In 2002, two years after the start of the government’s land redistribution programme, it was estimated that there were a million farm workers and dependents living on commercial farms. Many were allocated plots and small-holdings on the farms or were resettled in the communal areas, many drifted to the urban areas, but unknown numbers were forgotten, essentially becoming status-less squatters.
One such family cast into this vacuum are the Zachariahs. They have six children between the ages of 3 and 18. Two years ago, “Phineas”, along with 300 farm workers, had a good job. Then the farm was re-allocated and the “new boss” came. He systematically started stripping the farm of whatever assets he could, banned the family from using the land to plant maize and then started charging extortionate amounts for water.
“We are hungry,” Phineas lamented. “Even water, we now have to pay the new boss one dollar for each time we collect four buckets.”
Reduced to cutting down trees to sell as firewood – a finite source of income that will soon be gone – the Zachariahs are living a nightmare of desolation: no job, no land, no food, no hope. There do not have money to send the children to school.
Barnabas Fund, through the Project Joseph feeding programme, delivers well over 70 tonnes of maize meal a month into Zimbabwe in an attempt to avert the tragedy.