Farm grabbing in Zimbabwe is criminal and racist grand robbery

As Zanu (PF) reaches the top tier of its propaganda to justify theft and destruction of prime commercial farming infrastructure, with articles placed in the Herald by Mugabe Biographer, David Martin , a young writer and farmer, Phil Matibe (left), says ……..\r\n

…………………the US$45 billion cost to the Zimbabwean economy of the “land reform” had little to do with with redressing colonial land 

Matibe says in fact it was nothing but a political gimmick to reward those who kept ZANU (PF) in power. He picks up on the Chegutu tragedy and writes:

Time and again society produces individuals who excel beyond the norm in their chosen field of expertise, producing exceptional results and setting achievement standards which the rest of the community hopes to attain.

The disturbing injustice in Chegutu compels me to voice my deep revulsion with the blatantly racist and voracious victimisation of one of Zimbabwe’s most progressive farmers, Mr Thomas Irving Beattie. Thomas Beattie is an agricultural visionary, an elder whose entrepreneurial spirit resulted in the agrarian revolution which established one of Zimbabwe’s largest citrus estate, cattle feedlot, and commercial agricultural enterprises.

My respect for Thomas Beattie is rooted in the experiences and knowledge I derived during my tenure under his tutelage as a farm manager in the formative years of my agricultural career. Thomas Beattie, a hard taskmaster who was firm and fair, imparted agrarian expertise and tricks of the trade not yet freely available in the public domain.

What ZANU (PF) and its self-styled war veterans have done to this true fellow Zimbabwean, and many other loyal farmers like him, is both callous and criminal. Thieving politicians masquerading as revolutionaries have unlawfully stripped Thomas Beattie of his entire business – built over fifty years through sheer perseverance – and rendered him homeless.

Under the one-man-one-farm policy, it is only fair that Thomas Beattie-who had already relinquished ownership of his other farms to the government in 1990, should have been left with his remaining farm to continue farming with his sons-like every other Zimbabwean.

The theft of private property that occurred when the vile Bright Matonga – the then Deputy Minister of Information – evicted Thomas Beattie and his sons should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Bright Matonga had already seized Mupandaguta Farm in 2003, a flower farm in Banket, which produced 10 million blooms for export, prior to invading Beattie’s farm. The flower farm is now derelict. This one man has destroyed a collective agricultural unit that had employed 2 000 people and generated over US$ 10 million annually, all this lost permanently to supposedly "correct a colonial wrong".

Thomas Beattie has been farming for longer than Bright Matonga has been alive; Thomas Beattie has forgotten more than Matonga will ever know in agriculture. Zimbabwe has replaced farmers like Thomas Beattie – walking agricultural encyclopaedias – with opportunists, measly gangsters devoid of any agrarian knowhow cut from the same cloth as Matonga.

The current fast track land acquisition exercise is a ZANU (PF) tool for the self-enrichment scheme by common criminals whose political fortunes have evaporated.

It is a dark chapter in our history to witness the silence and inaction of black Zimbabweans while such brutal injustices against fellow citizens occur openly. People have been cowered into submission and are terrified of being labelled as sell-outs or stooges of the British. White Zimbabwean farmers are now easy targets portrayed as colonial settlers whose continued existence is erroneously equated by ZANU (PF) propagandists as returning Zimbabwe to British rule.

In 1993, Thomas Beattie diversified from grain farming at the behest of the Minister of Agriculture, Kumbirai Kangai, whose policy in the 90’s was to stop all commercial farmers from growing maize. The rationale being that capable communal farmers would produce the entire nation’s grain, while mechanised commercial farmers diversified into labour intensive export-oriented horticultural crops.

The government deliberately lowered the producer price of maize, thus making it unprofitable for commercial farmers to plant maize. The strategy worked as most commercial farmers ceased commercial maize production and converted maize fields into citrus, passion fruit, flowers, and mangoes.

The commencement of planting the first citrus orchards outside of Mazoe Valley occurred on Lionsvlei, Umvovo, and Rainbows End Farms owned by Thomas Beattie in the Chegutu District. During the punishing summer midday heat and bitterly cold early winter mornings, scores of hardworking employees toiled to meticulously lay an underground labyrinth that constituted one of Zimbabwe’s first computerised citrus micro irrigation and fertigation systems.

The construction of the specialised citrus factory with imported grading equipment occurred in tandem. At the time it all seemed as though the hard work would someday result into an economic success story to be emulated by other farmers as they diversified.

During the citrus harvesting season, women from Chegutu, Pfupajena, and Mvovo Townships were gainfully employed grading export citrus. So where 120 women sat processing thousands of tonnes of oranges for export, one man – Bright Matonga – now pens his cattle.

Today, Bright Matonga is nowhere to be seen in Chegutu, the citrus is dying, the women are unemployed, and the revenue to the country has evaporated. Are we now proud in having correcting this misdeed?

