By Cathy Buckle
As Zimbabwe approaches a referendum on a proposed new constitution and then an election, it is appropriate to cast our minds back to the last time we faced exactly these two events.
Something very strange was happening in Zimbabwe in April and May 2000 between the referendum and the election and it didn’t concern war veterans and political violence but ZBC TV.
It wasn’t long after the country had voted NO to the proposed draft constitution and President Mugabe had appeared on national TV to announce that he would accept the will of the people. It was also shortly before the June 2000 parliamentary elections.
Land invasions were sweeping across many parts of the country; fences were being pulled down, trees felled and scrappy little stick and grass huts were springing up on productive farms like mushrooms in manure.
Unannounced and unexpected a ZBC TV camera crew arrived on farms in Mashonaland East that April/ May 2000. They said they were visiting farms to take video film, not of war veterans, Zanu PF supporters and land invasions but of crop and livestock production.
Farmers thought this was a very strange thing for ZBC to be filming at a time when all hell was breaking loose. Farmers more au fait with current affairs told ZBC to go away. Many others did not and were shocked at what happened next.
There, night after night on ZBC TV, they saw film footage of their farms being used in Zanu PF election adverts. As a backdrop to dancing youths declaring that the land was theirs, were vast fields of flourishing tobacco; rows of shoulder high maize stretched to the horizon behind the singing youngsters.
There was footage of prime beef cattle grazing in lush pastures and of blooming flowers for export growing in plastic green houses. My next door farmer neighbour was horrified to see his chickens on ZBC TV; his thriving poultry enterprise, his cages, feed dispensers and layers had all been inserted as a background to promote Zanu PF advertisements.
Twelve years later, in dramatic contrast to ZBC’s film clips of Zimbabwe’s thriving production and the promise of its perpetuation pledged by Zanu PF’s land reform, a shameful picture lies exposed for all to see across our country’s farms.
Last week a local finance and economic research group (EGC) openly criticised the disastrous results of twelve years of land reform. ECG said the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Made, despite a number of years heading the department, had not come up with policies to motivate farmers.
“Made has failed blatantly,” said an ECG economist, “despite his ‘I assure you’ mantra’ which he repeats every time he is answerable to the nation.”
The ECG said new farmers were not being monitored and multiple thousands of jobs had been lost. They spoke of dishonesty in Zanu PF ranks through “multiple land ownership and intensive underutilization of the allocated land.”
As Zimbabwe approaches a constitutional referendum and election, it is in the national interest for ZBC TV to do a follow up on their filming project of 2000. A good starting point would be for them to take film footage of those same farms where they filmed tobacco, beef, maize, flowers and poultry a dozen years ago.
Ordinary Zimbabweans deserve to see what the beneficiaries of those same farms have managed to achieve. We need to understand why 80% of the food in our shops is imported from South Africa.
ZBC could show updated film footage of those farms behind Zanu PF election adverts and prove we have not suffered in vain these last twelve years.
To help maintain editorial independence Nehanda Radio relies on donations from readers like you. No donation is too small or too big. Help by donating to fund our operations.