11 January 2010
The British government is set to come under pressure to lead the way in Europe, by not sending developmental aid to the coalition government until the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement.
UK based protest group The Vigil last week sent a letter to the International Development Committee of the British Parliament, which is to review the British government's aid to Zimbabwe.
"The Zimbabwe Vigil wishes to express its opposition to any dilution of the pressure on Mugabe and his cronies until they comply fully with the Global Political Agreement signed with the two MDC factions in September 2008," the letter reads.
The Vigil's spokesman, Dennis Benton, explained that the government would be setting the wrong precedent by 'prematurely' handing over developmental aid to Zimbabwe, where there is no evidence of any real change.
"We believe, in particular, that to give development aid to the coalition government is premature and will send the wrong signals not only to Mugabe and his ZANU PF party but also to members of the European Union and other countries which have adopted measures against Zimbabwe," Benton explained
The Vigil is also running a petition as added weight to the pressure it is putting on the UK government. The petition reads: "We welcome the UK's humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe but call on the UK government to withhold development aid until it is confident that the money will benefit the people rather than the corrupt Mugabe regime."
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The petition has been signed so far by some 9,000 people from all over the world who have passed by the Vigil recently. Benton explained that these people are just an example of all those who are not convinced that there has been real change in Zimbabwe. Benton explained that, with the EU set to discuss the renewal of its measures against Zimbabwe next month, that might be the time to submit the petition.
The Vigil's call echoes other concerns about the backward measures being adopted to start rebuilding the country that is fundamentally still in the hands of an oppressive, greedy regime. The land situation is a prime example of the mentality being applied, as more money is being thrown at the flailing agricultural sector, in the guise of assistance to 'new' farmers, at the same time that land invasions are on the rise.
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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has made US$14 million in grants available to 'new' farmers to help them obtain the inputs they need to start growing critically needed food. The USAID grant targets some 52,000 farmers in Zimbabwe and will be distributed through seven NGOs, although it is not clear which farmers are set to benefit from it.
There is justifiable concern that beneficiaries of Mugabe's chaotic and bloody land grab campaign will now further benefit from receiving aid. No comprehensive, independent land audit has yet taken place, and there is no precise record of which farmers are truly entitled to financial grants. The president of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) Deon Theron explained that group's like USAID need to carefully examine who is receiving aid, to prevent them directly "rewarding those people who have illegally grabbed land from deserving farmers."
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The need to start growing food in the country is high and the importance of USAID grants for agricultural development is not being denied. However, with farm invasions once again on the rise across the country, some observers have commented that "lawlessness is now being overlooked and even funded." The land grab campaign has continued to intensify this year, amid growing concerns that the military will be deployed to drive the remaining commercial farmers off their land. Robert Mugabe and Attorney General Johannes Tomana have both said the military will be used against commercial farmers who refuse to leave their land.
Most recently, a South African farming family, meant to be protected by both regional law and a bilateral investment protection agreement, were forced to flee their farm in Rusape last week. Dolf du Toit and his family left the property after more than a week of violence and intimidation. They became the third farming family in the area to be forced off their land in the same number of weeks. The Du Toits eviction from their property also came mere weeks after South Africa and Zimbabwe signed an investment pact that is already proving to be worth little.
Such investment pacts continue to be ignored, along with the law. Zimbabwe's ambassador to Tanzania, Edzai Chimonyo, has been ordered by the High Court to vacate a banana plantation which he occupied over the festive season in Manicaland, but the retired army general has stayed put on the farm. The property, Fangundu Farm near Mutare is owned by a Dutch and Malaysian company and is meant to be protected by an investment agreement.
An official from the Ministry of Lands in Mutare said the invasion of Fangundu Farm was unlikely to be reversed despite the court ruling.
"That ruling is just a piece of paper," the official told the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper. "Almost every new farmer in that area has been served with court orders so there is nothing that Chimonyo can be afraid of."
The comments are indicative of the blatant lawlessness in the country, and court rulings regarding land have done nothing to protect farms against invasion, attack and forced eviction.