CFU writes open letter to the Prime Minister

HARARE – The Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe (CFU) has written an open letter to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai asking him to come out clear on the position he holds over the continuing violation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal Judgement of November 2008.

The CFU warned that time was running out for the commercial agriculture sector with the continuing farm evictions.

"So far there has been no open policy decision of support from the Prime Minister’s office regarding the SADC Tribunal Judgement of the 28 November 2008. As the first applicants in that case could you make clear what the position is on that? We are part of SADC and we have signed the SADC protocol establishing the Tribunal, but we are not yet following what this Human Rights Court and the highest court in SADC says regarding property rights," said CFU.

The SADC Tribunal ruled that the Government of Zimbabwe was in breach of article 4 (c) which imposes an obligation on member states to ensure that their laws conform to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The Tribunal found that the Government of Zimbabwe had breached article 6 of the treaty which concerns non-discrimination on racial grounds. It also found that Amendment No. 17 to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, ousting the jurisdiction of Zimbabwean courts from considering any challenge to the arbitrary taking of farms, was in breach of the treaty.

This was after Mike Campbell, a Zimbabwean commercial farmer, filed an application with the SADC Tribunal in Windhoek on October 11, 2007 challenging the acquisition of his Mount Carmel farm in Chegutu by the Government of Zimbabwe. The Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear disputes concerning "human rights, democracy and the rule of law," which are binding principles for members of the SADC.

On March 28 last year, an additional 77 other white commercial farmers joined as parties in the proceedings against the Government of Zimbabwe. On June 29, 2008, just two days after the violence-ridden Presidential run-off election from which Tsvangirai was forced to withdraw.

Mike Campbell, his wife Angela and Ben Freeth were kidnapped, taken to an indoctrination camp and beaten by thugs. They were forced at gunpoint to sign that they would withdraw the case.

The farmers’ body has seen the majority of its membership who used to number about 4500 losing its farms through chaotic farm invasions which began in 2000. The CFU pointed out that the Zimbabwe Government was openly violating the judgement of the Tribunal.

"What is being done about these abuses and what is the Ministry of Home Affairs instructing police on the SADC Judgement? So far there has been no move by Parliament to strike down the Consequential Provisions [Gazetted land] Act that is being used to criminalise and stop almost every white farmer left from trying to produce.

"Over the last few weeks new prosecutions have been starting all the time and there are ongoing trials of white farmers and their workers all over the country. They are being told in the magistrates courts that they must get off their farms and stop farming. Some farmers and farm workers are being put in jail for committing the crime of farming!," said CFU.

The commercial farmers indicated that more people will be left homeless and without food, with no hope for children to be schooled and no chance for the sick to be treated or the law enforcers to be paid, while, the huge collateral value in the land amounting to tens of billions of US dollars can never be realised.

"Zimbabwe’s engine is of course agriculture. We have huge agricultural potential; but without an engine the vehicle cannot move. The "donors" can push the vehicle called Zimbabwe along the road for a time; but they will soon get tired of that.

"Unfortunately there appears to be a reluctance to recognise what the essential components of the engine are. Hard as it may sound, if people, however prominent they maybe, take the law into their own hands, they need to be arrested. If farm invasions are allowed to simply continue as they are, the engine will soon be no more," said CFU.