SW Radio Africa (London)

23 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Farmers Face Escalating Violence and Land Invasions

The Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe (CFU) has warned the there are escalating incidents of violence, intimidation and farm takeovers across the country, and called for an immediate moratorium on any land grabs.

Speaking in Harare on Friday, CFU President Charles Taffs said the recent deaths of a Guruve farmer and his daughter have added to rising fears about the safety of the remaining farming community.

Malcolm Francis and his daughter Catherine both died this month after being seriously beaten by as of yet unknown attackers near their Guruve farm.

Taffs said on Friday that this incident, together with ongoing farm seizures and intimidation, "fly in the face" of efforts being made to encourage foreign investment in Zimbabwe.

"There is a general escalation since December throughout the country, primarily in Mashonaland West and Central, with increasing incidents of intimidation, extortion and theft of property. We are also seeing the continuation of evictions, with people being summarily taken off their farms, including some with valid court orders allowing them to be there," Taffs said.

He said a major issue contributing to this escalation was the involvement of "politically influential people taking advantage of the leadership vacuum seen in different districts."

"This is having a negative impact on our country. We listen to our leaders talking about the protection of property rights, but it is meaningless unless there is action on the ground," Taffs said.

He continued: "We have a recent statement from the ZANU PF politburo that BIPPAs (Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements) would be protected in the Save Valley Conservancy. But this has not happened."

He added: "We've seen the recent invasions on the Tongaat Hullet sugar estates, an international company listed in South Africa and London. What more evidence can you put forward as a country that we're not dealing with the property rights issue?"

The CFU meanwhile also launched a medical support fund for the Francis family to assist the family deal with the large bills they are now faced with. All donations will be used for medical bills, funeral and memorial expenses and for the relocation of the remaining Francis family members.

The CFU said that any surplus funds will transferred to the Farm Families Trust, which is still operating to give assistance to the many families affected by the land grab campaign.

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