Cablegate: Resettlement On the Farms: The Reality On The

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: A visit to four farms in a prime
agricultural area 2 hours from Harare reveals that chaos
reigns, and productivity by the new settlers hovers barely
above zero. There is no rhyme nor reason to the occupations,
and the newly resettled show little desire or ability to
carry out even minimal crop production. Stick huts have been
built randomly across previously productive fields.
Settlers' crops are few in number, haphazardly planted, and
poorly tended. White commercial farmers express bewilderment
at how the rest of the world can stand by and watch their
deliberate victimization without offering any hope or relief.
End summary.

2. (SBU) On May 23-24, econoff visited several farms in the
Karoi area, which was once a prime commercial cereal and
tobacco-growing region. Of the properties visited, one
farmer has been run completely off of his property by war
veterans and settlers, a second has been confined by settlers
to his homestead but not allowed to conduct any operations, a
third has had several "settlements" established on his land
but has been allowed to continue farming part of his
property, and a fourth has not yet suffered incursions by
settlers or war veterans. In Karoi, at least, there appears
to be little rhyme or reason as to which farms are targeted
-- there is no differentiation based on political affiliation
of the landowner, existence of desirable infrastructure,
resistance to the resettlement scheme by landowners, or even
apparent suitability for specific crops. Although the
drought has doubtless had some effect on the quality of
crops, the radical difference between the condition of
settlers' fields and those of commercial farmers who still
remain on their land is remarkable. Even beyond the contrast
between the levels of actual husbandry, there is no
indication that any "settlers" in the area have planted --
much less reaped -- enough crops to support even their own
nuclear families until the next harvest.

3. (SBU) One landowner was evicted from his farm in the early
stages of the land acquisition exercise. He had initially
opposed settlement by the occupiers and sustained a serious
gash across his face from a settler's panga -- machete --
before being forced to vacate. Since his departure, his
20-hectare patch of coffee bushes -- now entering their
fourth season, which would produce the first productive crop
-- has been neglected since the farmer has not been allowed
to return, and his employees have not been allowed to water
the trees. The trees, loaded with a bumper crop of beans
despite the season-long neglect, are dying amid the
waist-high weeds that are choking the fields. There are
currently no plans by anyone to harvest the crop. One
conservative estimate is that over $80,000 US -- badly needed
forex -- is rotting in full sight of those who claim to be
"land-hungry farmers." The image is startling, given the GOZ
rhetoric regarding how the new economy will be driven by the
newly-settled farmers.

4. (SBU) The second farm visited by econoff comprises about
1100 hectares, of which 400 are arable. The arable land has
for years been under a tobacco/maize rotation, while the
remainder had been stocked, at significant expense, with a
wide range of game (eland, sable antelope, kudu, giraffe,
etc.) to support a wildlife/safari operation. Since last
year's growing season, when the occupiers took up residence,
the farmer has not been allowed access to any of his land,
and has been confined to his homestead by the war vets and
settlers . Even this sanctuary was breached, when a settler
demanding easier access to "his" fields battered down the
farmer's front and back gates with repeated blows from a
tractor. A quick tour of the property showed numerous
stick-and-thatch huts thrown up randomly amid formerly
fertile fields, with the settlers' crops totalling, at most,
several acres. Prime land seized after last year's tobacco
preparation -- i.e., fertilized, plowed, furrowed and
irrigated -- now lies under a dense, uniform blanket of weeds
and brush. The game has been either hunted by poachers or
left to stray after the settlers cut holes in the game
fences. Two giraffe calves, fit for neither sport nor table,
were killed -- one left to rot next to the farmer's driveway
and the other cut up for meat to feed the poachers' hunting
dogs. The farmer has recently decided to leave his homestead
and has been moving some of his personal property --
including household furniture -- out of the house. After
some settlers noticed the furnishings leaving the property,
the grassland immediately bordering the farmer's homestead
was set ablaze, leaving a wide swath of destruction. The
farmer expects his home to be completely looted within a
matter of hours after his departure. As an aside, several of
the settlers approached the farmer in recent weeks to state
that they had made a mistake trying to grow crops on his
farm, and asking for the farmer's intervention to "pull
strings" and get them re-located to a better farm. Rebuffed
in this request, the settlers then stated that they were
hungry, since they had harvested no crops, and asked the
farmer to buy them maize-meal.

