|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
This report does not purport to cover all the incidents that are taking place in the commercial farming areas. Communication problems and the fear of reprisals prevent farmers from reporting all that happens. Farmers names, and in some cases farm names, are omitted to minimise the risk of reprisals.
NATIONAL REPORT IN BRIEF
· At Charleswood Estates, Chimanimani, the security officer Mr. Makaza was detained prior to President Mugabe’s rally to be held in the area. Whilst the President was giving his address, Mr. Makaza and two colleagues were beaten up. The farm manager and a lawyer phoned the police, who denied having him at their station. The three were later released.
· On Mondynes Farm, Mvurwi, seven foremen were assaulted at a Zanu (PF) youth meeting on 01.03.02. The next morning, they were loaded on to the owner’s bakkie, without his permission, and taken to Mvurwi, where they were assaulted again, this time with the youths urinating into jars and pouring the contents over them for further humiliation. The police responded.
· Meryl Harrison (SPCA) stated she had tried to go to Pennyfather, Featherstone, to collect the dogs but was stopped by +- 70 hostile youths. She requested an escort from police or support unit to return on 07.03.02.
· Two Streams Farm, Macheke Virginia, reported the tractor driver was beaten up 06.03.02. A security company was called in to assist along with a policeman from Twist base. Four youths have been detained in connection with this incident.
· Zanu (PF) youth from the neighbouring communal land abducted 6 teenage farm youth on Stow, Marondera South, took them to a tent on Stow farm, stripped them naked and beat the soles of their feet and bodies with heavy sticks. The crime: open handed waving to girls.
· In Banket, Sholliver Farm has been completely shut down by settlers and Zanu (PF) youth. The manager has no access to the farm and police reaction is extremely poor. Approximately $10 million worth of tobacco left in the barns.
· In Chegutu there are very few farmers left on their farms along Tilford Road, as a result of the roadblocks and general harassment.
· Gutu/Chatsworth has continued problems, with Muirlands Farm reporting one Friesland heifer slaughtered on 03.03.02 and six in-calf heifers chopped with axes. Two have since died. The Grasslands Farm owner’s dog was fed meat laced with glass thrown over the fence. The same happened with the two guard dogs at Chibakwe Farm.
Chipinge - Section 8s are still being handed out, but otherwise all is quiet.
Chimanimani – at Charleswood Estates the security officer Mr. Makaza was detained prior to President Mugabe’s rally to be held in the area. Whilst the President was giving his address, Mr. Makaza and two colleagues were beaten up in a hall. The three were then taken to the police station and 'interrogated' further. The farm manager and a lawyer phoned the police, who denied having him at their station. The three were later released.
Headlands - General intimidation, including "war vets" dismissing the ‘hierarchy’ within the labour forces such as foremen, mechanics etc.
Rusape - There has been a complete work stoppage on Dyffryn Farm the result of a minor disagreement.
All other areas are too quiet.
Glendale - The housesitter at Avonduur Farm was notified last week the Section 8 Notice issued November 2001 was due to expire on 03.03.02 and the "new owner" was going to forcefully evict everyone on that date. On 02.03.03 employees began to move equipment from the barns and sheds. The housesitter and his wife were barricaded into the house that night but managed to escape at midnight. There are armed guards at the gates who refuse entry to everyone except for two white employees moving the owner’s household effects under an armed escort. The situation remains tense. On an adjacent farm, a team of game capturers arrived in a helicopter to relocate some of the game to a safer area. They were told that the game now belonged to the state. Mr. Mutungire has forcibly occupied the homestead on Thrums Farm.
