Ben Freeth’s Column

Executive Director

In Ben Freeth’s column, after attending a thought-provoking speech day, he reports on the remarkable Falcon College experience, with its focus on strong morals and integrity, which has shaped so many exceptional leaders over the years. “I have often wondered if there is such a thing as a soul in a place, or a name, or an institution. Having had our boys studying at Falcon College, out among the rocky Matabeleland hills and thorn trees in Zimbabwe over the last 8 years, I have become convinced that such a thing is very real. The soul of Falcon is something incredibly motivating and powerful.” READ MORE

THE SADC TRIBUNAL CAMPBELL CASE

Mike Campbell (Pvt) Ltd et al. v. Republic of Zimbabwe is a landmark test case decided by the SADC Tribunal. It held that the government violated the SADC treaty by denying court access and engaging in racial discrimination in the confiscation of land.

SADC

TRIBUNAL

TIMELINE 

The SADC Tribunal was set up as a regional court to hear disputes between SADC member states and between individuals and states. The Tribunal was a court of last resort for those who had been denied access to justice in their own countries.

COURT CASE: 

COMPENSATION CLAIM 

The Mike Campbell Foundation has initiated a court case which involves a group of dispossessed Zimbabwean farmers taking former South African President Zuma and the SA government to court for participating in the closure of the SADC Tribunal regional court.

COURT CASES JUSTICE & LEGAL ACCOUNTABILITY

The MCF took the courageous decision to use the law to focus on justice and legal accountability and to establish a workable legal foundation for property rights in Zimbabwe in the future. This has included a number of ground-breaking court cases

CONSERVATION  AGRICULTURE TRAINING

We provide practical conservation agriculture training to an average of 144 destitute farm workers and others in their communities each year, teaching them how to feed their families on just 1/16th of a hectare using our free open-pollinated seed.

CONSERVATION AGRICULTURE FIELD DAY

The objective of our latest, well-attended conservation agriculture field day was to showcase our conservation agriculture activities and achievements – despite the ongoing drought conditions - in Harare and the Chegutu district of Zimbabwe. 

OPEN-POLLINATED SEED PROJECT

Our open-pollinated seed project provides free high quality seed that can be replanted each year to destitute farm workers and other needy people in Zimbabwe. In 2017, we distributed more than 4,500 seed packs followed by 8,000 in 2018.

SCHOOL FEES PROJECT

In 2018, we paid school fees for 262 children of destitute farm workers and pastors, as well as tertiary fees for two students. For the first two terms of 2019, we paid school fees for 256 children and two tertiary students.

FOOD CRISIS SOLUTION

Faced with yet another food crisis and economic collapse due to the demise of agriculture, the solution is simple – and this is what the MCF is working towards: Title deeds must be allocated for all agricultural land and title to the commercial farmland must be restored.

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Zimbabwe: “Living on the Edge”

The MCF invites you to our latest update presentation: Zimbabwe: “Living on the Edge” at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Tuesday 10 March 2020. What is it like to live on the edge without the rule of law?    How is tyranny maintained?  What can be done about it?  How can the rule of law be protected, even in established democracies? We have a line up of three very brave and committed speakers from Zimbabwe and two rule of law experts from London’s Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law. Please help us to publicise this important event and please join us if you can for an inspiring evening. 

Master criminals are running the Zim economy

The Zimbabwean economy looks to many like it’s being run by people who have no idea what they are doing. One would be forgiven for thinking it’s run by clowns who keep making economic blunder after blunder. But it is not, writes Zimbabwean human rights defender Thandekile Moyo. The economy is being run by master criminals who are fleecing the poor. Now, a recent ruling by the Supreme Court, declaring that up until February 2019, the US dollar and Zimbabwe RTGS dollar were valued at 1:1 [the govt’s interbank rate is 1:17], has provided another windfall for the rich. And it will deepen the economic meltdown

Supreme Court upholds government debt decree

Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court debt judgment, handed down on 20 January 2020 by Chief Justice Luke Malaba, has upheld the government’s decree that one US dollar debt is now equal to 1 RTGS/bond dollar or ZW$. This will have extremely serious implications for farmers and others who had prior payment agreements which the government has failed to settle. The continuing land deadlock has prejudiced the economy of tens of billions of US dollars in lost production and lost forex-generating capacity. This press release provides solutions to resolve the unraveling of the economy and escalating food crisis. 

Urgent petition launched to avert Zim crisis

An urgent petition has been launched to the International Community by concerned Zimbabwean citizens “for an immediate intervention to avert an apocalypse” in the country. The appeal notes that “We speak on behalf of millions of citizens, who live in fear and have been silenced. There is grave concern about an escalation leading to a disaster of incalculable magnitude. On grounds of particular urgency, we see our cause justified in reaching out to the International Community and exempt from the mandatory chains of appeal through SADC and the AU. You are urged to sign the petition through Change.org

Unaffordable schooling and teacher crisis

The new school year is starting in Zimbabwe, but teachers’ unions say their members aren’t going to work unless their salaries are at least equivalent to what they were this time last year, writes Cathy Buckle in her latest newsletter. Teachers are currently earning around Z$1,000 a month before deductions, leaving them going home with the equivalent of US$40 – US$60 a month. This time last year they were earning in US dollars and taking home US$450 – US$500. For parents, the situation is also dire as equipping their children with school uniforms and other requirements is unaffordable, as are the escalating school fees.

