After this highway robbery, what’s next?

By Cathy Buckle

AS an ex-farmer I find myself spinning around in dizzy circles trying to keep up with all the pronouncements by the Zimbabwean government on land.



, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>As a farmer first I was told that the government didn’t want our farm. Then I was told by a bunch of loud and angry men armed with half bricks and sticks who came to the gate that we had to share the farm with them.


After seven months of doing so the men decided that sharing wasn’t good enough and that we should get out of the house because they wanted that too. Their words were not backed up with any government paperwork or orders but when the police said they wouldn’t remove the trespassers because “it is political”, there was no option but to leave.


Later the government said any farmers still brave enough to be on their farms should downsize and that all farms would have a maximum hectarage. Then the government changed their mind again and said they were going to take even more farms.


What started out as one million hectares became five and then 11 million hectares. Now they’ve changed their mind again.


Zimbabwe made international news last week with the announcement by Minister of Special Affairs in the Office of the President and Cabinet responsible for Land Reform and Resettlement John Nkomo that all land is to be nationalised.


Title deeds are to be made null and void and the state will issue 99-year leases for agricultural land and 25-year leases for conservancies.


Nkomo said the government did not intend to “waste time and money” on disputes with people who had title deeds, court orders and other legal documents which confirmed that they were in fact the legal owners of the land.


Then this week the government said there would be no change in policy on land tenure.


What didn’t make international news was the Acquisition of Farm Equipment and Materials Bill. Despite the fact that the Parliamentary Legal Committee unanimously declared five clauses of the Bill unconstitutional and despite the fact that all opposition MPs walked out of the House in protest when it came to the vote, the Bill was passed by Zimbabwe’s parliament.


This Bill now allows the state to compulsorily acquire farm equipment and materials and forbids farmers from selling, dismantling, removing or destroying their own private property. This includes tractors, ploughs, irrigation equipment, machinery, seed and fertilisers.


When our farm was seized by arbitrary men at the gate, the government said they were taking back land that had been stolen from them 100 years ago. When the arbitrary men moved into and took over our private house, dairy, barns, workers’ homes and the farm shop, the government said nothing, paid nothing and did nothing and the police said it was political.


It wasn’t just bricks they seized, it was fully functional and completely equipped buildings with windows, doors, roofing, water tanks and geysers, electrical fittings, fencing and security systems.


Now apparently anything left on, or taken off that farm that the Zimbabwe government classifies as agricultural equipment or material, also belongs to the state.


The mind just boggles at where this highway robbery and blatant disregard of people’s private property rights will end and who or what will be next.


Perhaps the shirt off my back, which I wore when I was a farmer, or what about my computer – I used that to do the farm accounts and work out how much tax I had to pay the Zimbabwe government when I was a farmer. The parallels with Jews in Nazi Germany 60 years ago are chillingly familiar.


Cathy Buckle is a Marondera-based ex-farmer.