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something is wrong: The invisible suffering of commercial farm workers
and their families due to "Land Reform"
for the General Agricultural & Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe
[GAPWUZ] by the Research and Advocacy Unit [RAU] and the Justice
For Agriculture [JAG] Trust
November 11, 2009
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presents the findings of preliminary quantitative and qualitative
surveys of workers on commercial farms in the wake of the catastrophic
"Land Reform" policy in Zimbabwe. Whilst the companion
reports produced from this series of projects have received some
attention, this report is the first to deal solely with data gathered
from the farm workers themselves. It represents the views of only
a small section of the 1.8 million people that lived and worked
on Zimbabwe's commercial farms. However, the continued gathering
of data means that in time we will be able to paint a detailed picture
of the lives of farm workers across the country, as they struggled
over the last nine years with State-sponsored invasions, torture,
violent assaults, murders, rapes, evictions and other violations
of the law and their rights. For the moment, though, the data presented
here makes no claim to be statistically representative.
Nevertheless, what emerges
makes sobering reading. The prevalence of human rights violations
recorded by the sample in this survey is disturbing. The data also
shows that earlier estimates by farmers of the violations experienced
by their workers appear to be largely consistent with estimates
made by the workers themselves. This lends further credibility to
extremely high figures of violation prevalence. The fact, for example,
that 1 in 10 of the present respondents report at least one murder
amongst fellow farm workers, and that 38% of respondents report
that children on the farms were forced to watch public beatings
or torture, shows the extent to which Robert Mugabe's regime is
responsible for an extensive series of crimes that were both widespread
and systematic: the very definition of crimes against humanity.
Whilst this claim has
been made, and rightfully, many times about the disregard by Mugabe
and his ZANU-PF supporters for human life, it is nowhere more apparent
than in relation to the situation on Zimbabwe's farms. The evidence
indicates clearly that the Zimbabwean "Land Reform" was
not, as ZANU-PF would have people believe: a socially responsible
exercise where an unfortunate few white farmers became regrettable
but necessary 'collateral damage' as precious State resources were
munificently redistributed to the poor and needy. It was, rather,
a violent, State-sponsored and systematic attack on 1.8 million
people in order to wipe out any illusions of political freedom they
might have cherished, to force them into the ranks of strict ZANU-PF
orthodoxy and to prevent them from lending support to the fledgling
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party.
In this report, and in
the other reports from the companion projects, the term "Land
Reform" appears throughout in inverted commas. This is because
"Land Reform" has not been the salutary restructuring
of land ownership and agricultural production that the term suggests.
A huge proportion of land remains in the hands of wealthy politically
connected "A2" farmers effectively changing the skin colour
of the old dispensation, but maintaining the wealth gap between
rich and poor. Political patronage has resulted in all the land
- and the word 'all' is used advisedly - being allocated to ZANU-PF
supporters. Under the current dispensation, these occupiers do not
own the land, or even lease it, and can be evicted from the property
at any moment, without notice. Possession is entirely dependent
upon the goodwill and whims of ZANU-PF Government officials. This
patronage system further demands and enforces fealty by the holders
of land to ZANU-PF.
This report also questions,
as the others have before, the net increase in the number of people
living on the land in the wake of "Land Reform". Even
if Government's own figure of 350 000 families being resettled is
taken as accurate - not necessarily always the case with Government's
figures - this report should awaken suspicion about the number of
farm workers displaced from the farms. Only a third of the current
sample are still living on a farm. This almost certainly points
to mass displacements on a vast scale, not matched by the numbers
In addition, it should
be noted that this report is primarily concerned with a particular
subsection of the human rights violations that have been perpetrated
against farm workers. Whilst the focus here is on violations of
physical integrity and political freedoms, many other human rights
have also been violated. For example, here only brief mention is
made of violations of the rights to security of employment, work,
health, shelter, education, food, water, sanitation or information,
or of the denial of basic freedoms such as freedom of association
or freedom of expression.
Finally, though, it ought
to be remembered that the current report does not make national
claims. The sample size is too small and it is geographically skewed.
Indeed, it is our wish that the victims of the "Land Reform"
programme be heard in their full individuality, as well as in the
collective voice of the statistical mass. It is for this reason
that this report presents representative narratives from the victims
as examples of the statistics discussed.
Data collection continues,
and each completed survey adds further evidence of the scale and
nature of the gross human rights violations that have taken place
in the name of "Land Reform" in Zimbabwe, one of the clearest
examples of the Government's several crimes against humanity.
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