HARARE – It has not take long for the new government to revive feelings in the population that we thought had been banished to the dustbins of history.
In fact it took less than a hundred days.
Was it coincidental that while millions of urban dwellers were waiting for bulldozers of destruction to descend on their homes and shops, similar fears of homelessness and destitution are spreading to rural areas?
Within days of initial threats by government that they would be proceeding with urban clearances, there came the news of a nationwide cancellation of all existing A1 offer letters for people occupying plots on commercial farm land.
The threats that urban demolitions were definitely going ahead, starting in Harare and spreading across the country left everyone startled.
Would they get home and find their house reduced to rubble and their possessions on the streets?
As the voices of condemnation grew louder, the promises of destruction were reiterated.
We will break them down and build new houses, said deputy Local Government minister Joel Matiza, adding that people should add their names to the national housing waiting list. Fear grew and when it reached fever pitch one day before demolitions were to start, suddenly contradictions started coming from a seemingly clueless government.
A fog of confusion and fear hung over the country.
Confusion because people did not know what was going to happen.
Fear because people know what has happened before; they know how the bulldozers rolled through towns, mercilessly destroying homes and livelihoods of almost a million people.
While there was a national outcry over proposed urban clearances, there was comparative silence when it came to A1 plots.
All people on A1 plots were instructed to hand back their offer letters so they could be given new ones. Lands and Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora said: “No-one is being resettled. No one will lose a farm in the process.”
But confusion set in because the new offer letters only give A1 settlers 14 days to “communicate with the land committee.”
Fourteen days at the busiest time of year for any farmer when he is in the fields from dawn to dusk?
Confusion deepened when we read in the media that the new offer letters state: “The District Land Committee reserves the right to withdraw or change this offer if it deems necessary…”
Then, exactly as it was for the white Zimbabwean farmers who were evicted to make way for the A1 settlers, we read that if the government decides an offer letter should be withdrawn: “no compensation will be claimable or payable whatsoever.” Confused?
Imagine how the A1 farmers must be feeling.
The security they thought they had on their A1 plots has been pulled from under their feet in a sentence.
Why did they bother to improve the plots?
They must be asking themselves.
According to local media reports, Mombeshora has just dispatched teams to tour provinces in order to “acquaint the ministry with challenges in the land reform programme.”
Is it not a bit late, after years of hunger and food imports?
But the prize winner in the confusion category came from reports that: “Dr Mombeshora said government would not repossess farms occupied by indigenous farmers perceived to be under-utilising land for as long as sanctions remained in place.”
Does that mean farmers can keep under-utilised land because there are still under EU imposed sanctions against just 10 individuals and one company?
Yes, in case you did not realise, there are now only 10 people left on the sanctions list.