Farmer in living hell

William Jacobus Smit, 79, has farmed his land for 31 years. But he says his life has become a living hell because a senior Zanu (PF) official wants his farm.

William Jacobus Smit
William Jacobus Smit

“My life has ceased to have meaning,” the beleaguered farmer told The Zimbabwean last week. “Since 2002 Zanu (PF) sympathisers, with suspected backing from their bosses, have taken from me almost all that I have. Now each day they threaten to finish me off completely,” he said.

He was he was receiving continued threats from the local Zanu (PF) MP, Kizitho Chivamba, of eviction from his farm which he has lived at since 1983.

Investigations by this newspaper show that the farm was initially gazetted for compulsory acquisition during the chaotic land “reform” exercise spearheaded by Zanu (PF) in the build-up to the 2000 elections, but was subsequently struck off the list.

This was after Smit had proved that he was a Zimbabwean. He was born in the country in 1935 after his parents moved here from Germany. A letter in possession of The Zimbabwean dated 18 March 1998 reference number L/44, and signed by the then Minister of Lands and Agriculture Kumbirai Kangai, puts it on record that the acquisition decision was withdrawn.

Part of the letter addressed to Smit in reference to the farm Garryowen Estate P.O Box 343 in Chiundura, reads: “After considering your objection dated 19 December 1997, regarding the above farm which you submitted to the Minister in terms of section 5 (1) (iii) (A) of the Land Acquisition Act (Chapter 20:10), the Minister, in terms of section 5 (7) (a) of the Act, hereby withdraws the preliminary notice (of compulsory acquisition) in respect of that farm.”

The letter was accompanied by the whole schedule of farms that had been withdrawn from acquisition around the country. The document indicates that Smit's farm was number 490 out of a total of 1,471 properties.

In a wide ranging interview at his farm, Smit said his credentials as a Zimbabwean are not contested. He is married to a Zimbabwean woman with whom he has four children. Despite that, he said that since 2000 he has lived through hell at the hands of Zanu (PF) supporters.

36 families invaded

“In 2001 39 families, themselves Zanu (PF) supporters, illegally invaded my farm and occupied the bigger chunk leaving me with only 285 hectares from a total of 3,338h. Soon after last year’s elections, MP Chivamba has been addressing meetings in the district telling his supporters that they were now going to take all of it.

“I know about that because my wife attended the meetings. Now each day we get strange people coming and saying we should move out completely as per the MP’s wish. Five families have actually settled themselves on the farm. Where do we go?” asked Smit.

Over the years production at the farm has dwindled to almost nothing as a result of the activites of the invaders. “In 2002 186 cattle from my farm were stolen after the invaders had moved in. At that time again, 22 died of poisoning after drinking water in the streams which had been poisoned. We know about that because the Veterinary Service officials took samples and made the conclusions.

“We reported the matter to Gweru Rural Police station at that time but up to now no arrests were made. Nothing was recovered. After going through that, the MP still feels more pain should be inflicted on us,” said Smit.

Election agent

His wife Janet Ncube revealed that the current threats all started when she was spotted by Chivamba acting as an election agent for the MDC-T at St Patrick’s polling station last year.

“Since that time he has been saying we are MDC-T and so we do not deserve to be in the constituency because we supported his rival last year. I personally went to plead with him at the Zanu (PF) offices recently but he said no, we are taking the farm. We are now desperate,” she said.

Earlier this year Lands Minister Douglas Mombeshora addressed lands officers from all the districts in the province and said the time to compulsorily acquire farms has passed. He also warned politicians from Zanu (PF) against violating his position and urged those who had illegally settled people in their constituencies in order to garner votes to “go back and remove their people.”

Contacted for comment, Chivamba was inconsistent. When this reporter first called him last week, he flatly refused he was making threats to evict Smit saying that was not the policy of his party and he would do anything to ensure that no one loses their land. However, three days later he called back on two occasions with conflicting information.

Confused

“Those people (Smit family) are now confused. They now want to tarnish my name. They should have come to me first. I do not want their farm, however if the lands officers have plans to take it, I cannot stop them,” said the MP on his first telephone call to this reporter.

When asked if he had not met Smit’s wife at the Zanu (PF) office over the matter, he confirmed that he had done so before hanging up. “Yes I met her, she came. I wanted to protect them,” he said.

About 48 minutes later Chivamba called this reporter again saying he had resolved to approach the lands committee so that he could protect the Smit family from the people wishing to invade the farm.

Since then, efforts to get hold of him have been unsuccessful as he can no longer be reached on his mobile phone.

Post published in: News
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  1. Wilbert Mukori

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