Ben Freeth's Open Letter
WHERE ARE WE GOING?
Open Letter to the Prime Minister.
Dear Mr. Tsvangarai,
Our hearts all go out to you in this time of grieving and it is hard to write this letter as a result. However, write it I must, because soon it will be too late.
I write this letter openly because it affects us all and because, with your influence, we will hopefully enter a new era of openness in Zimbabwe.
Over the last nine years we have seen the vehicle called Zimbabwe have the engine stripped out of it. We now have an engine that is spluttering and smoking and back firing down a road. As far as I can see the road leads to nowhere because all the time more and more essential components continue to be stripped out of the engine even now.
Zimbabwe's engine is of course agriculture. We have huge agricultural potential; but without an engine the vehicle can not move. The "donors" can push the vehicle called Zimbabwe along the road for a time; but they will soon get tired of that. However hard they push, the engine can not be jump started and will not roar into life, until such time as the essential components of that engine are put back into place.
Without the engine, there can be no revival of education or rebuilding of the health sector or revamping of the "road network" which will allow the the vehicle to "go places." The future will remain very bleak indeed for us all.
Unfortunately there appears to be a reluctance to recognise what the essential components to the engine are. What was it that made the vehicle called Zimbabwe run along the road in the past so that we were the envy of Africa with our education and health systems and had such a superb infrastructure? How did we become the biggest exporter of white maize in the world at one time? How were we the second biggest exporter of tobacco in the world 9 years ago? Why did the engine suddenly go faulty?
We all know the answer. It is no mystery. It is the essential component: the engine has been stripped. Stop the engine being stripped and put in place measures to protect the "mechanics" [farmers and farm workers] that are able to rebuild the engine and the car called Zimbabwe will go again. Put in other words: stop the invasions and prosecutions of the farmers and their workers and reinstate title [which needs to be extended into the areas that never had title before], and we will not need to beg the rest of the world for their money and be at their beck and call.
Hard as it may sound, if people, however prominent they maybe, take the law into their own hands, they need to be arrested. If farm invasions are allowed to simply continue as they are, the engine will soon be no more. In 9 years, I do not know of a single prominent person that has taken a farm and been prosecuted for taking the law into his or her own hands. At the same time, not a single farmer in the whole of the last 9 years, has been evicted with a proper eviction order from the courts and given compensation for losing his home, his livelihood and his lives work.
What is so worrying is that the invasions and prosecutions of farmers are increasing. While we appreciate that there are good intentions to bring protection of investment and property rights back into play, so far this is most certainly not the case. There are 2 burning questions:
- So far there has been no open policy decision of support from the Prime Ministers office regarding the SADC Tribunal Judgement of the 28 November 2008. As the first applicants in that case could you make clear what the position is on that? We are part of SADC and we have signed the SADC protocol establishing the Tribunal; but we are not yet following what this Human Rights Court and the highest court in SADC says regarding property rights. The Zimbabwe Government representative, in open court, stated that the Zimbabwe Government would abide by whatever Judgement the Tribunal gave. Many SADC Tribunal "protected" farmers and farm workers have been invaded, prosecuted, stopped from farming and thrown out of their homes with State assistance since they were given protection. What is being done about these abuses and what is the Ministry of Home Affairs instructing police on the SADC Judgement?
- So far there has been no move by Parliament to strike down the Conequential Provisions [Gazetted land] Act that is being used to criminalise and stop almost every white farmer left from trying to produce. I don't understand why not? Over the last few weeks new prosecutions have been starting all the time and there are on going trials of white farmers and their workers all over the country. They are being told in the magistrates courts that they must get off their farms and stop farming. Some farmers and farm workers are being put in jail for committing the crime of farming!
If these 2 issues are not addressed very quickly there will be no engine worth speaking of left to drive this vehicle called Zimbabwe into a brighter future. Tens more thousands of people will be left homeless and without food.
If these 2 issues are not acted on quickly there will be no hope for the children to be schooled and no chance for the sick to be treated or the law enforcers to be paid.
If these 2 issues, and other related issues, are not grappled with, the huge collateral value in the land amounting to tens of billions of US dollars can never be realised; and all Zimbabweans will be the losers.
Time is very short. I appeal to you to act with the courage that so many people so admire in you, even in this time of terrible grief.
May God guide you and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ fill you.
Ben Freeth is a man who has endured terrible abuse at the hands of people in Zimbabwe wanting to claim his land for their own purposes. He has through the whole ordeal taken a firm stand to stay in Zimbabwe and be a farmer.