Zim swimming champ’s family driven off land (07-12-06)

MUTARE - Zimbabwe's chances of getting a medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympics may have gone up in smoke following the forceful eviction of a top swimming family, the Richters from their family farm, Redsands, in Chipinge.
Bruce and Sharon Richter, whose farm produced coffee and macadamia nuts, are

the parents of Samantha, a national swimmer and the reigning Junior Sportsperson of the Year, who is based at the Pretoria High Performance Centre were she is honing her skills preparation for the All Africa Games in Algiers next year and the Olympics in 2008. After their farm was invaded the family sought refuge in New Zealand.
“It’s very sad. I was forced off my farm at gunpoint. Zimbabwe is my country and this is the only place that my children have known, but I have no choice leave,” Bruce Richter said.
Redsands Farm used to be pride of Manicaland, earning US$1 million every year, after the husband and wife team put 120 hectares under coffee and cropped macadamia nuts on 130 hectares.
On 30 hectares, the family grew tea – the bulk of which was ‘consumed’ by Tanganda Tea Estate – and 50 hectares was put under gum trees. The Richter’s also employed 400 workers, who have been rendered jobless with the latest invasion.
“I was told to abandon my farm in the dead of night at gunpoint with one of the invaders wielding an AK and a handgun. My little daughters were terrified, but we were forced to abandon everything. I was never shown an offer letter from the new owners or any documentation but I was just told to pack leaving all my equipment and crops. I do not want to leave this farm, this is my home. I have been on this farm since my father (Roy Richter) bought it in 1980, when it was a mere bush, which was being used for cattle farming. I developed and imported a tea and coffee processing plant from Australia,” Richter said.
For the past year he had co-existed with four ‘new farmers’ who had been offered a portion of his farm – at least 165 hectares.
“The lands committee came here and pegged 165 ha which was given to four guys and we have co-existed amenably for a year until I was told I should leave for good by Manicaland CIO boss Innocent Chibaya,” Richter said.
Samantha Richter (17), who was Zimbabwe’s only medal winner at the 8th All Africa Swimming Championships held in Senegal last month.
She earned three bronze Medals for the 50m butterfly (29.13sec ), 100m freestyle (59.44sec) and 50m freestyle (27.56sec) to underline the benefit of her current full-time status at the Pretoria High Performance Centre in South Africa.
Sam’s 50m butterfly was a new Zimbabwe 17-year age group record, as was her 100m-butterfly time of 1min 05.00sec. Samantha who has already attained All Africa Games times is gunning for the Olympics Games. She was not at home when the evictions were in enforced as she was away in South Africa.
“It was most unpleasant for the children. I hope one day things will change and we will come back,” said Sharon Richter. – CAJ News

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