all. Yesterday's newspaper listed 2030 properties, some were repeat lists but- if I am not mistaken - there were 1020 new farms to be compulsorily acquired. The lists ran to 18 staggering pages. Add these to the governments admitted number of 3410 already listed and we are near the end. While these are just numbers, a good friend said to me this week that 'statistics don't bleed'. How right he is. Imagine seeing your name in a newspaper, seeing a small notice telling you that the government is taking your land, your home, your job, your life's work - just taking it. They might pay you for the house but, very sorry, haven't got any money to pay you for it right now. Wow, what a depressing missive. But there is hope, huge hope now and I can still see that little pin prick of light at the end of the tunnel. The EU yesterday gave the Zim government 60 days to: end the violence; scrap media curbs; end farm occupations, and uphold court rulings - or face sanctions and other measures of EU disapproval. More hopeful though - people have had enough of being scared, people have had enough of violence and intimidation. People are beginning to speak out. We face two days of national stayaways on Monday andTuesday this coming week to protest the 70% fuel price rise. So the government may throw out the last resident foreign journalist (David Blair) but I believe we Zimbabweans are ready to pick up where David leaves off, we are all ready to start speaking out.
Enough for now, until next week, with much love, cathy
|LETTER FROM A ZIMBABWE FARMER 6 JULY
Two years ago I was elected Commercial Farmers Union Chairman for Mashonaland East Province (for my sins). It covers nine districts and embraces 800 of the country's 3500 remaining commercial farmers. As I write I am close to the phone because a family in my province, in the district of Macheke, has been under seige all night. So called war-vets and their followers broke down their security fence last evening and converged on the homestead chanting blood curdling threats, built fires around the house, on the lawns and verandah, fired shots randomly, and the neighbours stood-by all night in case things got really out of hand. The police declined to react throughout, and I was only able to get the officer commanding the province on her cell phone early this morning. Under extreme pressure the police sent two details there who reported everything to be in order, and left. The family are still in the house surrounded. 40 farmers went to the police station to demand an explanation and a reaction from the member in charge, accompanied by a BBC film crew who were threatened by the officer if they continued to film. The provincial head of police is now on her way there to "talk to the farmers", and they and the BBC and other press have retired a couple of kilometers away to the local sports club for some breakfast and to await further developments. We have a lawyer on standby in case any of our farmers are arrested, which is likely as that has become the pattern in recent weeks - charges are trumped up and later withdrawn, but not before the farmers concerned and the community in general have had a rather unpleasant experience. (We have exercized a policy of not encouraging press involvement for many months now - to try to keep the temperature down, and to try to resolve issues by negotiation and without publicity - but I think it is generally accepted now that we have been wasting our time as there is no goodwill to draw on, and our approach is now to let the press report all that they can, as there is nothing to lose by them doing so.) (That was Saturday - it's now Frday. The seige ended on Tuesday afternoon when we managed to get the heirarchy of the Party involved, after they had begun to panic about the publicity both overseas and in the local press.
The couple were not able to leave the house, and nobody was allowed in, even with provisions so things became a bit desparate - especially as they ran out of cigarettes! The dogs were not allowed out of the hose for the four days, so soiled carpets etc., trees were cut down in the garden, and across the drive so that no vehicle could easily approach, and fires were burned all day and night upwind of the house so that smoke constantly permeated the home. The filth and rubbish, and empty beer containers were all over the garden. Anyway, that one is over.) I am afraid it was not an isolated incident. Last Sunday, during lunch, a farmer in the same area had a group of about 100 individuals rush into his tobacco seedbed site and set light to 300 beds. These are the seedling production units, for the early plantings of the irrigated crop, to be planted out into the fields from 1st September, grown and reaped during our summer, and sold in 2002. After sowing they are covered with a dry grass mulch, and a synthetic 'nappy liner' material for protection against frost - a very combustible combination. Direct loss there was in the order of Z$1 000 000, but the crop that would have been produced from the 120 Ha those seedbeds were to cater for, US$850 000 in foreign currency earnings for our country. (For a year we have been suffering fuel shortages with endless queues at the few filling stations that have anything to sell, and food shortages are looming, both due to a lack of foreign exchange to pay for imports. There are zero reserves.) The farmer concerned has been ordered to get off his farm, and no arrests have been made although the perpetrators are on the farm. The farmer and his family are refusing to leave, are resowing their seedbeds with a lot of help and support from the community, who are also putting in extra beds in case he is unable to produce them in time for planting, or is interfered with further.