Mvurwi – on Mondynes Farm, seven foremen were assaulted at a Zanu (PF) youth meeting on 01.03.02. The next morning, they were loaded on to the owner’s bakkie, without his permission, and taken to Mvurwi, where they were assaulted again, this time with the youths urinating into jars and pouring the contents over them for further humiliation. The police responded, took the youths away for questioning, issued RRB numbers and were given the medical reports from the foremen. The Zanu (PF) youths on release threatened they had sent for the chief "war vet" in the area. Under Cragg labour in the farm village were attacked by Zanu (PF) youth at approximately 1130 hrs on 02.03.02, in apparent retaliation for MDC slogans painted on the main road nearby. Windows were broken, several labourers abducted and others beaten up. Those abducted were taken to the Zanu (PF) base camp on the neighbouring farm Mutendamambo. Police in Mvurwi were notified (Cst Kazembe at 0120 am), with no reaction. Three people were returned. A polling station is apparently to be deployed at this location during the Presidential election. Fourstreams received another Section 8 Notice.
Horseshoe – the Amajuba Farm labour was forced to run to Gokwe School, about 5/6 km away, where they were thoroughly beaten up. On Makombi Farm, the leading "war vet", Chabayanzara, wanted to use the sheds and barns. The owner agreed on condition that he was paid for the hire of the buildings. The "war vet" response was the owner must "go and wait in Harare until we can pay you". Youths from Horseshoe School came to Norwe Farm and took away eight workers they claim are MDC members. The owner threatened to report them to the police and the election observers and they fled. The owner of Red Lichen was castigated by "war vet" Chabayanzara for being unco-operative and "stroppy" with his labourers. A work stoppage occurred on Pen Rose as youths asked each labourer if they would vote, taking down their name when they said they would be. At Mangondo Farm, the manager’s house was stoned and a petrol bomb, containing paraffin and live AK shells, tossed into the building. The fire was quickly extinguished and little damage was done. On 06.03.02, the "war vets" went on the rampage chasing and then stoning cattle and threatening to burn down farm labourer's houses. The settlers herded all the Brahman bulls up to the homestead security fence, throwing rocks and shouting obscenities at the owner and ordering him to open the gate. The terrified animals slammed into the fence and broke a corner post, almost toppling the fence. On the night of 06.03.02, the settlers went on a rampage and burned 60 huts in the home village, 48 of which were due for demolition, but 12 were in good condition. The labourers are continually chased away from the protea plantation.
General - meetings are called on farms by "war vets", ostensibly for "voter education". Instructions are given on how to fill in the voting forms, but emphasis is placed on getting the names and ID numbers of labourers who intend to vote! Guruve "war vet" leader, Chabayanzara, has called a voter education meeting on 07.03.02 at Gwakwe School for all labourers.
Beatrice – at Plumstead one dairy cow slaughtered on 03.03.02, with the meat taken away, and 800 metres of powerline stolen. On Constantia two dairy cows were slaughtered. The Eden owner has no cattle left but about 20 young Brahman commercial-type were seen on farm. Attempts are being made to identify them. The following day 15 Brahman cattle were seen on Greenlands farm, also unidentified. The Nebo Farm owner is under great pressure to pay his father’s labourers their gratuities. The elderly father has moved off his own farm for now. To avoid further problems, the son has also moved off his farm and now the local warlord Chitsinde has made the labour reap and cure tobacco in sub standard barns. Zanu (PF) Youth are an ongoing problem.
Enterprise/Bromley/Ruwa - Nothing to report
Harare South – at Edinburgh the Zanu (PF) youth from Walmer assaulted a labourer and forced him to shout slogans till 4 am. They were looking for two more labourers who hid. On Auks Nest a settler fell into the dam and drowned. At Houmoed four men arrived in a Peugeot sedan, all carrying whips, and told labour to go to the Charter grading shed for re-education on 07.03.02. The owner had to come as well. On Tantallon
Agritex is pegging 1 ha plots. This is not the first time the farm has been pegged. At Albion four Zanu (PF) youth from Charter grading camp told labour to attend a meeting at the Camp, and the owner had to supply transport or his safety would be in danger. The police were informed but said they would not react, as there would be no violence. All labour on surrounding farms have now been told they must be at the meeting. The observers have been informed. At Harare South Club, golfers were approached by four drunk men in their thirties, who arrived in a Peugeot 752141T, and said there would be no more golf. When the golfers returned to the club they were followed by the four who shouted at the members the club no longer belonged to them. There was a strong reaction from the club members and the four realized they were in the minority and backed out, noisily threatening to return but never did. At Chollo Zanu (PF) youth manning a nearby roadblock seem to be looking for spray paint.
