[DEBATE] : "Operation Taguta/ Sisuthi": Command Agriculture in Zimbabwe: its impact on rural communities in Matabeleland
brutherf at ccs.carleton.ca
Wed Apr 5 14:34:53 BST 2006
perhaps of interest to some...
SOLIDARITY PEACE TRUST
Date: Wednesday 5 April 2006: 1300 H
Report: "Operation Taguta/ Sisuthi": Command
Agriculture in Zimbabwe: its impact on rural
communities in Matabeleland
Hosts: Bishop Rubin Phillip of Kwazulu Natal and
Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenberg will host the
On Wednesday 5 April 2006, Solidarity Peace Trust will
launch their latest report, which assesses the impact
of Zimbabwe's "Command Agriculture" on rural
Matabeleland. The authors of the report wish to bring
world attention to events as they are still unfolding,
in the hope of pressure being brought to bear on
government, and in order to increase awareness and
generate more information from other parts of Zimbabwe
as to what is happening in rural areas nationwide.
Communal area harvests are due in the next few weeks,
and it will be too late to draw world attention if /
when they have been compulsorily acquired by the Grain
Late in 2005, the government of Zimbabwe implemented
"Operation Taguta /Sisuthi" - "Operation Eat Well".
This has involved the deployment of army units to
oversee food production on purportedly under utilised
land. Army units have hijacked plot holders in rural
irrigation schemes to devastating effect.
Some of the findings outlined in the report are:
. The deployment of the army under Command Agriculture
has, in Matabeleland, resulted in once well-utilised
irrigation schemes becoming under-utilised land.
. Soldiers have been responsible for brutality against
. Soldiers have wantonly ordered the destruction of
established fruit trees to plant maize in irrigation
. Soldiers in irrigation schemes have wantonly and
systematically destroyed lucrative market gardens that
were a vital part of the year-round rural economy and
diet in the districts in which they grew. This
destruction has turned plot holders into paupers over
night, as vegetable sales are the major source of
daily income for them, year round.
. Soldiers have taken custody of early maize harvests
in one scheme, where inputs were made well before the
arrival of the army. Families have been left without
enough maize for their own annual consumption.
. This is in violation of the GMB Act, which states
that nothing can prevent producers from keeping crops
needed for their households' consumption.
. Plot holders perceive that they are being treated as
indentured labour, with no rights and no claim over
the produce they have laboured all summer to produce.
. In Matabeleland, soldiers beating people in the
fields and withholding food is reminiscent of the
great food curfew of 1984 in the Gukurahundi era.
During 1984, 400,000 people were deliberately brought
to the brink of starvation by 5 Brigade.
Some comments made by senior government officials
recently suggest that the government is intending to
forcibly acquire not just harvests from irrigation
schemes, but also from rural farmers who have had good
harvests. The world needs to express its dismay in
order to try to prevent what would amount to
confiscation of crops in exchange for a pittance, in
the first year in five that people have grown enough
food not to have to worry about food security.
Command agriculture has to be contextualised against
the collapse of agriculture since 2000, the need to
regain credibility for the land invasions, as well as
fears of food riots. Command Agriculture is the latest
indication of the increasing militarization of
Zimbabwe as a State: the army taking over aspects of
food production must be seen in the context of the
role of the army in the disastrous Operations
"Discarding the Filth" and "Live Well". Command
Agriculture is the latest form of patronage for the
restive armed services.
Command agriculture must also be seen in the context
of a long established pattern of food being used as a
political weapon. This dates back to the 1980s and has
been widely used again in the last five years.
Deploying the army under the guise of Command
Agriculture means that army units are now embedded
deep in rural areas. This is effectively closing
democratic space and will have a repressive impact
during Rural District Council Elections due in
September. It is likely that the army will stay in
place and increase in numbers in rural areas, under
the justification of Operation Taguta, from now until
parliamentary and/or presidential elections.
1. There is an urgent need for Zimbabwean NGOs and the
international community to seek clarification of what
the government's intentions are in relation to forced
purchase of crops grown by peasant farmers, whether in
irrigation schemes or - in view of the remarks
recently made in Insiza by the Vice President Joyce
Mujuru - in communal fields. [see this report p. 18]
2. The government must be reminded of the GMB Act and
the rights of producers to keep that which they
produce in sufficient quantities to sustain their
households and livestock for at least twelve months.
Government should be pressurised to respect the right
of communal farmers to keep all crops they do not want
to sell on a willing seller, willing buyer basis, and
independent observers should be allowed to ensure this
is the case.
3. There should be an inquiry into the wanton
destruction of vegetable gardens and the loss of
income for plot holders resulting from this. If
confirmed, prosecution and compensation should
4. It is unacceptable to have armed forces in charge
of civilians under any circumstances.
The army should be entirely withdrawn immediately from
ARDA and AREX irrigation schemes.
5. The army should be charged with violation of the
GMB Act, in schemes where they have taken custody of
maize grown by irrigation plot holders, or anywhere
else, where such deprivation means producers do not
have maize for their daily consumption in sufficient
quantity to survive at least twelve calendar months.
6. There is a need for other independent observers
around Zimbabwe to analyse what is happening in rural
areas around them in relation to Command Agriculture,
in order to monitor the degree of abuse of crop
[Report available at
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