The Struggle for Land in Zimbabwe (1890-2010)…how white farmers provoked war veterans

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Pippa van Rechteren and her twin daughters Catherine and Elizabeth watch farm invaders sing revolutionary songs outside the electric fence of her homestead on Chiripiro farm in Centenary district 180 Km's north of Harare March 29. Over 600 mainly white owned farms around the country have been illegally invaded by government sponsored war veterans, villagers and landless peasants following the government's defeat in a constitutional referendum and upcoming Parliamentary elections. HB/AA - RTRTF8V

On March 30 2000, the war veterans leader, Cde Chenjerai Hunzvi, responded with a larger force of war veterans and raided the Gaulaws Ranch, and captured 11 guns – two pistols and nine rifles, writes Dr Felix Muchemwa in his book The Struggle for Land in Zimbabwe (1890-2010) that The Patriot is serialising.

Zimbabwe Constitution Amendment No. 16
ON April 6 2000, while the European settler-farmers were fighting the Government in the courts, the Parliament of Zimbabwe amended Section 16 of the Lancaster House Constitution by 100 members.
The 100 legislators constituted the more than two thirds required majority.
The amendment empowered the Government to compulsorily acquire land for resettlement without paying compensation.
The Amendment read in part:
The former colonial power (Britain) has an obligation to pay compensation for the agricultural land compulsorily acquired to resettle people through a fund established for the purpose (in 1979)… If the former colonial power fails to pay compensation through such a fund, the Government of Zimbabwe has no obligation to pay compensation for the agricultural land compulsorily acquired for resettlement. (Zimbabwe Constitution Amendment No. 16, Section 16, 2000)
Soon after the Bill was passed, ZANU PF Members of Parliament, who included the two Vice-Presidents, Cde Simon Muzenda and Cde Joseph Msika, immediately broke into the liberation war song ‘Zimbabwe ndeyeropa’ (blood was shed to liberate Zimbabwe) as British High Commission officers in the Speaker’s Gallery walked out. (The Herald, April 7 2000 p.1)
However, the Zimbabwe Government was to pay compensation, not for land compulsorily acquired, but for improvements on land acquired.
The Land Acquisition Act was also amended in May 2000, making the Zimbabwe Government free from paying for unimproved farm land.
Later in November 2000, the Land Acquisition Act was further amended to vest the ownership of all agricultural land in the state as the acquiring authority upon the serving of acquisition orders. (Matondi-Hungwe, 2006: p.73-4)
The Rural Land Occupiers (protection from eviction) Act was passed to protect people who were given ‘offer letters’ or had occupied the relevant designated land as defined in the ‘offer letters’. (Makadho, 2006: p.170)
Farm sizes
Land was to be redistributed on a ‘one-person-one-farm basis.’ (Hungwe p.152)
Regulations for farm sizes were introduced under Statutory Instrument No. 419 of 1999, regulating the maximum farm sizes for natural regions as follows: 250 hectares for region one; 350 hectares for region two; 400 hectares for region three; 500 hectares for region three; 1 500 hectares for region four and 2 000 hectares in region five.
The regulations applied to all farmers, black or white. (Makadho, 2006: p. 171)
Violence on farms
In the meantime, the situation on the farms had been getting more and more volatile.
The war veterans had defied Court Orders to leave the European settler-farms.
Dumiso Dabengwa, the (then) Minister of Home Affairs responsible for the police, had argued he could not intervene because Justice Garwe’s orders prohibited any ‘executive’ (including the responsible minister), from issuing orders to the police. (The Herald, March 20 2000 p.1)
And, in a related development, the Attorney-General and the Minister of Justice, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, had appealed against Justice Garwe’s ruling, arguing the 20 000 strong Zimbabwe police force would be outnumbered and overwhelmed by the over
90 000 war veterans and communal peasants occupying more than 1 000 farms throughout Zimbabwe. (Stiff, 2000: p.350)
On April 13 2000, Justice Hungwe and Justice Chinhengo responded to the appeal by the Attorney-General and the Minister of Justice, by upholding Justice Garwe’s ruling, though, with an appeal to the Executive to assist Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and his police officers in implementing the High Court ruling with more resources. (The Herald, April 14 2000 p.1)