Two Saturdays ago our local Beatrice cricket team had a match against Featherstone at our Beatrice Sports Club. It was planned in order to coincide with the International being played in Bulawayo between Zim. and India, so that those who don't have satelite television could watch it at the club, and support our locals while they were at it. A very good day was enjoyed by many, and it went on late into the night. On Sunday morning our local war-vet contingent with a raggedy band of followers invaded and took over the club on the pretext that we had been "celebrating the death of Hitler Hunzvi" their brutal leader who had been buried at our National Heroes Acre, with pomp and ceremony and fanfare, on Friday. They drank the beer, and ate the food from the freezers, took down our photographs and memorabilia, and across our lovely faced brick arches, redone a year ago, have written in foot-high black bitumen paint the new name of the club! "HITLER CLUB - VIVA THE 3RD CHIMURENGA". (Chimurenga is a revolution). I had meetings with the club committee, the provincial war vet leadership, and the district head of police, at the club with the invaders, in an attempt to get them out. They simply sent us away with a list of demands about free membership to war vets, and war vet participation on the committee. The position of the committee is that membership is open to all on payment of subscriptions, the actions of the invaders are absolutely illegal, and purely for the purpose of extortion and theft, and it is the job of the police to arrest the perpetrators, and prosecute them. No arrests have been made, the club remains occupied and vandalised after 13 days, and is now being used as a base not only to accomodate them, but also for such things as 'disciplinary hearings' and kangaroo courts. Our farmers and their families meanwhile are finding alternative venues at which to wind down, relax, and at times let their hair down. At the same time, in Harare South, a farm workforce decided that they had taken enough abuse from the war vets and followers on the farm, including the rape of a teenager, and chased them. One war vet follower had a finger chopped off, another got an axe in the head, and others were beaten. The farmer who was not even on the farm at the time was arrested the next morning for "inciting violence", and it took his lawyer 36 hours to get him out on bail, but not before the police had beaten him in his cell with a hose pipe in an effort to get a confession. The rapist, and all the others involved have not been arrested. Three farmers have spent similar periods in jail in the last few weeks, on fabricated charges. A farmer in the Marondera district in my province had$800 000 worth of maize reaped and loaded onto trucks and trailers in front of his eyes, and carried away, with the police looking on and refusing to act. It was not 'theft' they said, it was 'political', and therefore they would not help him. The same occurred a few days later on a farm in Beatrice. No arrests in either case. Police who try to uphold the law, as most were trained to do when they joined the force, are singled out for transfer to remote stations, or to administrative jobs at H.Q. In Beatrice we have just lost our very good member in charge for that reason - gone to Matabeleland. He has been replaced with a war- vet / war-vet-sympathiser / yes-man. It's a very sad process which is taking place on a widespread and systematic basis, around the country. Economically the situation is no better. The price of fuel went up by 70% overnight last week and serious social unrest is predicted in the weeks ahead. Inflation is at 60% before the knock-on effect of the fuel price increase. Unemployment is at 60% and rising. Corruption at all levels is endemic and paralysing and goes largely unprosecuted. Production is plummeting in agriculture, mining, manufacturing. Tourism is dying. Our Z$ is pegged at 55:1 against the US$ and has been for a year, although the parallel (black) market is running at up to 160:1. The few airlines still accepting payment for flights in Z$ now are openly doing their calculations at133:1. All of our inputs such as fertilizers and crop and veterinary chemicals are being bought with currency sourced on the parallel market. And yet we are being paid at the official rate of 55:1 for export products (tobacco, beef, horticultural produce etc.). Businesses including farms are closing daily for reasons of viability, but we understand that govt. policy is that the exchange rate will remain fixed. It is seen as a political imperative because the risk of a backlash from the poorest classes in the event of devaluation, from the effect on the basic cost of living, is too great for them to contemplate. And yet the country is being killed to keep the current leadership in power!! It is not sustainable, but we can not see what will change or when. Only that it will.
