War Veterans and farm invasions.
Now I have been putting off writing about this because it brings back so many unhappy feelings. But, perchance it is a story worth telling and reminding people about, in case they have forgotten or never even knew about it. It just goes to show the lengths people will go to, especially when controlled by an onerous dictator.
Now what this really involves is that our once beautiful country had been handed over to a person whose brutality knew no bounds. The great sadness about all this, is that it wasn’t done by people who may support this type of thing. Far from it. It was done by Western leaders who one would have supposed wouldn’t? It’s true all right, ‘that politics make strange bedfellows’.
He went by the name of Robert Gabriel Mugabe.
Now the long and short of all this, is that he had been promising his people and his former followers land for over nineteen years but somehow never got around to it, en masse. Those who he had given land to of course never did much with any of it, if anything at all apart from making it a conservationists nightmare. Such is life in Africa.
Moreover he had used untold brutality to ensure he became ‘President for eternity’, or some such tripe.
A funny thing happened, the people had become tired and sickened by him and so he lost a crucial referendum. This chilled him to the bone so action was required to remedy this. The action consisted of doing things the only way he knew. Which of course consisted of more bloodshed and mayhem.
So the great plan consisted of invading (mainly), white commercial farms, who were about the only successful people at the time. To do this he used his former veterans from the liberation (terrorist)war. The so called ‘freedom fighters’ (terrorists), depending of course which perspective you come from?
What was even more strange was that most of these people were about fifteen or sixteen years of age. Quite simply, this means, they hadn’t even been born when the war ended. Which also quite simply means, they were nothing more than a bunch of unruly, hired, thugs and no less dangerous.
These then were the type of people who invaded my farm.
Here come the war veterans
Fear, luck and some laughs
As always one thinks this is never going to happen to you, but, it does. We weren’t the first farm invaded in the country but we were one of the first in our area. Consequently, one had an idea, more or less, of what to expect.
As it turns out my wife, I, and the kids were returning from holiday in South Africa when my brother phoned her and told us that the war vets were on the farm and to be careful. What a lovely welcome home hey?
Anyway, talking to my indigenous farm manager he told me that they took them by surprise so the security gates were not locked and they could not hold them outside the security fence. It’s called playing for time. So they were in and mayhem proceeded by scaring all the labour overturning tobacco bales amongst a number of things and saying the farm was now closed. Any one even thinking about work would be killed on the spot. They were all armed with ‘machetes.’
Now I have all ready mentioned that the majority of them were just young thugs. However, their leadership consisted of a few old genuine ‘vets’. The big lad in charge of our invasion went under the name of ‘Don Carlos’. Frederick Forsythe’s famed international assassin from his book , ‘The Day of the Jackal’. Now I’ll put my life on it that he had never read the book, but, had obviously seen the film and been mightily impressed.
Anyway, our Don Carlos, had the most bloodshot eyes I have ever seen. Drunk or high on ‘dagga’ (marijuana, grass), whatever you call it where you live, sometimes both at the same time, more often than not. The first thing he did was force our cook ‘Willard’, named after the crisps, to unlock our house. Whereupon Don Carlos helped himself to all our booze, then cleaned out the fridge, deep freeze, and pantry, distributing the largess all the while like some conquering hero.
So, the wife, kids, and I returned to a house where there was no food, but, by some stroke of good luck everything else had been left untouched. However the invasion of one’s privacy like this is not an easy thing to put up with. Pointless calling the Police as well, as they can’t help, as it’s ‘political’?
The next day
Meeting the war vets.
What these people had done was stolen one of our seedbed fumigation tents and draped it over the branches of a tree outside the gate of our security fence. He duly arrived and the great moment came when I went out to meet them. Don Carlos and most of his other merry men had left to invade another farm and left about fifteen men to hold the fort so to speak. The leader being another genuine war vet fast approaching senility and always wearing a red cricket blazer. After all, class tells, innit?
Now this is when luck, or whatever you want to call it comes in. Whether this was because I was deaf or because they liked the idea of me having hired one of their own people as my manager, God alone knows. People in the end are after all just human. The long and short of this is that I got on quite well with them and when the talk was finished ‘red blazer’, handed me a note and I went back inside.
The note said,
250Kgs. Mielie meal (ground maize and their staple diet).
24 cases Castle beer.
50 cartons Madison cigarettes
1 Pair high heel shoes size 5.
He obviously fancied one of the labourers women and was trying to butter her up. You see the onus was supposedly to put fear into the labour force. So they spent most of their time forcing the labour to listen to them until the early hours of the morning and singing revolutionary songs.
What to do?
I know not what.
The Commercial Farmers Union (hereinafter referred to as the CFU), were telling all farmers not to feed the invaders at any cost. No doubt because they felt that once they became hungry, then they would leave? Moreover they were busy negotiating with the Government saying that there were six million hectares of viable farming land lying fallow. Surely then, the best way of going about this was to settle people on this in an economically equitable way and they had the expertise and bank backing to oversee all this. And expert help to make it happen, but, they were banging their heads against a brick wall, where there was no reason or logic.
Now you have to understand that so far I was doing OK with these people but another personal friend of mine in another area had just been beaten to death with iron pipes in front of his wife and two young teenage daughters. His wife being a long standing childhood friend of mine whom I grew up with. Oh, they were dangerous all right and it would only take one spark to ignite these people.
