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Cablegate: Commercial Farmers Charged with Crime of Farming

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. Summary: On July 4-5, 15 Chiredzi-area commercial sugar
farmers were charged with violating section 8 of the Land
Acquisition Act by continuing to farm past the
government-mandated deadline for ceasing commercial farming
activity. As of May 10, 2002 all farmers who fail to stop
occupying, holding, or using land 45 days after the original
section 8 notification were subject to criminal penalities.
This legislation is retroactive to all previous section 8
acquisition orders, thereby making any occupation or use of
land after June 24 a criminal offense. The farmers were
charged with obstructing the government,s land resettlement
program even though they had adhered to the government,s
guidelines regarding farm-size ,and had formally applied for
an extension of their section 8 orders in advance of the
deadline. It is unclear why these 15 were singled out for
prosecution because all of the 52 small-scale commercial
farmers in Chiredzi have followed the same process to both
avoid contravening the Land Acquisition Act, and to continue
to pursue their livelihoods. End summary.

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2. On July 9, Poloff and Econoff met with David Hasluck,
Director of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) to discuss the
charges brought against the fifteen independent sugar cane
farmers on July 4 and 5 for continuing to tend to their crops
subsequent to the June 24 deadline. Hasluck believes that
someone resettled under the fast track program probably
raised the complaint against the farmers,thereby staking a
claim on the cane growing on the farms. Hasluck's feeling
was that this -- the first such filing of official charges
under the Land Acqusition Act -- was a test case, and that
if the farmers lost, this would signal even more chaos at a
time when few crops are being grown and widespread famine is

3. The farmers were charged with violating the government's
resettlement program even though their farms are within the
maximum farm size regulations promulgated by Minister of
Lands Joseph Made. Although the regulation has not been
formally enshrined within the Land Act, the 15 farmers were
under the impression that as long as they complied with this
guideline they would be allowed to retain their holdings and
continue to farm. The fact that the farmers have been
charged anyway makes it increasingly unclear how commercial
farmers can legally retain any portion of their holdings. The
Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Ministry has
announced a bevy of (sometimes contradictory) guidelines
relating to the resettlement program, and the situation on
the ground varies significantly from area to area. Hasluck
commented that, often, the amount of land each farmer is
allowed to retain depends on the individual proclivities of,
as well as the farmer's relationship with, the local land
committees. The disconnect between the messages emanating
from Harare and the situation on the ground leaves commercial
farmers in the untenable situation of not knowing which
regulations to comply with to avoid contravening the Land
Act. Essentially, the lack of transparency within the
resettlement process means that even if these commercial
farmers adhere to the most recent "rules" of the land reform
program they have very little legal recourse because the GOZ
continually moves the goalposts.

4. Hasluck noted that all 52 of the small scale sugarcane
growers in Chiredzi submitted formal requests for extension
of their section 8 acquisition orders to Minister Made
because they still had crops in the ground that needed to be
harvested. It is therefore unclear why the 15 farmers were
selected for prosecution,and not any of the other 37
independent cane growers. This is only the latest example of
widespread arbitrariness in the implementation of the GOZ's
resettlement program.
5. Hasluck told the story of a Chegutu commercial farmer who
applied to Minister Made,s office for an extension of his
section 8 orders. The farmer copied his request to the local
land committee and then approached this body to follow-up.
Although the local committee informed the farmer that he was
free to continue his operations, halfway into the growing
season, he received a letter on behalf of Minister Made
informing him that there were to be absolutely no extensions
of section 8 orders, and that the local land committees did
not have the authority to grant waivers. In many ways the
Chegutu farmer,s predicament is analogous to the situation
faced by the 15 Chiredzi commercial farmers and, indeed,
commercial farmers throughout the country.


6. We agree with Hasluck's assesment that this will be an
important test case of the GOZ's land reform program. A
successful prosecution will embolden the GOZ to pursue
charges against all commercial farmers who have not stopped
farming, and will discourage any remaining commercial farmers
from continuing their operations. This will exacerbate the
already dramatic food shortage, as newly resettled farmers
won't come close to filling the gap left by the commercial
producers. The Chegutu example suggests that Minister Made
is uninterested in compromise, despite the fact that half the
population will soon require food assistance. August 9 now
looms as a crucial date, as that is the GOZ's deadline for
all commercial farmers to be off properties that have been

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