Original Post Date: 2002-08-15 Posted By: Jan
From the News Archives of: WWW.AfricanCrisis.Org
Date & Time Posted: 8/15/2002 1:43:48 PM
Zimbabwe will become a desert says economist
Midnight on 8th August 2002, was the deadline on which 2,900 white commercial farmers were to vacate their land. They had been served with notices in prior months to stop farming. But on this day they were to pack up and vacate their farms which, according to the Zimbabwe government, were to be given to the “landless blacks”.
According to the Zimbabwe government they only served notices for the eviction of 1,600 farmers, but farming officials say the correct number is 2,900 out of the 4,500 commercial farmers.
The CFU (Commercial Farmers Union), is no longer the sole voice of the farming community there. Colin Cloete, the head of the CFU has instructed all CFU members to “avoid confrontation at all costs.” The CFU’s attitude over the past two years has reflected this viewpoint time and again. Their message has been to go along with whatever Mugabe wants. As the situation has worsened, and many farms have not been productive during the last year, farmers are getting more desperate and determined.
A new offshoot organisation called Justice for Agriculture has been formed and they want to fight the “land reform” in every legal way possible. They have decided to fight Mugabe both in Zimbabwean courts and also in the International court in The Hague. They have already instigated legal action inside Zimbabwe suing Mugabe’s ZANU(PF) party for millions of dollars in damage for the havoc caused by the so-called “War Veterans”.
It should be noted that in recent months, an American court awarded some farmers $76 million in damages. They had taken Mugabe to court by making use of various rules in the American justice system. The problem has been that Mugabe ignored the case and never sent anyone to fight it. The next problem is how the US court in New York will actually get the Zimbabwe government to cough up and pay.
From news reports of some weeks ago, it seems Ian Smith, the last white ruler of Zimbabwe may have played a role in the new attitude of resistance to Mugabe. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but according to figures given out on news reports here in South Africa, more than 400 farmers did indeed vacate their properties. Some went into the cities and others even left the country out of fear for what Mugabe might do next. But 1,200 farmers have defied the deadline and decided to stay and continue farming. Many of them have undertaken court actions to see if they can have the courts declare Mugabe’s actions null and void. So far, Zimbabwean courts have ruled against Mugabe’s “Land Reform” on a number of occasions. However, he has ignored their rulings.
Most of the farmers are either middle-aged or older, and most of them say they have no other form of income and nowhere else to go and so they are staying right where they are.
Everyone is now waiting for Mugabe’s next move. Mugabe and various government officials have said that anyone who defies the evictions will face the full force of the law. This includes fines and up to two years in jail. So far, no action has been taken against them. Everyone is expecting Mugabe to make a statement on monday 12th August at a Heroes Day rally honouring those who fell in the war to end white rule.
The Vice President of Zimbabwe, Joseph Msika, who is in charge of the Land Reform committee, has said that the commercial farmers will meet with the full force of the state if they do not comply with the eviction orders.
Ignatius Chongo, the Minister of Agriculture in Zimbabwe has said that the farmers who are refusing to leave the land are racist!! (They never miss an opportunity, no matter how utterly lame, to accuse whites of being racist!). The farmers organisations however have countered by saying that it is the Zimbabwe government that is racist for taking land from only whites to then give it to Mugabe’s political allies. (Note, even before the Farm invasions of 2000, politicians in Mugabe’s ZANU(PF) were already among the biggest land-owners in the country. They had taken the pick of the best white farms which had been acquired under the land reform of earlier years).
In an interview on South African news, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Secretary General of ZANU(PF) said “… there is no other route. You can only accuse us of delaying to achieve what we are doing now.”
Some news reports say that 70% of the commercial farmers want to leave Zimbabwe and are trying to find opportunities in other countries. Many are looking at neighbouring black states where there may be opportunities. Among the states where opportunities exist are: Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana. The problem with these other states however is their lack of infrastructure. Next to South Africa, Zimbabwe was the second most developed country in the region. White farmers, even from South Africa, have tried to make a living in other black countries but the lack of infrastructure along with theft and other problems have often led them to failure. The importance of commercial farming in Africa cannot be overemphasised. At one time, Zambia had only 23 white commercial farmers and they controlled most of its agricultural output. Later the government encouraged commercial farming and the last I heard they have about 250 white commercial farmers there.
In 2000, unemployment in Zimbabwe stood at 40%. The last report I heard, in 2001, was that it had worsened and stood at 60%. For each white farmer who loses his land, dozens of black farm workers lose not only their jobs, but their place of residence on the farms. Each farm worker on average supports 4-5 family members. It is estimated that this mass eviction of 2,900 farmers will cause 100,000 black farm workers to lose their jobs, and consequently will impact the 4-500,000 people they support financially.
Farming in Zimbabwe accounts for 50% of the jobs and 20% of the GDP. The exports from the commercial farmers account for most of the foreign exchange earned.