Featherstone – Uitkyk Farm is unlisted but demands continue from labour and ex-employees for gratuities. Zanu (PF) Youth and labour entered the security fence and gathered at the back door of the homestead, claiming the police authorised them to be there. One youth approached the farmer’s daughter and told her if they were not paid she and her children would be targets. The owner was forced to sign cheques and also forced to leave a 4x4 vehicle at the police station as security. There is a continued work stoppage at Oasis with various demands for payments and protective clothing. Ministry of Labour and NEC officials attended and advised the labour of the regulations. The Zanu (PF) youth insisted something must be paid immediately and the balance when tobacco is sold. The Hazeldene work stoppage continues with demands for maize meal and long service pay. Zanu (PF) Youth from Oasis advised the owner to pay something or they would come with animals and camp at the homestead. A report received from M. Harrison (SPCA) stated she had tried to go to Pennyfather to collect the dogs but was stopped by +- 70 hostile youths. She requested an escort from police or support unit to return on 07.03.02. At Kuruman with the assistance of local "war vet” Wezhira and youth, a stolen submersible pump and car battery were recovered. An accused was arrested, the whereabouts of other stolen property revealed, which will be recovered when the settler/purchaser comes home from work. A work stoppage occurred on Dover as labour claim they might not be paid after the elections. On Klipheaval local "war vet" Chifamba attended a dip day, recording numbers and class of cattle. He told the labour there were no whites left in Featherstone and cattle would be divided up among them. The police were informed.
Macheke/Virginia - Farmers were requested to supply transport for a Star rally at Virginia Store. Macheke police, Macheke "war vet” Matatse and DA Mature in Murewa, were phoned to confirm the meeting. They knew nothing about it. It was later confirmed by Matatse to local "war vet" Chibanda, that the meeting had been called by the local Zanu-PF chairman/Councillor, Sebastian Jairos. There was a high level of intimidation at the bottom end of the district for this meeting, and a large number attended. Nyadora reported Zanu (PF) youth arrived at the gate to make their presence known. They dispersed on their own accord. Journeys End reported that a group had been disturbed reaping tobacco on the back end of the farm. A local security company was called in to investigate. A farmer reported the youth from a neighbouring farm, where the owner is away, came and demanded a tractor to ferry people to the rally at Virginia store. He was threatened his tobacco would no longer belong to him if he did not comply. He allowed his tractor to be used to resolve the issue. The youth came back again later, demanded more transport and that his labour also had to go to the rally. Two Streams reported his tractor driver was beaten up 06.03.02. A security company was called in to assist along with a policeman from Twist base. Four youths have been detained in connection with this incident. Lowlands Farm reported labour is told the ballot boxes will be opened at the polling stations and counted. It also reported there was normally only one polling station in the area but now appears there will be three or four. Marylands Farm reported another cow slaughtered. Belgravia Farm had a diesel motor stolen. On Mignon Farm, it was reported seven workers were forced to stop work by "war vets” until after elections. On 06.03.02, hunger, and the need to earn money, made them disobey the "war vets" and return to work. By evening they had been forced to abandon their work again. No help from Police or the Matatsi "war vet" in Macheke. Springs Farm had another cow slaughtered. Nyadora reported that MDC literature had been dropped along the Virginia road for voter perusal. ZANU PF youths threatened to close down his farming operations, because he did not get his workers to pick them up. He pointed out if his labourers did pick them up, they would be assaulted, and accused of being MDC. He queried who had given these orders and was told it was a Mr. Kativhu. He went to see him, together with his foreman and manager. There has been an upsurge in numbers of youth into the area, at Virginia Store, and Virginia Farm all wearing ZANU PF scarves and paraphernalia, and putting up illegal roadblocks to intimidate all who pass. When reported to police, they remove them before the police can get there. At Athlone Farm a farmer was travelling through, when he was stopped by youths from the Glen Somerset Farm training camp, demanding to know who he was and where he was going. They let him pass after he gave his name. Zanu (PF) Youth meetings were held at Waterloo and Elim Park.
