Clause 17

Clause 17. Just that phrase alone makes me think of the small print in a legal document designed to mislead the signee… But how do you read the small print of a contract if the contract doesn’t exactly exist?

Here in Zim, there’s a land redistribution law that basically takes the land currently owned by farmers who fought on the ‘wrong’ side of the war with the British against the indigenise Africans and distributes it to the African War Veterans. In theory this doesn’t sound too bad, after all it was their land and they fought for its freedom. However, those farmers bought the land from the government of that time; planned and ploughed that land for many years and they were successful. To just take all of their hard work and effort and hand it to a war vet who knows as much about farming as I do about fossils [in case it isn’t clear: the only thing I know about fossils is the definition!] is plainly put: Not fair!

I’m not saying that they don’t deserve to be rewarded for their efforts; I just think there are a few facts conveniently left out of that story. Yes, they fought for the freedom of their country but the farmers who were born there and grew up there also just fought for their freedom and to do what they felt was best for the country. Depending on who you ask, you could be lead to believe that either party were terrorists. It’s a matter of perspective and I have a hard time understanding the logic of the current government.

Zimbabwe use to produce more than a third of the worlds maize and corn and now [not even 30 years later]they barely have enough food for those people left in this once magnificent country. This is largely due to the fact that a lot of farmers left the country around the time the war was lost and also due to the redistribution law that completely ignores the asset of growing up to be a farmer; the skills that could only be learned by many years of observation, trial and error. The government chooses to chuck out the human resources that were responsible for a huge portion of the countries economical growth and place in the world rankings, in order to settle a debt that never really existed in the first place…

If the government really wanted to reward these vets or at least create jobs for them after the war, they should have implemented a training scheme first. The government could easily have bought out the farms they felt had to be redistributed [to some extent they started doing this al be it at an undervalued price] and then given the original owner a smaller piece of the land back with its house and continued to pay him a salary in order to advise, guide and teach the veterans to whom his farm was distributed to. Basically allowing the knowledge the farmer gained to enhance the efforts of the inexperienced vets. The farmer would still supervise the running of the farm but not actually benefit from its proceeds, except for the governmental salary. No wasted resources; no land that went to waist; no real losers and less conflict. Instead the government took rich farms and gave them to people who did not understand how to run them or that they were now the principle provider of food [not just for themselves] but for the entire nation.

All of this is nothing new, it has been happening for the last 11 years. In this time many have died of starvation; thousands have fled and to seek asylum elsewhere; the country’s economy has crashed to the point where their currency can no longer be used in this country as it loses value way too fast. Just today I went to buy a cool drink and paid for it in United States Dollars and received my change in South African Rand, because they simply don’t have enough US Cents to comply with their increasing demands. Eleven years of farmers living in fear and being intimidated to the point where they are forcefully removed and have to start all over again with only the shirts on their backs. This is a long time for one country to be repeating the same mistake. This is a long time for the world to still be turning a blind eye. This is a long time for a people to hope that next year will be better…

In order to determine who the ‘re’-possed land goes to, there are two basic committees: the War Veterans Association and the Land Office. Both these parties are supposed to have equal say and make a fair and unbiased ruling. But this is Africa and unlike other countries where high level corruption takes place behind closed doors, here it’s pretty out in the open. So the friend of a friend will end up with the best farms even thought they don’t actually live in this country any more. And the second cousin of someone high up will eventually get more than one piece of land. Fairness is fading.

In some cases the Land Office has ruled that the original farmer can have their land- or at least partially- back, since those who received the land never bothered to farm it and basically destroyed all the work that went into its infrastructure. A lot of original farmers came back and, with their own money, rebuilt the farm to the point where it was actually going to make a profit again only to have the government decide that they are taking the land back again and handing it to some other ignoramus. Don’t misunderstand me, there are a few of these War Veterans who actually sustained the land but they are far too few and probably would have been even less if they had to start from scratch instead of walking onto a fully functioning farm. There are also a few of them who bought their land in what is called ‘willing buyer willing seller’ deals. This is similar to land redistribution except that the farmer gets paid a fair amount for his farm and he is allowed to move on his own time with whatever he chooses to take. Clause 17 is very different in nature.

This clause is relatively new and basically states that on top of the government basically just walking onto your farm and saying: This no longer belongs to you; we’re giving it to someone who doesn’t know half as much about this farm as you. They now also have the ability to say: you have 24hours to get out!

Packing and moving is difficult enough when it is your choice, doing it when you are being forced is extremely frustrating. Dealing with an inhumane deadline is something most people could not bear. If you take into consideration the psychological aspects of loosing absolutely everything and even being seen as a failure to your family and legacy… it’s hard to describe. This clause is insane!

Consider for a moment that you have to pack a 3 bedroom house with 2 lounges and kitchen that can feed 30 people at any given point in time. Add onto that all of your tractors and ploughs and a hundred other implements, extremely heavy and expensive implements. Now remember that you also have crops, seeds, pesticides and compost in storage. Don’t forget about your 200 chickens; 30 dairy cows currently in calving season; your 100 sheep that have only been sheered half way and of course your 20 price winning pigs.

Now you explain to me how anyone can pack up all of that within 24 hours? Ok, it is doable but now that you have packed them, where do you go? How do you find suitable space for all of your animals? How do you find enough drivers for all of your tractors? Where do you get enough man power to load all those boxes? Who has enough blankets to carefully transport an insane amount of mirrors and glass panes? Oh and where do you sleep tonight?

If you consider that during this very busy 24hours, you also need to fire all of your employees because whoever takes over your farm, probably won’t want them and if you think about the stress levels and millions of thoughts running through your head as you try to remember if you even packed your toothbrush, then you are reminded of the 40 min drive just to get onto the main road… how can you call this fair? How can you call this humane? How can anyone in their right minds think that this is the best solution?

1440 minutes… that’s all. 1440 minutes to put your whole life’s work into a box. 1440 minutes to generate a new destiny. 1440 minutes to say goodbye to everything you thought you were. 1440 minutes to do all the things you thought you’d get to do. 1440 minutes is just long enough for the new owner to drive out to your farm with a crate of beer so that they can celebrate the fall of yet another of the countries original providers…

Sharing my view,

AM

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