I could go on and on. There is absolute anarchy, but the world is told that there is the rule of law and stable governance! It is pleasing that Mbeki and others in Africa are beginning to take a harder line with Mugabe, because their soft approach has been interpreted by our leaders and government controlled press as tacit approval of the awful things that they have done in order to cling to power, in the name of correcting injustices of the past!
On the positive side, the population at large is patient and peaceful (with the exception of the 20 000 or so government hired thugs or so called war vets, who even most real veterans of the liberation war disown.) Our's is willing to rebuild rapidly as soon as the conditions exist to allow it to happen. The infrastructure largely remains intact in what really was the "tiger" of Africa only a few short years ago, and I believe that the international community has not abandoned the Zimbabwean people, only our government, and that is as it should be. Many of our young people, both black and white, are outside the country, but most will return when conditions improve bringing with them a wealth of experience from around the globe
There is land enough for every farmer, large or small, to farm productively, and a real determination on the part of most of the parties involved in land in this country to solve it equitably once and for all, so that it is never again used as a political weapon. Ordinary Zimbabweans are sick to death of hearing about the twin pillars of the ruling party - being race hatred and land. There are fully implementable offers on the table right now, accepted by the international community in 1998, and reworked and re-presented this year in a format appropriate to the current political environment. (The Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative, presented by the CFU and the Private Sector, is before Cabinet now, and awaits their approval). The land question can and will be settled to everyone's satisfaction, and there need not be any further loss of production - it is only a question of our government allowing it. If they do not, I am quite sure that a future government will.
I will attach a short document that I produced earlier this month which is a 'snapshot' of our province on the 7th June. It was presented to our Governor, party Chairman, and the Minister of Finance, Simba Makoni, among others. The situation has deteriorated since I wrote it.
It is so important to us that people outside the country know a little of what is going on here. You get the big picture and the politics, but not the day to day goings on I don't think. As I finish this I am looking out of the office window (which some of you will be able to visualise) and at the bottom of our garden, a herd of giraffe have joined the herd of eland that have been there all afternoon, feeding on the cubes that we put out for them each day during winter. It is beautiful. That bull is so tall - one doesn't realize just how tall until they are close. Vicky, Sherry and all the children are sitting outside having tea as the shadows lengthen. It's a lovely evening and I am off for a run.
(Sherry's husband was murdered in May last year, in the violence that ran up to the General Election)
|LETTER NO 5
7 July 2001
Dear family and friends,
Thanks for the overwhelming response to my letter last week and sorry for my delayed responses - it's been one of those weeks again. As I write this at 7am on Saturday morning a Marondera farmer and a dozen of his workers are barricaded into a farm building. There are 60 'war veterans' that have been keeping them there for over 18 hours demanding the farmer 'give up' one of the workers. This is the second incident in our area in the last four days - more details later. The national stayaway went ahead as planned and the country closed down on Tuesday and Wednesday. Congress of Trade Union officials said that 85% of Zimbabweans had heeded their call to stay at home. The government had declared the strike illegal and on Tuesday afternoon their "spokesman" made a statement from Harare's deserted streets. Their spokesman was none other than Mr Grass Hat and his statement can only be described as rabid ranting. He said that he was recording the names of all the businesses that were closed and that he was going to "come with a big hammer" and deal with their owners. He said that all companies that had closed were "arrogant British" (sic) and that he would take them over and they would be re-opened and run by the government. The massive South African Trade Union organisation, COSATU, made a statement in full support of Zimbabwe's stayaway and the reasons for it and this in itself spoke volumes coming from such an enormously powerful and much respected organisation - an organisation that played a vital role in the ending of apartheid in South Africa. The announcement from Cosatu greatly angered both Mr Grass Hat and our Minister for Information, Jonathan Moyo. Mr Moyo said that Cosatu was "un-African" and their support for the suffering of Zimbabweans was "hollow". Shame on you Mr Moyo, surely