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Sunday, September 13, 2009

This is how we live!

While President Robert Mugabe welcomed senior European Union officials to Zimbabwe “with great expectations” and hoped their talks would be “fruitful with a positive outcome”, the havoc wrought by senior Zanu PF officials in the commercial farming sector continues to escalate.

At Friedawil farm near Chinhoyi, about 100 kilometres north of Harare, Edward Mashiringwani, a deputy governor of the Reserve Bank, has once again moved onto the farm with about 15 guards who beat up one of the resident guards.

“They arrived mid morning Friday and began targeting our senior staff, issuing threats and chasing them away,” said Louis Fick, who is struggling to maintain farming operations due to continuous harassment.

Mashiringwani’s employees have also locked the gates leading to the pigsties and crocodile enclosures and are refusing to allow food and water to be taken to the animals.

“This has gone on for two days now and the situation is desperate,” said Fick.

“We have about 1 000 pigs at this stage and ten sows are in maternity. There are also about 100 piglets, some just a few days old, the rest under three weeks. It’s essential for them to get food and water,” he stressed. “Pigs in maternity need about 40 litres of water a day.”

The worst part for Fick is that there is no one for him to turn to.

“I can’t begin to describe what I feel,” he said. “Eventually the police came out after a long struggle but any members who tried to assist were reprimanded. The animals should be beyond politics but they are used as pawns in the game.”

The situation is a virtual replay of April 2008 when Mashiringwani attempted to take over the farm, forcing Fick’s workers to leave and refusing to allow his livestock to be fed and watered.

At that point Fick had more than 4 000 pigs, 15 000 crocodiles and several hundred beef cattle.

In desperation he called in the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who were inundated with distress calls, but when they tried to enter the farm, they were prevented from doing so by Mashiringwani’s men.

As a result 30 sows died due to dehydration and some became so crazed they ate their own little piglets.

According to neighbours, the sounds emanating from the farm on that occasion were horrifying and Fick and his workers were severely traumatised.

Friedawil is one of more than 70 Zimbabwean commercial farms protected by the landmark Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal ruling of 28 November 2008 – Fick is the 7th applicant on the list.

Fick and his wife Lisette are the main shareholders of the company farming Friedawil and the livestock belongs to the company.

Fick is a South African citizen but has had no assistance from the South African government, although he has kept the South African embassy in Zimbabwe fully informed of the ongoing property rights and human rights violations.

On August 1, 2008, a Pretoria judge took the South African government to task for not protecting the rights of a citizen whose farms had been nationalised in Zimbabwe.

Free State farmer Crawford von Abo won his court battle against the then President, Thabo Mbeki, the Foreign Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the Trade and Industry Minister, Mandisi Mpahlwa, to get compensation from the South African government

Judge Bill Prinsloo noted that the government’s excuses for lack of action over the previous six years had been “feeble” and pointed out that Germany, France and Denmark had intervened successfully of behalf of their citizens who owned agricultural land in Zimbabwe.

Independent analysts are concerned that the South African government’s failure to protect its citizens’ rights in Zimbabwe will impact on the confidence levels of potential overseas investors.

On Friday, South Africa and the European Union signed an amended trade, development and co-operation agreement and pledged to bridge the outstanding gaps in the negotiations. It is important for South Africa to maintain credibility.

In Zimbabwe, the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA) with South Africa has become a contentious issue as a result of delays in signing the agreement. This has led to millions of dollars of potential credit to Zimbabwe being frozen.

Zimbabwe’s Justice and Legal Affairs Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, said recently that his government was prepared to sign BIPPAs with South Africa - or any other country - as long as they did not result in the reversal of “land reform”.

Claims by President Mugabe and his Zanu PF ministers that the land reform programme benefits landless black people are not borne out by the long list of beneficiaries of stolen commercial farms.

The so-called ‘chefs’ involved in the ongoing and violent land grab are an elite of ministers (and in some cases also their wives and girlfriends), senior security force officers, Politburo members, their family members and even judges.

The vast majority have no knowledge of, or interest in farming and many are fully employed in lucrative jobs, hence their being dubbed “cell phone farmers”.

Their main activities have been to asset strip the farms and to sell crops that were planted by the farmers to help feed and sustain the nation. As a result, many once productive farms are now lying derelict, and with homesteads, worker villages, factories and sheds – such as those of Mike Campbell, who initiated the landmark SADC Tribunal court case with his son-in-law, Ben Freeth - burnt to the ground.

For further information:

Louis Fick
Cell: +263 11 216 062
Contact numbers:

Edward Mashiringwani
Deputy Governor
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
Cell: +263 11 800 582

Shepherd Makoni
Manager for Mr Mashiringwani
Cell: +263 912 967 386

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