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Zimbabwe: War on the Peasantry (Read 541 times)

Posts: 85
Zimbabwe: War on the Peasantry
Aug 13th, 2002 at 12:50am
Robert Mugabe is portrayed as the prince of darkness, but when whites expel black people from their lands, nobody gives a damn.
by George Monbiot,

The most evil man on earth, after Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, is Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe. That, at least, is the view of most of the western world's press.

Yesterday Mugabe insisted that 2,900 white farmers will have to leave their land. He claims to be redistributing their property to landless peasants, but many of the farms he has seized have been handed instead to army officers and party loyalists. Twelve white farmers have been killed and many others beaten. He stole the elections in March through ballot-rigging and the intimidation of his political rivals.

His assault on white-owned farms has been cited by the Daily Telegraph as the principal reason for the current famine. Now, the paper maintains, he is using "food aid as a political weapon". As a candidate for the post of World's Third Most Evil Man, he appears to possess all the right credentials.

There is no doubt that Mugabe is a ruthless man, or that his policies are contributing to the further impoverishment of the Zimbabweans. But to suggest that his land seizures are largely responsible for the nation's hunger is fanciful.

Though the 4,500 white farmers there own two-thirds of of the best land, many of them grow not food but tobacco. Seventy per cent of the nation's maize - its primary staple crop - is grown by black peasant farmers hacking a living from the marginal lands they were left by the whites.

The seizure of the white farms is both brutal and illegal. But it is merely one small scene in the tragedy now playing all over the world. Every year, some tens of millions of peasant farmers are forced to leave their land, with devastating consequences for food security.

For them there are no tear-stained descriptions of a last visit to the graves of their children. If they are mentioned at all, they are dismissed by most of the press as the necessary casualties of development.

Ten years ago, I investigated the expropriations being funded and organised in Africa by another member of the Commonwealth. Canada had paid for the ploughing and planting with wheat of the Basotu Plains in Tanzania.

Wheat was eaten in that country only by the rich, but by planting that crop, rather than maize or beans or cassava, Canada could secure contracts for its chemical and machinery companies, which were world leaders in wheat technology. (Article)

The scheme required the dispossession of the 40,000 members of the Barabaig tribe. Those who tried to return to their lands were beaten by the project's workers, imprisoned and tortured with electric shocks. The women were gang-raped. (The Barabaig's of the Mount Hanang region of Tanzania)

For the first time in a century, the Barabaig were malnourished. When I raised these issues with one of the people running the project, she told me: "I won't shed a tear for anybody if it means development." The rich world's press took much the same attitude: only the Guardian carried the story.

Now yet another member of the Commonwealth, the United Kingdom, is funding a much bigger scheme in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Some 20 million people will be dispossessed. Again this atrocity has been ignored by most of the media.

These are dark-skinned people being expelled by whites, rather than whites being expelled by black people. They are, as such, assuming their rightful place, as invisible obstacles to the rich world's projects. Mugabe is a monster because he has usurped the natural order.

Throughout the coverage of Zimbabwe there is an undercurrent of racism and of regret that Britain ever let Rhodesia go. Some of the articles in the Telegraph may as well have been headlined "The plucky men and women holding darkest Africa at bay". Readers are led to conclude that Ian Smith was right all along: the only people who know how to run Africa are the whites.

But, through the IMF, the World Bank and the bilateral aid programmes, with their extraordinary conditions, the whites do run Africa, and a right hash they are making of it.

Over the past 10 years, according to the UN's latest human development report, the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa living on less than a dollar a day has risen from 242 million to 300 million. The more rigorously Africa's governments apply the policies demanded by the whites, the poorer their people become.

Just like Mugabe, the rich world has also been using "food aid as a political weapon". The United States has just succeeded in forcing Zimbabwe and Zambia, both suffering from the southern African famine, to accept GM maize as food relief.

Both nations had fiercely resisted GM crops, partly because they feared that the technology would grant multinational companies control over the foodchain, leaving their people still more vulnerable to hunger. But the US, seizing the opportunity for its biotech firms, told them that they must either accept this consignment or starve.

Malawi has also been obliged to take GM maize from the US, partly because of the loss of its own strategic grain reserve. In 1999, the IMF and the European Union instructed Malawi to privatise the reserve.

