A war veteran who was given a piece of land described to Human Rights Watch how he found that the same land had been reallocated to different people in subsequent weeks when he tried to go back to his plot. He had been given no written proof that the land was allocated to him. He lamented, "I felt angry because I felt there was some kind of disorder and there was no proper responsibility for the exercise. War veterans and Zanu-PF militia occupying commercial farms have intimidated, assaulted, and in some cases killed white farm owners. These assaults have been widely reported, both in Zimbabwe and internationally.
According to human rights groups and the Commercial Farmers Union, at least seven farmers have been killed in political violence since the beginning of 2000. Many of the farmers targeted have been prominent supporters of the MDC: the farm of MDC MP for Chimanimani Roy Bennett, for example, has been occupied by police and army troops. Farm owners have been assaulted and threatened and their farms occupied whether or not their farms have actually been listed for acquisition by the government. President Mugabe has repeatedly singled out white Zimbabweans as enemies of the state. The first two farmers were killed in April 2000.
David Stevens was shot dead at point blank range by settlers who had occupied his farm at Macheke, south of Harare. A few days later, the farm of Martin Olds, in Nyamandlovu, near Bulawayo, Matabeleland, was invaded by more than one hundred Zanu-PF militia led by war veterans. According to a spokesperson for Zanu-PF, Olds opened fire, hitting five of the invaders with shotgun pellets, who then fired back. Neighboring farmers, who came to the scene after Olds radioed for help indicating he had been shot, but could not gain access, insist that Olds was defending his house as the intruders attempted to break into it.
Police arrived at the house while the gunfight was ongoing but did not intervene. When the house was set alight, Olds was forced outside, and was shot twice in the head at close range. The intruders then left the farm, not seeking to occupy it. In July 2000, Olds' widow fled Zimbabwe and applied for asylum in the U. K. In March 2001, Olds' mother, Gloria Olds, was shot dead on the same farm, which she had refused to leave. The most recent farm owner killed was Robert Fenwick, from Kwekwe, in the Midlands, in August 2001. No arrests have been made in connection with any of these murders.
In some cases, white farmers have assaulted those occupying their land. In one prominent case in July 2001, farmer Philip Bezuidenhout, of Odzi, near Mutare, allegedly deliberately ran over and killed Fabian Mapenzauswa, a settler on his farm. Bezuidenhout was arrested and charged with murder. The case has not yet come to court. In other cases, farm workers have themselves organized to drive away the settlers, and injuries have occurred in the context of these clashes. Overt attacks on white farmers-which have attracted greater international and national publicity than those on black Zimbabweans-have reduced in recent months.
However, extortion of money from commercial farmers has increased, with the implied threat of violence behind the demands for money. Throughout the process of land occupation, however, most victims of the violence have been poor, rural, black Zimbabweans. In June 2000, the National Employment Council for the agricultural industry (a tripartite body of government, employers, and unions) published a report noting that, as a result of the farm occupations, at least 3,000 farm workers had been displaced from their homes, twenty-six killed, 1,600 assaulted, and eleven raped.
The majority (47. 2 percent) were supporters of the MDC; nearly as many (43. 6 percent) had no political affiliation; a few (4. 7 percent) were Zanu-PF supporters. Farm workers have continued to be the victims of violence during farm occupations: the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum documented the deaths of four farm workers (including security guards and game scouts) and numerous assaults during 2001. The CFU reported twenty farm workers killed as of May 2001.
In addition to this, violence against farm workers is linked to the support given to the MDC by commercial farmers and, by perceived implication, by their workers too. In many areas, it seems that farm workers have been targeted for violence both so that the assailants could take over their homes, and in order to deprive the white farm owner of numerous potential allies who have a stake in keeping their jobs and might therefore support the farm owner in resisting government policy. Weaknesses in the organizational representation of farm workers have also made them vulnerable to assault and intimidation.