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Friday, 9 June, 2000, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Crying for the return of land
Gobo family  on maize farm
The Gobo maize farm is not as fertile as land they lost
By Joseph Winter in Harare

The Gobo people are angry, bitter and they want their land back. Until 1970, they lived in one of Zimbabwe's most fertile areas in the central region of Mvuma. Then their land was designated as a "European area".

Shortly afterwards, the Rhodesian trucks arrived and took the inhabitants off to Silobela, 150 km away.

In a small, recently harvested maize field at the end of 50 km of dirt roads, Maposa Muzvazva complains about his home of the past 30 years. "There's less rain, the soil is less fertile, the water isn't clean and we don't have enough land to feed ourselves - just six acres per family".

His neighbour Zarura Muridzo says that to make matters worse, when they were evicted, each family was only allowed to take three head of cattle, even if they had sizeable herds.

He says that the remainder was sold to white farmers at a non-negotiable price of just three Rhodesian dollars per animal.

The present government should let us share the land with the whites

Augustine Gobo

They all want to go back to their fertile soils in Mvuma. At the very least, they want more land for their children.

When I asked him how much land they needed, Maposa replied: "I am having six acres plus I have five boys, some are already married, so I need six times five to enable those boys, my children, to have their land too. So 30 acres or 40".

Farm owner Augstine Gobo
Agustine Gobo wants live where his ancestors were buried

Maposa says that since the forced removals, he hasn't once been back to Mvuma to see what has become of his home.

"We didn't want to see our beloved land in another shape."

He also says that since it was private property, he ran the risk of being beaten or arrested for trespassing or as a suspected poacher on the land where he grew up.

And what should happen to the white farmers who now live in Mvuma, I asked.

"That's up to the government", says Maposa in a matter-of-fact way.

His friend, Augustine Gobo, says: "The present government should let us share the land with the whites. We are not saying they are our enemies, they are our friends."

Most them were born in Zimbabwe, so they are Zimbabweans. We can't chase them away, but let's share the land."

Augustine is one of the lucky few. In 1983, just after independence, he was given a much larger plot of land but still near Silobela, a long way from Mvuma. He has now built up his herd of cattle and has planted fruit trees in his homestead.

The extra land means extra income and he's got a solar panel providing electricity for lighting and a small television. But he still wants to go back home. "That's where my ancestors are buried and that's where I want to live," he insists.

He also points to his growing family and says that even his 12 acres and access to grazing land isn't enough for them all.

Support for Mugabe

Government critics blame Robert Mugabe for making rash promises about land redistribution which he cannot keep. They point out that the amount of land is fixed, while the population is ever-expanding and argue that the culture of everyone owning a plot of land will eventually have to change to take this into account.

Nevertheless, Augustine Gobo remains loyal to Robert Mugabe. What does he think about the invasions of white-owned farms by war veterans? "What you have termed invasions, we call repossessions.

Zarura Muridzo and faimly in compound
Muridzo and family were evicted with three of their herd of cattle
I'm not saying its good or bad but it's a catalyst, it will speed up the reallocation of land. If the commercial farmers, those who own more than one farm, if they had given up one or two of them, it would have cut a long story short. Right now, we would be talking about peace and harmony in this country."

But Maposa Muzvazva is starting to have doubts. He says that "if those people in power felt sympathy for us here" the government's first priority at independence in 1980 would have been land reform.

He laments, "today we are even crying to get our land back".

Jo Winter reports from Zimbabwe
"They all want to go back to fertile land"

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See also:

07 Jun 00 | Africa
26 Apr 00 | Africa
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