Waiting for God or SADC!

This is how one of the latest diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks described the plight of white commercial farmers in the Chegutu area including that of farmer-turned activist- Ben Freeth, whose farm was allegedly taken over by Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front politburo member Nathan Shamuyarira.

The cable describes the plight of three white farmers and how scores of their workers have lost their livelihood.

Freeth’s father-in-law Mike Campbell took the land issue to the Southern African Development Community Tribunal and won the case but the Zimbabwean government and the local courts ruled that the judgment was invalid because the court did not have jurisdiction.

Campbell died in April this year.

 

Full cable:

Viewing cable 09HARARE856, WAITING FOR GOD OR SADC: VIOLENT FARM SEIZURES,

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

09HARARE856

2009-10-28 14:04

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO2415

RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0856/01 3011404

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

R 281404Z OCT 09

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5066

RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 2389

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 3118

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 3230

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1657

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2491

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 2860

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 3278

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 5726

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2410

RUZEHAA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HARARE 000856

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. WALCH

DRL FOR N. WILETT

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR M. GAVIN

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR L. DOBBINS AND E. LOKEN

STATE PASS TO DOL FOR S. HALEY

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PHUM ELAB PGOV ASEC ZI

SUBJECT: WAITING FOR GOD OR SADC: VIOLENT FARM SEIZURES,

DISPLACEMENTS INCREASE

 

REF: HARARE 760

 

-------

SUMMARY

--------

 

1. (SBU) Poloff visits to farms in central Zimbabwe confirmed

continuing invasions of white-owned commercial farms by ZANU-PF

supporters, and associated violence and displacement of black

Zimbabwean farm workers. Police have refused to intervene.

Although politically-motivated violence has decreased since 2008,

land-related violence in violation of Zimbabwean and SADC court

orders is increasing. Farmers and farm workers have no recourse as

the government refuses to act to uphold its own court rulings.

Thousands of black Zimbabweans have already been displaced by the

farm invasions, and thousands more may be displaced in the coming

weeks and months. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (SBU) The Commercial Farmers Union has told us that of the 4,500

white farmers in Zimbabwe before the land invasions, only 300-400

remain. Of those, at least half are engaged in protracted legal

battles which contribute to significant slow-downs on those farms

that are productive. The international media has historically

focused on the plight of white farm owners; this was portrayed by

ZANU-PF as proof positive of a racist western attitude toward

Zimbabwe. However, the greater and growing human rights and

humanitarian tragedy is the massive upheaval that black Zimbabwean

farm workers continue to suffer in the name of land reform, the

hallmark of the ZANU-PF party platform. According to the local

International Organization for Migration (IOM) office, at least

4,500 farm workers and their families have been displaced since the

beginning of the year as a result of the takeovers of white

commercial farms. The average family size in Zimbabwe is five

people, meaning that nearly 25,000 Zimbabweans have likely been

displaced in 2009 alone. In comparison, IOM estimated that at least

30,000 Zimbabweans were displaced in election-related violence in

2008.

 

3. (SBU) The soon-to-be released film "House of Justice" (Reftel)

documents human rights abuses suffered by black farm workers. After

viewing this film, on October 21 and 22, poloffs visited farm

workers and owners of five different farms near Chegutu (Mashonaland

West province) and Kwekwe (Midlands province) in central Zimbabwe.

All have come under serious threat since the beginning of 2009, and,

in a disturbing new trend, black farm workers have been increasingly

targeted for beatings, threats, and forced evictions by the "new

owners."   Just a day after we met with a farmer whose property is

protected by a recent SADC ruling against interference by ZANU-PF,

his farm was invaded by dozens of drunk ZANU-PF supporters who

launched a tense, ongoing standoff with the owners that police

Qlaunched a tense, ongoing standoff with the owners that police

refuse to address (septel).

 

----------------------------

Workers Threatened, Evicted,

Struggling to Survive

-----------------------------

 

4. (SBU) In Chegutu, the District Organizer for the General

Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ),

Edward Dzeka, led us to several affected farms where we met workers.

Of the twelve white-owned farms in Chegutu, only one has not yet

been targeted. We first visited the Mt. Carmel farm owned by Ben

Freeth and his father-in-law Mike Campbell. Campbell was the lead

 

HARARE 00000856 002 OF 004

 

 

plaintiff in a major court case in the Southern African Development

Community (SADC) Tribunal that declared the Zimbabwean government's

land reform policy unconstitutional, in part because it is based on

race. In the November 2008 ruling, the Tribunal ordered that farm

invasions by ZANU-PF against the 78 plaintiffs must cease and that

the government compensate dispossessed farm owners by June 30, 2009.

Subsequent to the Court's decision, in September 2009, the homes of

Campbell and Freeth at Mt. Carmel, once the largest producer of

export-quality mangos in Zimbabwe, were burned.

 

5. (SBU) We hoped to speak with Freeth's farm workers who lived on a

compound just adjacent to the house. On arrival at Freeth's

property, we were met by a lone man who told us that the house now

belonged to ZANU-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira. When we asked

about the farm workers - since nobody else was around - he said they

had "gone into town."

 

6. (SBU) Down the road at the compound adjacent to Campbell's home

(which had also been taken over by Shamuyarira - as noted by a

ZANU-PF campaign poster with the slogan "Our Land, Our Sovereignty"

now attached to his gate), we met with the Mt. Carmel farm workers.

They told us that the workers who lived near Freeth's house had been

evicted the day before after repeated threats. The plight of the

Mt. Carmel farm workers was immediately evident. Although it was a

school day, numerous children roamed aimlessly and their parents

explained that they could not pay the US$3 fees for the nearby

public school. The workers told us they had not been paid in three

months and that they survived through intermittent piecework on

nearby farms.

