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Looting cheap food from hungry Zimbabweans

Twenty years ago this week farm invasions began in Zimbabwe and they have continued for much of the last two decades.
Image: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP via Getty Images/Bloomberg

Dear Family and Friends,

I am writing this letter to you on Robert Mugabe Youth Day, a recently proclaimed public holiday. It’s a beautiful day under a hot sun and bright blue sky but it’s hard to see what our youth have got to celebrate. Unemployment around 90%, inflation over 500%, queues for money, food and fuel and not even electricity today. Hopes of getting a job are extremely slim; manufacturing capacity predicted at 27% this year and a guarantee of tear gas, police truncheons and brutality if you dare to demonstrate.
For forty years Zimbabwe has been riddled with endemic corruption at the hands of the party in power. Nothing of any value: natural, man-made or donated has been spared: war victims compensation funds, cars, railways, aeroplanes, housing, oil, steel, gold, diamonds, airports, timber, electricity, banking and the list goes on and on. For the last two decades corruption has been rampant around land and agriculture from the allocation of seized farms to government cronies, security personnel VIPs and members of the judiciary to farm mechanization funds, farm equipment, multiple farm holdings, the Command agriculture scheme, selling free inputs and this week the latest scandal of diverting subsidized maize has been exposed.  
A Parliamentary Portfolio Committee heard that abuse of the subsidized maize facility was rife. Senior executives in the government’s GMB (Grain Marketing Board) were implicated: allocating subsidized maize to millers far in excess of their capacity. The millers were in turn diverting the maize to the black market and selling it to neighbouring countries, making huge profits in the process. There were accounts of trucks from the DR Congo offloading copper in South Africa and on their return journey through Zimbabwe filling their empty trucks with our subsidized maize. The corruption extends to border officials who stamp documents with false declarations as to the source of the cargo on trucks which proceed to exit Zimbabwe loaded with our cheap maize. Giving evidence to the Parliamentary Committee we heard that shops in Mozambique are selling Zimbabwean maize and callers to a radio programme saw our maize in shops in Malawi and further north on the route to the DR Congo.
Zimbabwe’s subsidized maize is imported grain and supposed to be assisting hungry and impoverished Zimbabweans. If you can find it, subsidized maize is supposed to sell for Z$70 for 10kgs but on the black market it sells for Z$140 and more than that in countries across our borders. Nothing is sacred in Zimbabwe, not even cheap food for starving people.
Twenty years ago this week farm invasions began in Zimbabwe and they have continued for much of the last two decades. In those horrific, terrifying days when we called police and begged them to help us when government supporters were burning, looting, destroying and evicting us and our employees from our homes and properties, the police would not come, saying it was political. That sentiment remains true today with government withdrawing leases from people who were allocated seized land but who are now perceived to be political rivals. An estimated one million people, (10% of our population at the time) who lived, worked on and owned those seized farms lost everything; we lost our homes, livelihoods, jobs, investments and pensions. But we were not the only losers. Twenty years later Zimbabwe as a whole continues to pay the price of the destruction of commercial agriculture.
This week the Zimbabwe government announced that they were introducing maximum farm sizes and would be taking away sections of land in excess of the new hectarages. Another wave of partisan land distributions is inevitable. After twenty years Zimbabwe has still not accepted the fact that you need commercial farmers to grow the country’s food and not your political allies and supporters. 
With well over half of our population dependent on International Food Aid two decades later, the statistics of Zimbabwe’s agricultural production say it all: (Figures from the Mundi Index)
Wheat  (metric tons) 1999: 324,000             2019:  100,000
Maize (metric tons)    1999: 2,148,000          2019: 777,000
Soya (metric tons)      1999:  79,000              2019:   29,000
Cotton (217kg bags)   1999:  590,000            2019: 190,000
Sorghum (metric ton)    1999: 100,000         2019: 40,000
As I write this letter, our neighbours in South Africa are arriving at the same crossroad Zimbabwe faced twenty years ago: the expropriation of land without compensation. We hope they learn from us.
Until next time, thanks for reading this Letter From Zimbabwe, now in its 20th year, and my books about life in Zimbabwe, a country in waiting, love cathy 21 February 2020. Copyright © Cathy Buckle.  There is no charge for this letter but if you would like to contribute please visit my website
For information on my books about  Zimbabwe go to  For archives of Letters From Zimbabwe, to subscribe/unsubscribe or to contact me please visit my website

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It should be telling that there was no outcry from the SA leaders at the time…power in the hands of kids without the ability to foresee consequences, except the ones that spell increase in political power! I command this foul, dark, destructive spirit to be exposed, so people can see clearly and act decisively! Thanks for shining your light from a dark corner, Cathy!

