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If something is wrong: The invisible suffering of commercial farm workers and their families due to "Land Reform"
Report produced 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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This report 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 resettled.

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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