 

7. (SBU) Some of the workers continue to help graze Campbell's

cattle. A foreman said he had been at Mt. Carmel since 1978 and

didn't know where he would go if evicted. With the takeover of

Campbell's home, he and the other 70 workers and their families also

lost access to the farm's four boreholes. Now the destitute workers

must trek roughly a mile to take water from a borehole on an

adjacent farm. Bruce Campbell, Mike Campbell's son, told us the

last of the four boreholes had broken and that police refused to

help him move the remaining 20 cattle from his farm. He feared that

unless action was taken soon, the cattle would die from

dehydration.

 

8. (SBU) When we asked the Mt. Carmel workers if anyone from

government had come to visit them to ask about their plight, one

woman laughed and sighed, "Ah, no. You are the only ones."

 

9. (SBU) Further down the road at the Wakefield tobacco farm, home

to approximately 1500 farmworkers and their families, manager

Charles Jongwe showed us the eviction papers delivered to him and

QCharles Jongwe showed us the eviction papers delivered to him and

the other workers on October 19. The owner, Ken Bartholomew, was in

Harare for the day working with his lawyer to block the evictions,

though the foreman expressed doubt that any court order would be

respected in light of the experience of other white farm owners in

Zimbabwe. Jongwe explained that his former house, directly adjacent

to the farm's workshop, was now occupied by surrogates for the new

"owner," Felix Pambukani. Jongwe told us that the take-over

attempts began in February 2009, and that he was jailed for 48 hours

in April and accused of "being violent" although the police did not

press charges against him.

 

10. (SBU) Jongwe told us that the once-productive tobacco farm now

lay idle as Pambukani's men refused to allow the workers to plant

this year's crop, which needed to be in the ground by the end of

 

HARARE 00000856 003 OF 004

 

 

November. Although most of last year's crop was sold, some rotted

in the curing sheds because of interference from Pambukani.

Pambukani's men recently sprayed herbicide on the seedlings they

intended to plant in an attempt to completely derail this year's

planting. Wakefield's employees fear for the future, having seen

the fate of the workers at the nearby Mt. Carmel farm. Since they

are unable to work, they spend their days keeping watch over the

farm's assets, bracing for a possible violent invasion.

 

-----------------------------------

It's Worth Crying Over Spilled Milk

-----------------------------------

 

11. (SBU) Rob Taylor, whose plight at Usasa Seedling farm near

Chegutu is featured in "House of Justice," told us that before the

last invasions between February and June, at one of the two farms he

managed, he had 138 cows. During the forced takeover, the invaders

refused to allow Taylor's workers to feed 17 calves, all of which

died. 30 other cows died from neglect, and the invaders

intentionally killed his bull, worth about US$4,000. He had managed

to move 60 cows to a field owned by the Pentecostal Church, but only

because he had convinced the invaders that he was selling the cows

as he moved them off the property. On October 16, when he attempted

to retrieve his last 20 cows, the invaders at the farm stoned his

truck, and one of the stones injured his driver in the ribs.

 

12. (SBU) The "new owner," Tendai Chasaoka forcibly took over the

farm in January with a purported government "offer letter." Since

January, Chasaoka, who is the director of the Chegutu Grain

Marketing Board, has forced Taylor to pay the electricity bills and

wages of the remaining eight workers. Taylor told us on October 21

that he needed to get money to pay them the next day, but he still

didn't know where he would get it. Taylor lamented that although

the farm was protected by high court orders and the SADC tribunal

ruling, and although he had given up the fight for the farm in order

to save his remaining herd, he continued to be the victim of

extortion, intimidation and violent attacks.

 

 

13. (SBU) Taylor, in true Zimbabwean fashion, has "made a plan" for

the future. He told us that if he could get milk pasteurizing and

packaging equipment, he could sell the milk his remaining 60 cows

are producing. Currently, because of erratic electricity and a

breakdown at the local Dairy Board, most of his cows' milk goes to

waste. He estimates the equipment and installation would cost

US$15,000, which he could probably pay off in six months. However,

since no bank will accept his cows as collateral, his plan remains

stalled until he can find a source for the loan. While Taylor, like

Qstalled until he can find a source for the loan. While Taylor, like

others, welcomes dollarization for the stability it has brought to

the economy, he lamented the continued lack of coins and its impact

on the local economy. He explained that a pint of milk sells for 50

cents, and the lack of change continues to deter planned purchases

of less than a dollar, particularly in rural areas.

 

-------

COMMENT

-------

 

 

14. (SBU) Although farm invasions were most widespread and violent

in 2000 and 2001, remaining farmers are subject to intimidation and

violence. Racism and inequality have always plagued Zimbabwe and

the continued racial treatment of the land issue by ZANU-PF has

 

HARARE 00000856 004 OF 004

 

 

resulted in reluctance from the international community and even the

MDC, who are most susceptible to ZANU-PF's rhetoric, to speak out

for fear of appearing to support wealthy white farmers.

Significantly, however, farm workers - black Zimbabweans - are now

the primary targets of these attacks as they become an increasingly

victimized and overlooked population

 

15. (SBU) The SADC Tribunal ruling in November 2008 was a

significant victory for the Campbells and other dispossessed

farmers. The Zimbabwean government's decision to ignore the ruling

and pull out of the Tribunal is continued evidence of the absence of

rule of law. It is also disturbing that SADC countries have allowed

Zimbabwe to flout the ruling of their court. As one of the farm

workers says at the end of "House of Justice," "only God or SADC can

help us." END COMMENT.

 

PETTERSON

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