The short story of my farm manager and the tragic loss of his son in that idiotic war that Mugabe decided to support in the Congo.
Now I had just returned to Zimbabwe and was managing the family farm owned by my brother, a lawyer in Harare. He mostly left the running of the farm and every day decisions to me. Now as it turned out one of our long standing foreman had suddenly vanished, and it had reached the stage where I knew he wouldn’t return, so was looking for a replacement and had put the word out. This simply meant that my labourers would talk about it and spread the word.
One day I was driving along in my truck and somebody walking along the road flagged me down, so I stopped. It was an indigenous (black) person and he said to me that he was looking for the job of ‘manager’. I politely explained that actually I was looking for a foreman. He said OK he wants that. I asked him if he had any references? And he began to show me some. Never have I been so intrigued by anyone’s references, very, very, impressive.
Now our poor, sad, blighted country has a very chequered history. Formerly known as Rhodesia under white rule and now Zimbabwe under black rule.
Are you trying to tell me that you owned your own tobacco farm in Rhodesian times? He replied yes, but he went under (bankrupt) and here he is ‘walking’. Now I knew that I was talking to a very special man because in as much as I loved Rhodesia and always will, it must have taken something special to be black and own your own commercial farm. I was at loss how to reply to him but eventually said, that with his level of experience and expertise he shouldn’t be going for a foreman’s job. At that time the remuneration was $750 per month. He said, please, look at me, I am walking and I’ll take anything. After much soul searching I hired him on the spot. As it turned out, the best move I ever made in my life.
From foreman to manager.
Political correctness and why it never works.
Now as a farmer I had been waiting twenty years or more to find someone like this. Three months after hiring him I was paying him $30000 per month. Quite simply, he was brilliant. In fact so much so that I was now prepared to take up the position of golf captain at my local club. Prior to this I had been resisting it, but, I now knew that whenever I was away, the farm would be in safe hands.
Now he had a son named Evans who was a pilot in the Zimbabwe air force, and who often used to fly over the farm and acknowledge us all by wiggling his wings. This of course brought great joy to all on the ground.
Then Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s onerous dictator decided to go and prop up another of his dictator chums in the Congo. It was ludicrous decision when our own country was suffering acute diesel and petrol shortages amongst many other ills. However diamonds are a man’s best friend and the Congo is rife with them.
Unbeknown to us all, Evans was sent into this conflict. He went missing in the second week of July. At the end of September the air force got in contact with my manager and told him and his wife the sorry news. Presumed dead. They were devastated and knew not where to turn. I managed to put him in contact with the International Red Cross who would do there best to try and find his son. But conditions were exceedingly difficult and no headway was made by them or the air force. Moreover by this time the papers (non government), had got wind of the story and were starting to make a noise about this.
Subsequently, in late December the air force got hold of him and said they had found the body and wanted him and his wife to come and identify it. As my manager told me,
‘there were two copses (corpses) on two different tables covered by a sheet’.
The officer in charge said to them,
‘is this your son’?
And removed the sheet. My manager told me the body was intact except for the top lip which had been cut off. Common practise to ensure the dead person wouldn’t talk and identify his killers in the beyond.
‘No, that is not my son.’
So the officer triumphantly said,
‘then this is your son’,
and removed the sheet. It was a lump of meat no bigger than a small football.
“There is a beastiality here that goes beyond denunciation, there is a crime here that weeping cannot symbolise.”
Now just in case nobody believes me, a black journalist from South Africa picked up on this story and splashed in the South African newspapers. He ended up winning the most prestigious award, awarded for journalism in South Africa for story of the year.
So next time people accuse me of racism perchance they should think twice and more importantly I have lived through it all. Very shortly after this Mugabe sent his so called ‘war vets’ from another war onto our farm. But that’s another story.