Zimbabwe – land invasions 2014 – 2009


South Africa is doing the same as the leaders in Zimbabwe – set their own rules to grab land.   Destroy houses and businesses.   Here are a few articles of their past on land grabs.

No end to invasions? Little appears to have changed since 2000 when these Zimbaweans laid claim to occupied farm land. (Alexander Joe)

Zimbabwe – Orphans – Aids and hunger

Zimbabwe – “bread basket” into a “basket case” ~~~ No farmer – No food



Fresh anxiety has gripped Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector. More than 40 farms have been threatened with invasion since December last year and eight commercial ­farmers have been forced off their properties since January.

The invasions have resulted in disruptions to farming activity at a crucial time in the summer cropping season.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary general Japhet Moyo said the land invasions had resulted in 890 farmworkers losing their jobs, contributing to the 9 617 job losses recorded since January 1.

Perhaps what is most concerning for old and new farmers alike is that, 14 years after the invasions began, Zanu-PF and the government are still unwilling to put a date to the end of the land reform programme.

When asked what the policy time frame is concerning this programme, Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo referred the Mail & Guardian to Minister of Lands Douglas Mombeshora, who could not be reached for comment.

The situation could worsen for farmers, as Zanu-PF youths are also demanding land. They have told President Robert Mugabe of their intention to acquire land, saying they were left out of the land reform programme.

Youth desperate for land

Zanu-PF deputy secretary for youth Edison Chakanyuka told Mugabe during his 90th birthday celebrations in Marondera last week that the youth were desperate for land.

“We, together with the war veterans, played a big role in the land reform programme.
But we did not receive land. When are we also going to benefit from the land reform programme?” he asked while delivering a vote of thanks at the birthday party.

Last week, the war veterans’ spokesperson in Chiredzi, Ezra Charinda, told the M&G that war vets wanted government to give them part of the estate belonging to sugar milling giant Tongaat Hulett.

Charinda said new farms were promised to war vets if they helped Zanu-PF to campaign and win last year’s election.

Commercial Farmers’ Union of Zimbabwe president Charles Taffs told the M&G that the fresh invasions have resulted in uncertainty among farmers.

“We have been under a lot of pressure since December. We have had in excess of 40 attempted evictions since then but we have managed to resolve all of them bar eight.

Anxiety and uncertainty

“We are seeing a lot of opportunism from some powerful people and this has created a lot of anxiety and uncertainty,” said Taffs.

“Where in the world do you just walk on to a property and declare you are the new owner? But this is still happening here. Because of the uncertainty, most farmers are questioning whether they should continue with their operations.

“What is happening is not good for agriculture at all. Agriculture thrives where there is long-term planning and farmers need to access 20-to 25-year finance to develop infrastructure such as irrigation, but that cannot happen with this uncertainty.”

Taffs said the government position on invasions is unclear, adding that there is a need for dialogue to bring clarity and finality to the land issue.

The union had managed to solve some of the land disputes with the help of certain government officials, whom he declined to name. He said that in most cases land invaders claim to have offer letters from the ministry of lands and rural resettlement, but never produce the paperwork.

Taffs would not reveal how many white farmers are left on the ground, but said about a tenth of those operating before the inception of the land reform programme were still farming.

Increased vulnerability of farmworkers

The union had a membership of about 3 200 in 2000, when the Zanu-PF government embarked on its violent land reform programme that left several farmers dead.

The general secretary of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe, Gift Muti, confirmed the land grabs and said they had resulted in increased vulnerability of farmworkers.

“There have been land grabs in Mashonaland West, Manicaland, Midlands and in some cases workers have lost jobs as a result. In some instances the invaders are coming with offer letters, but unlike in the past there has been no violence,” said Muti.

“There is confusion in the agricultural sector and even some people who were allocated land during the land reform programme have also been victims of land invasions.”

There are increasing incidents of resettled farmers being evicted by new farmers who lay claim to land.

Taffs said it was unfortunate that disturbances were occurring at a time when Zimbabwe should be focused on ensuring food security and restoring the agricultural value chain.

Deputy minister in the dark

The deputy minister of agriculture, mechanisation and irrigation development responsible for cropping, Davis Marapira, told the M&G he was unaware of any disturbances on the farms.

“Unfortunately, I have been assisting flood victims in Tokwe-Mukosi, so I have not received any such reports. I don’t even have access to newspapers here, so I am not aware of what is happening,” he said.

Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said Zanu-PF had deliberately left the land reform programme open-ended.

“By leaving it open-ended, it can be useful for accumulation of wealth in later years. The desire for wealth is insatiable and it could have been done with an eye on the future.

“It’s also likely that it has been left open-ended because it enables the party to remain in control of the land and therefore use it for political purposes in future. People who have land always feel that they are vulnerable, leaving Zanu-PF in control.

“Even those who were allocated land feel vulnerable and remain grateful to Zanu-PF because they know they can lose the land,” Nkomo said.

Beneficiaries given leases

“That is the reason beneficiaries of the land reform programme were not given title deeds but leases: they want them to remain eternally grateful and vulnerable.”