The private body was not capitalised, so it had to borrow from commercial banks to buy grain. Predictably enough, by 2001 it found that it couldn't service its debt. The IMF told it to sell most of the reserve.

The private body sold it all, and Malawi ran out of stored grain just as its crops failed. The IMF, having learnt nothing from this catastrophe, continues to prevent that country from helping its farmers, subsidising food or stabilising prices.

The same agency also forces weak nations to open their borders to subsidised food from abroad, destroying their own farming industries. Perhaps most importantly, it prevents state spending on land reform.

Land distribution is the key determinant of food security. Small farms are up to 10 times as productive as large ones, as they tend to be cultivated more intensively. Small farmers are more likely to supply local people with staple crops than western supermarkets with mangetout.

The governments of the rich world don't like land reform. It requires state intervention, which offends the god of free markets, and it hurts big farmers and the companies that supply them. Indeed, it was Britain's refusal either to permit or to fund an adequate reform programme in Zimbabwe that created the political opportunities Mugabe has so ruthlessly exploited. The Lancaster House agreement gave the state to the black population but the nation to the whites. Mugabe manipulates the genuine frustrations of a dispossessed people.

The president of Zimbabwe is a very minor devil in the hellish politics of land and food. The sainted Nelson Mandela has arguably done just as much harm to the people of Africa, by surrendering his powers to the IMF as soon as he had wrested them from apartheid.

Let us condemn Mugabe's attacks upon Zimbabwe's whites by all means, but only if we are also prepared to condemn the far bloodier war that the rich world wages against the poor.

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"The seizure of the white farms is both brutal and illegal."

While I value the general perspective of this article the writer fails to show a valid reason for considering the seizure of White controlled agriculture lands, illegal and brutal.

Farm workers caught in the middle
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« Last Edit: Aug 18th, 2002 at 10:31am by Ayinde »  
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Racial crimes committed during colonial era
Reply #1 - Aug 20th, 2002 at 1:19am
By Zvenyika E. Mugari,

Historical records show that Chief Huchu, a descendant of Chief Chirimu-hanzu, together with his people, were the first people to settle in and around the area between the little towns of Chivhu and Mvuma. The name of their first Chief was Chivasa.

Oral accounts from those who were old enough to recall how things were in the early 1900s say this area was virgin land when their fathers first settled there.

There was no European settlement anywhere near this area. It was our land.

Mr Fidelis Musemburi is reported (in the book Civil War In Rhodesia, A Report from the Rhodesian Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace published in 1976) as saying: "Things changed when a certain Mr Frog came and said to my father, ‘I have come to tell you that this land on which you plough and keep your cattle has been bought by Willoughby’s company (Central Estates) and is now their land.’"

The obvious question the people asked was: From whom has the land been bought since it is our land?

But as white rule became entrenched, it became clear that Huchu and his people could only remain on the land provided they gave their labour to the European Company, the new owners of the land, in a quasi-slavery arrangement.

It was really a form of internal slavery (chibharo) where each head of a family together with wife and children earned food rations plus half a crown per month, out of which they could pay their taxes.

They remained on their original homeland for the next three to four decades working as the company’s vassals (varanda).

In the early 1950s, when the process of implementing the Land apportionment Act intensified, the Huchu people had to be moved just like other Africans who were unfortunate to find themselves in areas demarcated as European areas.

They had to be relocated in those areas, which had been marked as Native Reserves.

But because the company still needed their services they moved from kuMacha to Hunyani Reserve, about 20 km to the west of Mvuma town along the Mvuma- Gweru road.

Their status remained unclear as the company continued to demand their labour as before.

The people’s resistance to the continued slavery sparked conflict between the Huchu people and the Central Estates authorities.

This conflict, compounded with the enactment of the Land Tenure Act of 1969, resulted in more land being annexed by white settlers.

All land in natural regions 1 and 2 as well as most of the land falling in natural region 3 was declared European land.

Hunyani Reserve was thus "legally" lost to the Europeans.

Those who lived in this area — chiefs Huchu, Gobo and Ruya — were to be moved to new tribal trust lands.

The initial plan was to relocate all these three chiefs with their people in Silobela.

While his colleagues willingly complied, chief Stephen Jojo Huchu, with the support of his people, offered resistance to this forced eviction from their homeland.

