GOVERNMENT has intensified the eviction of squatters who invaded white-owned commercial farms starting in 2000 in a bid to restore order in the agricultural sector.
Analysts said government had undermined its desire to rectify skewed colonial land ownership patterns through partisan politics, greed and subliminal racial hatred.
They said land reform had destroyed a sector government itself touts as the backbone of the economy through haphazard occupations by people who have little aptitude for farming or have no resources to embark on commercial production. In some cases, formerly productive farms have been turned into dustbowls, the analysts say.
In the past few weeks government has evicted hundreds of so-called model A1 farmers. Most of them were left stranded after soldiers and police last week and earlier this week set their homes ablaze on an estimated 21 farms along the Harare-Chinhoyi highway.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International reports that at least 10 people have died at Porta Farm outside Harare in the past three weeks as a result of what it alleges was the misuse of teargas by police during the eviction of squatters.
Police spokesman Wa-yne Bvudzijena yesterday denied the reports.
“Amnesty International is calling for a full and independent inquiry into the deaths of at least 10 people since September 2 at Porta Farm,” Amnesty said in a statement yesterday.
Bvudzijena said: “They (Amnesty International) must give us the names instead of merely claiming that people died. If the people died at hospital there must be a hospital report. The law in this country bars anyone from burying the dead without a police report. We haven’t received reports that there is anyone who died at home.”
Amnesty said those who died of exposure to teargas had pre-existing illnesses. It said on September 2 riot police, war veterans and Zanu PF militia went to Porta Farm to evict about 10 000 squatters where teargas was used.
A visit by the Zimbabwe Independent to five farms in Mashonaland West – Little England, Inkomo, Newlands, Kingswood and Sotibury – on Wednesday revealed that the evicted families were still stranded in the open along the highway.In interviews with the Independent, the farmers, the majority of whom seized the properties from white commercial farmers in 2000, blamed government for encouraging farm invasions as “legitimate demonstrations by land-hungry people”.
One farmer, Goodwill Zimbizi, said they were sleeping in the open and still expected government to allocate them land elsewhere.
“Since Thursday last week, we have been visiting Murombedzi district offices to find a solution to this crisis,” Zimbizi said.
“Land officers have asked us to register our names and are promising that we will be allocated land elsewhere soon,” he said.
“Even if we get the land now, there is no way we will make a meaningful contribution to production this season considering the time needed to settle down and prepare the land,” he said.
Zimbizi expressed fea-rs that the evicted families, especially children, could contract diseases because there was no clean water or sanitary facilities on their roadside settlement.
When the land invasions began in earnest in 2000, government promised peasants that it would send land experts to properly plan settlements on occupied farms. They were warned, though, not to erect “permanent” structures.
Bvudzijena on Tuesday told the Independent that the peasants were being evicted because they had settled illegally and had been given advance notices that they would be moved.
Local Government minister Ignatious Cho-mbo was last week reported saying the evictions were necessary to pave way for A2 farmers with resources to utilise the land on a commercial basis.Chombo said the government would find alternative land for the evicted families.
There were reports this week that the crackdown had spread to Banket, Karoi, Chinhoyi, Mhangura and Doma in Mashonaland West province and in Lower Gweru in the Midlands province.
The farmers said government had used them.
“We are convinced that government is now evicting us from the farms to pave way for Zanu PF officials,” said Gilbert Karima, sitting on an eviction notice in the Mhangura area.