Informal traders from as far afield as Lusaka in Zambia would converge at the Big Orange factory to purchase citrus for resale at the markets. The waxed and graded citrus was trucked to Durban in pallets from Hunyani loaded on refrigerated units provided by the local transport company, which also created its own downstream employment for cross border drivers. The Beattie family abattoir is found in the township of Rimuka in Kadoma and supplied prime beef to butcheries all over Zimbabwe.

Whilst Thomas Beattie was toiling, Bright Matonga was lavishly cavorting in England only to return and claim to be the custodian of so-called Zimbabwean heritage – the champion or leading light in a revolution that removes other Zimbabweans from their land.

Since the fast track land seizures commenced in 2000, it has been easy for ZANU (PF) to portray the land invasions as a spontaneous demonstration by landless peasants who needed to take back land originally taken away from them by colonial settlers. It is now apparent and clear that the so-called land reform program has been nothing but a political gimmick that has been used to reward ZANU (PF) supporters and punish anyone perceived as an enemy.

Mr Thomas Beattie at any one time grew 2 000 hectares of maize, equal hectares of soyabeans and sorghum (in summer), coupled with at least 1 000 hectares of winter wheat. He maintained a beef herd of not less than 5 000 in any given year. Mr Beattie employed 1 400 men and women who either lived on his farms or bussed in from Chegutu Township daily. Furthermore, Mr Beattie’s benevolence during the drought years saw him drill boreholes in the townships and relinquish his water rights in the Mupfure River so that the Chegutu Town Council would have adequate water supplies.

When the bankrupt Chegutu City Council’s unmaintained tractors finally broke down, Thomas Beattie’s fleet of tractors and drivers performed the grass-cutting duties in and around the city limits. The continual dredging of the Mupfure river weirs by Thomas Beattie provided the Chegutu building industry with a constant supply of river sand. The informal building blocks industry mushroomed around it, whilst insuring that these essential irrigation water reservoirs did not silt.

Is Bright Matonga a better farmer than Thomas Beattie? Is Bright Matonga a farmer? Why is it that only the ruling elite are allocated prime agricultural properties? What has Bright Matonga’s contribution to the Chegutu community been since he evicted Thomas Beattie? How much money has Bright Matonga pilfered from the Reserve Bank and yet produced nothing?

Bright Matonga was the chief executive officer of ZUPCO – the government bus company – who had been arrested in May of 2005 for allegedly soliciting for bribes – the company is now in financial ruin.

Thomas Beattie’s only "crime" is that his skin colour is similar to that of the people who once colonised Zimbabwe. What does it mean to be a citizen of Zimbabwe? Do farmers have fewer rights than a member of ZANU (PF) who can take their property with less than twenty-four hours notice?

At Independence, like every white person at the time, Thomas Beattie was a Rhodesian. But he became a Zimbabwean on April 18, 1980. He enthusiastically participated in the nation’s rebuilding, paid his taxes, produced food, and created employment for the next twenty-eight years.

How could a devoted Zimbabwean farmer, rooted in the community, now be labelled as a colonial settler with no citizenship rights over a pseudo-revolutionary who has never earned an honest living and was only a primary school student during the war of liberation?

Most of the productive farm land that has made its way to this clique of gangsters is being chopped up into residential plots. The "liberators" are profiting from land that they never paid for in the first place. Thomas Beattie and other patriotic farmers like him are being punished today for believing in the empty words of reconciliation preached by Robert Mugabe at Independence. It is a shame that as a nation we celebrate the abhorrent treatment of fellow human beings and citizens as justified empowerment.

In the district of Chegutu, it is amazing to discover that only a handful of ZANU (PF) politicians have been carving up farms for themselves, their families, and their relatives for the past ten years. If all the farms seized by the government are state property, it therefore follows that anyone who took that state property, looted equipment and destroyed productivity, caused famine, therefore committed a crime that should be punishable by imprisonment.

The very same ZANU (PF) parliamentarians, who passed laws that barred farmers from taking their machinery, took over these properties and looted valuable irrigation infrastructure. In the case of Thomas Beattie, Bright Matonga destroyed or vandalised one of Zimbabwe’s most modern citrus factories.

The ZANU (PF) politburo, central committee members and President’s Office officials now occupy multiple farms with Mugabe leading the way with the theft of 10 farms for himself.

The replacement of all the nations’ damaged infrastructure to pre-1999 levels has now been estimated by the Minister of Finance to be US$ 45 billion dollars. Was it worth it, creating a financial burden, unemployment and hunger for generations so that a few ethnically skewed greedy politicians could enrich themselves by destroying commercial agriculture?

US$45 billion – the conservative monetary value for Zimbabwe to correct a "colonial wrong" – and yet, Zimbabwe has not redressed its colonial imbalance, instead it has created a deep-rooted political and ethnic wrong, which shall soon need to be righted. Phil Matibe – www.madhingabucketboy.com