It’s a little while since I posted one of Cathy’s letters but this one certainly needs propagating.
Dear Family and Friends
My son was 8 years old when we were forced off our Marondera farm by war veterans and Zanu PF youths in September 2000. Richard does not remember those very traumatic months that we lived alongside the men who had invaded our farm. Men who were far too young to have been veterans of war; youths who were almost always drunk, drugged, abusive and threatening. Camped in a paddock within sight of our house, a rabble took over our lives, claimed the farm field by field, destroyed our business, livelihood and pension and finally chased us out of our home. For a long time I have been very glad that
Richard does not remember that frightening, horrible time but that all changed this week when I phoned him one morning. Richie said he couldn’t talk just then because he was on his way to help a friend who was being evicted from his farm and had been given until 3 that afternoon to get out.
My heart was in my mouth at the thought of another family going through the devastating anguish of being forced out of their home. With just hours in which to pack and move a home and business of a lifetime, I knew that this Mother and her son would need all the help they could get. Before long, like Richard, I was rushing to help and it took me back in time to that bad place that holds only fear and painful memories. Just a few kilometres out of Marondera town, down a bumpy, winding, dust road through the most magnificent Msasa woodland adorned in glorious spring leaves, I followed my son’s vehicle. We travelled for a dozen kilometres and saw no one and nothing: no ploughed fields, no sheep or cattle, no crops or greenhouses. A line of fence posts caught my eye: standing in a perfectly straight line they had once been a paddock or a boundary but the wire was all gone and the poles stood as lonely sentinels watching over these deserted, seized farms.
Arriving at the farm of my son’s friend, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as soon as I stepped out of my vehicle. Sitting on stumps and broken plastic chairs under a covered carport a few metres from the house were the land invaders. A tatty rabble they were. Half a dozen of them, mostly youngsters and openly drinking at 11 in the morning; one swigging from a $4 bottle of Vladinoff Vodka, others drinking beer out of cut off plastic bottles. One was drumming and they were singing crude versions of Chimurenga songs whose lyrics had been changed to: They are coming to move you out. By 3 this
afternoon this will be our house. We are happy you are going. We are getting our land. I recognized one of the men, a scruffy layabout with dreadlocks who hangs around car parks. And these were to be our farmers, I thought with contempt. I did not meet their eyes or respond to their begging calls for cigarettes.
I hugged the woman who was losing her home today but we did not talk, there are no words. All day we worked removing curtains and pictures, emptying drawers and cupboards, loading our vehicles with another destroyed life. Eight years ago half this farm was given to the Zimbabwe government but bit by bit they took more and now this bunch outside wanted it all. Wearing broken green plastic flip flops and woolly hats even in the 25 degree heat, they were determined they were going to have this house, and they were going to have it today.
The Police did not come, would not come, because this, they said, was political, not criminal. As 3pm came and went, tempers flared and the invaders moved into the garden and then some even into the living room. The farmer’s dogs, chained under a shady tree whined and whimpered as they couldn’t protect their owners. A beautiful brown and white cat lay on the floor in the bedroom surrounded by boxes, piles, suitcases, coat hangers.
As the shadows lengthened and with the red setting sun in our eyes I followed my son’s vehicle away from his friend’s farm for the last time. The dust was thick and choking and I felt tears burning my eyes. How can this be? 10 years after it happened to us, it is still going on. Nothing has changed; no attempt to stop the destruction of agriculture; no response from the Police; no respect for Title Deeds, property rights or even a family’s private home.
Who in their right mind would dream of investing in Zimbabwe when a bunch of arbitrary drunken thugs can get away with something like this because it is political. Is this Zanu PF politics or Unity Government politics? Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.