HomeEditorial CommentMuckraker: Farm Invasions Render Sadc Mission Futile

Muckraker: Farm Invasions Render Sadc Mission Futile

‘THE farm disturbances and the wanton arrests of farmers are not only a threat to food security but to the goodwill that the international community had started to extend to the inclusive government.”

That statement by the MDC-T reflects the views of all those who wish the unity government well but who remain concerned that the rogue elements leading the land occupations represent all that is delinquent and unacceptable in the old order.

Western diplomats say Zimbabwe will get no help from them while President Mugabe continues to dispossess productive commercial farmers who could be the anchor to turn around Zimbabwe’s failed farming industry – when half the population is getting Western food aid.

It is ridiculous to say the occupations are legal because the perpetrators carry offer letters from people like Didymus Mutasa or because the land in question is state land.

What matters is that the occupations are racist and violent. Farm workers who have bravely resisted the attacks on the farms have been brutally assaulted by Zanu PF thugs.

While the MDC-T’s statement is welcome as an expression of the danger the country faces in tolerating such lawlessness, the party in government has not gone far enough to restore the rule of law.

As our editor pointed out last week, Giles Mutsekwa has spent too much time propitiating his Zanu PF colleague at the Home Affairs ministry than ensuring people are not deprived of their right to liberty.

It is not sufficient to say his ministry condemns the use of torture. Those responsible must be prosecuted and farmers, whose only offence is to have produced food for the nation, should be released.

Those invading farms may indeed be in possession of a piece of paper, many of dubious provenance, but their victims should not be denied the right of redress through the courts.

Arthur Mutambara, who has said some useful things about the country’s image recently, has at the same time become part of the problem with his “no going back” remarks.

Land reform may indeed be irreversible. But does that mean the tiny handful of white farmers remaining on the land should be chased off by well-connected predators who are employing gangs of thugs? Why doesn’t Mutambara use his voice to defend the rights of all to land?

Mutambara is among those demanding that the West lift sanctions. Yet he is sensible enough to know there is little prospect of that happening so long as violence and lawlessness persist.

Has he made that clear to his colleagues in Zanu PF whose language he appears to echo? Does “no going back” include multiple farm-owners?

Something that is missing in this debate is the unanimous stance of donors meeting in Washington last month that the unity government must meet its own objectives set out in the September global agreement.

That is not happening. The unity government is loud on rhetoric and quiet on delivery. Let’s have less demagoguery on “no going back” and more policies that promote productivity.

After all, wasn’t the whole purpose of the Sadc-led mediation to put Zimbabwe’s economy back on a firm footing?
When the Sadc finance ministers meet their counterparts in Europe and North America to secure the lifting of sanctions they will be asked why they have said nothing to Zimbabwe’s rulers about land grabs, violence and lawlessness.

They will look very lame as they try to suggest it is all the fault of white farmers clinging to their land.
Holding on to your land in Europe and North America is not an offence. Nor is seeking redress through the courts and expecting to be given a fair hearing!

If you read the government press over the past few weeks you will have been given the firm impression that the Chegutu farmers currently facing conviction were committing a serious offence by expecting the courts to give them a fair hearing.

And the abuse meted out to them for exercising their right to appeal to the Windhoek tribunal tells its own story.

As Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai pointed out at the Victoria Falls retreat two weeks ago, it is a fact that lawlessness is an affront to economic development.

Zimbabwe will never succeed in an environment where property rights and human rights are non-existent.
Those who think Tsvangirai can rescue them from sanctions while they go on depriving citizens of their rights need to think again.

The Sadc mission is heading nowhere at present.

Muckraker is surprised to note comments made last week by Prof Welshman Ncube in the course of an interview with SW Radio Africa.

Replying to a point raised by Violet Gonda on media reform, he said that remarks by Muckraker in the Zimbabwe Independent “bordered on hate speak (sic)”.

“There are of course, still exceptions particularly among some of the columnists,” he said of those who had not embraced the new order. “Those we are talking about (are) Cabinet Files (Fingaz), Muckraker and so forth and so on, who still resort to unnecessarily combative, if I may say, and sometimes bordering on hate speak and abusive language. But by and large there is considerable improvement.”

This is of course pompous patronising nonsense. What has Muckraker said that gave such offence to the prickly professor?

We don’t know. Ncube didn’t attempt, and wasn’t asked, to substantiate his serious claim.

But here is a possible candidate. On April 3 we referred to remarks published in the Herald on March 31 in which Ncube appeared to suggest that land occupations were the result of people unreasonably hanging on to land.

“We indicated to Sadc,” he was reported as saying, “that Jomic had been investigating this issue (land invasions) and that there are a variety of things that had happened. One is the issue of people whose land was acquired refusing to leave the land.”

Muckraker suggested that “Welshman Ncube should avoid damaging his party’s reputation by attempting to explain away these vicious attacks as resulting from people unreasonably hanging on to land. At least that was the Herald version.”

We are sure readers will agree that nothing in those comments bordered on “hate speak”. Is Ncube so pompous that he regards such things as a case of lèse majesté?

Or perhaps he felt the need to come to the defence of Mutambara who we have raked in the past for his boisterous behaviour? In which case Mutambara should be well able to look after himself.

So here’s the challenge: Exactly what remarks by Muckraker does Ncube think bordered on hate speech?
We would hate to think Welshman is such a sensitive soul that he can’t put up with robust criticism in this column.

The latest statement from Ncube, carried in the Sunday News, reads as follows: “He denied any form of farm invasions but hinted there are a number of anomalies in the farms which the media had misunderstood as invasions.”

There you have it. It’s all the fault of the media!

Having said that, we welcome his reported remarks this week that the parties should have reached a common position on land tenure within three months. Let’s hope that doesn’t leave too much land in the possession of politicians, service chiefs, judges and journalists!

Muckraker would like to express solidarity with those of our colleagues in the government press in Bulawayo charged with criminal defamation. We will not go into the details of those charges.

But it might be worth recalling that at our meeting with staff from the state media a couple of years ago nothing we could say would coax them into criticising Aippa, also part of the state’s armoury.

What would you do to help if any of us were arrested and charged under the Act, we asked?
Nothing, was the response. We found it very difficult in the circumstances to form an umbrella body for editors. They went ahead and formed their own muzzled outfit.

Now, not even their own papers are able to speak up for them. But we will.
And here’s the irony.

Criminal defamation is a colonial law designed a century ago to suppress nationalist voices. James Chikerema was prosecuted under its broad ambit for calling Native Affairs minister Patrick Fletcher a thief.

It has no place in a modern democracy. In Commonwealth countries like Canada, most of the Caribbean, and South-East Asia it has been repealed.  

The charges come just as ministers are planning a conference on media reform to guide legislative changes. For many years we have put Aippa at the top of that agenda. But let’s not forget that residue of empire lurking in the shadows. It must also go!

Finally we were amused to see that the Minister of Transport Nicholas Goche has “gone back” on toll fees the day after his ministry had authorised Zimra to start fleecing the motoring public. The Herald published a Comment headed “Motorists must pay up”.

On Wednesday Goche decided motorists shouldn’t have to pay up – just yet.  Apparently they haven’t erected a single toll booth.

Goche recently said money collected from the tollgates will be used to maintain roads and will not be used for other means.

So what happened to proceeds from the road tax that motorists pay for the upkeep of roads? And the carbon tax? What happened to those funds that we were told on their introduction would be
solely dedicated to the upkeep of roads?

Sadly this all happened too quickly for the Herald to prepare another editorial headed “No going back on tollgates”.

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