The stance of the judiciary encouraged white settler-farmers to take matters into their own hands.
Judging from events in late March and April 2000, it appears that the white settler-farmers had taken the High Court ruling by Justice Garwe and later Justice Chinhengo as a green light for them to evict the war veterans and communal peasants from their farms on the grounds that they were trespassing squatters.
Gaulaws Ranch, Nkayi
One such farmer was Richard Pascal, a commercial farmer at Gaulaws Ranch in the Nkayi District of Matabeleland North who took it upon himself and his farm workers to evict 25 war veterans camped on his ranch.
Armed with knobkerries, axes, hoes and stones, Pascal’s 100 farm workers assaulted and overwhelmed the war veterans. (The Herald, March 20 2000 p.7)
But, that was not the end of it.
On March 30 2000, the war veterans leader, Cde Chenjerai Hunzvi, responded with a larger force of war veterans and raided the Gaulaws Ranch, and captured 11 guns – two pistols and nine rifles. (The Herald March 31 2000 p.4)
Arizona Farm, Macheke
In Macheke, a David Stevens (50) of Arizona Farm is alleged to have also ordered his farm workers to arm themselves and assault the 35 war veterans camped on the farm on April 15 2000. Fourteen war veterans were injured and Stevens’ body was later discovered at Dandara River Bridge, south-east of Murehwa.
The war veterans he had attacked were still camped and claimed that the pistol-toting person who had killed Stevens was unknown to them. (The Herald, April 17 2000, p.1)
Compensation Farm, Nyamandlovu, Matabeleland North
Meanwhile, around the same time, a similar drama was unfolding in Matabeleland North.
On April 15 2000, Martin Olds, owner of the 12 000 hectare cattle Compensation Farm in Nyamandlovu, about 75 kilometres north of Bulawayo, sent his family to Bulawayo.
The former Rhodesian Grey Scout was unlike the other white farmers who heeded advice against violence with the war veterans on their farms.
Obviously fancying his Rhodesian Special Forces days, Olds arrogantly went to the Nyamandlovu Police Station and warned them that he would shoot any war veterans attempting to invade and occupy his farm.
He had strategically placed several loaded weapons, including specialised combat rifles, pistols, shotguns plus a good supply of ammunition.
Unfortunately, Olds’ own warning fell on deaf ears because in the early morning of April 18 2000, some 30-to-40 war veterans passed through the same Nyamandlovu Police Station, warning them of the impending war veterans invasion of the former Rhodesian Grey Scout’s Compensation Farm.
On arrival, at Compensation Farm, the war veterans found Olds ready for them at his gate, and as per promise, he immediately started shooting at them while making a strategic retreat into his fortified house.
The war veterans immediately set the house on fire, forcing him to come out choking in smoke.
Then, they bashed his head with a heavy wheel spanner and killed him (Stiff, 2000: pp. 373-374).
Atlanta Farm
Other attacks on war veterans also occurred at Atlanta Farm in the Enterprise commercial farming area, north of Harare.
Here, another white settler-farmer ordered his employees to assault the farm occupiers, resulting in running battles using sticks, hoes, axes and stones.
War veterans/CFU meeting at State House
In the wake of the violence on the farms, President Robert Mugabe presided over a meeting of the war veterans and the white settler-farmers’ leaders at the State House on April 19 2000.
For his part, he reiterated that the police and the army would not be deployed to the farms to evict war veterans.
In the end therefore, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) director, Dave Hasluck and the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association president, Richard Tate, made an agreement with the war veterans leader, Cde Hunzvi, that the war veterans would continue to stay on the farms and that there should be non-violent co-existence between the two parties. (The Herald, April 20 2000, p.1)
Through their own initiative, the two parties met again on April 28 2000 and again agreed that war veterans would peacefully stay on the settler-farms until a programme was worked out to speedily resettle the people. (The Herald, April 29 2000, p.1)

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