The Land Act's Losers

Tendai Madinah

[ From Horizon September 1993 p. 7]

How many farm workers will lose their jobs and homes to land acquisition? The CFU doesn't know. The government doesn't want to be bothered.

Thousands of farm workers face an uncertain future as the government prepares to take over designated commercial farms for resettlement.

While the Land Acquisition Act, which empowers the government to acquire land from commercial farms, clearly spells out the procedure for acquiring the land, the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) says the plight of workers is not addressed in the Act and that it is in the dark about their position.

It appears the government does not have a master plan for farm workers.

An official with the Ministry of Local Government told Horizon it was assumed that every worker had a communal home. "When the farm is finally resettled, the workers can go back to their communal homes where they can apply to be considered for resettlement if they wish," he said.

Most farm workers in Zimbabwe are migrant labourers, like their counterparts in the mining industry, and stand to be repatriated.
The CFU says there are about 300 000 labourers on all the commercial farms. The number of people being supported by the farms is much greater if the workers' dependents and casual labourers are added. The CFU does not know exactly how many farm workers will be affected by designation.

Most workers Horizon spoke to about designation expressed fears about where they might end up once the farms are taken.

"We are worried that we might be left out without a home because of this designation," said Jim Karambira, a foreman at Chalton farm in Centenary district.

Charlton was among 70 farms designated recently by government. While 27 farmers successfully appealed against designation, the owner of Charlton, Alistair Davies, was one of the 43 farmers whose appealed failed. He employes 48 workers, all of whom are migrant workers. With casual labourers and families included, the farm supports about 300 individuals.

Karambira and the rest of the workers do not know where to go after the takeover. He told Horizon, "Originally I am from Mozambique, but I have been working on this farm since 1964. This farm is the only home I have in the world.

"If I go back to Mozambique I will just be like a stranger. I now regard myself as a Zimbabwean."

He said the only hint about their fate was when Davies told them the farm was to be taken over for resettlement. They had not heard anything since.

The General Agricultural and Plantation Workers' Union (GAPWUZ), which represents about 40 000 workers countrywide, believes the position of farm labour in the acquisition exercise has to be clarified as a matter of urgency.

The union's president, Mocklard Mudiwa, told Horizon, "While we fought for our land, there must be proper allocation of it so that farm workers can also benefit."

He says three-quarters of the farm workers in Zimbabwe are migrants from Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. Most of them have been working on the same farms for more than 30 years and consider themselves Zimbabweans.

Mudiwa believes the workers should be given financial assistance to re-establish themselves since the farms have become their permanent homes. They do not earn enough to save for a fresh start in life and their terminal benefits are likely to be meagre, he points out. Workers covered by pension funds are not much better off either. Generally each worker pays $10 a month with a matching contribution from his employer.

This material derives from Hyperland, a University of Zimbabwe hypertext project under the direction of Andrew Morrison, and I would like to thank him and the authors quoted for sharing their research with this website. [GPL]
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