I was appalled to read this story on The Zimbabwe Situation:
A 79 year old widow has been given a month to vacate her dairy farm and home of 50 years, or face a jail term, after she was convicted earlier this year for failing to vacate her farm.
Hester Theron, who runs a local dairy farm in Beatrice, was sentenced on Friday under the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act, for refusing to leave the land that has been her home since the late fifties.
She was sentenced to three months behind bars, suspended for five years on condition that she vacates the farm by 8 December 2009.
The news comes as more concern has been raised about the escalation of violence on commercial farms across the country, as the state sponsored offensive to conclude the so called land ‘reform’ program continues to gather momentum.
The president of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) Deon Theron, who is also Hester Theron’s son, told SW Radio Africa on Friday that he is shocked by how his mother was treated by the courts, calling her suspended sentence ‘ridiculous’.
Theron had earlier in the day told a press conference about his organisation’s concern, listing the various atrocities that have been and are still being committed on farms. Many farmers and their workers have been assaulted, had their belongings seized and stolen, and been forced to watch as their homesand workers villages have been burnt to the ground.
Most recently, five workers from Louis Fick’s Friedawil farm in Chinhoyi were shot and wounded by a man working for Deputy Reserve Bank governor, Edward Mashiringwani.
Mashiringwani, who has led a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Fick and his staff for several months, in complete violation of the SADC ruling meant to protect the land.
Mashiringwani’s hired thugs have also prevented the remaining farm staff from feeding or watering the numerous pigs and crocodiles on the farm, in an extreme act of animal cruelty meant to force Fick to give up the farm.
Police reaction in all cases, including Fick’s has been limited, slow and “frequently biased against our members.”
Theron said that in the majority of cases there has been no response at all because the deliberately orchestrated violence has been classified as ‘political’.
Theron also described the plight of the country’s thousands of farm workers, who are also under constant threat, explaining that “when the farmer is not present, the attorney general’s office frequently targets the employees.”
A significant number of workers have been prosecuted and even imprisoned, often for trying to defend their employers land from invasions. Over 60 thousand farm workers have lost their jobs this year alone, as a result of the renewed land grab campaign. This has all resulted in farms being unable to produce desperately needed food for a food-insecure nation, heavily dependent for the last decade on food aid.
At the same time over 150 productive farmers have recently been targeted and prosecuted by the attorney general’s office for still being on their farms.
In addition to these illegal prosecutions, various well-connected beneficiaries of ‘offer letters’ have been taking the law into their own hands and farming operations continue to be violently disrupted.
Meanwhile, farmer Charles Lock, whose Karori farm has been seized by Brigadier General Justin Mujaji and his personal army of soldiers, has this week appealed to the High Court to have the top army official arrested and convicted.
Mujaji, who is related by marriage to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, has plundered and looted the farm in contravention of numerous court orders against him. Lock has not been allowed on the property for several weeks, despite more court orders in his favour, meant to allow him to collect his equipment and produce still on the farm.
But Mujaji has not allowed a single court messenger or police official onto the farm, and has previously threatened to shoot various messengers from the courts. Lock has now sought the conviction order from the High Court, although his application has been postponed until next week to allow Mujaji time to respond.
As the farm crisis escalates, it is disturbing to note that the various stories have been given little international media attention. This is despite major news groups such as CNN and the BBC recently being allowed back into the country to report on what is happening, after years of being banned.
But regardless of the high human-interest newsworthiness of the farm crisis, the animal abuse and plight of the country’s farm workers, there seems to be little interest from these international media groups in providing footage and interviews, about a crisis that is worsening by the day.