Cablegate: Displaced Farm Workers: Unaddressed Humanitarian

Published: Fri 23 Aug 2002 09:42 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (U) Summary: The arrests and evictions of commercial
farmers continue, with most farmers being released on bail
with varying conditions. Some farmers are having their
Section 8 acquisition orders overturned on technicalities,
but this seems to be a temporary reprieve at best. The fate
of the farm workers on these farms remains in limbo, although
"war vet" pressure for retrenchment packages -- with the war
vets reportedly retaining 30-40% of the remuneration for
their efforts -- continues to complicate the situation.
Credible reports of well-connected and wealthy black
Zimbabweans taking possession of desirable farms from white
Zimbabweans continue to be published in the independent media
and through Justice for Agriculture (JAG), an agricultural
advocacy coalition. End summary.
2. (U) Although the momentum has slowed down due to various
factors -- including, in some cases, the absence of relevant
landowners -- arrests of commercial farmers are continuing,
and the GOZ-controlled press continues to trumpet that "there
is no going back on land reform." The process continues to
follow the pattern of arrest and a brief stay in jail,
followed by a bail hearing and continuation of the
proceedings until a later date.
3. (SBU) Several farmers have used variations on the strategy
of opposing the preliminary Section 5 and final Section 8
notices of acquisition based on the GOZ's failure to notify
other interested parties, as required by the GOZ's own law
and regulations. Judges and magistrates in the lower courts
have had some sympathy for these arguments. In some cases,
the farmers are arguing that the acquisition orders should be
overturned since the bondholder or mortgage holder was not
notified of the GOZ's intention to acquire the subject
property. In at least one case, a sugar cane grower
successfully argued that his acquisition notices were invalid
due to the existence of a water servitude and the failure of
the GOZ to notify Hippo Valley, one of the main sugar growing
plantations, which is also the local administrator of the
sugar cane irrigation scheme. Other farmers have
successfully gained reprieve by arguing that the GOZ could
not prove service of preliminary Section 5 or final Section 8
notices of acquisition on the farmers.
4. (SBU) Notorious war veteran Joseph Chinotimba, who led
some of the extortionate factory invasions as well as farm
invasions during the past two years, has reportedly been
hired by a wealthy Zanu-PF land recipient to forcibly evict a
commercial farmer who successfully had his Section 8 order
nullified by the High Court. Chinotimba, in his role as
vice-president of the GOZ-controlled organization Zimbabwe
Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), has been implicated in
extorting money from commercial farmers by coercing farm
workers into demanding exorbitant "exit packages" from
dispossessed commercial farmers -- for a healthy fee.
Farmers Vince and Monica Schultz, who are still engaged in
forex-earning horticultural operations, report that
Chinotimba descended upon their farm on August 22 with a
group of Zanu-PF youth militia members to demand that they
pay astronomical retrenchment packages to their 135 farm
workers, and that they vacate the farm despite the court
order allowing them to remain. As in other reported cases,
Chinotimba is likely to retain 30% to 40% of each
retrenchment package for his efforts. Interestingly, the
farmers report that the beneficiary of this particular farm
seizure, Bright Matonga, the CEO of parastatal bus company
the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO), has visited
the farm several times and informed the workers that since he
is now the owner, they would now be working for him --
obviating the argument that the workers have lost their
employment and are thus due exit packages even if the
Schultzes are forcibly dispossessed. The Schultzes have not
yet complied with the demand that they vacate their home,
although Matonga has threatened to return with a battalion of
militia if they do not.
5. (U) Grace Mugabe, wife of President Mugabe, is one of the
more high-profile beneficiaries of the fast-track
resettlement effort. According to a number of press reports,
Mrs. Mugabe has chosen a farm roughly 30 km northwest of
Harare which happens to be the site of a new 27-room mansion,
valued at over Zim $100,000,000 (roughly US $1.6 million),
fronted by a 2 hectare "well-manicured garden." The
dispossessed couple, both in their seventies, described the
house and grounds as their "lifetime's work." Mrs. Mugabe
reportedly visited the farm last week, found it acceptable,
and the couple was notified yesterday that Mrs. Mugabe would
be sending people to fetch the keys for her.
6. (SBU) In all of this, the fate of the 500,000 or so
commercial farm workers remains unclear. Some reports
indicate that the impoverished people displaced by the newest
wave of GOZ actions could be as high as 100,000. Other
reports indicate that some displaced farm workers are
informally joining settlers on other occupied farms since
they have no food, no place in the communal lands, and
nowhere else to go. In an indication that the GOZ does not
want the enormity of this problem to be recognized, post
received yet another report that a tent city being erected by
an NGO outside of Harare for some of the dispossessed farm
workers was abruptly shut down by the Zimbabwe Republic Army
with claims that "This land belongs to us...." There are no
authoritative numbers, but the problem of internally
displaced persons is growing and the precarious situation of
these forgotten victims will undoubtedly be exacerbated by
the growing food shortages.
7. (SBU) Comment: Although the reports of displacement and
arrests of commercial farmers have tapered down, there is
little doubt that the GOZ will continue along this path.
Many commercial farmers remain determined to challenge their
forced removal from their property in the courts, and the
courts are displaying varying degrees of support for the
farmers' arguments. However, police, settlers, and war vets
are showing no respect for court orders or judgments, and
their stance mirrors the GOZ's pronouncements that it will
only recognize judgments with which it agrees. The numbers
of displaced farm workers could grow very quickly over the
next several weeks, and the international community should be
prepared to respond to their needs. End comment.
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