The Citizen (KZN)

Derelict farm a stark warning


The story we run today by Zimbabwean Cathy Buckle, about her return to her family’s farm 24 years after Robert Mugabe’s government began seizing white-owned agricultur­al holdings, is heartbreak­ing in a number of senses. While there will, undoubtedl­y, be some who say she, as a “settler”, got what she deserved because white colonists stole the land in that country from indigenous Africans, the reality is that the farm was bought after independen­ce in 1980, with government approval and a certificat­e saying there was no interest in acquiring it for land resettleme­nt.

She and her family were, like other Zimbabwean white farmers, the victims of a massive exercise by Mugabe to divert attention from a collapsing economy. Again, some might say: So what?

When Buckle and her family were forced off the land, it was a thriving farming enterprise, a mixed tobacco and dairy farm, which provided employment for many, generating foreign exchange and taxes for the government in Harare.

The real tragedy, as she recounts in her story today, is that the farm no longer exists, having been turned into housing. No longer is there production of food or crops, which generate income.

And it is clear that the now unproducti­ve land also echoes the broader Zimbabwean society: the rich have built their big houses on it, while the poor, some distance away, live in the same sort of basic pole-andthatch huts that they did when the colonists arrived.

Buckle’s story – and our highlighti­ng of it – should not be construed as nostalgia for the “good old days” of apartheid, colonialis­m or white rule.

It should be seen as a grim, yet eloquent, warning about how land redistribu­tion can be disastrous if not done properly – and how the agricultur­al sector must be carefully guarded and nurtured.

We hope our government pays attention to her words.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa