19 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Onslaught Against Farmers Threatens Future Investment

Future investment in Zimbabwe remains under threat, because of the ongoing campaign to remove all commercial farmers from their land.

This week a farmer in Mashonaland West, Piet Zwanikken, was shot in the face as part of efforts to force him to leave his farm. Zwanikken, a Dutch national meant to be protected by an international agreement (BIPPA) between Zimbabwe and the Netherlands, is still recovering in hospital from a serious wound to his nose and cheek.

He has been fighting for his property rights since January after his farm was gazetted for 'redistribution' by the Lands Ministry. But Zwanikken told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that he will do all he can to remain on his land.

This is not easily done when the legal system is biased against the farming community. On Friday another BIPPA protected farmer, this time a South African citizen, faces losing his farm once and for all, after years of intimidation and harassment.

Piet Henning, who has owned land in the Chiredzi district since 1965, will be appearing in court on charges of illegally occupying government land. Henning told a South African newspaper that Friday's court date is his "27th or 28th" appearance and he expects to be found guilty.

The farm that the Land Ministry has gazetted for takeover is a small portion of the original farm he was forced to give up as part of the land grab campaign in 2003. Since 2008 Henning has been in and out of court trying to secure the rights to his farm, but with little success.

Former Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) President Deon Theron, who was another victim of the land grab, told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that until property rights and the rule of law are honoured in Zimbabwe, the country can never recover.

"We desperately need new investment, but investors need confidence and there is no confidence in placing any investment in Zimbabwe. There are no property rights, there is only rule by law, not rule of law," Theron said.

Theron said the ongoing seizure of land, which is being done under the guise of 'indigenisation', is "a complete farce and a vote buying gimmick," that does not benefit the ordinary Zimbabwean. He said that hundreds of working Zimbabweans lose their jobs every time a commercial farm is seized, "so there is only empowerment of the few, not the masses."

"We all know there is a role for indigenisation, but if it's done to garner votes or boost ZANU PF's popularity, then it will not work," Theron said.

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