Agricultural output in Zimbabwe has gone down by two-thirds since the so-called “Fast Track Land Reform” was implemented in 2000.
Recent reports have shown that many of the resettled blacks, are themselves starving! They say they don’t have seed to plant, don’t have tractors to plough with and don’t have access to irrigation. These are all things which the Zimbabwe government had said it would take care of and would give to them. According to news reports, the Zimbabwe government requires US$600 million to cover the input costs and subsidies required to get the “new black farmers” up and running and they do not have anywhere close to this amount.
The Zimbabwe government on the other hand, claims the Land Resettlement is a huge success. In recent interviews, Mugabe blamed “the drought” for the food crisis. The MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) in Zimbabwe has stated repeatedly over the months that the food crisis has little to do with rainfall and much more to do with the lack of progress by the blacks who settled there. In fact, photographs on my website (go to photo gallery) show that commercial farms were doing fine whereas the land taken over by the peasants was barren. The Zimbabwe government claims that they are on the edge of “success” in agriculture.
Recently, South African farmers met with their Zimbabwean counterparts. They expressed disbelief at what was happening in Zimbabwe, and said that it was not good for Zimbabwe or the Southern African region.
The best analysis of the situation in Zimbabwe comes from a Zimbabwean economist called Jim Robertson. Robertson says that the way things stand, Zimbabwe will not be able to feed itself for the next 5 years. He expressed concern with the manner in which farming is actually being conducted by the “black settlers”. In an interview on South African TV on 11th August he said “Black commercial farmers – there is no reason why they shouldn’t do just as well [as the white commercial farmers], because its the system under which they work that drives the prospect of success. I believe the system that is being put in place in this country now is a disastrous system.”
But the problem is that Mugabe is attacking all commercial farmers who are not politically loyal. Even black commercial farmers have had their farms invaded and destroyed by “War Veterans”.
Robertson is very concerned with the traditional, low-capital African farming methods employed by the few who do farm. He explained “Already our communal areas are farmed in this low-capital subsistence method and the principal reason that the communal [black] farmers want better land is that they have not been able to manage the land that they were on well enough to sustain its fertility. But once they are on better land, when they use the same methods to farm they will gradually, maybe fairly quickly, ruin the fertility of that land as well. So Zimbabwe faces the longer term risk of actually turning into a desert.”
What Robertson says is true. I grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe and am familiar with black farming methods there. The normal subsistence agriculture practised there is also know as “Slash and Burn” farming. This is how blacks used to farm before whites came to Africa. That sort of wasteful agriculture worked fine when their population was very low. For example, Zimbabwe, which is three-quarters the size of France, had about 500,000 blacks living in it in the 1890’s when whites first settled there. The population is now 13 million. Indeed, as far back as the 1970’s, I saw the effects of black population growth in terms of the massive deforestation caused by them cutting down the indigenous trees for firewood. The indigenous African trees in that region grow very slowly. I often drove past a black township near Harare and saw as the blacks chopped down every tree in sight as far as the eye could see – for firewood.
Let me explain how “traditional” black agriculture works. The blacks used to set fire to the bush and then cut down whatever remained. They would cultivate this for 2 to 3 years by which time it had lost most of its fertility. They would then move to another area and repeat the process. Blacks, for the most part, were pretty migratory in Africa. So when whites came, and whites start living within fixed boundaries, and attempting to confine blacks to fixed boundaries this caused a problem. Black “Tribal Trust Lands” (Reserves) were set up for tribes. The problem was that by continuing their traditional farming habits they ruined these lands. (This also happened in South Africa and elsewhere). Later the communists made a lot of this in their propaganda and lies about us because they then claimed that the “whites had taken the best land” and the blacks had been given the worst. This is one of the big myths and well-propagated lies about Africa which has been spread around the world to smear us. This mythology is treated as “established fact” in many places, and is regarded as gospel even here in South Africa where the physical evidence is undeniably to the contrary. (I’m getting a bit off the subject, but it is something worth telling). Because blacks lived in a way very different to that of whites, blacks actually lived in the better parts of South Africa near the coast where there was more rainfall and better hunting. Whites migrated into the semi-arid central regions and were able to make a living there because they farmed properly. In fact, South Africa has the Kalahari desert and in this region you will find only white farmers. So if the whites took all the best land, then why did whites take over desert and semi-desert areas and farm there? Its all a big lie intended to smear us and anyone with the faintest knowledge of farming will know its a load of bunk.
Returning to Zimbabwe, if you farm without fertiliser and proper crop rotation, there will be a very marked drop in agricultural output from the same land within 2-3 years. After 3 years the crop will be very bad.
The problem in Zimbabwe and South Africa is that the black population has grown to many times the size it was when whites originally came here. These countries cannot support such large numbers of people using the traditional wasteful methods. What is now happening is that hungry blacks are also starting to kill game including endangered species. As it is, African wildlife is in serious trouble. The slaughter of Rhino alone in the last 30 years has been unbelievable, bringing these animals to the edge of extinction. Yet, I remember conservationists warning about this in the 1970’s. It is now a reality.
