3 April 2009

Zimbabwe: Farmers Under Siege As Didymus Mutasa Implicated in Ongoing Attacks

The renewed campaign against the country's remaining commercial farmers continued unabated on Friday with a fresh farm attack.

On Friday afternoon, Chegutu farmer Ben Freeth and his family came under siege by a group of roughly fifteen invaders, who arrived on their Mount Carmel farm and announced that the family had five minutes to leave the property. Freeth explained to SW Radio Africa that the head invader eventually left the property "to get more men to come help him", leaving about nine men to keep an eye on the family. Freeth explained that the head invader said he'd been sent my Nathan Shamuyarira, the ZANU PF spokesman, who has been intent on removing Freeth and his family off the farm. The family, who has previously been forced to flee their property under constant harassment, was left on Friday evening in a stand off with the remaining invaders.

Meanwhile it has emerged that Former Lands Minister Didymus Mutasa, and two of his relatives, are involved in the ongoing farm disruptions.

The allegations surfaced in a damning report by the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) submitted to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last week, which highlights the fresh wave of farm attacks that has forced many farmers into hiding. More than 100 farmers are also facing prosecution on trumped up charges of occupying 'state land' illegally, while violent farm evictions have also intensified in recent weeks.

The CFU report accuses Mutasa of leading a Land Inspectorate Commission, which has been interfering with farming activities on targeted farms - the only productive farms left in a country crippled by food shortages.

The report reads: "What has become very evident from the reports coming in is that there is a very active group, which we understand is called the Land Inspectorate Commission, allegedly headed by the previous Minister of Lands (etc), Minister (Didymus) Mutasa, and assisted by two of his relatives, being the lawyer Gerald Mlotshwa and Temba Mliswa, who we believe holds the position of Secretary of Lands for Mashonaland West in the ZANU PF party."

The report also details the known involvement of Attorney General Johannes Tomana as well as a chief magistrate, senior police officials and officials from the Lands Ministry, who in February instructed local police and magistrates to 'fast track' the prosecution of the remaining farmers.

"It would appear that this is to make way for the immediate occupation by persons in favour of the ZANU PF party and many of these new beneficiaries are alleged to have been involved in the recent political violence," the CFU said in its report.

The CFU also urged the Prime Minister to issue a moratorium on the prosecution of white farmers, and called for the "immediate cessation of the violence in the productive farming sector."

Tsvangirai has since promised to deal with the farm disruptions, saying in a Press Conference on Wednesday that the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) had been tasked to deal with the issue. The pledge came barely a week after he condemned perpetrators of "acts of theft" using "fraudulent offer letters" to evict commercial farmers. He warned that those engaged in these activities would be brought to justice.

But doubt has been cast over how the Prime Minister plans to keep his word, as it is not the first time he has condemned the attacks - condemnation that has not seen any action. At the same time, many police officials and judicial members, who should be handing out justice over the land issue, are themselves beneficiaries of the land grab, and will be unlikely to change allegiance at the request of Tsvangirai.

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