Stop lawlessness, Freeth appeals to Mugabe

In an open letter to President Robert Mugabe, commercial farmer BEN FREETH, tries to alert him to what is going on in the agricultural sector – where properties continue to be stolen by senior Zanu (PF) officials without legal process or compensation.

Ben Freeth
Ben Freeth

We first met at a rally near Chegutu in the late 1990s after I had been asked to make an impromptu speech about the help that white commercial farmers were giving to black farmers. I spoke about how a piano has both black keys and white keys, and how when a great musician plays the piano he can create wonderful harmony by using all those keys.

I wish to write to you regarding the ongoing take-over of white-owned properties without legal process or compensation. It is creating tremendous disharmony in our country.

I bring to your attention as an example the Deputy Chief Secretary in your office, Dr Ray Ndhlukula, who, with his wife, is currently in the process of taking Centenary A Farm in Figtree, Matabeleland South. I understand he was in New York with you recently at the UN General Assembly.

As you may know, Ndhlukula already has at least two farms. The first is a section of Vlakfontein farm with a good irrigation dam built by Mr Fred York who used to own the farm. The second is a farm called Wilfred Hope that Dr Ndhlukula took from John Knott on which I understand he does some chickens.

After he arrived to take yet another farm, Centenary A farm, David Conolly, the owner, obtained an order from the High Court of Zimbabwe to prevent him from taking over the farm without following a proper legal process. Ndhlukula and his wife have chosen to ignore the High Court order, take control of the police, and take the law into their own hands. In August, Ndhlukula had all Conolly’s farm workers evicted from their houses on the farm – men and women who with their families had been on the farm for decades and are now treated like animals, left with no homes or jobs.

Last month Ndhlukula stopped all production on Conolly’s farm. Consequently, the crop of 300,000 onions has not been irrigated for more than three weeks now and is dying, and the 50,000 cabbage seedlings due to be planted last month have not been planted. The pump station has had its locks broken and Dr Ndhlukula has put his own locks on. I would like to point out that Conolly has the last pedigree herd of Hereford cattle in Zimbabwe and the last pedigree herd of Senepol cattle which, if he is not allowed back onto his farm, will have to go to slaughter. It has taken more than a century in some cases to breed pedigree animals suitable for Zimbabwe’s very specific conditions and since the farm invasions, the loss of invaluable breeding stock has been catastrophic.

A crime

As if the above is not enough, Ndhlukula instructed the police, the District Administrator and members of the Lands Committee to tell David Conolly’s brother, Mike Conolly, to leave his farm which is the next door property. It appears that your Zanu (PF) national chairperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, wishes to take over this farm. Mike was told that the reason that he had to vacate his property was that his brother, David Conolly, had gone to court. Even though subversion of the rule of law has been going on for so long, I still find it astounding that a policeman should tell a member of the public that it is a crime to go to court – but this is regrettably the reality in present-day Zimbabwe.

As you are aware, my father-in-law, Mike Campbell committed the “crime” of going to court, and later died after we were abducted and severely beaten two weeks prior to the main hearing of our landmark court case in the SADC Tribunal in Namibia. An internationally acclaimed, award-winning film called Mugabe and the White African was made about this case.

It is with great sadness that we noted your decision to ignore the rulings of this highly respected regional court. After that, our homesteads on Mount Carmel farm and some of our workers’ homes were burnt down. All of our crops, tractors and other possessions were stolen. It is an absolute tragedy for the 280 million people in southern Africa that you have managed to get our regional court closed down, so that no individual can approach that court when they have men like Ndhlukula evicting people from their homes, creating unemployment, destroying production, and taking other people’s property in a completely lawless manner.

Wonderful

It would be wonderful for the people of Southern Africa if, as the new chairman of the Southern African Development Community and the Chairman in waiting for the entire African Union, you reopened the SADC Tribunal court for the people of southern Africa to protect the aims of the SADC Treaty – which include our God-given duty of protecting human rights, the rule of law, property rights and democracy. So long as the people are not protected we will continue to fail as a country.

The IMF’s recently released review highlights the major challenges facing Zimbabwe. These included the under performing agriculture sector, considered as one of the main engines for recovery.

Are you aware that rural poverty in Zimbabwe has increased to 76% this year from 63% in 2013 as most rural households fail to produce enough food to meet their needs? The World Food Programme has also warned that 72% of the country’s population lives below the national poverty line on less than US$1,25 a day, while some 30% of our rural poor are considered to be “food poor” or “extremely poor”.

Farm for Bona

Despite this, it was reported last week that your daughter, Bona, is the beneficiary of Devonia farm in the Goromonzi district. Dennis Lapham, who bought the farm in 1990 under Zimbabwe law and after it was first offered to the Zimbabwe Government, has no other farm. He was told to get off the property without any legal process, no paper work, and no knowledge as to who is taking over. We know that there is currently no compensation fund from which to pay Lapham, or indeed to pay any of the thousands of other farmers for all the years of hard work and infrastructural development they invested in their farms.

Over 99 percent of dispossessed farmers have been waiting desperately for compensation and have not yet been paid a cent. Further to that they are prevented from pursuing their valuable profession for the good of the nation if they remain in Zimbabwe. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of farm workers and their families now have no jobs and cannot send their children to school. Furthermore, the industries and the rest of the economy that depended on functioning commercial farms continue to collapse.

These kinds of lawless actions that continue to take place could come straight out of the book of Kings where Naboth had his vineyard stolen through the lawlessness, covetousness and the greed of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. I encourage you to re-read that story in 1 Kings 21. It is of significance that it took place after the prophet Elijah had God show his power on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18. You may remember that the name of Mike Campbell’s farm was also Mount Carmel.

I do not know how to get this letter to you as your Deputy Chief Secretary and others will no doubt ensure that it does not reach you. I will therefore send it to the press and hope that you are able to read it in the newspapers.

In closing, I pray that you will finally do something about the lawlessness and greed that is ruining the previously productive and self-sufficient country of which you have been President of since 1980. – Ben Freeth MBE

Zuze revels in glory
Look out, here comes Grace!

Post published in: Human Rights
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