an investigative project in Zimbabwe at the moment is very complex
considering the difficult legislative framework, political and economic environment
and the general social climate created by the prevailing situation.
It is now common cause that Zimbabwe is going through a
deep political and economic crisis created by a whole range of factors – both
internal and external – which may not be the issue to discuss here but relevant
to point out to the extent it impacts on investigate journalism in the country.
I would explore these impediments in relation to the project that I am working
on- “Farm workers-the worst victims of land reform programme”
To begin with the Zimbabwean constitution which I must say
is fundamentally flawed in a numbers of respects does not guarantee press
freedom. It does have a clause on freedom of expression, but has a grey area on
the issue of the freedom of the media. This means that press freedom is only
implied in the supreme law and anyone can draw their own convenient
interpretations to suit their whims.
While still on the subject, the legal framework for media
operations in Zimbabwe is very
repressive in a number of ways. The law governing the media are so stringent
that if they were to applied in full and to maximum effect – which occasionally
they are – it would be very virtually impossible to do any form of investigate
journalism in that country. The most lethal ones which come immediately to mind
include the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the
Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. These two pieces of legislation,
combined with Public Order and Security Act (POSA), are some of the most
pernicious laws which the country has ever had. They target the media in
pointed ways and make it extremely difficult to conduct, not just investigate
journalism, but any form of professional and reasonably inquisitive approach to
journalism. AIPPA as we call the law that directly deals with the media
requires compulsory registration of media houses and journalism and has severe
clauses on reporting stories government may consider to be untrue or false. It
has been used as a gagging instrument through intimidation and arrests of
journalists. Over the years since it came into effect in 2002 dozens of private
media journalists have been harassed and arrested under this law. At least five
newspapers have also been closed under this law. Furthermore, when intimidation
and arrests failed newspapers have been bombed.
If this is not repressive enough journalists can be jailed
for 20 years for allegedly “publishing or communication false statements prejudicial
to the State” under the Criminal Law. This is classified as crime against the
state under this law. POSA is used to randomly harass and intimidate
journalists. This makes it very difficult to engage in investigate journalism.
There is so much political intolerance in the countryside
such that to penetrate and extract information from the community has become
increasingly difficult and require advanced skills. Rural populace have become
hesitant and skeptical to divulge any sensitive information to strangers. These
are the people who have been subjected to serious brutality in the run up to
elections over the past 7 years. Some of them were brutalized and beaten up for
being suspected to be opposition supporters. These are the people who have been
often victimized for supporting the white-farmers when their farms were
invaded. Some of these people have been denied access to alternative source of
information except government propaganda.
There is fear constant fear that giving out information
strangers would be viewed as selling out.
Moreover the general trend of wanting to authenticate the
information you would have gathered. It has become casting stone than if you
get some information from an ordinary village, you need to authenticate that
information through the police or government staructure.
Economic EnvironmentÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
The situation is made worse by fact that Zimbabwe is going
through an economic crisis. Media houses simply don’t have adequate resources
to fund investigative journalism. The media is heavily constrained by the lack
of resources to enable their reporters to spend time and money working on
investigative articles. Even if the media house is willing to put its money
into some investigative work basic requirements for movement such as fuel is
All this combined make it a nightmare for journalists in Zimbabwe to
pursue investigative journalism.
developed a bureaucratic system which discourages people from following up any work
of investigative work. To reach out in the community you need to seek clearance
from the authorities. Eg. During the operation Murambatsvina- you would need a
written clearance letter to gain access into government created settlements
such as Caledonia and Hopley Estate. To
carryout work in a rural community you need to go through the chief and the
How do we deal with the obstacles
However, journalists have come up with several survival
strategy in the bid bring out the true story. We have developed strong
networks, which include the ruling party structures, opposition,
non-governmental organization and the ordinary people in particular
communities. It is surprising that even the Zanu PF structures would be willing
to provide information but on the understanding that they will be protected.
The NGOs are often prepared to give some information but
again they would require some form of anonymity especially if it’s the actual
team working with the community.
The opposition is always ready to give information but
again their limited access to the rural populace would leave gaps in the
Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â The idea that you
would be dealing with victimized people requires you to build confidence hence
the need to develop networks in which people known to the victims help in the
The project in summary
and rights violations of farm workers took place during the land reform
programme in which white-owned commercial farms were invaded and violently seized
In addition to the
displacements and abuses, farm workers suffered catastrophic losses of income,
habitation, education, health services and access to clean water and sanitation
that contributed to a high death rate.
