Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Dozens of People Face Eviction From Zimbabwe Farms

Dozens of People Face Eviction From Zimbabwe Farms

February 21, 2012

Sebastian Mhofu | Harare, Zimbabwe

Family members of evicted farm workers cook breakfast on the side of the 
road outside Mvurwi village, about 130 kilometers west of Harare, May 2008. 
(file photo)
Photo: Reuters
Family members of evicted farm workers cook breakfast on the side of the 
road outside Mvurwi village, about 130 kilometers west of Harare, May 2008. 
(file photo)

It has been more than 10 years since President Robert Mugabe’s government 
began seizing white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to poor 

The beneficiaries were his supporters, however, with many of the elite, 
including the presidential couple, acquiring multiple farms. The seizures in 
Zimbabwe left thousands of farm hands, who used to work for the white 
farmers, jobless, destitute and facing eviction.

Workers at the Mgutu Farm in Mazowe, about 40 kilometers north of Harare, 
are deliberating their looming eviction. It follows a complaint by new owner 
Kingstone Dutiro to the authorities that they are illegally occupying his 
land. Dutiro acquired the land after Archie Black, the
original owner, was evicted in 2000.

The state is now prosecuting the 85 workers who, with their families, face 
eviction. The farm workers, mostly of Malawian origin, have worked on the 
farm for many years, some for more than four decades. They say they have 
nowhere to go.

Painful repercussions

Seventy-two-year-old Binias Yolamu, who came to Zimbabwe in 1964 from 
Mozambique when he was 24, no longer has any links with his birth place.

“I worked here for 48 years. I grew up here. I will die here. When the white 
farmer [Archie Black] left, he said the compound, the engine to pump water 
and electricity was all ours,” Yolamu said. “I will go nowhere. All my 
relatives in Mozambique perished during the civil war of the 1970-80s. I 
have forgotten everything about Mozambique. I will die in Zimbabwe and here 
at this farm.”

Tarisayi Papaya, a 42-year-old widow with five children, is one of the farm 
workers facing eviction. She thinks Mugabe’s land reform has taken a wrong 

“It is painful that we are now being evicted from this farm. When the land 
reform started we were all excited. We were told that all black people would 
live together peacefully,” said Papaya. “Now the government has turned 
against us. We hope there will be divine intervention to ensure that we are 
not evicted.”

Neria Ndalama of Malawian origins shares the same sentiments.

“My parents, who are both deceased, came from Malawi. So I cannot find my 
way back. There is no point in chasing us away. It really pains me that the 
land reform program wants to displace us. We have not developed tails for us 
to be treated like animals,” said Ndalama.

At the compound, there is a woman named Angela.

“We used to have water taps at this farm. War veterans disconnected them. We 
do not know why and where they took them. We have cases of so many children 
having a problem with waterborne diseases because we now drink untreated 
water from the river,” she said.

Legal representation to help

The workers are being represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who 
had come to Mgutu to discuss the case with their clients.

While there, they were confronted by so-called war veterans – supporters of 
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF who have led the farm invasions since the chaotic and often 
violent land reform program began in 2000. Most are too young to be veterans 
of the country’s liberation war.

They told the lawyers they had no right to be on Mgutu farm.

“We do not know what is going on here? This is our place. You did not seek 
our authority to be here. I do not care about what the court papers say. 
They were written by a human being who can make mistakes,” said one such 
“war veteran.”

The lawyers did not give in and continued to interview their clients until 
eventually the war veterans dispersed.

The lawyers are challenging the evictions as unconstitutional. Lawyer 
Jeremiah Bamu said the law used in the acquisition of land was crafted with 
a narrow approach that will only create internal refugees.

“No government should ever be allowed to promulgate a law that leads its own 
citizens into destitution. The government has a primary duty to protect the 
rights of its citizens and not to take away those rights by forcing them 
into destitution,” said Bamu.

Farm owner Dutiro scoffs at suggestions the workers are being ill-treated. 
Instead he accuses them of sabotage and working for the

“These people are working for the Chinese. Those Chinese offer them 
accommodation. They are making allegations that they do not have anywhere to 
go. That is not true. They are refusing for other reasons. They are engaged 
in sabotage and stealing produce,” Dutiro said.

Questioning Chinese intervention

Many Zimbabweans believe they are disadvantaged by the influx of Chinese 
businesses and workers in recent years.

Gift Muti, spokesperson for the General Agricultural Plantation Workers 
Union of Zimbabwe, said farm workers have suffered a great deal since Mugabe’s 
government started seizing white-owned land more than a decade ago.

“We have lost 75% of our members. There was a lot of movement. They lost 
employment, lost their accommodation and wages. Their children cannot attend 
formal education. Those who benefited are less than 0.5 percent. It was a 
little figure of those who benefited. The rest did not. It is unfortunate 
most of them do not have rural homes,” said Muti.

Some 4,000 white farmers have been evicted from their farms since 2000 and 
about 250 remain. They employed about 40,000 workers. Together the farmers 
and their workers were responsible for the overwhelming volume of commercial 
agriculture in Zimbabwe, the country’s primary source of foreign currency.


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