The wave of invasions comes as the United Nations World Food Programme estimates that one in four people in rural areas is unable to meet their food needs.

The Zimbabwean government has been trying to bridge the gap by importing maize from neighbouring countries such as Zambia and South Africa.

Although government officials have called for a halt to land invasions over the years, the government has continued to acquire land from farmers and private companies.

Mugabe’s wife, Grace, took over part of former Interfresh’s Mazoe Citrus Estate last year. She occupied more land on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed agricultural producer’s property this year.

Two years ago, the first family rendered more than 50 families homeless by occupying Manzou Game Reserve in Mashonaland Central.



27 January 2012

Just past one of Harare’s wealthiest northern suburbs, the road empties quickly into the squalor. On one side of the road in the Hatcliff area a Zanu-PF flag flies over a makeshift home, one of hundreds being illegally built by the party’s supporters on land that had been set aside for a new suburb.

There are shades of the farm invasions that started in 2000—when landless villagers invaded thousands of farms across the country—but this time the white farmer has been replaced by land developers and the landless villagers by housing cooperatives backed by Zanu-PF.

Amid rising controversy over the urban land invasions, the government announced this week that it was drafting the military into a new committee that would investigate the illegal allocation of housing stands in Harare “in a bid to curb corruption and ensure that the land is developed”.

The role of the military in the housing controversy will unsettle Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, which holds the urban constituencies that Zanu-PF is now taking over using its land barons and thousands of desperate homeseekers.

A Zanu-PF membership card makes you part of one of numerous “housing co-operatives”, which are run by the party’s kingpins looking to gain political clout and make a profit. In Hatcliff hundreds of homeseekers have paid subscriptions to the Harare North Housing Union, run by Justin Zvandasara, who is campaigning to be the Zanu-PF MP for the area.

Zanu-PF has little support in urban areas, but it has been using the hunger for urban land to parcel out pieces of land on the outskirts of Harare and other cities as a way to claw its way into the urban areas.

It is a strategy that has worked before.
In a previous election the government shifted constituency boundaries in an area on the southern verges of Harare to include new settlements controlled by Zanu-PF. Scared of being driven off the land, voters in those settlements voted Zanu-PF, giving President Robert Mugabe his only constituency in Harare. Now Zanu-PF looks to be expanding that strategy, allowing what it calls “co-operatives” to occupy land set aside for new property developments.

More than 1 000 settlers have occupied plots of land here, each paying up to $1 000 to the co-operative. The co-operative has parcelled out stands of about 300m2 each and settlers pay $55 a month to stay. The money they pay, they have been told, is to “service the stands”.

Council laws state houses should be built only after the water supply and sewerage systems are in place. In addition, the city planner must approve plans and authorise construction of any housing.

But hundreds of makeshift homes are going up. There are no roads and residents have dug shallow wells for water right next to pit latrines.

Portia Manangazira, disease control officer in the ministry of health, said such settlements were contributing to outbreaks of typhoid in parts of Harare. “According to the Public Health Act, tap water is the only acceptable source of drinking water in urban areas,” she said.

But, just as was the case on the farms, Zanu-PF said the squatters are not going anywhere.

The invaded Hatcliff property belongs to Nyasha Chikwinya, a Zanu-PF official herself. She wants the invaders out but she has had to tread carefully.

“As a mother and grandmother, I have a heart. Some have begged me to spare them from evictions,” Chikwinya said. She explained that she would negotiate with leaders of the co-operative.

The high court has ordered the settlers off the property. Dismissing pleas to spare residents who have already built homes on the land, the court ruled that the “mere fact that the respondents have since unlawfully erected structures on someone’s land without her consent cannot sanitise or legalise their unlawful authority”.


9 June 2010

At least 16 white farmers in Zimbabwe have come under attack over the last week, including several South African nationals and a farm owned by Malaysian investors, a farmers’ union said.   The attackers were trying to evict them, although many of the farmers have court orders allowing them to stay on their land, while one is protected under an investment pact with Malaysia, the mainly white Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) said.

“The Commercial Farmers’ Union is gravely concerned with the recent harassment of productive farms and the failure of the police to render assistance in spite of high court orders for farmers to remain in occupation,” CFU vice-president Charles Taffs told a news conference.   “We are concerned that at a time Zimbabwe wishes to re-engage with the international community and encourage investment, these breaches of the rule law will drive Zimbabwe into further isolation.”    “The government is not assisting our plight,” he said. “We appeal to the government to take action. Productive agriculture is on the verge of collapse.”

Land-reform programme

Taffs said squatters have attempted to force 16 farmers off their land since the start of June, and appealed to the country’s power-sharing government to intervene.   Five of the farmers are South African nationals whose investments should be protected under a bilateral trade deal signed in November, according to advocacy group AfriForum.   Another farm in eastern Zimbabwe is owned by Malaysian investors, protected under a similar trade deal, the CFU said in a statement.

