Peter Hammond is a missionary who has pioneered evangelistic outreaches in the war zones of Angola, Mozambique, and Sudan. He is the founder and director of Frontline Fellowship and the director of United Christian Action. Along with editing Frontline Fellowship News and UCANews, he has written the books “Holocaust in Rwanda,” “Faith Under Fire in Sudan,” “In the Killing Fields of Mozambique” and “Putting Feet to Your Faith.”
By Peter Hammond
© 2000, WorldNetDaily.com, Inc.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — While a tiny remnant of whites and a larger number of black farmers in Zimbabwe are being assaulted, sometimes murdered, in broad daylight by government-sanctioned, angry mobs, a frightening scene of state-sponsored terrorism is unfolding across this troubled nation.
In the first two months of the crisis, which began after the February elections, the independent human rights NGO, Amani Trust, documented over 5,078 incidents of political violence perpetrated by agents or supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party. This included 1,012 assaults with blunt or sharp weapons, gunshot wounds, arson or attempted strangling. At that point, there had been 19 confirmed murders of farmers, their workers or opposition party supporters. Additionally, some 417 houses and properties had been destroyed.
Plowing the farms
Instead of protecting lives and property, with farm invasions and widespread violence increasing throughout Zimbabwe, the police have added to the harassment — turning to systematic searches of targeted farms to confiscate any “illegal weapons” from the besieged farmers, their only means of protection.
The invasion of over 1,200 farms by self-styled veterans of the Rhodesian war was clearly orchestrated and supported by President Robert Mugabe, ZANU-PF, the national army and the police. Less than 15 percent of the land invaders could have been “veterans” of the war, however, which ended in 1980; most are too young to have been involved in a war that ended before most of them began their schooling.
The occupation of the farms has also been anything but “spontaneous.” The organizer of the so-called “War Veterans,” a man named Dr. Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi, has been flown around the country by an air force helicopter as he co-ordinated the invasions. Many of the landless peasants occupying the farms have been seen carrying cell phones and are reported to be in regular contact with the local ZANU-PF party headquarters.
Zimbabwe Independent reported that the armed forces had recently received a shipment of 21,000 AK 47 assault rifles, likely to be distributed amongst the squatters, running the farmers off their land. The paper also reported that Gen. Shiri (the man who commanded the notorious North Korean-trained 5th Brigade, which massacred tens of thousands of civilians in Matabeleland in the 1980s) had deployed over 1,000 soldiers in civilian clothes to lead the farm invasions. On occasions, uniformed officers had also been seen organising the squatters. Military and government vehicles have been seen transporting land invaders.
Zimbabweans are describing the campaign as “political re-education by means of skull bashing,” “the Red Guard treatment” and “state-sponsored anarchy.”
Economic suicide, Mugabe style
The targeting of the mostly white, commercial farmers in Zimbabwe is effectively economic suicide. Although the farmers occupy less than a quarter of the land (about 23 percent), these farms feed the entire nation and produce 90 percent of agricultural exports, with a gross production in excess of $842 million in U.S. dollars. These farms are the largest employers of labour in the country.
The Commercial Farmers Union has proven to the government that these farm invasions will displace three times more people than it could resettle. It would also replace productive employers who feed the nation and provide a large percentage of the country’s foreign exchange with subsistence farmers. Who then would feed the over 3 million people living in the towns?
The disastrous ripple effect of the widespread vandalism, arson and violence against the most productive sector of the economy is already plunging the country into a sharp downward spiral. With vast amounts of machinery damaged, crops burned, sheds razed to the ground, homes looted and farmers assaulted or murdered, crops remain unplanted, rotting in the fields, or smouldering in burned-out warehouses. Foreign and local investment has been frightened away. Tourism (an important source of employment and foreign funds) has virtually ceased. Bank loans, overdrafts and securities linked to farms are now overdue. And the unemployment time bomb is set to explode.
Constant threat of violence
Do these dire consequences have any affect on stopping the assaults? Hardly. The Zimbabwean High Court’s rulings that the farm invasions were illegal and the judiciary’s instructions to the police to remove the squatters have been ignored.
When a peaceful march of
Movement for Democratic
Change supporters was attacked April 1 by ZANU-PF thugs, the police stood by inactive. When a police inspector was asked whether “it was the role of the police to protect all Zimbabweans?” The police inspector responded, “No, we are here to protect the interests of the government!” In the wake of this collapse of the rule of law, many squatters turned violent.
On the morning of April 18, a mob of 100 armed thugs attacked Martin Olds’ farm outside of Bulawayo. Despite being wounded, Olds succeeded in holding them at bay with his rifle and shotgun for over three hours. When he finally ran out of ammunition, he was overwhelmed and shot at point-blank range. The police ignored his call for help and even prevented an ambulance from reaching Olds as he lay wounded. When this was followed up by a police campaign to disarm the beleaguered farmers, it became clear that the official goal was to render the victims defenceless even as the criminals were being armed.
Recent official pronouncements are even more ominous. “If you want peace you should support me and the ruling party,” said Josaya Hungwe, the governor of Masvingo province, talking about the upcoming elections. “If you want trouble, then vote for another party.”
“If the opposition wins the elections,” said Dr. Hunzvi, “we will go to war.” Dr. Hunzvi’s surgery has reportedly been converted into a torture chamber where abducted opposition supporters are dragged to and viciously tortured.
“We did not win the power in this country by elections but by armed struggle,” said Minister of Information Chen Chimutengwende. “And we are also going to win these elections by armed struggle.”
The statement is not hollow. As President Mugabe has said about his party, “We have degrees in violence!”
It’s not about real estate
Few in Zimbabwe believe that the issue is really about land reform. The government controls more land than the farmers but has failed in the last 20 years to provide land for the landless. Most of the confiscated farms have been handed over to rich ZANU-PF party officials not the “landless poor.”
“Land reform” is being used as a smokescreen for a state-sponsored campaign to crush all opposition. What seems to have precipitated this crisis is the political defeat of ZANU-PF in the recent referendum in February. The unpopular and bloody war in the Congo, where Mugabe has committed 11,000 soldiers from the Zimbabwe national army to prop up fellow Marxist dictator, Laurent Kaliba, is costing Zimbabwe $1 million in U.S. dollars every day. The massive inflation and unemployment has further fuelled rising discontent.
To answer the discontent, Mugabe needed a scapegoat, and so he has publicly declared, “Farmers are enemies of the state!”
Political observers in Zimbabwe have concluded, “This isn’t about land, nor is it about race. More black farm workers have been assaulted and murdered by these ZANU mobs than have whites. The issue is about ZANU desperately seeking to cling to power and crush all opposition.”
With Mugabe encouraging both South Africans and Namibians to take up similar land-theft measures in their own countries, how we — those who live and work in the surrounding regions as well as concerned investors overseas — react to the state-sponsored terrorism in Zimbabwe could have a direct bearing on whether similar tactics are unleashed in South Africa or Namibia.
Peter Hammond, the founder and director of Frontline Fellowship and the director of United Christian Action, can be reached at Frontline Fellowship, P.O. Box 74, Newlands 7725, Cape Town, South Africa.