Zimbabwe’s white commercial farmers are claiming that some Zanu PF activists have over the years been extorting thousands of dollars to protect them from being evicted from commercial farms.
According to Ben Frieth of the Southern African Development Community Tribunal, this has been happening since Zimbabwe embarked on a land reform program in 2000, which saw the eviction of more than 3,600 white commercial farmers from their land by Zanu PF activists.
Frieth says some remaining 300 commercial farmers are being forced to pay protection fees by some Zanu PF activists.
“It’s something that has been going on for a long time. I know some farmers who have been forced to pay tens of thousands of U.S dollars just to be able to continue farming on their land in a country that is starving.”
A top government official, Martin Dinha, has been brought before the courts to face charges of allegedly soliciting for $60,000 from a white commercial farmer, Guy Frank Dollar, to protect him from any government moves to evict him.
Dinha, who is facing charges of abusing his office and money laundering, was remanded out of custody on $1,000 bail. He is set to appear in court at the end of next month.
Zanu PF Central Committee member and parliamentarian, Joseph Tshuma, says affected farmers should report such cases to the police.
“The best mechanism to monitor that is for the people that are being forced to pay are supposed to come out and say it,” says Tshuma.
He adds that white commercial farmers, who have are not fully utilizing the land fearing that it can be taken away by the government are bound to lose it through compulsory.
“If the person does not want to work their land because they are living in fear, we will take that land and give it to somebody else,” says Tshuma.
Some critics blame Zimbabwe’s land reforms for the near collapse of the agriculture sector.