Equally telling is the fact that they took up arms against the Rhodesian government when they had enough to eat and unemployment was far lower. People get the government the deserve. I have less than zero sympathy with modern-day Zimbabweans. They voted for this. Let them enjoy their liberation.

Thanks Cathy for this informative article.

My hope for the future is that the international community will turn on these corrupt governance schemes in Africa the way they turned on previous governments in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

I’m sure many Zimbabweans who can remember days before independence long back to the days of prosperity and growth.

The international community is toothless.

Question I have where is the The Mighty USA and their Pro Democracy Soldiers?

People starved by their own government sound s bit like genocide to me.

Should USA intervene in Zim, the combined Corruption of political Africa will be agains this. Zim citizens must do what Mugabe did.

U honestly think losing acouple of American lives over this is worth it?

Did they find oil in Zimbabwe?

Lol no “freedom” if you dont have the black stuff

not “toothless” just politically correct.

Cant help noticing the similarities between where the current situation seems to be going and the precolonial tribal system.

Those day’s everybody got a small piece of land to farm and everything belonged to the chief. He will barely keep you alive so as to not loose his booty.

War and famine controlled the size of the population those day’s and kept it pretty stable at a few thousand not millions. Colonial laws and commercial farming changed all this and tribal war basically stopped and millions could be fed.

Reverting to the subsistence tribal system will have a cost and if the international community dont take charge of the situation war and famine will do it.

Is it not happening already? If you can only feed a few thousand? well …..

The international community taking charge is not sustainable.

too left to go right.

There is a big difference between what South African government land expropriation and Zimbabwean land grabs. 1.There is been inclusive land panel review which was tasked to look at how best black South African can get access to land. Recommendations were made available for everyone to read and also comment. Instead Afrikaans speaking people are spreading lies to Donald Trump because they believe in not sharing. Whether you like it on not economic transformation must happen which will include land expropriation with compassion. You can give it a new name to suite your agenda. Black needs land as much as white people. For those that are against it they can start preparing t sabotage our government’s efforts. The same way we prayed for apartheid to end we will pray for blacks to get land.

Many ordinary people who want land they go ahead and buy it or finance the purchase. Difficult concept hey plus your great political master (the ANC) is the largest land owner in the country yet they don’t actually don’t want you to own it (they want to own it). Look the Government must go ahead and start with EWC and let us see where the bone fall (but remember it has failed everywhere else).

For sure, one can have sympathy for your point:

Assuming land expropriation gets correctly handled by govt (if its possible?) and Africans also eventually share in a fair part/majority of the land, as in the ANC’s vision for a peaceful SA…..

…I have the following future scenario questions:

1. What % (up or down) would the future gross domestic agricultural output be, say a decade or two down the line?
2. What would the state’s debt to GDP ratio would be? Higher or lower?
3. What size of the economy (in GDP) be in future, in relation to current size? (i.e. what % larger or smaller).
4. Based on the above, would SARS collections be better or worse? (to aid the poor)
5. Services to communities (water & elec) will it be improved compared to today, or worse?

(Am concerned about the “sabotage” talk. Please don’t believe the ANC lies….past regimes has blamed economic decline to the whites causing it by emigration, like the English leaving Zim, and Portuguese leaving Moz.)

The “correcting of the wrongs of the past” narrative by the ANC since ’94 (the driver of AA/BEE/entitlement theme)…do you believe in it?

If YES, then kindly provide examples in history where the colonial British has redressed the wrongs of the past against 26,000 Afrikaner Boer women & children (and 18,000 African farm workers who died)?

If past wrongs must be set right, kindly provide examples where the German nation repaid debt to the Jews.

Also need examples where the Japanese reset the wrongs of the past against the Chinese before WW2.

The Pakistani versus Indian atrocities….has anyone redressed the wrongs of the past reciprocally between these nations?

The Roman Empire against the Byzantine Empire? Lots of damages caused by empire building. Has debt been repaid yet?

The Serbian atrocities against ethnic Bosnians? (…there’s many other Eastern Europe examples)

The crimes of the (Shaka) Zulu nation against smaller tribes (Ndwandwe tribe, other Sesotho tribes) prior 1900? How has redressing taken place between these tribes afterwards?

Please Google, Wikipedia, Reparation agreement between Israel & West Germany. It needs to be stressed West Germany! Communist lead East Germany never paid any reparations at all.