Now I am not an overly religious man but I do like a good debate or argument. Subsequently, I have read the Bible three or four times in my life, page by page. For some reason prior to leaving for holiday I was doing this again, so it was sitting unopened on the stool next to my chair. And, I was holding that note, so I picked up the Bible and randomly opened it. The page that came up was along the lines of, ‘if your enemy is hungry, then feed him’. How could this be?
So I went back out and told them that I was going to feed them, but, only maize meal. I then did a head count and there were fifteen. So I emphasised that I was only going to feed them. If three hundred of them turned up the next day looking for a free meal it wasn’t going to happen. Just you fifteen only. If I do this I want the farm and workers to become functional again and work re-commence. It was a busy and crucial time of the year. They agreed, so it was back to all systems go.
Next, work resumes but now pegging begins.
War Veterans at work.
So the farm is back at work and so are the ‘vet’, slapping their machetes into the palm of their hands and looking at you with a if looks could kill look, every time you drove past them. I was finding it tiresome. Then onto the nightly entertainment of haranguing the labour until the early hours of the morning.
But the word had spread. Free land available, get in now and make your fortune.
So people from the communal lands or anywhere were walking onto your property and pegging their piece. What this consisted of, was cutting a few branches of a tree and sticking it into the soil, with a bit of plastic or part of an old fertiliser bag tied around the top. Great way to sign post hey? Most of these consisted of about twenty square metres. It was sickening but hard not to laugh as well. I was always thinking to myself, ‘I wonder how they are going to make a living from that then’? I also wondered when the best pieces were gone, who was going to get the rock or even tree?
Meanwhile back on the ranch Don Carlos was popping in now and again creating havoc everywhere he went. Now my next door neighbour was one of Mugabe’s cabinet ministers and part of his special inner circle. Our two boundaries intertwined and his house was no more than 900 metres away from mine at this junction.
But the ‘Don’ was obviously not in the know and high as a kite as usual marched his merry men over there. The minister was at home so went out to see what the fuss was about. Don Carlos went berserk with rage when he saw he was a black and at one stage called this minister;
“A white man’s bitch.”
Said minister came over to talk with me shortly after this, still shivering with fear. After all he had spend all the war years and in total 18 years living in America. Obviously he had learnt nothing in all that time living in such a great country and came back to join Mugabe. He described Don Carlos to me as;
“Nothing but a reprehensible, moronic, little thug.”
I had to laugh, not that he ever did anything about trying to stop the land invasions or what was going on at my place, but, they never stepped on his place again. Come to think of it, maybe he had his eye on mine?
Now on leaving here Don Carlos went on to the other farm where my manager lived. In his semi-conscious state he realised that it wasn’t being pegged and gave my manager a hard time about this. Micah (manager) calmly replied that he wasn’t aware he had to peg it. Don Carlos went berserk again and told him to peg it, and Micah asked how large he should make the pegs, to which Don Carlos screeched:
“A thousand kilometres.”
Explaining this to me later Micah added an afterthought which again made me laugh:
“He’s f**king mad.”
Now Micah was a pastor in his congregation, but, he had been around me long enough to liven up his language somewhat. It was the most eloquent description of Don Carlos I ever heard.
Now obviously the ‘vets’ had been thinking or were just getting bored? But they had come up with a master plan and this was entrepreneurship of the highest order. Being, why not sell the pegged pieces? OK why not?
So what they did was they started selling all the pegged pieces and the going price was $250 each. Now there came a time when they had sold each of these pieces to approximately ten different people. So fighting began between the seller and the buyer, and the buyer and the buyer, times ten. Somewhere about this time all the ‘vets’ vanished. Their job was done? Thank heavens for little mercies?
Now I have lived a varied life believe you me and never, and I mean never, have I been so sickened. It was time to go. I wasn’t the owner of these farms, my brother was, and this time I KNEW, Mugabe was finally serious. Nobody believed me and even my own Mother said to me:
“Kevin you are ruining your own and your families life.”
Many people had not even been invaded at this time and all agreed with my Mum. I hasten to add my Mum and Dad’s place either although this was also now owned by my brother. So be it. I managed to get a job in Ireland, but, even then I KNEW, a lot would depend on how well my wife did.
So after coming back from Ireland I planted my brother’s crops for him and then I left with the family to follow later. And everybody hated me.
A couple of years later the ‘vets’ invaded the farm where my parents lived and by this time the atrocities had increased ten fold. So they kicked them off and took over their homestead, sleeping in their beds, taking all their possessions, the accumulation of a lifetimes love and memories. All the photos of their kids, all the school reports, need I go on, and left them with nothing. Sixty years of trials and love and laughter. Who the hell cares we are the vets? Aluta continua, pamberi ne Mugabe.
They killed my father as sure as if they had shot him in the head. It just broke his heart and one day he just sat down in his chair and died. The life had gone out of him.
I’m sorry I just can’t go on. Except to say that their are millions of people around the world who can see nothing wrong with any of this. Well you got what you asked for. Look around you, everywhere you look, people out of work and crying, but, those in government and their idiotic followers are still riding the gravy train. Sorry people you cannot have your gravy and eat it.