President Robert Mugabe's past land reforms drove more than 4,000 farmers off their land and destroyed a once prosperous sector. One year after a historic power-sharing deal was signed, Zimbabwe's agriculture is still in the doldrums.
One year after Zimbabwe’s feuding parties signed a historic power-sharing deal, life in the capital Harare has almost returned to normal. The country's massively devalued dollar has been buried and replaced by the US dollar. The move has helped the country escape crippling inflation. But the more things change here, the more they stay the same.
Roy Bennett, a member of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party, is supposed to be reforming Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector. Instead, he is running a car body repair shop. He was nominated deputy agriculture minister in the new unity government. But President Robert Mugabe refuses to swear him in.
Bennet lost his own property under President Mugabe's controversial land reform programme. He believes Mugabe isnt fighting for land, but for power.
Zimbabwe’s white farmers, now scarcely more than two hundred, are painfully familiar with President Mugabe’s land reform policy. Cyril and Catherine Meredith lost their farm and everything on it when a group of armed men seized their 600 hectares of land and confiscated the farm equipment.
Every time a farm is seized in Zimbabwe, up to 500 farm workers are left destitute. They’re meant to be the beneficiaries of the governments drive to transfer land from white to black hands. Instead, they end up fending off armed land invaders, or in the slums of Harare. More than a million farm workers and their families are now displaced.
Catherine Meredith says her land is protected under an international agreement between the governments of Zimbabwe and France. She says Harare has disregarded the terms of the agreement and calls for diplomatic intervention have proved fruitless.
White farmers in Zimbabwe know it’s a long shot to challenge President Mugabe’s land grabs in court. Some have simply given up, and left the country. But the Merediths won’t let that deter them. Their trial starts in November. They say the longer it takes, the better their chances are of winning.
Date created : 2009-09-25