The idea of Zimbabwe becoming a man-made desert is by no means a stretch of the imagination. I have witnessed firsthand the deforestation there, as far back as the 1970’s, and there is no doubt that this is a real danger.
A mass black exodus or civil war has not yet occurred. However, black Zimbabweans are trying constantly to flee. The South African Army catches them on this side and sends them back to Zimbabwe. They often catch someone this week, send them back to Zimbabwe and end up catching the same person next week. What helps to prevent a mass exodus is that South Africa built a massive electric fence along with other fences composed of a type of thorn bush. Much of this is still in tact and there are only limited areas they can cross to get into South Africa. It still entails quite a risk since they have to cross the crocodile-infested Limpopo river to get here.
I heard from a neighbour of mine that she has a black Zimbabwean man working in her garden. He now lives here in Johannesburg. Apparently he was tortured by Mugabe’s people. I want to try to meet him in the coming weeks to ask him about his experiences.
An acquaintance of mine told me an interesting story. Another Zimbabwean here in South Africa was told that he would have to return to Zimbabwe. He went and got a panga (machete), and gave it to his white boss and said to him “Kill me now! I don’t want to go back to Zimbabwe.”
At this time, Zimbabwe needs 500,000 tons of food for 6 million people (half the population), who are on the edge of starvation. Zimbabwe has no foreign exchange and cannot buy food, so it is totally dependant upon donor countries. They are expecting things to get a lot worse in the next year and it is fast becoming a famine.
What country do you most associate the word famine with? Ethiopia surely. There was a news report some weeks ago of Ethiopia actually giving some food to Zimbabwe! Isn’t that incredible? Another fact worth pondering is that the former communist dictator of Ethiopia has been living in Zimbabwe for some years. He is apparently very friendly with Mugabe.
Now that you have been treated with the facts of the situation, I must pause for some light hearted entertainment. You have heard what the economist, Jim Robertson had to say. Now consider the following interview, also shown on South African TV, which verges on the unbelievable. No doubt this is a propaganda exercise from Mugabe’s side. They interviewed a man called Dr Clever Mumbengegwi, who is an Agricultural Economist from the University of Zimbabwe. [Note: Sometimes blacks in Africa give their children names such as “precious” or “beauty” or “clever”, etc. It was quite a normal practise in Zimbabwe – so yes, his first name really is Clever – which adds to the humour of what you are about to read!]
Here is what Dr Clever Mumbengegwi said during an interview on South African TV, as a counter to what Jim Robertson said “The future of Zimbabwe’s agriculture is going to be prosperous. And I can tell you this: there is going to be no book or text book written about Land Reform and agriculture that will not have Zimbabwe as a positive case study to import lessons to others!”
You betcha mate!! All is going to be great in the Land of Oz!
Heralding South Africa’s coming troubles
I thought I would update people on some small events here in South Africa which herald South Africa’s coming troubles.
I heard that a black Zimbabwean in South Africa told a white farmer here, “Why don’t you people fight? You must fight because this [Land Reform] is coming to your country too”. Some weeks back, on a major talk radio show in Cape Town, they interviewed a black Zimbabwean, a journalist, who had been given one of those farms which Mugabe had taken away from a white farmer. This journalist, clearly, was someone loyal to Mugabe. He got quite a grilling from the interviewer as to whether it was right or ethical for him, a journalist, with a good career, to receive a farm belonging to a former white farmer. The interviewer said to him that surely he was not a “landless black” since he held a very high position. But then suddenly this Zimbabwean burst out saying, “whether you South Africans care to admit it or not, the land issue is very relevant to your country too and this thing will come to your country too.” I managed to get a recording of this interview and have it on CD.
A South African Government document was recently leaked and investors in America and Europe got wind of it. According to South African news reports it caused quite a shock in financial circles with South African mining shares taking a hit as a result. The document stated that they intended giving black empowerment companies a 51% share in the South African mining sector in the next 10 years. Once the news had leaked out, and caused a shock to foreign investors, President Mbeki then embarked on damage control by saying it was not government policy but merely a “discussion document”. Nevertheless, Anglo-American, the dominant mining company is going to have discussions with the government in the near future about this.
Stay tuned because events here in Southern Africa are going to hot up quite nicely in the months and years to come as we head for a new round of severe troubles which, by my estimates, will dwarf the problems and wars of the past. Let me end by quoting the last paragraph of the Introduction to my book, Government by Deception:-
“In 1994, the world thought that South Africa’s race and poverty problems had finally been solved. Some even hinted that Africa’s problems were going to be solved since the last pesky white men had been put in their place. Personally, I’m not so sure. There are quite a few of us who believe that the problems have in fact just started. The Marxists here will simply take the old problems and make them worse. There are some of us here in Africa who believe the worst is yet to come.