Tale Behind the Tale



The story I wrote about Tiny Farm and Tienie Martin has attracted a spectrum of attention with some quarters denouncing the report as a mean-spirited attempt to spoil a new Springbok's moment of glory.

I need to explain. Two weeks ago when the Stormers were in the throes of their final Super 1V game I received a call from my friend Roy Bennett who was in good cheer and pleased to tell me that my team’ were not going to make it to the semi-finals. We laughed. Then he told me that Brian Mujati was the son of the bloke who took your mate Tienie Martin’s farm. Somewhat taken aback I questioned Roy a bit more closely but he was adamant. I phoned Tienie the next day and he confirmed it.

Now I need to explain a little more. When I was a boy, I, like many of my generation hero-worshipped Tienie Martin. Rugby was such a big part of all our lives and he was something like the George Clooney of rugby. Brilliant and brave on the field he was both a gentleman and a self-effacing joker off it. And then he was cursed. By nobody other than me. Because our families were close I, a squirt 10 years younger, struggling with asthma, had access to him and refused to let go. I shadowed him on the farm, the rugby-field and the beaches and bars of Beira and only remember warmth and kindness when I should have got a slap and been told to get lost.

Tiny Farm’ was part of the Odzi/Inyazura farming area and here democracy did not grab much attention. Martiens Martin was the quiet power in the land. A big handsome man with a ready smile, gravitas came naturally to him and without asking he simply became the patriarch commanding respect and reverence across the racial divide. What I remember of Miemps’, Tienie’s mother, was the welcoming smile before the long walk through the garden with my mother. Much of the floral-engendered excitement of the time was lost on me but now I wish I had appreciated it more when I had the chance. The farm pumped with productivity, everyone worked hard and on the weekends they played. It was a happy place. This was a microcosm of the country.

But no more. Joseph Mujati, in flagrant violation of a High Court order, has pillaged Tiny Farm and like his colleagues in ZANU PF who have engaged in the same exercise he has had his woeful way; sold the stolen equipment and left the land to die. Like his partners in crime he believes he is above the law and sadly he is right. A collaborator in a monstrous kleptocracy he can brutalise, steal and destroy with impunity. He and his ilk have destroyed commercial agriculture in Zimbabwe and in the same stroke the entire economy which has reduced millions of people to a life of deprived misery amidst a reign of terror.

It is at this juncture Brian Mujati stands poised to don the Green and Gold and some are of the opinion that this unfolding tragedy should not be allowed to blight his moment of glory. I empathise with Brian and wish him well but I feel his plight is rendered inconsequential compared to that of his countrymen who suffer as a result of the unbridled greed and unspeakable venality of his father.

Tienie’ Martin was ambivalent about letting this story out. I don’t want to mess the youngster’s (Brian’s) career up, he said. What happened to me, he explained, was not the son’s fault. Then he went on to make a telling point: But hell his dad didn’t give my children too much thought when he threw them out of their houses. I listened and encouraged him to do it because I thought it was a story that needed to be told in the interests of a bigger cause and only when convinced that this might help others did he agree. Today he was phoned and threatened twice by Joseph Mujati and has taken his wife and daughters into hiding. The Odzi Sports Club not far from Tiny Farm which once provided the hub of the community’s social activities is now a torture-centre run by a ZANU PF militia.

Traditionally Springbok rugby players are hard men who give no quarter on the field of sporting battle but off they are gentlemen and this is what has given the game and the people who play it a special place in sport. Before he runs on the field tomorrow maybe Brian can start acting like a Springbok and ask his father to leave Tienie, Charlotte and the girls in peace.

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