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Monday, October 18, 2010

Wantage Farm - Chegutu

Thursday 14 October 2010: Mr Mudavanhu arrived at our homestead accompanied by 5 young men. He told me we had to get out of the house and move all our things off as he was taking occupation. They all settled themselves on the garden chairs and told me that we had until 3pm to remove our belongings or they would throw them out. My husband went to the police station to report the situation and ask for a reaction. The police suggested he ask the Directorate of Lands for assistance and wouldn't come out to the farm.

In the meantime the young men were extremely belligerent, telling me we should get out - 'black and white are not together, there is no place for you here, land is for Zimbabweans only'. I am a fifth generation Zimbabwean but this I was told was irrelevant as I was white.. He held out his arm and said 'This is black, even if you are born in Kadoma (which I was) you are white and have no place here.'

We had been through this two weeks earlier. Timothy Mudavanhu had then brought six older men to our house, one stating he was the newly elected chairman of the war veterans in our area, Mr Dzapasi. They had chased away our workers, stopped the watering of our crops and livestock and barricaded the gate to our house so that we could not go in without a confrontation. Efforts to enlist the assistance of the police were fruitless and as a South African national my husband finally turned to the South African Embassy to seek advice and help. That same afternoon the Chegutu police asked to see the court orders we had against Timothy Mudavanhu and offered us their assistance 'anytime' we were 'experiencing difficulties' and that we should in future 'contact us [police station] first before enlisting other aid'.

Early the next morning we returned home as the police had advised and had just unlocked our house when Timothy Mudavanhu arrived at the locked gate with the same six people who had been with him the previous day. When we asked what we could do for them, Mr Dzapasi unleashed a vitriol of hate, that we had no right to occupy property that had been offered to Timothy Mudavanhu and should move off immediately. We first explained again that we had bought the smallholding from the Zimbabwean Pension Fund in 2001 with a letter of No Interest from the government. This letter states that the government had no interest in the property for the purpose of land reform. Mr Dzapasi shouted that our uncle Cecil John Rhodes had stolen the land from them and that this was now their time, we whites must **** off and get out of Zimbabwe. We then explained that we had been to court but that didn't get very far as he shouted that he couldn't care about any court papers, 'There is no law for whites in Zimbabwe, we are the law!' and then gave us 3 hours to get all our possessions out of the house and off the property or they would personally come in and throw it out.

My husband contacted the South African Embassy to update them on the matter and I phoned Chief Inspector Zengeni on the number he had given us the previous day. When I told him the problem he said he couldn't talk now he was in a meeting. When we phoned again he said he was coming out with the lands officer to 'settle the matter'. When they came Inspector Zengeni said the two lands officers wanted to see the court orders. I fetched them and they had a small conference around the papers. We were told the papers seemed to be very clear on the matter and that we should attend a meeting along with Timothy Mudavanhu at the lands office at 8am the following morning to 'clarify matters'. We were also to bring along copies of the various provisional and final orders we had from the courts. We should however enlist the aid of the Sheriff of the court to evict the six men and Timothy Mudavanhu from the property. When we came back with the sheriff they had all disappeared.

At the meeting the next day we weren't asked one question. The lands officer and Inspector Zengeni asked Timothy Mudavanhu if he was familiar with the contents of the order. He dismissed it as of 'no relevance' to him, he had been given an offer letter to our property and if the government had made a mistake in allocating it to him then it was our problem not his. The lands officer explained to him that the dispute over the property had been brought before a Zimbabwean court and judge and that the judge had ruled on the matter. This ruling was very clear that Mr Mudavanhu was not allowed to take the property or to harass us, our workers or possessions or to employ anyone to do so. Timothy Mudavanhu shouted that he had enlisted the police and the lands office the day he brought the people out to Wantage and now they were 'throwing'
him off. He pointed out that we had also taken our case to the SADC court so they shouldn't offer us any further support. The lands officer and Inspector Zengeni insisted that the court ruling was very clear and they were now 'abiding by the law' and bound to uphold it.

When Timothy Mudavanhu shouted that he would go back onto Wantage and stay there the lands officer stated that if he insisted on 'this course of action' the lands office would have no choice but to 'distance'
themselves from Mr Mudavanhu. The lands officer then stood up while Mr Mudavanhu was still shouting and told my husband and I we could go, but to 'please feel free to contact me or my office if you have any difficulties in future or need assistance in any matter'. This is something we have never heard before from a lands officer and were quite shocked by the abrupt turn around in matters. For the past nine years we have been fighting constantly to keep and work the property we bought on the town border and never once has the lands office offered us any form of assistance or has the police indicated that they would uphold the court orders.