First, you will pray for land, and the moment your prayers are answered, you will start praying for food and medical supplies. Every nation on earth, where people received land for free, ran out of food and medical supplies shortly after. You better pray that your prayers for land are not answered. A truly benevolent Higher Power will protect you from yourself by granting you property rights and the rule of law, instead of free land.

Property rights form the basis of the Ten Commandments. Therefore, you cannot pray to get land for free. These concepts are mutually exclusive. You can either pray for the sanctity of property rights, or you can abandon religion and steal land. The latter option will mean certain death for the majority.

These laws were not made by white people. These are the laws of nature. The “white people” learnt these lessons the hard way. Many died through hunger and starvation before they realised that property rights should be protected. You can be smart and learn from the mistakes of other people, or you can be stupid and make your own.

No one wants land. They want a job and a house close to where they live. Go offer a piece of land in the Karoo to someone wearing read, and he will tell you to get lost (yet not so politely)

Land is being used as a political vote gatherer and your average voter is stupid enough to believe that Utpoia will exist once everyone in SA has their piece of land. Sometimes you got to play the cards you dealt.

Almost right.
They don’t actually want the land. They don’t actually want the job either. What they really want is a wabenzi and pure raw cash to do with as they please. Land will be swooped for these two things chop chop – anc knows this… That’s why they don’t like giving title deeds out….that’s why The current recipents of free land almost straight away strip the assets of any land given….. All live stock taken off to th abotorr, $$$… All farming equipment quickly and quietly sold to the nieghbouring farmers and the tractors all sold off for wabenzis…. Then naturally the farm goes down… But they don’t care they have what they always wanted…… 2 years later all the money has ran out – they spent it instead of researching on moneyweb to invest it. The wabenzis are mostly all written off in accidents…. The one or two that didn’t are sitting on bricks…. As no servicing was done… Then they all come back and sit in the old farm house with no windows or doors, which they stripped years ago… Start making calls to any reporters willing to come out and hear there sorry tale as how government let them down badly…. Cause it didn’t give them a title deed so they couldn’t expand as the bank wouldn’t lend them money to do so……………………………… There next dream is for government to grant them a title deed for this piece of land they ran into the ground…. And if they do indeed get there dirty hands on that little piece of title deed…. U know exactly what they plan on doing next……. U can actually now kinda see why the anc fat cats take the money for themselves instead…….. It’s gonna be wasted…. Atleast let some anc fat cats family enjoy a holiday in dubai..

@Ally Cat, your comment reads like a Wilbur Smith novel… make history come alive!!

I have been saying that all along Charles, no one wants a farm in an arid desert area, ie 80% of SA.

What was wrong with paying market related prices for the land? Instead of putting the whole economy at risk. The problem with the existing policy was yr African representatives just kept stealing all the money for themselves.

“Hail, hail, join us in the time machine and travel back into time – a time when we all had land (really), a time before electricity, a time before paper money, a time before food in the supermarket, a time before potable water, and a time before modern medical care”.

Enjoy your journey my friends. Or you can just get in your car and travel north of the Limpopo and experience the utopia where everyone (really) has land (but a valueless currency, empty shops, no electricity, clean water, and no medical care).

Safe travels. We all know where the journey ends but we are determined to get there as soon as possible.

Africa performing how Africa always performs. It’s only us people who view it thru western standard eyes that have a problem. This is the way Africa has worked for 1000s of years. This is not a corrupted system. This is the system.

Africa for africans.. get in tune with the music

When the leaders of a race group are allowed to abuse and oppress their own people without fear of sanction it is a sad, corrupt system.

Well, the majority of Zimbabweans should be rather pleased that they got the transformation that they voted for. After all, you can’t rid yourself of all things that smack of ‘Colonial’, but then expect the perks of Western Civilization like democracy, law and order, infrastructure, industry or …food.

Cathy Buckle is (indirectly) writing about SOUTH AFRICA, not Zimbabwe.

In RHODESIA the agricultural output (I rely on her stats) was close to 3X more than ZIMBABWE today.

Hence, that makes for easy calculus, applied to SA:

SOUTH AFRICA’s agric output (today) will be approx 3X larger than AZANIA’s output 20 years into the future.

Even if ZANU-PF fiddled with every election since 1980, why are the people still voting for them?

Also, the opposition were sleeping – during the last election they did not insist that people outside Zim must vote. That could have changed the outcome.

Both ZANU-PF and the ANC are still at the “taking” stage of political development, they are not yet at the “building” stage.

They by passed the biulding stage for the taking stage….. Zanupf is outa that stage. now they be intering the collapse stage.

End of comments.





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