Deforestation of Musau trees by Chinese company

One of the latest victims of the catastrophic deforestation in Zimbabwe is the Musau tree species, Ziziphus Mauritiana, which is being cut down in the fragile Mudzi Rural District for export to China. A Chinese company, Blue Trade, aided by Mudzi Rural District Council, has been cited as being responsible for the logging of this tree species, which provide locals and wildlife with its sweet-sour fruit. Illegal logging in the Mudzi district is now at its worst and threatening to turn the area into a desert. Zimbabwe loses at least 50 million trees each year to rampant felling

China donates new parliamentary building

With China’s help, a new complex is taking shape on the outskirts of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, as Beijing deepens its influence in Africa. A US$140 million six-storey parliament building is being constructed on Mount Hampden, about 18km (11 miles) northwest of Harare. Sitting on the top of a hill, the imposing circular complex being erected by China’s Shanghai Construction Group is fully paid by Beijing, which regards the gesture as a “donation”. The Chinese deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zhao Baogang, says the building is important in the decolonization of Zimbabwe. It is expected to be completed by March 2021.

Former agric minister Denis Norman dies

Zimbabwe’s first minister of Agriculture, Denis Norman, has died in Oxfordshire in the UK. He was part of the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s inaugural cabinet reportedly at the suggestion of the late Lord Soames. Norman was one of Rhodesia’s best known farming leaders and for number years he was an admirer of Mugabe. However, he told journalist Trevor Grundy that he had been devastated by “those terrible farm invasions in 2000  . . . obviously they broke my heart. What I tried to achieve over two decades fell to pieces. I was devastated.” His book, titled Odd Man In, is published by Jacana Media.

No going back on Zim dollar

In a New Year message to the nation, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa told Zimbabweans to “defend and protect” the country’s currency from collapse in 2020 but insisted there will be no re-introduction of other currencies. The Zimbabwe dollar, which is not recognised outside the country’s borders, was one of the worst-performing currencies in the world in 2019 after it plunged from 1:2.50, when it first started formal trading in February this year, to 1:15 on the interbank market. It’s even weaker on the black market, which is popular with most Zimbabweans, where it trades at 1:20 with the US dollar.

Teachers to down tools over low salaries

Members of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) say they have informed the government about their intentions to stay home when schools open on January 14, 2020 due to low salaries and poor working conditions. Teachers are currently earning less than US$200 per month in a nation with an estimated hyperinflation rate of up to 450 percent. Parents are also feeling the pinch of hyperinflation saying they have no money to send their children to school and can’t afford to purchase uniforms and stationary. At one school for example, the fees have been increased from Z$160 Zimbabwe dollars to Z$888.

VP’s wife, “murder plot” and missing US$2m

How did a civil servant-turned vice president manage to squirrel away nearly US$2m? And did his estranged wife really try to murder him? Zimbabwe is abuzz after the arrest of Mary Mubaiwa.

 

The arrest last week of Zimbabwean Vice President Constantino Chiwenga’s estranged wife, Mary Mubaiwa, has sparked widespread debate in the country, with many suggesting it could open a can of worms as it exposed how some politicians have been enriching themselves at the expense of the people.

Will Boris Johnson stand up for Zim farmers:

After a year of peace and plentiful rain, my farm in Kenya is fantastic. Peace, rain — leave a farmer alone and he can just get on with growing food for Africa. So my thoughts are with my fellow farmers Gary and Jo Hensman, both in their seventies, who last month were chased off their property by thugs in Zimbabwe. Two decades after Mugabe began his disastrous farm invasions this story has gone entirely unnoticed by the world — but November was a busy month for Zim.

Empowerment better than cash aid

Villagers in the Matobo District in southern Zimbabwe are not convinced that giving people a small and steady stream of cash with no strings attached may be the smartest way to address poverty. A mother of six children says cash aid implicitly rewards poverty and encourages families to remain poor. “The most important kind of aid empowers us to grow our own food and earn some income on our own,” she says. These villagers want training and the means of accessing water so that they can grow their own crops and vegetables – and sell the surplus.

Commission of Inquiry reveals massive urban land fraud

The Commission of Inquiry into the sale of State land in and around urban areas since 2005 (the year that Mugabe’s infamous Operation Murambatsvina took place) has unearthed massive fraud and theft of State land valued at US$3 billion by top politicians and individuals in Zanu PF in connivance with corrupt local government officials. In his 11-page summary, Commission leader Justice Uchena noted: “The identification and occupation of State land in urban centres (include) complex issues that involved farm invasions, abuse of political offices in allocation and use of top ZANU PF political to exert undue influence on govt institutions.”

British ambassador to Zim meets with VP Chiwenga

British ambassador to Zimbabwe Melanie Robinson held a meeting with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, where she expressed Britain’s commitment to assisting Zimbabwe deal with chronic food shortages in the country. Briefing journalists after the meeting, she said although Zimbabwe had made progress in implementing political and economic reforms, Britain was concerned about what Robinson called some ‘backward steps” the government was taking. She said the UK was providing £49 million (US$64.5 million) for the food situation and a further £5 million (US$6.57) to help prevent a cholera outbreak.

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"What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Micah 6 v 8

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