News / Africa

Dozens of People Face Eviction From Zimbabwe Farms

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)
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 blacks.

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 turn.

“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.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs