Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Vengeful Eviction of Black Nationalist Farmers

  Mugabe’s Vengeful Eviction of Black Nationalist Farmers

 ZANU (PF) is a creature of habit and Robert Mugabe has sharpened the one tool in his vast arsenal, effectively destroying persons who challenge his authority or support any opposition to his despotism and brutal hold onto the levers of power. 

Single-handedly, Mugabe has created disunity, tribal tensions, and racial hatred amongst people who were well on their way to becoming Africa’s true multi-cultural society. The fast track land acquisition programme is one such tool, which has been genetically modified by ZANU (PF) pseudo political scientists to garner illusive votes. Land reform comes into sight as a revolutionary exercise that corrects a colonial wrong.

The illusion is that revolutionaries are taking back stolen land by colonial settlers and their offspring and redistributing it to landless peasants. Since independence, ZANU (PF) has blatantly employed the tactic of land seizures and unlawful private property requisition from black political opponents and fellow nationalists to settle old scores and to disenfranchise powerful opposition figures. 

The first victims of farm evictions in independent Zimbabwe were black patriots. Egregious examples of aggravated farm seizures occurred when in 1983, Dr Joshua Nkomo’s farms and private property were expropriated and he was evicted under spurious treason allegations. He is the father of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, the president and founder of the Zimbabwe People’s National Union (ZAPU) and commander in chief of Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA).

Mugabe, on the other hand, was an appointed functionary who caught the liberation struggle midstream. In Marondera on the 14th February 1982, Mugabe told a ZANU (PF) crowd that: “ZAPU had bought more than 25 farms and more than 30 business enterprises throughout the country. We have now established they were not genuine business enterprises, but places of hiding military weapons to start another war at an appropriate time. He was trying to overthrow my government. ZAPU and its leader, Joshua Nkomo, were like a cobra in a house. The only way to deal effectively with a snake is to strike and destroy its head”. 

Joshua Nkomo was subsequently accused and charged with treason for unlawfully trying to overthrow the “democratically elected” government of Robert Mugabe. These incendiary political statements stoked the flames of hate and formed the basis of a sequence of well-choreographed campaign rhetoric that aroused intolerance toward the Ndebele, ZAPU, and its former freedom fighters, ZIPRA. 

This mantra was effectively regurgitated on state controlled media until the majority of Zimbabweans believed that Joshua Nkomo presented clear and present danger to Zimbabwe’s sovereignty. This was the precursor for Gukurahandi, the massacre of 30 000 people in Matabeleland by the North Korean trained 5th Brigade, led by the current Airforce Commander Perence Shiri who reported directly to Mugabe through Minister of Defence Sydney Sekeramayi and Minister for State Security Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The 5th brigade was a separate army unit brigade, composed exclusively of Shona speakers and ZANU (PF) veterans. In 1992, mass graves were discovered at Antelope Mine near Kezi and contained the remains of victims of the Matabeleland extrajudicial killings. Mugabe invoked the draconian colonial era law and the farms were confiscated under the notorious Unlawful Organisations Act, which was enacted by settler regimes to suppress liberation organisations. Dr Hebert Ushewokunze, Minister of Home Affairs, enthusiastically instructed the loyal police to disposes land from Joshua Nkomo personally. 

Collectively Dr Joshua Nkomo, ZAPU and ZIPRA guerrillas’ land that was wrongfully stolen by ZANU (PF) and Mugabe include the following properties: Ascot Farm, Solusi; Hampton Farm, Gweru; Woody Glen Farm, Umguza; Nest Egg Farm, Gweru; Nijo Farm, Harare (now belongs to ARDA and fell under management of Dr Joseph Made, the Minister of Agriculture, who was a mere toddler when men of valour like Dr Joshua Nkomo were in the trenches against an intransigent minority government); and Snake Park, Salisbury Hotel (became government-training centres). In 1992, Mugabe reiterated that no compensation would be paid to victims of the Matabeleland Crisis because atrocities were committed “during a state of war.”

At Nkomo’s funeral in 1999, Mugabe came close to showing remorse and admitting culpability for Gukurahundi by referring to the massacres as a “moment of madness”. In September 2006, Nathan Shamuyarira, who served as Information Minister during the 5th Brigade operations, is reported to have told a conference on national reconciliation in Vumba: “No, I don’t regret. They (5 Brigade) were doing a job to protect the people”. In August 1963, Ndabaningi Sithole founded Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).

In 1964, there was a party Congress at Gwelo, where Sithole was elected president and he appointed Mugabe to be his secretary general. On Feb. 12, 1969, he was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for involvement in a plot to assassinate Ian Smith, prime minister of the illegal Rhodesian regime, and two of his ministers.  Mugabe competed for the presidency of ZANU (PF) during its early days, and his rivalry with Sithole intensified when Mugabe took over the party in 1976. In the 1990s, Ndabaningi Sithole argued that land should be re-distributed to black people and that all black people should be given equal opportunity to access the land.

