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Police, army 'looting' in Zimbabwe

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  • jan@webs.co.za
    From: WWW.AfricanCrisis.Org A wave of illegal asset grabs by Zimbabwean officials has ruined a South African farmer and hit at least 20 others, many of them
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2006
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      From: WWW.AfricanCrisis.Org
      A wave of illegal asset grabs by Zimbabwean officials has ruined a South
      African farmer and hit at least 20 others, many of them foreigners,
      farming in the south of the country. The farmer, Peter Henning,
      complained that while the investments of many foreigners in Zimbabwe were
      protected by an agreement between Zimbabwe and their governments, South
      Africa had not signed the treaty. This left its nationals vulnerable.
      Henning, a South African who formerly grew sugar cane in Hippo Valley in
      the Chiredzi district, said officials including members of the police,
      army and prisons staff had descended on his farm in November and
      impounded agricultural equipment worth R3-million. This included
      tractors, trailers and mills. Henning said he had since won a court order
      mandating the return of the equipment. But, as it had been sold at
      auction, he doubted it could be recovered. "Even if it is returned, it
      will be ruined," he said. He understood that, at the auction, only
      government officials and war veterans had been present and that no money
      had changed hands. In effect, the assets had been shared out.

      The seizure, carried out by the Zimbabwe government�s Provincial Farm
      Material and Equipment Acquisition Committee, had been filmed by
      Hennings�s son, Greig. The video had been flighted on December 23 and 25
      in Britain by both the BBC and ITV, as well as on CNN and CBS in the
      United States. Henning said he knew of six other farmers in the Chiredzi
      area, including two South Africans and two Mauritians, whose assets had
      been seized, and of about 15 who had suffered a similar fate elsewhere.
      He pointed out that the seizures were different from those conducted by
      war veterans during Zimbabwe�s chaotic land reform programme, as they
      involved public servants and an officially sanctioned agency. Speaking to
      the Mail & Guardian from Makhado (formerly Louis Trichardt), Henning said
      that although intimidation and politics had played a role in the seizure,
      the fundamental motive was probably greed. "Convenient interpretations of
      policy by local bureaucrats and party hacks have been used for the
      unlawful seizure of equipment for self-enrichment," he said. "We consider
      ourselves victims of looting by the police, army and prisons service."

      According to Henning, a Bilateral Promotion and Protection Agreement,
      covering investment and property, protected investors from Scandinavia
      and states such as Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy from
      unlawful asset grabs. "Yet South Africa, Zimbabwe�s largest trading
      partner, gives me and fellow South African investors in that country
      little or no protection." The two governments were due to sign the
      bilateral agreement, but had not been able to reach consensus, he said.
      According to Henning, a large contingent of officials arrived at his farm
      gate in May last year and proceeded to take an inventory of the
      equipment. He insisted the officials were not carrying the required
      docu-mentation, nor had they followed the lawful procedure for the
      attachment of privately owned assets. He added that the officials were
      "commanded" by Provincial Assistant Commissioner Loveness Ndanga, and
      included members of Zimbabwe regional police, national army, prisons
      service, officials of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority and members
      of the Provincial War Vets Association.

      In early November, the Zimbabwe Regional Police had posted four armed
      guards in front of the farm to prevent the Hennings from using or
      "sabotaging" equipment. Henning said he had informed his attorney and the
      South African embassy in Harare, which had written to the police, the
      Masvingo governor, Willard Chiwewe, and the Agriculture Minister, Joseph
      Made. Henning also wrote to the police telling them that a legal
      challenge to the seizures had been mounted and that a hearing date had
      been set down in the Harare High Court. Believing that they had
      forestalled the seizures, he and his wife left for South Africa on
      November 18. On the same day, they learned that the committee had arrived
      at the farm with police and army vehicles and a crane. The removal of the
      equipment was carried out over a two-day period, while Greig Henning
      captured it on film. Despite a court order against the police,
      instructing them to return the equipment immediately, the police
      distributed the more valuable items, including tractors, among
      themselves. Contacted by the M&G this week, Wayne Bvudzijena, Zimbabwean
      police spokesperson, said he was not "privy to the contents of the high
      court order". Calls to Ndanga, Made and Justice Minister Patrick
      Chinamasa went unanswered. The Department of Foreign Affairs was sent a
      list of questions about the incident, including one about whether South
      Africa and Zimbabwe had failed to conclude a treaty protecting South
      African investors in its northern neighbour. No answer had been received
      at the time of going to press.

      From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 6 January
      By: Yolandi Groenewald
      Source: WWW.ZwNews.Com
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