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Security on Zimbabwe's White-Owned Farms Deteriorates


More than half of Zimbabwe's remaining productive white farmers are under ever increasing pressure to abandon their homes and businesses. Peta Thornycroft reports on an ongoing episode on a white-owned farm, which has shocked the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Friedawall farm near Chinhoyi, about 100 kilometers north of Harare is the scene of intense and ongoing cruelty to animals on the property according to neighbors and workers who have fled the farm. The farm has large cattle and pig sections.

The farm is one of more than 70 protected by an interim order from the regional court of last resort, the Southern African Development Community tribunal in Namibia. Zimbabwe is a signatory to the SADC treaty which established the tribunal for citizens of member states who claim to have exhausted all domestic remedies.

Despite the interim order, employees of Edwin Mashiringwani, a deputy governor of Zimbabwe's reserve bank, took it over more than a week ago.

Louis Fick, who owns the animals, says his workers have been chased away. He said Mashiringwani's employees have refused to feed more than 4,000 pigs, 15,000 crocodiles and several hundred beef cattle for the past week.

He called the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Society says its officials have not been allowed on to the farm to inspect what is going on and to feed the animals.

Officials from the Society said that cruelty to animals was a crime in Zimbabwe. An official said the Society wanted to investigate reports that 30 sows have died of dehydration, and others crazed by lack of food and water were eating their piglets. Neighbors say the sounds coming from the farm are appalling.

Police at Chinhoyi have not assisted according to the Society. Attempts to get comment from Zimbabwe Police commissioner Augustine Chihuri and Mashiringwani were unsuccessful.

Gideon Gono, the chief executive of Zimbabwe's central bank is himself a commercial farmer and has regularly criticized those who continue to invade productive white-owned farms. He was not available for comment Tuesday.

Other white farmers around the country are in distress, including Trevor Gifford, the president of the Commercial Farmers Union, who is barricaded into his farm. He is trying to negotiate safety for his herds of animals after his small piece of land in eastern Zimbabwe was invaded two weeks ago.

The SADC tribunal was asked to provide interim relief for 74 white farmers a few days before Zimbabwe's March 29 elections. The Zimbabwe government's representatives from the attorney general's office agreed to comply with the interim order, according to the court record.

The case goes to trial next month and is the first to be held by the tribunal which was established late last year.

Zimbabwe's economy was dependent on exports produced by commercial farmers. As more and more white farmers were evicted beginning in 2000, the economy faltered.

Many new owners of that land had no commercial farming experience, and the U.N. estimates that less than 10 percent of the land seized is now productive.

President Robert Mugabe says that the land, homes, infrastructure, and farming equipment was taken from white farmers to re-settle landless peasants who had been deprived of their land during the colonial era.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said that he would not evict people from land they were given, but would insist that the rule of "one man, one farm" was observed and the land would have to be used productively.

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