Rhodesia to Zimbabwe
Transvaal Agricultural Union: "South Africa Bulletin"
Forty four years ago on 11 November 1965, Prime Minister Ian Smith of the then Rhodesia announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain. Smith's party the Rhodesian Front knew the pitfalls ahead if they were to succumb to British government pressure for majority rule.
Their predictions of course came true - Zimbabwe became the basket case of Africa. Its leader Robert Mugabe's tyranny, cruelty and barbarism equalled that of Idi Amin, and he ruined what was a superlative example of how a few talented and dedicated men who loved their country could bring plenty where hunger and pestilence had ruled.
It is sobering to look back at the state of agriculture in the old Rhodesia, at what a few farmers achieved in a relatively short time. When we compare then and now, it beggars belief that such successes should have been sacrificed on the altar of political correctness and a Western need to rid itself of African colonies, come what may.
Dr. Mick Gammon has written the following in the magazine Rhodesians Worldwide and it is good and even necessary to remember what Rhodesia was, and what Zimbabwe is today.
"The Zimbabwe government's campaign to obliterate commercial agriculture, under the guise of agrarian reform but in reality in the interest of retaining power through illegal and violent means, has been largely effective. The tragic suffering of Zimbabwe's commercial farmers must be documented, lest distortions of the facts become accepted history.
The first white hunters, traders and missionaries who in the 19th century came to the region which was to become Rhodesia and subsequently Zimbabwe, found a land devoid of infrastructure. The wheel was not yet in use. Early travellers recorded travelling often for days without seeing any human habitation. With a population of about a quarter of a million people at the time, indeed most of the land was not occupied.
Commercial farming started in the 1890s on what was for the most part virgin land. There were no roads or railways, there was no electricity or telephone, there were no fences, boreholes, pumps, windmills, dams, irrigation schemes, there were no cattle dips, barns or other farm buildings.
These first farmers had to discover how to contend with predators that killed their livestock plus other animals that consumed their crops; how to control diseases, pests and parasites of livestock and crops that were foreign to them. While some guidance could be drawn from South Africa, knowledge and experience built up over generations in the developed world had limited application, since the local climate, soil and vegetation were vastly different.
From this starting point, fraught with difficulties, agriculture developed faster than it had anywhere else in the world. The agricultural infrastructure was rapidly developed and soon the country became self-sufficient in most agricultural products. In many cases yields per hectare and quality equalled or bettered those in the developed world.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Year Book of 1975 ranked the then Rhodesia second in the world in terms of yields of maize, wheat, soya beans and ground nuts, and third for cotton. In the combined ranking for all these crops, Rhodesia ranked first in the world.
Some of these rankings were, in fact, reached long before 1975. Rhodesia's Virginia tobacco was rated the best in the world in yield and quality, while maize entries in world championships were consistently placed in the first three slots.
The world's largest single citrus producer was developed early in the country's history.
The highest quality breeding stock of numerous breeds of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry were imported. At the same time the indigenous cattle were developed through breeding and selection to highly productive and respected breeds.
Zimbabwe beef was favourably regarded in the most discerning European markets.
Wildlife was incorporated into farming systems to develop a highly successful eco-tourism industry, and endangered species found their most secure havens on farm conservancies.
Zimbabwe was the world's second largest exporter of flue-cured tobacco.
This, together with exports of maize, soya beans, cotton, sugar, coffee, tea, fruit, vegetables, flowers and beef made agriculture the major source of foreign currency.
Agriculture contributed more to the gross domestic product than any other industry.
It was the largest employer of labour, providing employment for about a third of the total labour force. Zimbabwe, due to its technologically advanced commercial agriculture, earned the reputation for being the breadbasket of central Africa.
Today, foreign aid is considered indispensable for development in the developing world. In Rhodesia agriculture, like other industries, developed with no such aid. Commercial farmers also did not benefit from the free seed, fertilizer, tillage and other inputs currently being dispensed in an effort to induce production from the resettled Zimbabwe farms. Agricultural departments and training colleges set up by the Rhodesian colonial government to service all farming sectors regardless of colour played a crucial part in the development of agriculture. Without the outstanding contributions of the Department of Veterinary Services, the livestock industry could not have developed, and exports of animal products could not have been established.
The Department of Research and Specialist Services and the Tobacco Research Board developed improved crop varieties for local and regional use and these bodies researched optimum crop and livestock nutrition. The Department of Conservation and Extension was established to ensure the land was farmed to the maximum of its potential, and it provided a sophisticated farm planning service, as well as agricultural extension and specialist advisory services.
These departments were among the best in the world and the agricultural colleges turned out farmers of the highest calibre.
The benefits accruing to the country from the commercial farming sector extended far beyond the value of agricultural products and employment. The farmers contributed to the leadership and welfare society out of all proportion to their numbers. Each farm was, to a greater or lesser extent, an outpost of civilization. Many farmers established schools for workers' children. Every farm had a clinic and dispensary and ambulance service for the surrounding areas. Farmers provided unpaid help to neighbouring peasant farmers. All these contributions to the growth of the economy and the welfare of the country emanated from fewer than five thousand farmers, on less than half of the country's land.
