Ben Freeth, whose farm was expropriated by the Zimbabwe government in 2000, told a discussion forum on peace and reconciliation organised by Heal Zimbabwe in Harare this week that High Court orders continued to be overridden with complete impunity, while those politically-connected within the ruling Zanu-PF party confiscated whatever they liked with complete impunity.
He said the country had for a long time lacked justice and the rule of law predicated upon truth.
“Peace is not the absence of war, it is the absence of fear through the presence of justice and the rule of law. Farmers and workers have been kicked out of their farms without compensation. Government continues to use our draconian Constitution to list more farms for acquisition and I want to say that as white people in our country we are barred by the Constitution from challenging the racial nature of these acquisitions,” he said.
He said the Constitution, which was supposed to protect the rights of citizens, barred white farmers from receiving compensation for the land they bought and also barred them from challenging the acquisition letters.
“So we and our workers are considered criminals by the state if we continue to be in our homes 90 days after an acquisition notice is published in a newspaper. Politics continue to override the law in the land question and nobody seems to care,” he said.
Freeth said for Zimbabwe to be productive again, the country needed to get back to the rule of law, adding that Section 72 of the Constitution should be scrapped completely.
“So judgments need to be upheld and respected and the police need to obey court orders which they are not doing at the current time,” he said.
Freeth called for the compensation of the farmers whose land had been compulsorily acquired by the government, adding those who wanted to return to farming should be allowed to do so freely.
“No investor can invest in a property that can be taken over, so we need to go through the deeds office and discover the owners of the different pieces of land and we need to ensure as citizens there is either compensation, or if farmers are wanting to use their skills again, that we be allowed to use our skills again, which we are not allowed to do in our country at the current time,” he said.
He said government should extend commercial farming land into communal lands and afford communal farmers the opportunity to own their land and have bankable titles.
“Rather than have a situation where we have communal lands where there is no property ownership being extended to cover the whole country, we need to move in another direction. We need to expand the boundaries of commercial agriculture into the communal lands so the communal people can be able to benefit just as we do as commercial farmers from having ownership of our land,” he said.
Freeth was one of the white commercial farmers who won their case against the Zimbabwe government at the SADC tribunal but the judgment was never enforced as Harare chose to ignore it.