Deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara, on a mission assigned him by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, went into the heart of the most troubled farming area on a whirlwind visit, ignored deeply rooted district protocols, took control of the multi-party fact-finding visit, and ordered invaders off the land.
He accused the invaders of "reaping what they did not sow", of breaking the law and destroying the economy. He told policemen to uphold the law. He also called one of Mugabe’s loyalists "immoral".
Mugabe’s land minister, Herbert Murewha, his head cast down, had to endure Mutambara’s volley of anger when he saw tens of thousands of kilograms of export fruit rotting because the farmer, Ben Freeth, has been prevented from entering his packing shed in the past few weeks.
Freeth’s farm, Mount Carmel, has been given to Mugabe’s biographer, former information minister Nathan Shamuyarira. "You are giving Mr Shamuyarira a bad name," he told Landmine Chigombira, the top thug on Freeth’s farm who has ordered workers to be beaten and houses to be pillaged in the past few days.
Mutambara then told the assembled crowd on the farm that Freeth and his team must be left to live in their homes peacefully and to return to work the same day.
An hour later, after Mutambara left, Freeth and his workers were chased away.
However, Mutambara said after the trip – the first one by the inclusive government sworn into power two months ago – that he would not react to the defiance of his orders. "What matters is that the next time Mugabe denies there have been fresh land invasions I can say that is not true, I saw it for myself."
Freeth and his father-in-law, Mike Campbell, are still recovering from injuries from last year’s vicious attacks.
"It didn’t make any difference today, but at least he (Mutambara) came and he took control, he questioned workers and they told him how they had suffered and he was obviously angry at what has been going on. Let’s see how this works out," said Freeth.
"There will be no holy cows. The axe will hit where it may and we will not tolerate any government official who is prolonging lawlessness in the country," Mutambara said on another farm he visited.
"Our country is trying to attract investment, attract foreign aid. We can’t afford to be damaging business confidence in this country."
Farmers in the area told officials that 17 farms had been affected since January and that the president of Zimbabwe’s senate, Edna Madzongwe was behind one of the seizures.
"It’s going to be interesting to see what comes out of this," said Colin Cloete, former president of the Commercial Farmers’ Union, whose farm Mutambara visited first.
"Word got out early in the morning that he was coming and some of them packed up and left. I was quite impressed," he said. (IOL)