President Robert Mugabe launched a land-reform programme in 2000, which saw the seizure of more than 3 000 white-owned farms by militant supporters of Mugabe’s party.   Mugabe said land reforms were needed to correct colonial-era imbalances that favoured white farmers, but Zimbabwe has failed to produce enough food for the nation since the scheme began.   According to government and United Nations agencies, the country will this year harvest 1,5-million tonnes of grain, but needs 2,2-million tonnes to feed the population.—Sapa-AFP



18 May 2010

Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Zimbabwe’s unity government of failing to provide for victims of a mass eviction blitz five years ago that left 700 000 people destitute.

Amnesty and the Coalition of Forced Evictions, made up of Zimbabwean groups, called on the government to provide alternative housing or compensation to people left homeless and jobless by Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Filth).

“It is a scandal that five years on, victims are left to survive in plastic shacks without basic essential services,” said Amnesty’s Zimbabwe director, Cousin Zilala, in a statement.

“The deplorable living conditions and struggle for survival … reveal the government’s failure to address ongoing injustices against some of the most vulnerable members of Zimbabwean society.”


A rehousing scheme seems to have been abandoned, with the few houses built uninhabitable, without floors, windows, or sanitation, while people in resettlement areas depend on aid and self-help initiatives, said the groups.  Victims of the campaign who remained in cities were still vulnerable to evictions, they added.

“Since its creation in February 2009, the unity government has done nothing to improve the plight of survivors of the forced evictions and their children who have been born in informal settlements,” said the statement.   Lorraine Mupasiri of Combined Harare Residents’ Association said the evictions caused overcrowding in the capital, with as many as three families sharing a four-roomed house.

“We are particularly concerned about the rising housing backlog in Harare. More than half-a-million people are on the waiting list,” she said.  Operation Murambatsvina was launched by President Robert Mugabe’s government in May 2005.—Sapa-AFP


NO HOUSING – estimates two million Zimbabweans without housing
15 December 2009

Four years after her house was demolished in a blitz by Zimbabwe’s government, Chipo Chama still lives in a grass thatched shack struggling to find a better home for herself and her two children.   Though she is married to a builder, the 27-year-old housewife has rickety wooden planks for walls and covers her roof with plastic sheeting to keep out the rain in Harare’s Hatcliffe suburb—far from the neighbourhood where she used to live.

“Right now I don’t have a housing lot, but we are paying money to local co-operatives [to save for a down payment] so we may get lots to build houses,” Chama said.  And she is far from alone. According to official estimates, about two million Zimbabweans in this country of 12,2-million require accommodation.

In 2005, Chama had a sturdy brick and cement house with asbestos roofing, but the government bulldozed it, saying it was illegal and was not fit for human habitation.

The blitz, which was named Murambatsvina—meaning “Drive out filth”—left more than 700 000 people homeless and shattered the livelihoods of 2,4-million people whose small businesses were also destroyed by President Robert Mugabe’s government.

The police and the army gave only short notice to people to move their property from buildings slated for destruction, causing property losses estimated in millions of dollars.

Some now live in settings far worse than the homes that were razed, often without water, electricity or sewers, coping with harsh conditions made even more abject by the country’s economic straits.

The campaign was widely seen as an attempt to tamp out support for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which enjoys much of its support in Zimbabwe’s cities.

But since MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai joined a unity government with Mugabe in February, little has changed for the victims.

“The whole property I had was lost”
Chama says she lost property worth US$300—a huge sum in a country where per capita GDP was estimated at $200 last year.

Despite her loss, she hopes one day she will be able to find a lot to build a house for her family.

“I hope that in the years to come we will be able to build homes like in other surburbs,” Chama said.

Another victim of Murambatsvina, builder John Chitawa (49) told Agence France-Presse that his life has never been the same after his property and little belongings were demolished in the clean up campaign but says life has moved on, and is picking up from where he left four years ago.

“When Murambatsvina hit us we lost a lot of things because the two roomed house I had built and the property was destroyed,” Chitawa said adding that he lost valuables worth $3 000.

“The whole property I had was lost, my bed, my wardrobe, radio. I was attending a funeral when the blitz came and everything was destroyed and I was left at ground zero.”

Chitawa, one of the few who got a housing lot from the government after Murambatsvina, has already built four rooms but there is no electricity, water is not flowing in taps and he uses a ventilated pit latrine—known here as a Blair Toilet—as the sewer system is not functioning well.

A few houses were built by the government of President Robert Mugabe in 2005 but were far from accommodating all the victims of Murambatsvina and the houses lacked water and sewers.

Housing Minister Fidelis Mhashu said the new unity government is mapping up a policy to build low-income housing, adding that if the country does not give priority to building houses for the homeless slums will emerge.

“We don’t have slums in this country of the likes of those in Kibera, Kenya, and other countries,” he said referring to one of the biggest slums in Africa.

“We are aware that if we don’t act with speed we are going to have problems of slums appearing or mushrooming,” Mhashu said.

Mhashu estimates that the country has a housing backlog of two-million people and said the government will approach donor countries and financial institutions to assist in building houses as the government doesn’t have money.

“Our country estimate is about two million people require accommodation,” Mhashu said.

“We are frantically looking for funds from our financiers throughout the world.”—AFP

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