By Peta Thornycroft
The last few White Zimbabwean farmers are being thrown off their land.
Surrounded by soldiers from the Zimbabwe National Army clicking automatic weapons, Charles Lock, 45 yrs. old, handed them his security gate keys and drove down the dusty road from his farm for the last time.
That was two weeks ago.
Charles Locke and two daughters
In every commercial farming district, scores of White farmers and thousands of their workers are going through similar distress amid a sudden escalation of President Robert Mugabe‘s seven-year ethnic purge of commercial farming districts.
As of today, any White farmer still living and working on his farm is trespassing on “state land”. The previous deadline in February was extended as it was mid-season and the government needed revenue from the tobacco that was being grown.
In advance of this deadline, about 50 White farmers have been under enormous pressure. Some have been arrested or manhandled, others constantly harassed or their workers forced to stop land preparation for summer crops.
Most farmers have been summoned to appear at magistrate’s courts in towns around the country to be charged and then have their cases postponed to a later date. In September alone, five or six from Harare South have thrown in the towel, packed up and quit.
“I may have been forced off the farm but I will continue to fight in the courts,” said Lock. “I have five court orders allowing me to stay.”
He is not the only one. Other farmers also have files full of court orders which have been ignored.
Lock was “allowed” to continue farming after his first court appearance in 2003, when he proved that he had already given his own 2 500-hectare farm to the government and moved to his father-in-law’s farm, Karori, in the Headlands district, about 125km south-east of Harare.
He gave two-thirds of that farm away, as well.
Lock has only 376 ha left but still managed to produce a good income from tobacco, maize and horticulture in the past three years.
Then, last year, Brigadier-General Itayi Mujaji, a veteran of the war of liberation and a senior officer in the Zimbabwe Army, arrived at Karori and said it had been given to him.
Both vice-presidents, Joyce Mujuru and Joseph Msika, as well as the local Manicaland governor, all intervened to say Lock should be allowed to remain.
The military, however, is in control of Zimbabwe. Soldiers were sent to the farm. Mujaji claims they are his bodyguards and that he is entitled to them as a senior commander.
Lock went back to court and on September 7 Judge Charles Hungwe ordered Mujaji and his wife Pauline to be arrested for contempt of court or leave the farm and take the soldiers with them.
That order also carried a warning to Philip Sibanda, the army commander, and Augustine Chihuri, the police commissioner, that they would be considered accomplices if junior officers disregarded court orders.
It made no difference, and Lock was driven off the farm at gunpoint. >More>>
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