by Bill Carico
In August of 2000 I was attending a braai at the home of some friends I was visiting in Cape Town on a Sunday afternoon. In South Africa a braai is equivalent to a bbq.
As evening approached the home telephone rang and the caller asked for one of the guests.. She said "hello" and a few seconds later shrieked in anguish.
The call was from a family member telling her that her father who lived in Zimbabwe had NOT been killed but armed former soldiers had taken over the family's 1000 hectare farm (1 hectare = 2.47 acres) . The owner of the neighboring farm had been murdered and his land taken over too. I learned the woman had been spent a few very tense months waiting for this phone call.
The turmoil had begun a few months before Zimbabwe's national elections where incumbent Robert Mugabe organized a 2 million hectares (almost 5 million acre) land grab from mainly white farmers, but
also farms owned by black Africans who were known critics of the authoritarian ruler. All this happened in the months leading up to the June 24 and 25 election. By June 1, 2000, three weeks prior to the election, Mugabe gave a progress report: 804 mostly white-owned farms had been seized for the resettlement of poor black farmers. It was less clear the numbers of white farmers that had been murdered during the invasions. Many of those farmers were only given a few weeks to clear out. Mugabe won reelections that year and every year until 2017. He served as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987 and then as President from 1987 to 2017. He died 2 years later at the age of 95.
Formerly Rhodesia, Zimbabwe began with the transition to majority rule in 1980 when Britain granted independence. The new government under Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was socialist and the country's economy went from being the breadbasket of the continent to a place where a loaf of bread and toilet paper became scarce. Still, during the changeover many white farmers involved in large-scale operations were persuaded to stay and actually remained there for 20 years. That is, until the land grab in 2000.
It had been a long time since I thought about that Braai 20 years ago, but last week the memories returned after I noticed a post by a friend in South Africa about the ruling party announced plans to change the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation.
Apparently, 2017 state-commissioned audit showed a third of rural land is owned by individuals, with 72% of that in white hands, while companies and trusts hold 43%. About 81% of the country’s 58.8 million people are black, 8% are white and the balance are mixed race or of Asian descent. Between 1994 and March 2018, the state acquired 8.4 million hectares — less than 10% of the commercial farmland — for land redistribution and restitution. That’s a third of what the government had targeted by 2014.
I also found saw one report claiming 59 farmers were murdered there last year. On July 31, 2020, I saw this 5 minute video by ‘African Sun Productions’ showing the farmers and the community coming together on 30 July 2020, against farm attacks and farm murders in South Africa. The entire sound track of the video is a minister is praying in Afrikaans, it has English subtitles.
The rally was held in Hartswater, in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, where the five accused were appearing at the court for the savage farm attack and brutal vile murder of the Brand family in Magogong on 26 July 2020.