Mugabe’s farm workers lament his takeover

Mugabe's workers lament his takeover

Robert Mugabe always argued that his land seizures would liberate Zimbabweans from poverty, but those who work on his farms say they were better off under their former bosses.

Telegraph By Peta Thornycroft in Harare

25 Sep 2009

Violent land seizures began in Zimbabwe in 2000 carried out by so- called "war veterans" (pictured) Photo: AFP/GETTY

Misheck – whose real name cannot be disclosed for fear of reprisals – grew up on one of the farms on Mr Mugabe's estate and his two children were born and are schooled there.

"The farm managers are cruel. The new one doesn't let us go into the fields after the combines have been in to pick what's left, wheat seeds, potatoes, sweet potatoes," he said.

"The previous farmers gave continuity and used the farm properly, and we got bonuses after a good harvest. He also listened to our personal problems. Getting a loan now is a thing of the past," he said.

After the farms were invaded, he said, "they stopped workers from doing anything on the farm if they were suspected of loyalty to the previous owner, or connected to MDC. They would harass and beat people."

Later rumours circulated that the farms had been taken for the president.

"First we were told we would be working for ARDA, then later we were told the farms belong to the president. Some were told by [agriculture minister] Joseph [Made], some were told by management.

"Some who had been working for ARDA were upset because by moving to Gushungo, [Mr Mugabe's company] they would lose their pensions." Workers say they are paid minimum wage for the jobs they carry out, which ranges from £13 to £25 a month. They receive enough maize meal for their families and recently were also given vegetables, and have free accommodation. Some of the workers' villages have electricity, while others do not.