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
Chinese.

“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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs