Disruptions to livelihoods caused by President Robert Mugabe's controversial land-reform programme hastened the deaths of thousands of Zimbabweans and led to the loss of billions of dollars' worth of property, a new report says.
The report, released on Saturday by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, says charges of crimes against humanity could be brought against the perpetrators.
The dramatic claims are contained in the 41-page report on human rights violations inflicted during the land-reform programme, which was launched by Mugabe in 2000.
The rights forum, a coalition of rights groups, carried out its survey on 187 white-owned farms during a six-month period from 2006 to 2007. Of the number of farms surveyed, 94% had been taken over.
The losses of both lives and property on the surveyed farms were probably representative of those incurred by white farmers and their workers since the launch of the land-reform programme, the group says.
Of the 1,3-million farm workers and their families living on about 4 000 white-owned farms before 2000, about 70% are estimated to have lost their livelihoods. Due to the farm seizures, the farm workers have lost their homes, access to medical clinics and other benefits.
The survey found that about 1% of displaced farm workers and their family members had died since losing their jobs. Extrapolated to the entire population of one million farmer workers and their families, 10 000 people could have died after displacement from the farms.
Zimbabwe has one of the world's highest rates of HIV/Aids, with an estimated one in five people infected. The report claims that 66% of surveyed farmworkers used to have access to HIV/Aids programmes before the farms on which they worked were taken over.
White farmers' losses on the surveyed farms, including their earnings, property and livestock, amounted to $368-million, says the forum. If this is crudely extrapolated to the commercial farm sector as a whole, the figures become astronomical -- a total estimated loss to the white-run commercial farming sector of more than $8-billion.
The group says many of the land grabs were carried out by senior government officials. Farmers and their workers were not afforded the protection of the law.
There can be no impunity for gross human rights violations, hence there must be some process of accountability for the violations that occurred during the land-reform exercise, it says.
Zimbabwe used to produce bumper grain crops and prime export commodities such as tobacco, beef and flowers. However, production has plummeted in the past seven years, contributing to a humanitarian crisis.
This year, the cash-strapped government will import hundreds of thousands of tonnes of maize from neighbouring countries. About one-third of the population will require food aid by early 2008, according to United Nations estimates.
While Mugabe's government blames the food crisis on drought, experts point to the devastating effect of the land-reform programme. But the 83-year-old president this week reiterated that his government was morally right in taking over the farms. -- Sapa-dpa
If the repossession of the stolen land is a crime against humanity, what then becomes the of the forced displacement of entire black communities from their land into reserves, the robbing of livestock by the settlers? How many Blacks were killed in the process? Who stands out for them? What cheek these people show!