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Banket farmer lucky to be alive after ‘assassination attempt’
By Alex Bell
18 December 2012
A farmer in Mashonaland West insists he escaped a deliberate ‘hit’ on his
life, after he was shot in the face on his property on Monday night.
Piet Zwanikken, a Dutch national who has been farming on his Riverhead farm
for 15 years, is now recovering in hospital with a serious face wound. The
bullet, shot at close range, went through his nose and grazed his cheek. On
Tuesday morning he was in surgery where doctors worked on rebuilding his
He spoke to SW Radio Africa from his hospital bed on Tuesday and said he is
lucky to be alive.
“I believe this was an assassination attempt. A deliberate hit. It is all an
attempt to force me off my farm,” Zwanikken said.
Zwanikken has faced worsening intimidation and threats in recent months,
after the Lands Ministry handed a suspected CIO agent an offer letter for
Riverhead farm in January. This is despite the fact that the property is
meant to be protected by a bilateral investment protection agreement
(BIPPA), between Zimbabwe and the Netherlands.
On several occasions the suspected CIO agent, Charles Mupanduki, has
attempted to take over the farm and land invaders working for him succeeded
for a few days in August. During that time Zwanikken lost thousands of
dollars worth of farming equipment and eventually had to get a court order
to force the invaders off his property.
He explained that on Monday night three land invaders who work for
Mupanduki, called him to his gate and said his tobacco stocks were being
stolen. He told SW Radio Africa that he did not believe them, so he thanked
them and turned back to his house.
“Little did I know that one of them, named Peter Macheka, had a gun behind
his back. As I was turning to go I just saw out the corner of my eye this
bright flash. This guy had shot at close range and next thing I knew I was
shot. I was with my son and we both ran back to the house. I am just so
lucky that bullet didn’t kill me,” Zwanikken said.
The shooting comes as information had been received of a detailed ‘hit list’
supplied to the CIO, which contains the names of people who could ‘make an
impact.’ John Worsley-Worswick from Justice for Agriculture said such a
‘hit-list’ has likely been made ahead of elections, to silence anyone that
could ‘rock the boat’ ahead of the poll.
“Fortunately this shooting on Monday has not resulted in another murder.
This is politically motivated though and driven by chefs, so we are very sad
and alarmed, but not terribly surprised. Farmers are always targeted ahead
of elections,” Worsley-Worswick said.
It is suspected that Zwanikken might have been deliberately targeted because
he is a Dutch national, and relations between Zimbabwe and the Netherlands
have soured significantly in recent months. A group of Dutch farmers, kicked
off their Zimbabwean farms ten years ago, have been stepping up their
campaign to ensure they are compensated. According to an international
arbitration court, the Zimbabwe government owes the farmers almost 24
“The Dutch embassy has also been increasingly vociferous and critical of the
Zim government, so it seems linked,” Worsley-Worswick said.