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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 11:33 GMT
Black Zimbabweans suffer in land reform
Farmworkers fleeing their homes
Many thousands of black farmworkers are destitute

On the edge of a dry, dusty field, 30 miles east of Harare there is a small collection of mud huts.

It is home to 200 farmworkers.

Five months ago, they worked in the surrounding tobacco fields for their white employer but the farmer has been forced off his land and the crop he planted has withered in the ground.

We have no food, no work and no money. Who will feed my children now

Grace, farmworker

The self-styled "war veterans" who surround his empty farmhouse refuse to let these people work. They are guarding this farm for their new tenant.

President Robert Mugabe claims land like this has been confiscated to assist the resettlement of landless peasants.

But the selection process is controlled by committees from the ruling Zanu-PF party and the main beneficiaries are party officials, "war veterans", and card-carrying members of the party, some of whom have no background in farming.

Broken nation

The tenant of this farm has yet to make an appearance.

In the faces of these former farm workers is a nation broken.

Cowed into submission by their indifferent masters they sit and wait.

Five-year-old Herbert Chikasa, with head injuries
Even farmworkers' children have been beaten

But as they wait the stomachs of their children grow bigger, swollen by malnutrition.

"We have no food, no work and no money. Who will feed my children now," says 37-year-old Grace.

Her 10 children are given one meal a day.

Through the hot afternoons, under a baking sun, they scavenge in the nearby woods for roots and fruit.

Already two people from this village have died. One from chronic diahorrea, the other from Aids.

Political aid

"Something like 4.6 million people in this country need food aid now," says the Reverend Tim Neill.

"By December that figure is going to rise to 6.7 million".

I would say we are down to 10% of production

John Worsley Worswick, White farmer

Reverend Neill resigned from the Anglican church last year over the controversial appointment of Nolbert Kunonga, the bishop of Harare, an open supporter of Mr Mugabe.

Since then, he has been involved with the Farm Community Development Trust, a charity assisting commercial farmers and their workers affected by the land reforms.

His work is getting harder as the government tries to restrict the work of the charities.

"The queue forms and the first third get the food - the last two-thirds of the queue don't get any food. I suppose it is just a miracle that the first third were people supporting the Zanu-PF party," Reverend Neill observed sarcastically.

Sharp decline

Mr Mugabe's fast track land-reform plan is now in its final stages.

In 2000, there were 4,500 white-owned farms.

Zimbabweans queuing for food aid
Only government supporters get food aid

Today only 400 farmers are still on their land.

More than 300 farmers have been arrested this year for breaching the government's compulsory acquisition orders, known as a Section 8.

With vast areas of farmland left untended, the government now has precious few commodities to export - the economy is in sharp decline.

"I would say we are down to 10% of production," said John Worsley Worswick, from the farmers' lobby group, Justice for Agriculture.

" We used to produce something like 220 million kg of tobacco. A month ago we were looking at a crop of around 40 million kg, now we are probably looking at something more like 20 million kg.

"Ten per cent of production. And I think that will be reflected right across the board for every crop. In fact it will probably be worse. It is not as political at the moment to produce a tobacco crop as it is to produce a food crop."

Black market

Tobacco accounts for one third of Zimbabwe's foreign currency reserves; money the country needs to buy things like fuel and other imports.

The shortage of foreign currency is crippling and as the crisis continues to get worse the Zimbabwean Government has defaulted on all its foreign loans.

President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe says he is giving land to the poor

The impact of this economic catastrophe is everywhere.

In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, we queued for an hour and a half at the only petrol station with any fuel.

The biggest hospital in the capital, Harare, is running out of essential drugs.

As the Zimbabwean dollar continues to plummet in value, people are desperately trying to exchange Zimbabwean currency for US dollars.

The official exchange rate has been pegged at 55 Zimbabwean dollars to one US dollar.

On the black market, the exchange rate two weeks ago was Z$700 - by the end of last week it was up to Z$1,500.

Every day food prices change.

The menus in Harare are marked up every morning and yet the wages stay fixed.

The BBC's Mike Donkin
"Zimbabwe is falling apart"

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06 Sep 02 | Africa
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