Marondera North – on Nygamba rocks on the farm road and the roadblock were put up again. Botha's Rust had a lot of irrigation equipment stolen. Zanu (PF) Youth are very active in the area.
Marondera South – on Stow Zanu (PF) youth from the neighbouring communal land abducted 6 teenage farm youth, took them to a tent on Stow farm, stripped them naked and beat the soles of their feet and bodies with heavy sticks. The crime: open handed waving to girls.
Wedza – on Igudu although nothing official confirmed, it is felt something was said to the settlers as the owner is still on the farm. Two farmers went to visit and on the way out were stopped by the settlers who told them that the farmer could have visitors but they would have to sign a book, as there had been too much theft on the farm!! There is still a boom on the access road, which they take down and put up at random. At Plymtree another cow was slaughtered and the owner called the Police on 03.03.02 who did not arrive. The settlers will not release the remaining cattle, as they want to work out how much compensation they want for maize. On Iamba four fences were cut and cattle driven on to Shaka. Three were recovered but two cows and three calves are still missing. Another MCB was stolen. On Ruware the cattle are chased away from where the settlers live as they say they are eating their maize, which is non-existent. At Chirume a heifer was found with an axe in it and another had been slashed and a leg broken. The latter had to be destroyed. Makombe reports irrigation taps and sprinklers, MCB's and starters stolen.
MASHONALAND WEST (NORTH)
Raffingora – there was an armed robbery at Mete house on 02.03.02. About 4/6 armed men entered the house, held two occupants at gun-point, looted the house and stole two TVs, a hi-fi system, cell phone, camera and several bags of clothes. At least two were wearing Zanu (PF) T-shirts, and they were chanting Zanu (PF) slogans. On leaving, they locked the two occupants in the house. Police and locals reacted and a get-away vehicle and the driver were apprehended. A former hotel Settlers is now split into private residences. An occupant and his wife were woken up late at night, beaten up all over their bodies and their feet were persistently beaten with a wooden bat until they couldn’t walk. Their house was trashed and pay received that day stolen. Names of the perpetrators are Fletts, Oliver and Mshlanga, who are all resident in Raffingora Township and are known Zanu (PF) officers/youth trainers. The police were notified, but no RRB number given. Raffingora hospital refused to treat them; they were advised to go to Banket Hospital. At Nchefu Farm, the farm tractor used to transport people to a rally at Katawa was held for a short while as Zanu (PF) claimed the owner had not sent enough food. The owner was forced to part with cash in lieu of food to secure release of the tractor. The owner at Mwara was visited by people in a pick-up on 03.03.02 and told he had only sent ZW$ 2,000 worth of food for the rally and they wanted ZW$ 5,000 worth. He was forced to pay an extra ZW$ 3,000 cash in lieu of food. On 04.03.02, it was reported Zanu (PF) held meetings on all the farms they believe would be polling stations and all farm labour ordered to attend. The people present were divided into groups of 20. Each group was given a “leader” with a code name and was told the group leader would vote with them to ensure they voted “correctly”.
