20 June 2014

Zimbabwe: Sos Children's Villages Lose Farm in Latest Land Grab

The ZANU PF government has seized farmland belonging to SOS Children's Villages Zimbabwe, throwing the welfare of hundreds of orphans into jeopardy.

The Daily News identified the property as Glen Avilin Farm 3, on which the charity was growing crops to feed more than 600 vulnerable children in its care.

The charity's national director Gary Birditt told the newspaper that government did not consult them before taking the farm and giving it to Bindura State University.

"There was no consultation prior to the takeover. On the day of handover of the farm, June 12, an offer letter in favour of the Bindura State University was produced by the university senior staff," Birditt is quoted as saying on Thursday.

The charity has ceased its operations on the farm, which included seed maize and soya bean production and also shut down its supermarket.

In an emailed response to SW Radio Africa on Friday, Birditt said: "SOS Glen Avilin Farm has been handed over to Bindura State University and the matter is being dealt with at the High Court as to the lawfulness or otherwise of Bindura State University's action."

Part of a global movement, SOS Villages have been in the country since the 1980s when an Austrian Ambassador pleaded for help and protection for Zim's orphans.

The charity has three villages, three youth facilities, three kindergartens, five schools, a vocational training centre and seven social centres - located in different parts of the country.

The Bindura Village has 15 family houses, with a capacity to take in up to 180 children, an administration building, a multi-purpose hall, a sports field, and the director's residence, according to the Daily News.

Human rights activist Nixon Nyikadzino told SW Radio Africa that the land grab underlines the insincerity of the government's land reform programme.

"By seizing land that has been the source of livelihood for orphans the government has just shown that its land reform programme was never about empowering ordinary Zimbabweans, who include these orphans."

Nyikadzino said the ongoing land grabs highlight the human rights crisis in Zimbabwe and should prompt a rethink on the part of European Union officials who think Zimbabwe is in good hands.

"This crisis also manifests itself in the government's failure to implement its own economic programmes and threats to freedom of expression, and the continued arrests of journalists.

"All these things are being perpetrated by the same government leadership that EU Ambassador Aldo Dell' Arricia says can deal with the problems in Zimbabwe," Nyikadzino added.

Nyikadzino was referring to Dell' Arricia's comments on Tuesday in which the EU envoy backed Mugabe's leadership which he said was strong and capable.

"On the matter of a supposed leadership crisis, let me tell you this, luckily we do not have a political leadership crisis in this country, we still have a strong leadership. If we had a leadership crisis, there would be chaos.

"We still have a leader who still manages to keep at bay and under control these forces that are very much contradictory," Dell' Arricia said.

However Nyikadzino said the diplomat's sentiments were not backed by the reality on the ground.

"In dismissing the Ambassador's statements, we want to present as foolproof evidence of a mounting crisis in Zimbabwe the farm invasions, human rights violations and the arrests of journalists," Nyikadzino said on Friday.

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