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Banket farmer lucky to be alive after ‘assassination attempt’

Banket farmer lucky to be alive after ‘assassination attempt’

http://www.swradioafrica.com/

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 
nose.

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 
million euros.

“The Dutch embassy has also been increasingly vociferous and critical of the 
Zim government, so it seems linked,” Worsley-Worswick said.

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