Trelawney/Darwendale – transport for a women’s league meeting was requested at Ziroto Farm by women settlers. When this was refused, they commandeered a Mazda T3500 without consent. The owner reported the vehicle was stolen and told the occupants over the radio it had been reported. The vehicle was returned. Later, these women caused a work stoppage, gathered the labour and congregated by the homestead. On being told the police had been notified, they re-grouped outside the homestead complex. The police arrived to follow up on the stolen vehicle and refused assistance with the work stoppage. The women reported the incident to the Zanu (PF) Youth at Trelawney Training Centre, which resulted in the abduction of the farm manager and subsequent assault. Although eventually taken to Banket Hospital for treatment, he is reluctant to make an official report as he fears for his life. At Kazanzi Farm the owner had met with the workers committee and a plan to water the roses was put in place. A Mr Shumba from Zanu (PF) Chegutu later arrived, instructed the watering be stopped and threatened to evict a tenant. The farmers in the area were put on alert. Later, the tenant and the owner were threatened in their vehicle by Mr. Shumba, and approached by people wielding sticks. Mr. Shumba made them get into his vehicle and took them to the Darwendale Police station. After a traumatic ordeal, they were released. The conclusion is the labour unrest on the Kazanzi flower project is ongoing. On 28.02.02, three labourers on Spes Bona were taken to a house in Trelawney Village and severely beaten with batons on their backs. They were released after dark and told to report back to the same house the next day at 8 am. In spite of the assault, they were terrified not to obey.
Lions Den / Chinhoyi – on 6.03.02, at Manyamba Farm settlers commandeered a tractor mowing the airstrip. The settlers wanted to use the tractor until the diesel ran out on their own lands. The owner went down to instruct the driver to finish mowing the airstrip. Both he and the tractor driver were severely assaulted. The owner was struck on the head with a "badza" (hoe), and the tractor driver attacked with a spear. They are both in a stable condition and the police are attending to the incident.
Banket - Sholliver Farm has been completely shut down by settlers and Zanu (PF) youth. The manager has no access to the farm and police reaction is extremely poor. Approximately $10 million worth of tobacco left in the barns. A total work stoppage has occurred on Glen-Athol Farm, with serious threats made against the owner and son. No police response to date.
Trelawney – this area reports on 6.03.02 there are many work stoppages and owners threatened with their lives. Labour, especially foremen, are assaulted by Zanu (PF) youths based at Trelawney Training Centre (Tobacco). There has been police response but the situation is not resolved and remains volatile.
MASHONALAND WEST (SOUTH)
Norton - a roadblock was set up by ZANU (PF) youth, demanding party cards from passing motorists, by the Norton Police station on the Murombedzi Road. Subsequently the youth held a meeting at their camp further down the road at Lydiate. Work was stopped at Daisy Farm by about twenty of these youths. The owner intervened when they assaulted the tractor driver, who was hitching up trailers so the labour could be taken to this impromptu rally. A labourer from Merton Park was assaulted by ZANU (PF) youth in Norton town and unable to come back to work. There was an impromptu ZANU (PF) rally at Tilford Farm on the Tilford Road. The owner from Fort Martin Farm came past with his wife and was stopped and forced to chant ZANU (PF) slogans for about an hour. The Zanu (PF) youth base at Emojeni is active, enforcing a curfew between 6.00 pm to 6.00 am on the road. Chief Chibero is living in the house and the youth have broken two boreholes. The Chingwiri Zanu (PF) youth base in Mhondoro is led by Comrade Guna, who is very active. The owner of Farnley had Zanu (PF) youth at a road block try climb in through his windows and on to the back of his bakkie, but managed to get away. On Shingwiri where there is to be a polling booth, the manager was evicted from his home and had to organise transport to remove his personal property. Police responded but did nothing to stop the eviction. The youth ate his trophy tiger fish amongst other things and forced his children to dance with them. There are very few farmers left on their farms along Tilford Road, as a result of the road blocks and general harassment.
Selous - On Carskey Farm approximately 60 ZANU (PF) youth, led by settlers on this unlisted farm, assaulted the cattle foreman. Most had sticks and one beat him over the head with an iron bar until unconscious. After being revived he was made to run approximately four kilometres, then dance at the Mount Carmel farm village for a few hours. The youth came from Nyamachecha resettlement, Orange Grove, and Balclutha. No police investigation has taken place to date. Three armed poachers with dogs were seen on Mount Carmel. The main "war vet" from Arbor Farm is managing to secure maize and selling it at double the official price. At Garamwe Farm two poachers with dogs were seen.
