Zimbabwe: House of hunger

HARARE - The new agricultural season has begun. And for the sixth consecutive year most Zimbabweans will go hungry.

Leaving aside the vagaries of the weather, most will not reap a harvest from this season. This is not a matter for mother nature.

As the season begins, not only are there desperately inadequate supplies of fertiliser, seeds and fuel, but also the few remaining commercial farmers are being violently attacked and driven off their land.

Even those previously deemed acceptable to the Mugabe regime, such as former vice-Chancellor of UZ, Prof Graham Hill, are being evicted. This follows the 17th amendment to the constitution last month, effectively nationalising all white-owned land and preventing farmers from going to court to challenge the state's seizure of about 22 million acres since 2000.

Armed militia, wielding hosepipes, last week thrashed Canadian-born coffee farmer David Wilding-Davies and his manager Allan Warner on Ashante Farm in Chipinge while Gideon Mostert, a coffee grower and dairy farmer, was attacked hours earlier, apparently by the same group, but escaped to a local church.

According to neighbours, Wilding-Davies has been 'kicked off' his farm several times by the local CIO operative Joseph Chiminya. "There will be no going back now," said one. "This is the end of the road."

"We were warned last week that Chipinge would be soon be cleared of white farmers," said Trevor Gifford, chairman of the Coffee Growers' Association of Zimbabwe. "There are about 80 of us here, the largest group of white farmers left and we were informed eight more will be done before the weekend."

Approached for comment Flora Buka, the land and resettlement minister, said she was 'in a meeting' and switched off her cell phone.