5. (SBU) The third farmer has been under siege by a
contingent of settlers and war vets for the past two growing
seasons. This farmer, who bought his property in 1992, has
markedly improved the level of his laborers' accommodations
through personal investment, and has supported infrastructure
developments for all segments of the farming community. He
built and staffed a school for laborers' children and
upgraded all labor housing to brick buildings with running
water, fulfilling his promise to provide adequate housing to
all his labor before he began constructing an upgraded house
for his own family. He has purchased milling machinery to
process sunflower seed oil for the entire community of
growers and has served as the local fuel delivery point
person for the Zimbabwe Farmers' Union. When the occupation
began, this farmer's initial response was not to give an
inch. He experienced a steadily growing level of violence,
including abuse of his children at all-night "pungwes." The
farmer and twenty of his laborers later sustained severe
beatings by a mob of war vets and occupiers last September.
Since that time, he has decided to make as much use of his
land as possible in hope of riding the situation out. The
farm now supports three separate "villages" of settlers,
while approximately half of the farm laborers and their
families have been chased off the land. The farmer has been
limited to sometimes random determinations of which fields he
can use and which would be "settled." Again, huts have been
erected haphazardly across some of the most fertile land,
although crops being grown on these fields cover a mere
fraction of the land siezed, with the remainder reverting to
bush. In one case, the farmer was forced to build a fence
around a settler's weed-choked cotton patch in order for his
cattle to graze in the rest of the field, since the settler
accused the farmer of letting his cattle eat the settler's
cotton. The farmer estimates that last year -- between crop
losses, forced sale of livestock at the demands of the
settlers, unproductive fields, and inputs invested in land
subsequently seized -- his financial losses ran at
$74,242,000.00 zim dollars (approximately U.S. $185,000).
While he admits that his output was higher than average --
since he double-cropped some fields while pioneering some
non-traditional methods in others -- his losses for one farm
in one season can be extrapolated country-wide.

6. (SBU) The last farm visited has not been subjected to
settlement, although it has been listed and de-listed several
times. Currently, the farmer rotates tobacco and maize and
grazes cattle. Although the farmer did manage to harvest his
tobacco crop, he has not sold it since the current pricing
and exchange rate structure do not provide any profit. The
farmer has started to prepare his land for next season, and
has reported that several farmers around his area are doing
likewise. However, this prep work is more in the nature of
an insurance policy. If the farmers do not prepare seed beds
now, they will be unable to plant anything in September, even
if the situation is stabilized. If the situation remains
chaotic, however, with no farmer sure if he can reap the crop
he sows, none of these commercial farmers intend to plant,
thus depriving Zimbabwe of needed food and forex-generating

7. (SBU) Econoff's conversations with the farmers repeatedly
elicited requests for help from the USG. One farmer stated
that he could not believe that the "free world" could stand
by and watch while the GOZ destroyed an entire productive
segment of its population. He pointed out that a bailout for
the GOZ's de facto theft and irrefutable mismanagement --
even if it were to come sometime in the future -- would be
exponentially more expensive, and help would never reach
those citizens who are now being deliberatey bankrupted.
Other farmers insisted that the best way to get any response
from the GOZ would be to extend existing travel sanctions to
the children of the ruling elite, many of whom, they allege,
are attending schools in the US. In response to econoff's
arguments that a liberal education is a valid way to change
young minds, they countered that the children of the ruling
elite, once they get out of Zimbabwe, are highly unlikely
ever to return. While escape is a goal of many Zimbabweans,
it is an option currently unavailable to most of the
remaining commercial farmers.

8. (SBU) Comment: These snapshots offer a view in microcosm
of the uncertainties reigning in Zimbabwe today. On an
economic level, the message is clear -- the "fast track"
resettlement has been a disaster that will cause long-term
food shortfalls and continued economic decline. On the
social level, it is clear that the white Zimbabwean
commercial farmers risk extinction, but it is not clear that
the resettled black Zimbabwean communal farmers will be
better off from this process. The only unaswered question is
whether the ongoing process will slow or be reversed before
the damage to Zimbabwe, and its future, is irreparable, or
if, indeed, the country has already passed the point of no
return. End comment.

© Scoop Media

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