Police seize Bennett’s farm


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About 30 police officers and another 30 military officers are reported to have seized Chimanimani Member of Parliament Roy Bennett’s Charleswood Farm and sealed all the property’s access points.

Bennett was out of the country at the time.

Six farm managers and an unspecified number of Bennett supporters were evicted from the farm and were now in Mutare as internally displaced persons.

The security forces at the farm told farm representatives that they were under direct orders from Manicaland governor Mike Nyambuya and the President himself in seizing the farm and that any countermanding court order would be “meaningless”.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 04HARARE634, POLICE, MILITARY SEIZE OPPOSITION MP’S FARM

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

04HARARE634

2004-04-13 15:05

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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

C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 000634

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. DELISI, L. AROIAN, M. RAYNOR

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/13/2009

TAGS: PHUM PGOV ZI MDC

SUBJECT: POLICE, MILITARY SEIZE OPPOSITION MP’S FARM

 

 

Classified By: Political Officer Win Dayton under Section 1.5 B/D

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The seizure of MDC MP Roy Bennett’s

Chimanimani farm by police and military on April 9 represents

the climax of a long-standing GOZ effort to deprive the

prominent opposition figure of his economic and political

base. The forces evicted farm management from the property

and gave remaining workers the option of leaving by April 14

or staying on to work for the farm’s new operator — Zimbabwe

Defense Industries (“ZDI”, a company recently added to the

USG’s financial sanctions list). Bennett’s lawyers plan to

carry the battle to the courts but hold out little hope of

restoring the status quo ante, even with a favorable court

order. Press reports of security forces assaulting farm

workers in connection with the seizure appear to be

inaccurate. END SUMMARY

 

2. (SBU) At about 4:00 a.m. on April 9 approximately 30

police personnel and 30 military personnel, all heavily

armed, entered opposition MP Roy Bennett’s “Charleswood

Estate” farm and sealed all the property’s access points.

Lawyers representing the farm told poloffs that the forces

evicted six farm managers and an unspecified number of

Bennett supporters from the farm; all now are safely lodged

in Mutare as internally displaced persons. Bennett was out

of the country at the time of the seizure. Contradicting

press reports, the lawyers said there had been no violence

associated with the takeover. Security forces, which had

maintained a small encampment at the farm’s edge since more

than a year ago, now control the farm fully.

 

3. (SBU) The lawyers advised that the six ejected managers

and the farm’s corporate entity would seek legal relief

restoring the status quo ante at the farm.   However,

security forces at the farm told farm representatives that

they were under direct orders from Manicaland Governor (and

ex-Brigadier General) Mike Nyambuya and the President himself

in seizing the farm and that any countermanding court order

would be “meaningless.”   Indeed, the seizure appears to fly

in the face of a provisional high court order issued in

February barring police from interfering with farm

operations.

 

4. (SBU) Charleswood Estate has been the scene of tense and

sometimes violent standoffs since the GOZ began its efforts

to take the farm more than two years ago. Earlier this year

a farm worker at Charleswood was shot fatally by security

forces, according to witnesses, although the GOZ’s official

version had the victim “shot accidentally while trying to

disarm military personnel.” Bennett’s farm houses more than

1,000 workers and family members and supports a host of other

businesses and suppliers in the area. Many workers and

residents of the area are fiercely loyal to Bennett, an

outspoken opposition leader who is one of three white MPs.

Nyambuya reportedly declared publicly last month that Bennett

would not qualify for re-election as MP for Chimanimani if he

did not live there.   Indeed, according to Bennett’s lawyers,

the army major who led the operation and who is now occupying

Bennett’s house told farm residents that he will be the

district’s next MP.

 

5. (C) COMMENT: A significant financier at the center of the

opposition’s low-profile security apparatus, Bennett has long

been the ruling party’s bete noir in Manicaland. That

control of the militant MP’s farm passed so easily after two

years of staunch resistance bears testament to a waning

fighting spirit even in the party’s more spirited wings.

Bennett’s ejection, which reportedly was one of new Governor

Nyambuya’s principal charges on taking office, may adversely

affect the MDC’s prospects to retain his parliamentary seat

in the generally pro-opposition province. The passing of

Charleswood’s possession is not a watershed event so much as

the latest manifestation of several well-established trends

in Zimbabwe: erosion of the opposition’s declining economic

and political base by whatever force or tactics the ruling

party deems necessary; the military’s growing profile in

ruling party machinations; and the increasing irrelevance of

a largely impotent judiciary.

SULLIVAN

 

(190 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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