New farm invasions have threatened this year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) which will be held in the country’s second capital, Bulawayo next week.
Despite the formation of a new inclusive government between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) early this year, fresh violence erupted on white-owned farms in Zimbabwe.
More than 200 farms were disrupted in March alone while 90 farmers were arraigned before the courts for failing to vacate land designated for redistribution by government.
The disruptions are allegedly staged at the instigation of powerful Zanu-PF politicians desperate to torpedo the country’s nine-week-old unity government.
The disruptions have opened a new chapter on the farms after a group of brave farmers dared government while demanding compensation as a condition to relinquishing their land.
President Robert Mugabe’s government denies it has any obligation to channel tax payers’ money as compensation for properties which, he claims, were seized from the nation’s ancestors during the onset of the colonial era in the 19th century.
However, economists and farmers organizations have warned that the new farm invasions have threatened the five day ZITF as international exhibitors and white commercial framers are boycotting the event in protest.
Speaking to the Sunday Standard in Bulawayo, Southern Africa Commercial Framers Alliance (SAFCA) president, Marc Crawford, said commercial farmers are boycotting the annual international trade showcase in protest over the new farm invasions.
“We are not attending this year’s ZITF. The government should stop farm invasions first. Our members are being beaten, tortured and harassed daily. The government is doing nothing about it,” said Crawford. “It’s surprising that when there is a new government we have fresh farm invasions.”
He said ,he had instructed all their members to boycott the trade event.
Last week, the ZITF called an urgent stakeholders conference in Bulawayo as exhibitors who had registered were pulling out in large numbers citing the new farm invasions and high participation costs.
Industry and Commerce minister, Welshman Ncube, and Regional Integration and International Trade minister, Priscilla Misihairabwi, addressed the emergency meeting where they instructed officials of ZITF Company to persuade white commercial farmers to attend the trade event next week and to also reduce high participation costs.
National University of Science and Technology (NUST)-based economist , Oscar Chiwira, said the new farm invasions have turned away international companies and less revenue will be generated at the annual fair.
“The farm invasions should be stopped because this is threatening ZITF. No international companies will come to do business where there is violence and arrest of farmers who are supposed to feed that nation. There will be no revenue,” said Chiwira.
The four-day edition of the ZITF kicks-off on April 28 and will be held under the theme “Golden Platform for Dynamic Take-off”.
At its peak, the ZITF attracted dozens of international exhibitors and brought together multi-sectoral interests across the whole business sectors, mining, hospitality and tourism, among others.