Ben Freeth after the attack. Image from Justice for Agriculture (JAG).
While Mugabe's thugs continue to terrorise Zimbabwe, the abduction and brutal beating of a white farmer has reignited another of the country's long-standing polemics - what to do with the country's wealthy white settlers.
After talking to the press about conditions in the run-up to the election, Ben Freeth, along with his elderly parents-in-law, was kidnapped from his farm in south-east Harare by around 20 militias on Sunday evening (29 June). The three were then taken to a "political camp" where they were beaten and intimidated by around 50 of Mugabe's clan, Freeth said. He is currently undergoing surgery for head injuries.
Attacks on white farmers in Zimbabwe have been commonplace since Mugabe's instruction to redistribute land in 2000. But during the recent wave of violence that swept the country in the run up to the run-off last Friday, a growing number of settlers have been targeted.
"We’ve been on the verge of genocide for some months now"
John Worsley-Worswick is a white Zimbabwean farmer whose farm was taken under Mugabe's land redistribution scheme. He now heads the Justice for Agriculture Trust, which claims to promote equality and peace in farming. The organisation has been citing violent acts under the land reform process since 2000. So far it's counted 627 incidents, six of which were murders.My grandfather moved to Zimbabwe in 1908 and bought 32,000 acres of land. There was nobody living there then - at that time, the population of Zimbabwe was under half a million. The land's not in the family anymore, of course. I bought my plot from the government in 1987 after growing up on a family farm and working as a farmer my whole life. I had 700 hectares [1,730 acres] of land where there were 80 families living and working. We cultivated maize, cattle and tobacco.
In 2000 they closed me down and in 2002 they kicked me out. My workers were supposed to be replaced by 35 families - beneficiaries - but they only got 12 down on paper. And only six of those actually moved in! So, of course, the farm's not working - it's running into dereliction.
I will absolutely get that land back! I am the rightful owner and I have five court orders to prove it. Not only will I get it back but the current or the replacement government will pay me back for the eight years of production I've missed. Like most farmers I'm living in an urban area of Harare - we don't have any choice - and selling off farming equipment. I had to sell all of my cattle at first.
We've been on the verge of genocide for some months now. How the world can turn a blind eye to this - again - I do not know. We're not talking about military intervention, but we need help. Someone's got to stand up and talk about this. I'm living in a third world desert! I can't leave Zimbabwe - it's home. I've got nowhere else to go."