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Tsvangirai's neice in white farms invasion saga
Tsvangiraiís niece in white farms invasion saga
By Kitsepile Nyathi, Nation Correspondent
June 11th, 2009
Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangiraiís aides have been forced to launch a damage control exercise, a day before he meets US President Barrack Obama after reports surfaced that his niece had invaded a white owned commercial farm.
Dr Arikana Chihombori, a US-based medic, has confirmed that she tried to evict the owners of the farm after she got an offer letter from the Zimbabwean Government. Dr Chihombori accompanied Mr Tsvangirai to South African President Jacob Zumaís swearing-in in May.
The row is threatening to engulf Mr Tsvangiraiís whirlwind tour of the US and Europe, where he is trying to promote the unity government in Zimbabwe and also to drum up financial assistance. Western governments are sensitive to the treatment of Zimbabweís few remaining white farmers and have demanded that farm invasions must stop before they restore normal ties with the southern African country.
The Zimbabwean Premier meets President Obama in Washington DC on Friday. On Wednesday, the US Senate passed a resolution to maintain sanctions on Zimbabwe, citing Mr Mugabeís reluctance to honour terms of a power sharing agreement as well as stop farm invasions. The Senate also expressed concern over arrests of human rights activists and journalists.
Mr Tsvangirai recently said farm invasions were exaggerated, while President Robert Mugabe says the farmers should make way for landless blacks to allow the country to conclude the chaotic agrarian reform that began in 2000. The Prime Ministerís spokesperson, Mr James Maridadi, confirmed that Dr Chihombori was Mr Tsvangiraiís niece, but said that did not mean that President Mugabeís former fierce opponent supported farm invasions.
She is 52-years-old and an uncle cannot be held responsible for the commissions or omissions on the part of a 52-year-old niece, Mr Maridadi told SW Radio Africa. Justice for Agriculture, a group that campaigns for displaced commercial farmers in Zimbabwe, said the affected farmer had approached the US embassy to enquire about an American citizen who was trying to invade a farm.
Mr Tsvangirai was reportedly approached when it had been revealed that it was his niece. But Mr Maridadi said the Prime Minister had never intervened in the case. Now that there is a lot of interest coming out in the press, I think there may be need for the Prime Minister to, maybe, look at the case closer and then determine what kind of action to take from there, he said.
But as of now, the Prime Minister is on a very busy schedule of his tour of the US, Europe and Scandinavia and he doesnít have a lot of time to engage on the issue of the farm and he doesnít have the facts, he added. Dr Chihombori had reportedly refused to take Mr Tsvangiraiís instructions to back off from the farm dispute.
Instead she accused foreign journalists of ignoring the abuse of farm workers and exaggerating the plight of white commercial farmers. Letís look at the average farm worker, what have they (white farmers) done for the farm worker? A white child, by the time they become an adult, they are the farm manager, they have travelled all over the world, she told SW Radio Africa.
The question I have for the farmer is what have you done for your farm worker? He continues to be farm labourer, no education, no promotion and when they get sick, they are sent down to their home village to die, thatís an everyday occurrence.
President Mugabe has defended the often violent land reform programme as an attempt to reverse colonial imbalances, while Mr Tsvangirai blamed the reforms for Zimbabweís economic collapse before he joined the unity government in February. Zimbabweís State media has dismissed as a futile mission Mr Tsvangiraiís three-week tour of Western capitals.
The Sunday Mail newspaper quoted a senior official in President Mugabeís party complaining that Mr Tsvangiraiís delegation during his US and European tours was full of ministers from the Prime Ministers Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which made his mission a party project rather than a government assignment.
Only one minister from Zanu-PF is accompanying the Prime Minister after most of them were denied visas as they are on the list of President Mugabeís cronies affected by EU and US travel bans. The Herald newspaper predicted that Mr Tsvangirai and President Obama will clash in their meeting as Washington has announced that it will dig in on sanctions, while the Prime Minister has a brief from President Mugabe to press for the lifting of sanctions.
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