Sunday, July 12, 2009



Dear Family and Friends,

As a youngster growing up I was always taught to save and, if possible, to invest in land or property which would hold or increase in value throughout my life. Title Deeds were sacred, I was told. They were the indisputable, unquestionable, legal documents which would always prove ownership.

So much has happened in Zimbabwe this last decade that for everyone except Zanu PF it has been the most horrific nightmare.

For most of us the real hell began when the people of Zimbabwe rejected a draft constitution in a referendum in February 2000. At that time I was a farmer living on a piece of land bought legally a decade before. The Title Deeds proving legal ownership of that property were in my possession. A fortnight later those Title Deeds were as good as useless,worthless pieces of paper when property rights in Zimbabwe were ignored and men in dirty overalls took over.

Despite losing the referendum and without holding another national vote, a Zanu PF parliament went ahead and changed the constitution anyway. In May 2000 the 16th Amendment to our country's constitutionstated that Britain had an obligation to pay for agricultural land compulsorily acquired for resettlement.

The MDC were one of many local and international voices who condemned the amendment. The MDC spokesman at the time was a constitutional lawyer and has been quoted in many references as saying: "We have no legal authority to compel the British government to do anything."

This week, nine years later, Mr Mugabe spoke at a conference to attract investment to the country. He said that Zimbabwe upholds the sanctity of property rights. For a moment I held my breath, thinking that maybe my Title Deeds were finally going to regain their rightful legal status. I was wrong as Mr Mugabe continued by saying that farms taken from Zimbabweans who had white skins would not be paid for by Zimbabwe and that Britain should be lobbied to pay compensation. Mr Mugabe went on to say: " We pay compensation for improvements. That is our obligation and we have honoured it."

Sadly that statement is not true and I am one of thousands of Zimbabwean farmers who has not received any compensation at all for the house, buildings or any of the fixed assets and improvements on a farm legally purchased in 1990 and then seized by a mob in 2000.

Shock turned to disappointment as MDC leader and the country's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai took to the podium of the investment conference. "The President is correct,' he said. "The constitution is clear. We pay compensation for improvements. If funds are available we will pay.' With sadness we realised that our Prime Minister supports an amendment made by a single political party to a constitution which belongs to all the people of the country.

There can be little hope of investment when property rights and TitleDeeds are clearly not respected in Zimbabwe - unless your skin colour and political persuasion are the same as those of the person holding power.

Until next week, thanks for reading, love cathy



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