He refused to be resettled in an area whose agricultural potential was inferior to the place they were leaving behind.

He only agreed to be relocated to Charama area in Gokwe after the white regime had threatened to use force.

Because Charama was a tsetse-infested zone, the Huchu people were not allowed to take any of their livestock with them.

"We were forced to sell all our goats, sheep and cattle to the white man.

"As for pigs, we had to slaughter as many as we could dry in that short space of time, leaving the rest to roam in the ruins," recalls Mbuya Mazvidzeni Makoni, of Makoni village, Chief Huchu.

"The white man had decided that he was not going to buy the pigs. We were allowed to carry chicken and dogs with us, only after serious bargaining with the white man.

"Unfortunately, the dogs did not last long in our new land. They all died of a very mysterious disease, which caused dog blindness.

"I suspect that was the same disease which killed my husband and many other men we came with in the early 1970s. People died in many numbers then," she said.

Surprisingly, in 1970, when the Huchu people were being forcibly evicted from Hunyani and when they were being forced to sell their cattle, all the civilised talk about "willing buyer willing seller" had not been invented.

Incidentally, it was in this year when the colonial regime changed its currency from the pound to the dollar .

"And it caused so much confusion among our people, the majority of whom were semi-numerate when our cattle were being auctioned in the new currency.

"We tended to think that the dollar was equivalent to the pound when in actual fact the value of the dollar was half that of the pound," said Tozivepi Matimbe, one of the few remaining old men who migrated from Hunyani in 1970.

"The whole auctioning process was not only unfair to us, it was downright fraudulent.

"There were no prices for calves. They were simply taken over free of charge by the buyer.

"I was not always as poor as you see me today. I owned a flock of 15 sheep, 11 goats and 7 head of cattle, but that is all history now.

"With the money I got after selling all these, I was only able to buy a bicycle and the balance did not last until the next rainy season."

Unfortunately again for the Huchu people, the language of journalism of that time had not yet evolved such damning epithets as "land grabbing, farm invasions, farm looting, forced evictions and so on".

The media of the time was mum over the forced mass evictions and expropriation of the black populations, who formerly lived in the Central Estates area, Rhodesdale area, Fort Rixon area, to name only a few.

The black populations involved then were much larger than the 3 000 odd white commercial farmers who must make way for the new farmers now.

Such racial injustices on a national scale as were perpetrated on the Huchu people surely should have merited international media attention and condemnation.

But it was not to be because it was not in the interest of their capitalist financiers.

The tragic story of the Huchu people was something which the mellow drums of the journalistic fraternity ought to have been drumming loudly about for all the world to know instead of the melodramatic fictions about mayhem on the farms, hapless women getting beheaded by party functionaries and general breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

The legacy of those racial crimes committed during the colonial chapter of Africa’s history is still with us today in the form of a social class of the black peasantry.

To put the record straight, it must be known that peasant agriculture itself was a creation of colonialism.

Both the Shona and the Ndebele people had established a vibrant agricultural economy by the advent of white colonial settlerism on the sub-continent.

They kept enough livestock and grew enough crops for self-sustenance as well as for trade.

Mandivamba Rukuni’s book Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Revolution (1994) gives a clear historical perspective to Zimbabwe’s land question and on how the dual system of commercial/peasant agriculture was a deliberate outcome of the racial settlement patterns of the colonial system.

The centrality of the land question explains why revolutionary songs such as "Tinodawo nyika zuva rayo rasvika" inspired many generations of black Zimbabweans to fight for the restoration of their land.

Ask any ordinary Zimbabwean what they think the liberation struggle was about and they will tell you that it was fought so that we could take back our land, not about democracy, rule of law or good governance.

"Hunyani remains a lost paradise to us, and the whites who forcibly evicted us should be held responsible for this poverty which we are in today," said Mbuya Madzungudza.

She was pounding the dried fruits of a thorn bush, which they recently discovered as a good substitute for washing soap powder, which has been priced beyond their reach.

"Given the choice, going back to Hunyani would be paradise restored for me, and I don’t doubt for most of my people," said the acting chief Mr Tadios Huchu.
His father, the then chief Regis Huchu, had succeeded the legendary chief Stephen Jojo Huchu who died soon after his release from prison for the crime of harbouring three armed insurgents in his area in the year 1975.

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