Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Farm violence worsening – farmers union

By Muchena Zigomo

PRETORIA, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Violence on Zimbabwe’s farms, which were once the country’s economic mainstay, is worsening and farmers are taking “an even bigger hiding” than before, the country’s Commercial Farmers Union said on Wednesday.

Many white farmers have been evicted from land by President Robert Mugabe’s government since 2000, as part of a land reform programme credited with causing a slump in agriculture. “The reality is that we’re receiving an even bigger hiding now than before,” said CFU president Deon Theron. “Although everything seems to be fine on the outside … the rule of law just isn’t there. It’s applied very selectively,” he told an agriculture conference in Pretoria, South Africa.

Disruptions to farming were still enormous, possibly denting hopes that the country would kickstart its agriculture sector and end years of hunger and falling output.

Finance minister Tendai Biti said last month that Zimbabwe expects to harvest 2.5 million tonnes of the staple maize in the 2009/10 season, more than double the 1.2 million tonnes harvested the season before.

However, the figures have been disputed, and the CFU, a grouping of the country’s remaining white farmers, says maize output will drop to 396,250 tonnes this year from 417,000 tonnes in 2008, largely due to disruptions caused by farm violence.

Critics and rights groups say a power-sharing government formed by Mugabe and bitter rival Morgan Tsvangirai, now the country’s prime minister, has failed to clamp down on rights abuses in the country.

The government was cobbled together after a disputed election, but the pact between Mugabe and Tsvangirai has been beset with problems as their parties accuse each other of failing to implement the deal fully.

“There has been progress, but the reality is that the government of national unity has no unity,” Theron said.