you should take a couple of days off work and do some serious reading of the history books. Our government has not heeded the calls of Zimbabweans to reduce the price of fuel and address our economic collapse. Nor has our government done anything positive about the fast approaching shortage of wheat and maize. Our Minister of Agriculture continues to say that there will not be a shortage of food and when the government owned and run Grain Marketing Board dared to differ this week, the Minister fired the lot of them.Yes, the Minister of Agriculture fired the entire Board of Directors of the GMB and installed more politically loyal people who did not waste any time in making their first official statement. All maize in Zimbabwe can now only be bought from and sold to the GMB - no one may trade privately in the staple food of the country. The GMB though has no money to pay farmers for their maize so this new move will simply speed up the shortages and push up the prices of food on what will inevitably become a black market. This new directive on the restricted trade of maize will benefit only weevils and borer beetles and will not alleviate the growing hunger in people's bellies. The reactions of our government to the groundswell of dis-satisfaction, unemployment and hunger are criminal. This weeks Zimbabwe Independent newspaper reported that Mr Grass Hat, the self proclaimed commander of farm invasions, had now got approval from government for backdated "allowances" for 'war veterans' occupying farms. Official sources suggest this may amount to fugures in the region of half a million Zim $ a month. This is tax payers money and is being paid to men who are committing the most outrageous offences every day on Zimbabwean farms. I cannot tell you how I felt this week when a grandfather phoned me to see if there was anything I could do to help his son, daughter in law and three grandchildren under 10 years old who had been barricaded into their farmhouse by two dozen 'war veterans'. Gates had been smashed down, fires had been lit on the lawn, dogs had been cowed into submission and through the night these 'war veterans' sang and drummed and pelted the roof of the house with rocks to try and chase the family out. Can you imagine the sheer terror of this? Of being barricaded in your own home, of hearing the tremendous noise of things falling on your roof, of smelling the smoke of fires right outside your bedroom window, of listening to the cries of your young children and being able to do absolutely nothing. Can you imagine your relief when the police do finally arrive and then your despair when less than five minutes later they leave, saying they can do nothing and will return sometime tomorrow. This is an abomination and Zimbabweans can nothing about it. We need help from the thousands of family and friends around the world who care about Zimbabwe. What can you do? Spread the word, pass on these stories, make your MP's listen and just tell the world what is going on. I am convinced that our silence will only lead to more bloodshed as so many people think that it has stopped, because no one is telling about the farm invasions that they aren't happening anymore. They are though and worse than ever. The 'war veterans' on the farms are out of control and above the law. As I said at the start of this letter, right at this moment there is another abomination going on a few kilometres from here. A man who has already been assaulted before and had his face on every newspaper around the world, is being held hostage on his own farm. There are more than 60 'war veterans' involved, people who are being inspired by a man in a grass hat, people who are being paid by our taxes to do what they are doing. Less than a year ago the man in the grass hat was employed as a security guard by the Harare municipality, now he wears a 3 piece suit, dives a brand new Cherokee Jeep and lives in a mansion in an affluent Harare suburb. To everyone recieving my letter this week all I ask is that you help spread the word. If you are religious I ask that you pray for the man who is again under attack. If you are spiritual I ask that you look into your heart and see the rights and wrongs of Zimbabwe's land invasions. If you are just a curious reader I ask you to just close your eyes for a minute. Can you hear the drums, the rocks hitting the roof, the children crying, can you smell the smoke?
Until next week, I send my love and thanks for the support. cathy.
|LETTER No 6
9 JULY 2001
What a weekend .The farmer who was barricaded in on Friday afternoon finally got out alive at 4pm Sunday. It was Iain Kay and this is now the third time they have tried to get him. He is the most amazingly brave man. He was locked in the study of his home and there were 60 'war vets' swarming all over the house - all armed. It defies belief and is a miracle that Iain got out alive. I spent most of Sat and Sun am spreading the word and using all my press contacts to get the world out there. Perhaps it helped but I am just convinced that these horrors get told and am busy tapping away again this morning.