That was two weeks ago, we had twelve days of quiet and were still trying to decide whether we could believe the earlier happenings when Timothy Mudavanhu drove into our yard on Thursday morning 9am with six young men claiming to be part of the Chegutu Zanu PF youth. The youth leader eventually produced a card identifying him as 'Mtonga', the others refused to produce any identity and Timothy Mudavanhu insisted they didn't need to, they all 'work for me, I have employed them'. I asked him what about the previous meeting at the lands office and he laughed saying it was 'irrelevant', they had had another meeting to 'establish the new position' and he was now here to take his house. I asked what about the Chief Inspector and the lands officer's decisions and he replied 'phone them they're not dead.'

Indeed Inspector Zengeni said it was a 'hot potato' and refused to send out any form of support or detail and the lands officer had conveniently been removed and was no longer available. Inspector Zengeni eventually turned off his cellphone and attempts at the police station - which had pledged their assistance 'anytime' two weeks earlie - to enlist a detail to accompany the sheriff for an eviction were fruitless.

They eventually made a bonfire on our lawn and appeared to be both intoxicated and drugged, singing Chimurenga songs. The South African Embassy didn't seem able to enlist any form of help and we decided that we would start with contempt of court proceedings against Timothy Mudavanhu. The advocate we had seen on the previous occasion had pointed out that this was why Timothy Mudavanhu had never been arrested thus far.

We couldn't see why another court order would be any more relevant than the previous orders which were all blithely being ignored but thought it once again seemed our only recourse in this mad world. We drove to the lawyer in Harare and that was our mistake. We should have known what would happen but perhaps the abrupt turn of events two weeks earlier had dropped our guard. We never got back into the house and found ourselves with only the clothes we were wearing that afternoon. All our things and the children's things were in the house. The children had come home from school for the first time in 3 weeks only to find there was no home to go to. All they had was the clothes they had brought from school and our youngest son, only the clothes he wore to school.

That night Timothy Mudavanhu had a huge party to celebrate their 'victory' outside the house.

Friday 15 October 2010: broke our locks to the main gate, fitted his own padlocks and starts to move his equipment into the yard, Manager Nicolas Mawiti and family also locked out of his home in the main security fence as Mudavanhu also fits his own padlock onto Mr Mawiti's gate.

Saturday 16 October: Continual report from guards that we are expected to bring the keys to the house or the doors will be 'kicked down' and everything `thrown out'. The six youth maintain a constant presence and receive constant supplies of beer and food from a jubilant Timothy Mudavanhu.

Sunday 17 October: Guard reports that Mudavanhu is now waiting for a housebreaker from Kadoma (name given) to force entry into the house. He informs our security guard that he will not allow anything to be removed off the property including generators, pumps, etc. and expects cattle and horses to be moved off with immediate effect. He announces his intention to remove the newly planted flower bulbs tomorrow (Monday) in order to plant his beans in the beds.

We deliver an official complaint to the to the Police General Headquarters in Harare as foreign investors and South African nationals, against the deliberate inaction and refusal to provide assistance, of the Chegutu Police, particularly Chief Inspector Zengeni.

The security of our investments as of those of countless other foreigners have been reduced to crisis-driven phone calls that may or may not alleviate matters.

This current incident is far-reaching as we risk losing everything including our personal possessions, crops, movables and equipment. The tomato crop will be ready in 4 weeks with a potential yield of 260 tons.

We recently replanted 2 hectares of Polyanthus Tuberosa and expectations based on previous crops would allow us to export 400 000 stems to the European market. On the same property we are currently feeding 80 head of cattle for slaughter and kraal 140 weaners each evening. It is these cattle that Mr Mudavanhu is insisting we remove with immediate effect.

We sit now with our heads in our hands. We have never stolen this land.
We are white and that is our downfall. We haven't broken the country's laws and have on each occasion appealed through the proper processes for the protection of our property. This has made no difference to any of the authorities, it remains a 'tricky' issue. I put it to the authorities that it is because we are white that we have lost all our constitutional rights to protection and recourse and have endured ongoing harassment for the past nine years.

Heidi Visagie
Wantage Farm

1 comment:

  1. Heidi I feel for you and your family. However, I fail to understand how until now you have failed to see and understand that there is no law and order in Zimbabwe. I am black but other issues are my downfall. If they start to pursue you, sell what you can, move what you can and walk away. Yes there are so many issues to consider but you're the only one that cares. I wish we could create a separate new Zimbabwe where there is hope for all.