Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Zimbabwe farmers: “I’m not giving up”

I read this article on BBC Africa. It is about white farmers who have lived and owned farms in Zimbabwe for generations. In this article Catherine Meredith describes an incident that happened on her farm on February 6, 2009. On this particular day she was away in South Africa to visit her son and her husband was alone on the farm. A group of 30 young men showed up and told him that his farm was now taken away from him and given to some Zimbabwean businessman. The businessman is a member of the ruling party under President Mugabe. Catherine and her husband had to go to Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, to obtain the court order for eviction. Some of the squatters have not left as of yet and are “drinking and smoking pot quite a bit” on their land. The Merediths live in constant fear that these young men might turn violent. The police are no help because they say they do not have enough manpower. Catherine and her husband took a financial loss as “The man who ordered the crowd to seize our land has allowed his cattle to walk through our maize fields. This has partly destroyed our crops.” But at the same time they have high hopes. “We strongly believe that change is coming to Zimbabwe. My feeling is that we are very near the end of these troubles. We have a new prime minister now. I'm 100% confident that in five years' time, I'll still be living on this farm.”

I got to meet a white Zimbabwean woman once. She and her husband had to leave Zimbabwe with just what they could carry in their hands. Their farm and bank account were taken away from them by the government and they had nowhere else to go. Both of their families have been in Zimbabwe for generations and now they feel lost. They are white on the outside but as African on the inside as anyone else from Africa.

I read this story and feel so blessed not to be kicked off my land at the whim of a rich businessman who fancies what I own. Since Mugabe took over in 1980, countless white-owned farms have been taken away. But instead of developing the land and growing the crops, the squatters leave the fields uncultivated. The people who were working on those farms previously are left with no jobs. Zimbabwe went from being one of the richest countries in Africa to one facing famine every year. Half the time there is nothing to buy in the stores even if you have money; only empty shelves remain. The currency has devaluated tens of millions of percent. One would have to have a suitcase full of money to buy a single loaf of bread. A bus fare is 50 US cents or three trillion Zimbabwe dollars. In fact, right now Zimbabwe is using US Dollars and South African Rand to buy and sell goods. Now after all of the years of corruption there is new dawn in Zimbabwe in the form of Morgan Tsvangirai, their new Prime Minister. White farmers like the Merediths hope that unlike Mugabe, he will let everyone live in peace!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Irina,

    I just read your post about the Zimbabwe farmers' story in BBC Africa and
    thought you would also be interested in our video, which includes snips of
    interviews from two other farmers who have been displaced by the
    government-mandated land reform and violent intimidation:


    I do hope that with the political developments, the country may stabilize
    enough that farmers of all races feel safe developing crops and
    contributing to the country's economy before it entirely collapses.

    All the best,

    Community at Newsy