The response from ZANU (PF), through the sharp tongue of its eloquent spokesperson Dr Eddison Zvobgo, was swift. He ridiculed him for wishful thinking and called him “mad”, further commenting that ZANU (PF) would need to colonise Zambia to achieve what Sithole was talking about. This compelled Sithole to show his leadership resolve and resettle landless people on his private Churu Farm on the outskirts of Harare. 

The government first accused Sithole of not owning the farm, which he had bought in 1979; later in 1992, through a “white” Minister of Health, Dr Timothy Stamps, declared Churu Farm a health hazard that would pollute Lake Chivero. How did ZANU (PF) employ a “white” minister and use him to evict a black revolutionary?

This political hypocrisy and ideological insincerity renders ZANU (PF) a deceitful party. Despite obtaining a High Court injunction that clearly stated: “The Land Acquisition Act was being used as a punitive measure and political weapon,” ZANU (PF) went ahead and forcibly removed 4 000 landless residents of opposition from ZANU-Ndonga leader Ndabaningi Sithole’s Churu Farm.  

The government did not make provisions for their alternative settlement. The late Vice President, then Senior Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Joseph Msika said Churu Farm residents should “go and join their homeless colleagues in the streets” and then apply to his Ministry for aid. The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) evicted the remaining 1 600 residents of Churu and resettled them at a camp formerly used by Mozambican refugees. 

Sithole was being punished amongst other things, for the following statement, which he made in parliament, “I move that in view of the failure of the present government to run the country to the satisfaction of the majority of the people of this land and in view of the social crisis which is building up, this House of elected representatives of the people of Zimbabwe passes a vote of `no confidence’ in the present government”. “I have dwelt in the main with these CIO documents because they reveal the true nature of our government, notably hypocrisy and partiality, callousness and duplicity, lamentable lack of a keen sense of justice and an abominable deficiency of what is right and what is wrong, a government that is not fit to rule”. 

In December 1997, the leader of the opposition, Rev Ndabaningi Sithole, was found guilty on all three charges of committing acts of terrorism, illegal possession of arms and conspiring to assassinate President Mugabe. High Court Judge Justice Chatikobo, sitting with two assessors, convicted him. He denied the charges and appealed against the conviction. He was granted the right to appeal, but no appeal was filed and the case was set aside as his health deteriorated. 

In July 1993, Mugabe said, “We will not brook any decision by any court from acquiring any land. We will get land we want from anyone, be they black or white, and we will not be restricted to under-utilised land.” James Chikerema: Co-founder of ZAPU and one of Zimbabwe’s first trained guerrillas and true freedom fighter; his property, Diana Farm, was designated and included for compulsorily acquisition without compensation in 2000. He said, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s Mugabe’s vendetta against me”.

Chikerema made it clear he supported orderly land redistribution provided it was conducted fairly. Enock Dumbutshena: Judge Dumbutshena Zimbabwe’s first black judge, became independent Zimbabwe’s first black Chief Justice, and was a respected jurist who fearlessly ruled against the government; he lost his horticultural property-export flowers in Enterprise. 

When land was being taken away from the first from blacks, most Zimbabweans ignored the injustices, reducing it to quarrels between political foes. Farmers with their eyes wide shut were too busy farming, and the international community responded with deafening silence while proponents of private property rights remained indifferent. It has become a badge of honour to have land confiscated for political beliefs. Once there were no more opposing political voices with land to confiscate, Mugabe moved on to white farmers, using the excuse to right a colonial wrong.

Regrettably, he targeted agricultural entrepreneurs, the majority who had bought farms on the market in post independent Zimbabwe. Most farmers, encouraged by Mugabe whose government issued “Certificates of No Present Interest”, invested in horticulture, irrigation and farm infrastructure. ZANU (PF) targets for attack and destruction any group of persons or individuals it deems economically independent.

In order for its system of subjugation to work, the populace must be dependent upon the state.Minorities are vulnerable, easy targets because of their skin colour, their language and culture. Why is it that the vilest perpetrators of the most heinous human rights violations and the beneficiaries of prime farms through the fast tract land grab in Zimbabwe are from one ethnic group? 

The post-independence land issue has never been a black / white issue – it has been political from the beginning. After all black political opponents’ land had been grabbed, they were imprisoned or mysteriously died, Mugabe moved on to white farmers, shifting his reasoning to righting a colonial wrong. All along, it has been Mugabe spinning the dogma to satisfy his own greed and to mollify sycophantic followers whilst rewarding associates on self-enrichment exploits. Mugabe drew first blood, realised that he could get away with it, and he has now gone for the jugular. 

Phil Matibe – 


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