Farm Invasions and Security Report

December 31, 2001 at 10:26 am Leave a comment

Farm Invasions and Security Report
31 December 2001

COMMERCIAL farmer Guy Watson-Smith, 51, shareholder of Hanagwe (Pvt) Ltd, owner of Elim and Alamein Farms in Beatrice, has been granted an Interim relief order by Justice Hungwe High Court Chambers, for the immediate return of all movable property, valued at over Z$ 120 million. The respondents will jointly share legal costs of the suit.

The provisional order sought to force Ministers of Agriculture, (Joseph Made) and Local Government, (Ignatius Chombo) responsible for Zimbabwe’s chaotic land seizures, a war veteran named as “Comrade Zhou” and General Solomon Mujuru. A lawyer representing Ministers, Made and Chombo attended the hearing but raised no objection to the order.

In an affidavit filed, Watson-Smith said he feared for the safety of his family and requested that the Deputy Sheriff act on his behalf in recovering the assets, which include tractors, vehicles, irrigation equipment, 430 head of breeding cattle, and approximately 490 head of commercial game, remained on the farm after access to remove them was denied by General Mujuru and Comrade Zhou who threatened to “burn the removal trucks”.

The retired General is named as a respondent. He was previously known as Rex Nhongo (a war name), leader of Mugabe’s ZANLA forces during the independence war and then head of the post independence army and later Defence minister. He already owns a clutch of Commercial farms, but remains in Mugabe’s inner circle as member of the ruling Zanu PF politburo and central committee. His wife, Joyce Mujuru is the rural resources and water development minister in Mugabe’s cabinet.

No representative was present in the High Court today for Mujuru although he was served with the papers. It is understood that Mujuru now frequents the farm and has been supplying fertilizer for the tobacco crop since Watson-Smith left.

This is the first case brought by a commercial farmer against a member of Mugabe’s inner circle implicated in illegal seizure of land and assets, who is also one of the most feared men in the country with a reputation for unpredictable behavior.

Watson-Smith is among the top ten percent of productive Commercial farmers, was unlawfully forced to abandon his sophisticated agricultural enterprise, leaving him with no livelihood. As his lawyer filed the urgent order on Friday, Watson-Smith, his wife Vicky 44, son and daughter, Adam 17 and Alice 15, fled the country for fear of further victimization.

“I am delighted that Justice Hungwe has seen fit to grant the provisional order and sincerely look forward to the Sheriff going out there with the willing assistance and protection of the police – then we will finally know that law and order still exists in Zimbabwe. We have suffered great loss as a result of this entire episode and are considering legal options with regard to loss of income, fixed assets and improvements and costs incurred in the planting of the 80 ha tobacco crop, valued at Z$ 26 million. We were not even allowed the 90 day notice period, nor was an official eviction order received ” Watson-Smith said from Pretoria where is staying with relatives.

He said he did not know what would happen to his 120 permanent and 180 odd seasonal workers, who rely on Watson Smith to provide them with their only means of livelihood and sustenance.

A perplexed Watson Smith said, “They have been told that they now work for Mujuru but he seems to insist that they must be paid by me. I now have no income with which to pay 300 salaries which normally amounted to a million Zimbabwe dollars monthly.”

Watson-Smith states in the Affidavit that the family was chased off the farm on 18th September 2001 by “Comrade Zhou” who was in the company of two other Comrades, identified as Chris and Joe.

He said, ” My wife and I were ordered to leave the farm immediately by these words from ‘Comrade Zhou’. He said, “we don’t want any more deaths” (referring to tragic events on neighbouring farms). I was threatened further when I tried to protest. My wife and I packed a suitcase and left shortly thereafter. I did not return to the farm until 5th December 78 days later, under their escort, to briefly address the farm labour. I was allowed no time there and have not been allowed back since.”

In mid September ‘Comrade Zhou’ in the company of Joe and General Mujuru arrived in a Pajero. They demanded records of fertilizer, chemicals, coal and diesel stocks. What followed was an instruction to the manager to grow crops at Watson-Smiths expense. Under fear of reprisals from “Comrade Zhou”, an 80-hectare Tobacco crop was duly planted. If this crop looked after it will in all probability fetch a selling price in excess of US$720 000.00 at current estimates.

Watson-Smith was told to remove all his moveable assets on 17 November by “Comrade Zhou” who confirmed, “We are taking over.” Watson-Smith appealed to Gen. Mujuru for a “civilized withdrawal” which was ignored.

“I also asked him if I would be allowed to remove ALL of my moveable assets, and he told me that I had paid for them, they were as much mine as “the shirt on your back”, and that I would be paid for the crop in the ground, because as he said, “Zhou has told me that he will pay from the 9th November. I thanked him, feeling relieved.” Said Watson-Smith.

Despite these assurances Mrs Watson-Smith and son Adam with some neighbour’s wives were ONLY allowed to move household goods. “Comrade Zhou, refused permission for Watson-Smith to attend.

Alamein Farm, where the family homestead is, was gazetted for compulsory acquisition on the 25th August 2000. An objection letter was then lodged by Watson-Smith with the Acquiring Authority. A Section 8 Acquisition Order was only served on the 5th December 2001. During the current land acquisition exercise, the second farm, Elim was gazetted for compulsory acquisition on the 2nd June 2000. The matter has not yet been heard and is still pending before the Supreme Court, although events seem to have superceded a hearing.

The combined farming operation has a state-of-the-art curing and tobacco handling facilities for a tobacco crop of 500 000 kgs, and five owner/manager homesteads within the main security complex. The labour accommodation is extensive and of a high standard.

Mujuru is amongst 20 Zanu PF stalwarts, civil servants, businessmen and members of the armed forces, who have taken land and assets under the Model A2 land reform programme.

At the SADC meeting in November, Government presentations stated that 54 000 beneficiaries had been identified under this scheme.

In his presentation to the ministers, CFU Acting President Doug Taylor-Freeme said ” Some recipients of land under the A2 resettlement scheme include the commissioner of police, other senior ranking police and defence forces personnel, ministers, members of parliament, senior civil servants and ruling part officials.”

Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, a leading Zanu PF member chose a farm in Shamva, 80 kms north of Harare and is now moving into it after the owners were forced to pack up and go. They too received no eviction notice nor were they allowed 90 days in which to wind up their affairs, physically, financially or legally.

As is the case with 84% of commercially owned farms, Watson-Smith purchased his farm after 1980. He moved to the Beatrice farms three years after independence, when his parents’ land was bought by the government for resettlement. That farm now lies derelict, unproductive and unoccupied.

In November, news of amendments to the Land Acquisition Act, Statutory Instrument 338 was viewed by farmers as proof that government was suffering from a ‘drought of reason’ and using political power as “a tool to subvert the last vestiges of property rights”.

The last word must go to a wheat farmer – Mr Neville Hoy (63) of Hunyani Farm (turnover of ZD$ 100 mil) in Chinhoyi. He recently told journalists during a tour his farm:

“At the personal assurance of President Robert Mugabe in 1980 when he toured some Chinhoyi farms, I purchased Hunyani and began to farm. I am totally disappointed at the manner in which Government is implementing land reform – it is the destruction of a production machine, which sustained the Zimbabwean economy. We are going backwards from organised agriculture to subsistence farming.”

Mr Hoy grew 5 percent of Zimbabwe’s wheat needs. 60% of wheat grown last year will not be planted due to disruptions from land invasions.

28th December 2001

Entry filed under: Past, Present, Zimbabwe Politics.

Family flees country as Mujuru invades farms A Bulletin from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, November 23, 2005.

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