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