These farmers bore the brunt of terrorist attacks after 1965 - many farmers and their families were murdered, and yet they continued production. Their worst nightmare came after President Mugabe lost an unrigged election. Power at all costs was his dictum, and the rest is history. Starvation now haunts Zimbabwe, with foreign aid doing little to assuage the hunger now stalking the land. Asking why these farmers were treated so terribly - murdered, harassed, beaten, driven off their farms - is to ask the question about Africa that has no logical answer.
» » » » [Transvaal Agricultural Union: "South Africa Bulletin", via: Springbokclub]
Mugabe sows a bitter harvest for Zimbabwe's farmers
The death of Zimbabwe's agriculture.
May 16, 2009
Russell Skelton, Australian Age
THE harvest was dead, and it was no longer his. The field of bleached corn was a great backdrop for a photo of former white farmer Ben Freeth, forced off his land by the war veterans' campaign of terror. The crop had been neglected and lost. The futility was overwhelming.
As the shutter snapped, shouts erupted from the nearby mango orchard, and three figures came dashing towards us. "Come here. Come here. We're going to shoot you." We heard the dull thump of birdshot being fired. The war veterans — Robert Mugabe's foot soldiers in the 1970s war of independence — moved with surprising speed. But they had coils of razor wire to negotiate, an impediment the ex-farmer had coolly considered.
Mr Freeth, a tall man with a clipped moustache and the bearing of a military officer, calmly advised: "I think we better go."
We hastily retreated to the improbable safety of Mr Freeth's farmstead — the home he was still allowed to live in, surrounded by a cottage garden. The voices gradually receded. Foiled by the razor wire, the veterans' shouts receded. "Stop. Stop. We want to cut off your heads."
Anticipating a follow-up visit from a truckload of veterans, Mr Freeth urged us to leave for Harare. Foreign journalists are banned from Zimbabwe and face automatic imprisonment in the capital's cholera-plagued and overcrowded jails.
Speaking from bitter experience, Mr Freeth, who places his faith in God rather than Zimbabwe's dubious justice system, said there was no telling how the veterans might retaliate.
Led by a thug with the unlikely name of Landmine Shamuyarira, the brother of a former information minister in Mugabe's old government, the veterans had waged a long campaign of violence and intimidation against Mr Freeth, his elderly father-in-law Mike Campbell and their families.
Several of Mr Freeth's 100 or so farm workers, who last month repelled the militia, had been arrested and beaten by compliant police. In an earlier assault, Mr Freeth received a fractured skull. He maintains the police are taking their orders from Landmine and his politician brother.
In Chegutu district, south-west of Harare, violence against white farmers and their workers has intensified in recent months as apparently desperate Zanu-PF politicians scramble over the spoils of power, possibly anticipating that the opportunity to do so may be fast receding as the "inclusive" Government gathers momentum. Eight of 15 farmers, including the Campbells, have been forced off.
MDC leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who in a bizarre arrangement shares power with Mr Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party, has bitterly opposed the invasions, saying they are wrecking the nation's agricultural base. He had ordered that they be stopped, but Mr Mugabe and his Attorney-General, the hardline Johannes Tomana, continue to encourage them.
While the invasions persist, international donor nations and the IMF refuse to release hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to bail out Zimbabwe's failed economy and its health and education systems. Britain, France, the US and the Southern African Development Commission have condemned the invasions.
The seizures have turned Zimbabwe — a country where 75 per cent of the population depends on food aid — from an agricultural food bowl to a dust bowl. Few if any farms remain productive once invaded. Zimbabwe, the world's largest exporter of white maize in the 1990s, now imports it.
Maize, wheat, tobacco, cotton and dairy figures are 25 per cent of what they were 10 years ago, and the nation faces ongoing food shortages.
Rural unemployment has also leapt, as farms become unproductive retreats for the rich and powerful.
Mr Freeth said it was clear the police had been operating under instruction.
"They turned up in riot gear and fired live ammo," he said. "They rounded up the workers who had resisted the invaders and took them to the Chegutu police station. They were forced on to the floor and struck on the back with rifle butts. One of the men had been beaten with a cable.
"There were witnesses to the beatings and the police chief inspector promised an investigation, but nothing happened."
When the invaders later broke into Mr Campbell's house in the night, a decision was made by the families to abandon Mount Carmel Farm.
"Ben thought it was too dangerous to stay there. We had no help from the police; we were on our own," Mr Campbell told The Age from his new home in Harare last week. "The High Court says we can go back, but there is no law and order. That is the problem. Police ignore the ruling; they are in the pockets of the politicians."
What is happening now at Mount Carmel Farm, Mr Freeth says, amounts to outright theft. "One hundred and twenty tonnes of mangoes worth $US120,000 ($A159,000) planted by us have been harvested and sold. You can see them in supermarkets. More harvesting is under way. No compensation offered, not a single cent. Not to us, not to anybody."
The veterans also shot wildlife — including wildebeest, giraffe and impala — reintroduced on the farm by Mr Campbell.
The pattern is repeated throughout Chegutu. On the Etheredge farm, police shot several workers and jailed the white owners on contrived charges of refusing to leave the land they owned. The large-scale orange grove was taken over just before harvest by Edna Madzongwe, president of the Senate and a confidant of Mr Mugabe..
Ironically, ownership of the farms seldom falls into the hands of the war veterans but the wealthy Zanu-PF elite. Mr Mugabe and his second wife Grace reputedly own three farms.
» » » » [Australia Age]