Analysts have often pointed
at the land reform chaos as the spark of the Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown and
According to this survey
of 120 former commercial farm workers from six provinces in Zimbabwe,
conducted over eight weeks in 2007, only 3% reported that they had been
re-employed by the new farmers. Ninety six per cent of the respondents mostly
aliens from Malawi, Zambia or Mozambique have been rendered destitute but
said they still live in Zimbabwe and
survive on informal jobs and handouts. Only 1% had benefited from the land
The majority of the workers were forced off the compounds and houses that were built for them by their former employers on allegations that they were sabotaging the land reform exercise by supporting the white farmers strongly suspected to be opposition MDC supporters and financiers. A small number managed to stay at the compounds because of their allegiance to the ruling party Zanu PF.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â At the height of the farm evictions the farm workers could be seen camping along the country's major highway. They either didn't have anywhere to go or they could not afford transport to their rural homes. Investigations revealed that the majority of them were of alien origins—third generations of their forefathers who had come from either Malawi, Zambia or Mozambique to work in farms so they had nowhere to go back to.
The farm workers have disappeared or were forcibly evicted from the temporary settlements along the highways. Land allocation statistics show that only 3% of the over 350 000 former permanent farm workers benefited from the land reform programme.
The obvious question that comes to mind and remain, unanswered and without a fair coverage by the media for the past seven years when government embarked on the land reform is that:
Where are the former farm workers and how are they managing to survive under the prevailing harsh economic conditions?
This research focuses on former farm workers’ access to resettlement land, farm compound residency, basic health care and education.
The few who remained on the farms often give horrendous tales of ill-treatment at the hands of the new farmers. They are underpaid and made to work long hours without a break. Some like orphaned children and the old -even work for food rations for them to survive.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
The majority no longer have permanent since their new employers only hire them during summer seasons when there is some work to do. They move from one plot to the other for piece-jobs, where they are often paid in maize or any other form of grain to feed their families.
The health situation on the new farms have rapidly deteriorated after farm clinics were shut down as the farm workers and health workers were forced off the properties. Disease outbreaks have become a common development in the new settlements. No one has the means to take the sick to hospitals. The situation is worsened by the economic meltdown with virtually everything becoming scarce in Zimbabwe.
Thousands of children have dropped from schools either as a result of closure of the farm schools or because the now jobless former farm workers cannot afford the fees that the school are asking for. The few remaining schools in the former commercial farmland are far away from each other that pupils might have to endure up to 30 kilometres to get to the nearest secondary school. Even government efforts to open satellite schools hit a snag as teachers turn down appointment into the undeveloped jungles.
This report finds that the
gross human rights violations, and the violations of rights generally, were
much greater than had been previously assumed. It is also evident that the
patterns of violations and those involved in the perpetration of these
violations are not commensurate with conflicts over land between land owners
and landless people. Instead the data from the survey suggests organised
appropriation by an elite, as has been widely claimed.
The report concludes that the
evidence is strongly suggestive of a systematic campaign, as evidenced by the
failure of the police and civilian authorities to enforce the law and offer the
protection of the law.
The report finds that a
plausible case can be made for crimes against humanity having been committed
during these displacements.
War veterans and members
of Zanu(PF) were the largest number of perpetrators of the violations, followed
by the police. Other significant perpetrators were found to be members of
parliament, officials from the president’s office, provincial governors, and
other government officials. These findings point to an organized seizure of
land planned by officials, not a spontaneous seizure carried out by landless
blacks, as the government claims.
All Zimbabweans have
suffered as a consequence of the ill-advised land reform process, which has
devastated the economy and created an enormous humanitarian crisis.
The survey gathered data
1.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Interviews-
former farm workers who might have benefited from the land reform.. Or could
have managed to remain at the compound but are now involved in other activities
to earn a living. There could also be former farm workers who would have
relocated to the communal areas after losing their jobs.
2.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Questionnaire
distributed through NGOs working on welfare of former farm workers.
3.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â Farmers
organizations—Some organizations still have contact with their members.