Some of Zimbabwe’s remaining white farmers are being harassed and threatened by supporters of Robert Mugabe in an attempt to drum up support for their beleaguered president.
Mr Mugabe claimed in state-run newspapers over the weekend that white farmers were plotting to take back the land they lost in the 2000 evictions. “We cannot afford to retreat in the battle for land,” he told the Herald newspaper.
Large groups of war veterans then descended on a number of the 300 remaining white-owned farms, looting fields and putting the properties under effective siege.
Their aim, according to sources in Zimbabwe, is to divert attention away from the delayed election results and rekindle support for Mr Mugabe’s strong-arm tactics in the event of a second, “run-off” election.
The harsh reality of life on one of the farms has been conveyed to Farmers Weekly in the form of a letter from John and Joy Borland, whose Chidza farm was targeted over the weekend. It reads:
“Dear Family and Friends,
Well, I never thought I would have to do this email. It may be my last from Chidza.
At 3.30pm today a lorryload of war vets arrived at our gate to take over our land, equipment and cattle. It is now 6pm and they have been singing their war songs at our gate. More and more of them have arrived.
We managed to get Alison and little John to town and for now it is just John and myself and dogs in the house. They have said that our labour will not work tomorrow and that they want us to kill them a sheep. This John refuses to do, so no doubt they will kill one for themselves.
Please pass this email on to as many folk as you would like to. If you know of anyone in the media all the better, as we have to let the world know what is happening.
Please keep all of us in your prayers and we will send a follow-up tomorrow if we are able.
Our love to you all,
John and Joy”
Former sugar cane grower and cattle rancher Eric Harrison, who was evicted from his farm a couple of years ago, explained that the Borlands are not the only ones who have been targeted.
“Graham Richards, who runs the successful country lodge Pa’Nyanda, has also been forced off his farm in the last week. So have other surviving farmers. The question is, how long do we have to wait before more white farmers are killed? The police are worse than useless, in fact, they aid and abet the very people that they are meant to control.”
Mr Harrison said the intimidation was instigated by the ruling Zanu (PF) party to scare people away from democratic change. “If the president has his way, he’ll have another three weeks or even three months to ply the only tactic that he has done successfully since becoming president in 1980 – terror tactics.”
Newspaper reports suggest that as many as 18 white farms have been hit in the past few days.