3 October 2012

Zimbabwe: Anger Over 'Unjust' Eviction of Chegutu Farmer

Photo: Zimbabwe Rising
File Photo:Zimbabwe Farmer

There is growing anger over the court ordered eviction of a farming family in Chegutu, with criticism being aimed at the courts for the unjust decision that forced the family to leave their home.

Dirk and Heidi Visagie are said to be in a state of shock after packing up all their belongings and leaving their Wantage Farm over the weekend, complying with a court order to leave.

Dirk was found guilty by a Chegutu magistrate in August, ending a decade long fight to remain on his farm that he bought from a Government parastatal back in 2001. Back then, he received a 'certificate of no interest' from the Lands Ministry because the property was considered 'peri-urban' and not one Gazetted under the Lands Act for seizure under the land grab campaign.

But about a month later a local official called Timothy Madavanhu, the chairman of the rural district council, arrived to claim Visagie's property as part of the land grab. This was despite the fact that the offer letter Madavanhu received from the Land's Ministry was not for Wantage farm.

Madavanhu insisted the Visagie property was the one he wanted and he soon initiated a campaign of harassment and intimidation that included moving hired thugs onto the property, breaking into the Visagie family home and lighting raging veld fires.

In 2007 Visagie was criminally charged for illegally occupying his home but the charges were eventually withdrawn after he pleaded not guilty. The intimidation continued over the following years and in January 2011 Visagie was again criminally charged for illegally occupying State land "without authority".

Visagie was found guilty, along with farmer Andrew Ferreira, a former Zimbabwe Tobacco Association president. The pair are the last of 15 farmers in the district who were meant to be protected by a landmark ruling in the regional human rights Tribunal in 2008. The SADC court ruled that the land grab campaign was unlawful and ordered the then ZANU PF government to protect the remaining farmers. This never happened. Instead the court was suspended by SADC leaders almost two years ago in what was widely regarded as a clear sign of loyalty to Robert Mugabe.

Family friend and former Chegutu farmer Ben Freeth has blasted the eviction of the Visagie family as "racist" and a "terrible injustice." Freeth told SW Radio Africa that the Visagie's only crime was remaining in their home.

"They are in a state of trauma over it all, mainly because of the injustice of it and because it is just accepted as normal in Zimbabwe," Freeth said.

He added: "Everyone just allows it to happen and we are so used to this injustice that it is considered normal."

The successful eviction of the Viasgie family comes as a group of farmers in Mashonaland Central have also been ordered to vacate their properties, to make way for the holders of 'offer letters'. The Commercial Farmers Union has warned that this renewed campaign to remove white commercial is happening country wide.

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