Farmers charged with crime of farming!


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Fifteen commercial sugar farmers from Chiredzi were charged with violating section 8 of the Land Acquisition Act by continuing to farm after the government deadline to stop farming activities.

Farmers were given 45 days to stop any farming activities on 10 May 2002 giving them until 24 June after which it became a criminal offence to continue occupying, holding or using land acquired by the government.

The farmers were charged with obstructing the government’s land reform programme.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 02HARARE1635, COMMERCIAL FARMERS CHARGED WITH CRIME OF FARMING

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

02HARARE1635

2002-07-15 13:26

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001635

 

SIPDIS

 

LONDON FOR GURNEY

PARIS FOR NEARY

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: EAGR ECON PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: COMMERCIAL FARMERS CHARGED WITH CRIME OF FARMING

 

 

1. Summary: On July 4-5, 15 Chiredzi-area commercial sugar

farmers were charged with violating section 8 of the Land

Acquisition Act by continuing to farm past the

government-mandated deadline for ceasing commercial farming

activity. As of May 10, 2002 all farmers who fail to stop

occupying, holding, or using land 45 days after the original

section 8 notification were subject to criminal penalities.

This legislation is retroactive to all previous section 8

acquisition orders, thereby making any occupation or use of

land after June 24 a criminal offense. The farmers were

charged with obstructing the government,s land resettlement

program even though they had adhered to the government,s

guidelines regarding farm-size ,and had formally applied for

an extension of their section 8 orders in advance of the

deadline. It is unclear why these 15 were singled out for

prosecution because all of the 52 small-scale commercial

farmers in Chiredzi have followed the same process to both

avoid contravening the Land Acquisition Act, and to continue

to pursue their livelihoods.     End summary.

 

2. On July 9, Poloff and Econoff met with David Hasluck,

Director of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) to discuss the

charges brought against the fifteen independent sugar cane

farmers on July 4 and 5 for continuing to tend to their crops

subsequent to the June 24 deadline. Hasluck believes that

someone resettled under the fast track program probably

raised the complaint against the farmers,thereby staking a

claim on the cane growing on the farms. Hasluck’s feeling

was that this — the first such filing of official charges

under the Land Acqusition Act — was a test case, and that

if the farmers lost, this would signal even more chaos at a

time when few crops are being grown and widespread famine is

looming.

 

3. The farmers were charged with violating the government’s

resettlement program even though their farms are within the

maximum farm size regulations promulgated by Minister of

Lands Joseph Made. Although the regulation has not been

formally enshrined within the Land Act, the 15 farmers were

under the impression that as long as they complied with this

guideline they would be allowed to retain their holdings and

continue to farm. The fact that the farmers have been

charged anyway makes it increasingly unclear how commercial

farmers can legally retain any portion of their holdings. The

Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Ministry has

announced a bevy of (sometimes contradictory) guidelines

relating to the resettlement program, and the situation on

the ground varies significantly from area to area. Hasluck

commented that, often, the amount of land each farmer is

allowed to retain depends on the individual proclivities of,

as well as the farmer’s relationship with, the local land

committees.   The disconnect between the messages emanating

from Harare and the situation on the ground leaves commercial

farmers in the untenable situation of not knowing which

regulations to comply with to avoid contravening the Land

Act. Essentially, the lack of transparency within the

resettlement process means that even if these commercial

farmers adhere to the most recent “rules” of the land reform

program they have very little legal recourse because the GOZ

continually moves the goalposts.

 

 

4. Hasluck noted that all 52 of the small scale sugarcane

growers in Chiredzi submitted formal requests for extension

of their section 8 acquisition orders to Minister Made

because they still had crops in the ground that needed to be

harvested. It is therefore unclear why the 15 farmers were

selected for prosecution,and not any of the other 37

independent cane growers. This is only the latest example of

widespread arbitrariness in the implementation of the GOZ’s

resettlement program.

5. Hasluck told the story of a Chegutu commercial farmer who

applied to Minister Made,s office for an extension of his

section 8 orders. The farmer copied his request to the local

land committee and then approached this body to follow-up.

Although the local committee informed the farmer that he was

free to continue his operations, halfway into the growing

season, he received a letter on behalf of Minister Made

informing him that there were to be absolutely no extensions

of section 8 orders, and that the local land committees did

not have the authority to grant waivers. In many ways the

Chegutu farmer,s predicament is analogous to the situation

faced by the 15 Chiredzi commercial farmers and, indeed,

commercial farmers throughout the country.

 

Comment

———

 

6. We agree with Hasluck’s assesment that this will be an

important test case of the GOZ’s land reform program. A

successful prosecution will embolden the GOZ to pursue

charges against all commercial farmers who have not stopped

farming, and will discourage any remaining commercial farmers

from continuing their operations. This will exacerbate the

already dramatic food shortage, as newly resettled farmers

won’t come close to filling the gap left by the commercial

producers. The Chegutu example suggests that Minister Made

is uninterested in compromise, despite the fact that half the

population will soon require food assistance. August 9 now

looms as a crucial date, as that is the GOZ’s deadline for

all commercial farmers to be off properties that have been

listed.

SULLIVAN

 

(5 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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