Zimbabwean farmer speaks of his struggle to hang on to his farm, after a Zimbabwean court gave notice to four white farmers to vacate their properties.
BEATRICE, ZIMBABWE (RECENT) REUTERS- A Zimbabwean magistrate court on Tuesday (January 26) gave four white farmers 24 hours to vacate their properties, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) said.
The mainly white CFU, which last week criticised the power-sharing government between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for failing to end chaos in the farming sector, said the magistrate ruled that the four farmers were guilty of refusing to vacate their properties.
The Union said the farmers were slapped with an 800 US dollar fine each and ordered to immediately move out of their homes and vacate their farms by Wednesday (January 27) evening, in a ruling that highlights worsening fortunes for Zimbabwe's white farmers who have also come under increased attacks from Mugabe's supporters since the formation of the coalition government.
"I grow 50 hectares of tobacco, similar hectarage of maize and we run, my wife owns a Tuli cattle stud, a pedigree Tuli herd of about 150 breeding females," said Kevin Cooke, a tobacco farmer.
The evicted farmers are Algernon Taffs of Chirega Farm, Dawie Joubert of Stilfontein, Mike Odendaal of Hillcrest Farm, Mike Jahme of Silverton Farm - all from the southeastern district of Chipinge.
"It's been quiet up until recently, of late there has been a new offer letter issued on the farm and so we are back in court looking to defend our case, we've actually been in and out of court for four different hearings now," said Cooke adding, "Our situation now is that we go to court on the 10th of March, that will begin the trial. We have no pressure on the ground. We haven't been told to move off the farm immediately, but if we are to lose the court case we would have to move off at short notice."
According to the CFU, the magistrate said if the four failed to vacate their properties as ordered by the court they would spend the next two years in jail but the Union indicated that the farmers were preparing to appeal against the eviction orders.
Under the Constitution of Zimbabwe everyone has the right to appeal but the magistrate denied them this right saying there was no doubt in his judgement.
According to the CFU, urgent applications are currently taking place in Zimbabwe's capital Harare on behalf of the evicted farmers and their families are moving
their life's belongings into the local Dutch Reformed Church for safety.
"The action that is taking place and the inaction that is trying to stop what is happening seems to confirm to us that the government of National Unity does not want any white commercial farmers in this country, if that is the case, they should come out and tell us and we can then inform our members," said Deon Theron, the Commercial Farmers Union President.
The Unity government of Mugabe and Tsvangirai has watched as members of the security forces and hard-line activists of Mugabe's ZANU PF party intensified a drive to seize all land still in white hands in recent weeks, causing deep frustration among the farmers.
In a strongly worded statement last week, the farmers labelled the ongoing farm seizures as a "crime against humanity" and called on the coalition government to act to end lawlessness on farms in keeping with the 2008 power-sharing agreement that gave birth to the administration.
Under the power-sharing agreement Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, who is the third signatory to the pact, promised to restore the rule of law in the farming sector, including carrying out a land audit to weed out multiple farm owners - nearly all of them senior ZANU PF officials who have hoarded most of the best farms seized from whites.
The coalition government is yet to act to fulfil the promise to restore law and order in the key agricultural sector, while more farms - including some owned by foreigners and protected under bilateral investment protection agreements between Zimbabwe and other nations - have been seized over the past few months. To make matters worse, according to the CFU, police and judicial officers who are supposed to enforce the rule of law were also among the beneficiaries of the free-for-all land grab.