Attorney-General Accused of Targeting CFU Members

THE Commercial Farmers Union has accused the Attorney-General’s office of ordering courts to convict white farmers for allegedly violating government eviction notices amid reports of more farming disruptions across the country.

Several farmers granted permission to stay on their land by the Sadc Tribunal are facing prosecution and have reportedly clashed with senior government officials and Zanu PF supporters seeking to evict them.

The evictions and prosecutions have reportedly heightened following President Robert Mugabe’s birthday remarks where he vowed to continue with farm seizures.

Government through Lands and Resettlement minister Herbert Murerwa a fortnight ago denied reports of fresh farm evictions and disruption of farming activities.

Commercial farmers in Mashonaland, according to a CFU Farm Disruptions Report, have been targeted for “fast-track” trials.

Mike Campbell, the chief applicant in the successful Sadc Tribunal ruling, is cited in the report which alleges that a Chegutu prosecutor has a list of summons of farmers to be arraigned before the courts for allegedly violating the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act.

Other Chegutu farmers, John Eastwood, JM Beattie, Campher Pasquel, Billy Nicholson, Danie Swart, Bart Wilde, Simon Keevil, Mike Nicholson, and Kevin du Bois have since been summoned to court to face similar charges.

Farmers in Mashonaland East, Midlands and Manicaland, the report added, could also face the same fate.
Dick Visagie of Wantage farm, Bruce Rodgers of Chigwell farm and Wayne Seaman of Chegutu, all interveners in the Namibia Tribunal case, have also been listed for eviction.

“There is no let up on the prosecution of farmers for alleged illegal occupation of their farms,” the CFU report says.

“Most of the present farmers still on the land have some form of permission. However, a recent document issued to all magistrates by the Attorney-General Johannes Tomana suggests that all farmers should be summarily found guilty and evicted if they are not in possession of an offer letter or permit and a land settlement lease.”

Most farmers, the CFU claimed, have not been granted the relevant documents despite applying for them.

“However, the powers that be at local (and in some cases provincial) level are totally against and do not support the present prosecutions and evictions, saying that the orders have come from ‘the top’,” the report added.

Many farmers, the CFU claimed, have also “abandoned their homes and gone into hiding until the matter can be resolved at a political level”.

“The fast track trials have continued and reports emanating from Gweru and Kwekwe state that the presiding magistrates are not taking their customary notes for recording purposes during the trials,” the CFU said.

The union also alleged that Reserve Bank deputy governor Edward Mashiringwani and the police earlier this month barred farm workers at Friedawill Farm in Karoi from feeding pigs at the property.

The swine, according to Louis Fick, who was evicted by Mashiringwani, have since been fed after the intervention of the SPCA.  

Fick is one of the 77 farmers who took government to the Sadc Tribunal.

Police reportedly responded to the “inhumane situation” at the farm by accusing Fick’s labourers of stealing stock feeds in order to feed their own livestock.

The CFU also claimed that the President of the Senate, Edna Madzongwe, earlier this month pursued her prolonged ownership wrangle with Chegutu-based farmer Peter Etheridge when she ordered him to vacate Stockdale citrus farm.

The union alleged that Madzongwe, accompanied by her supporters, ordered Etheridge to round up farming operations and vacate the farm.

Last year Etheridge suffered a major setback when he lost US$600 million worth of property as a result of the farm ownership wrangle.

Another Chegutu-based farmer, Catherine Meredith, claimed in the report that eviction attempts at her farm had intensified since the beginning of the month.

Meredith claimed: “The intruders have gone up a notch in their aggressive behaviour as they are surrounding our African boss-man, Joseph Zulu, who is stuck in his house.

“They are not allowing him to leave his house and, should he leave his home, they said they would immediately take occupation of his house.”

Mugabe, speaking at his 85th birthday celebrations in Chinhoyi a fortnight ago, said the dispute over land in Zimbabwe could not be determined by the Sadc Tribunal based in Namibia because the country has competent courts to adjudicate on the rights of the people.

He ordered that white farmers whose farms had been legally acquired by government should vacate the farms instead of seeking interdiction from the Tribunal.

Mugabe described the move by some white farmers to take the matter to the Tribunal as “nonsensical”.

He said: “Again I want to say, the farmers who owned these farms which now have been designated and offered to new owners, must respect that law. They must vacate those farms, they must vacate those farms, and they must vacate those farms.

 “Some farmers went to the Sadc Tribunal in Namibia, but that’s nonsense, absolute nonsense, no one will follow that. We have courts here in this country that can determine the rights of people. Our land issues are not subject to the Sadc Tribunal.”

High Court judge Mary-Anne Gowora last week nullified the Sadc Tribunal’s decision to either compensate the commercial farmers or allow them to continue with the farming activities.

Efforts to get a comment from Murerwa and Tomana yesterday were in vain.

BY BERNARD MPOFU

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