Zimbabwe: Military Forces Farmers Into Slavery

Desmond Kwande/AFP/Getty Images

Zimbabwe: Military Forces Farmers Into Slavery

In a bid to increase food production and control the population, Mugabe has taken some drastic measures.

Since Mugabe’s 2000 fast-track “land-reform” program redistributed farms to blacks, leaving thousands of white farmers landless and destroying the nation’s agricultural industry and economy, things have gone from bad to worse in Zimbabwe.

With effective food production destroyed, the economy in tatters and the prospect of food riots, Mugabe’s government decided to implement a Command Agriculture program. In November 2005, Zimbabwe began “Operation Taguta/Sisuthi,” or “Operation Eat Well,” a program aimed at placing food production largely under the control of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces. As with Mugabe’s other economic initiatives, primarily aimed at preserving his tyrannical hold on power, the results of this program have been disastrous.

Since March last year, Mugabe’s military has taken over tracts of land in parts of southern Zimbabwe deemed “under-utilized” in order to plant maize. After visiting the area earlier this month, the Solidarity Peace Trust, a human rights group, warned that tens of thousands of smallholder-farm families have been left with no income and no food—and been forced into virtual slavery. “There are also widespread reports that Mugabe’s soldiers are raping local women and girls on a massive scale,” Rense.com reported July 14.

For several years, the staple food of maize has been used by Zimbabwe’s government as a tool of manipulation. The government, which controls the distribution of maize, has withheld the grain from those who didn’t support it. With the army now having partial control of maize production also, the government can also cut off food even to the very people who grow it. The soldiers have destroyed the vegetable crops and fruit trees that were used to supplement small land-owners’ incomes and diets, and farmers have to beg for the maize they themselves have grown.

Of course, such efforts are only adding to the nation’s woes, with the suffering of the people and damage to the economy just compounding.

Read “‘Hondo!’ in Zimbabwe” for more on the failed “solutions” Mugabe has tried to implement—and how and when true solutions will come.