Comment: Rogue Image Persists

THE two formations of the MDC appear to be in competition to see which can appear the most delusional about our national situation.


Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry minister Welshman Ncube both think the farm invasions and accompanying violence are a product of the media’s fevered imagination.

Wearing his Jomic hat, Ncube denied any form of farm invasions but said there were “a number of anomalies” on the farms, which the media has wrongfully interpreted as invasions.
It was useful therefore to have Ben Freeth’s well-documented account this week of the extensive looting and destruction on commercial farms in the Chegutu area.
Six thousand tonnes of citrus ready for the export market was pillaged on Stockdale Farm before the evicted owners could reap a single orange, having made a huge investment in production.
Their state-of-the-art equipment was “acquired” by the new owner, a prominent senator.
On Northleigh Farm, a once productive dairy farm, there is no longer a single cow being milked. Invaders, allegedly assisted by law-enforcement officers, broke into the main house and took possession of the house and farm.
This story is repeated throughout the district, Freeth notes. Some of the invaders can produce offer letters.  Most don’t bother.
Many of the commercial farmers who tried to remain on the land have been charged with what Freeth calls the unique Zimbabwean crime of farming.
These are not isolated episodes as Tsvangirai and Ncube would have us believe. They are systematic, from Mashonaland West to the sugar-cane estates and conservancies of the lowveld and the coffee plantations of the Eastern Highlands.
The story is one of a lawless elite helping themselves and a law-enforcement system that is partisan.
Ironically, some of the victims of land-grabs were able to hold out with the support of their workers until this year. But with the formation of the inclusive government they have surrendered to the new wave of occupations that are, the CFU says, as bad as, if not worse than those of 2000. Ncube appears to think it’s okay so long as the new arrivals carry offer letters. It’s not okay. This is institutional racism.
On some of the most productive farms producing seed maize, seed wheat, and soya beans, farmers have received orders from the Ministry of Lands to “cease cropping”.
Tsvangirai has failed lamentably to use his powers in government to halt this anarchy or to deal with the looters. But this is precisely what he should be doing.
The whole purpose of the inclusive-government project was to restore order and productivity on the land so the country could become self-sufficient once again. But as it stands, the MDC prefers a policy of propitiation towards President Mugabe which requires it to do nothing in the face of criminal activity. What has happened to the land audit the party touted last year? And what use is Giles Mutseyekwa at Home Affairs?
Nobody seems to care about the farm workers rendered destitute in all this. They are the silent victims of Zanu PF’s misrule and the MDC’s indolence. It is sufficient that he saw it, Arthur Mutambara said of farm invasions after his whistle-stop tour of Mashonaland West. Actually doing something appears not to be on his list of priorities!
Donor governments gave Tsvangirai an unambiguous message during his tour of Europe and North America two weeks ago. Curb political crime, stop the detentions and prosecutions under repressive laws like the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, and open up the media.
To date he is focusing on the media. This is welcome, but he should be active on a broad front.
Tsvangirai, Mutambara and Ncube should understand there will be no assistance to Zimbabwe beyond humanitarian needs so long as misrule is countenanced. Their constant attempts to gloss over what is so evidently repression, land seizures, and political prosecutions will not escape those from whom they seek sustenance.
There has been some talk, most notably from Mutambara, of a national rebranding to attract investment and tourists.
Sadly this won’t do the trick. Former CFU head Colin Cloete in Selous is currently incurring huge costs protecting his farming business from a predatory state.
So long as Jomic is ducking its responsibilities, getting bogged down over offer letters, and the Prime Minister is looking the other way, Zimbabwe will be stuck with its rogue image.
That’s not good for business.