Chegutu - On Burnbank ZANU (PF) are organising securing IDs for those without, in order for them to vote. A new satellite Zanu (PF) youth base was set up on the farm when it was learnt there is to be a polling station operating on the premises. On Tiverton a Zanu (PF) youth base was set up and the youth are demanding food from the owner; again, a response to knowledge a polling station is operate on the farm. The same occurred on Pickstone for the same reason. On Torphin the new ZANU (PF) youth base set up was moved from Katawa. There is also a polling station being set up here. At C.T.E Paprika there was a strike, which was amicably resolved.
Suri-Suri - There are ZANU (PF) youth bases at Pfupajena and Chanton. Stanley Majiri, the ZANU (PF) campaign manager for the constituency, has been going farm to farm telling workers that he "will know what they have voted". On the Chakari road just outside Chegutu, ZANU (PF) set up a road block after MDC had done a leaflet drop. People moving along the road were made to pick up the leaflets and burn them and some passing motorists had ZANU (PF) stickers put on their cars. Police were present, but not stopping this activity. On Petra Farm 100 000 bricks were stolen by "settlers". On Doddington the wheels were taken off the owner’s vehicles at night.
Chakari - Trucks are commandeered from farmers for ZANU (PF) rallies and labour told the ruling party would know what they vote. On Blackmorvale the owner has not been allowed to irrigate any of his citrus trees (over 50 hectares) for nearly two months despite having tried all the political channels.
Kadoma - The owner of Pamene (had his truck commandeered for a ZANU (PF) rally. Most of Kadoma closed down 6.03.02 due to a Presidential rally. Several new Section 8's have been issued. At Empress Mine people were made to fill in ballot papers over the weekend, which were then collected by ZANU (PF) at a rally.
Battlefields - The manager at Umsweswe River Block 10A had to leave the property due to a drop of MDC leaflets appearing on the farm overnight. ZANU (PF) settlers tried to get him out of his vehicle and he is not allowed to go back to the property now. The owner has not been able to go back to his property now for approximately 5 months. At Queensdale there are ongoing hassles with roadblocks. On Railway Farm 4 Mr Madzikanda threatened to bring 100 youth into the owner’s garden. He caused a complete work stoppage and the chickens could not be fed or watered, and he demanded retrenchment packages. Police responded and the situation resolved. Mr Madzikanada told the owner, who was reticent to allow him to search his house that he was "above the law and even above Jesus Christ".
Masvingo East and Central - Chidza Farm owner reports he heard automatic gunfire on his property. At Dromore Farm a report was made to Farmers Hall Police about a settler digging a trench, from the dam on the owner’s property along the rivers edge, to the settlers’ land for flood irrigation. When investigated by Police the settler said he obtained permission from the local DA. It appears that the settler was then warned by the Police to desist and cover up the trench. On 05.03.02 the owner found the trench had not been covered and further proof of other trenches dug found. He again reported to Farmers Hall Police. The Police Official declined to give the owner a RRB Number. At Pa Nyanda Lodge the owner reports rifle shots are heard night and day on this property. Poachers are cutting game fences and hunting. Gangs of poachers with packs of dogs from the resettlement area were seen and many snares laid. Charges have been laid against a certain village.
Save Conservancy - Nothing to report.
Chiredzi - Essanby Ranch / Buffalo Range reports on the evening of 03.03.02 at approximately 20 00 hr, a group of 20/30 people visited one of the farm villages, situated on the Mkwasine boundary of Essanby. They severely assaulted two labourers who were hospitalised, as well as several others. Crown Ranch owner received a Section 7 Notice on 27.02.02. The R/E of Buffalo Range owner received a Section 7 Notice on 27.02.02. A meeting was held on Ruware Ranch to choose a new councillor. However they have set about choosing a ZAKA councillor instead of a CHIREDZI councillor. On Mungwezi Ranch settlers assaulted a game guard after he and another game guard released a settler cow caught within a snare.
Gutu / Chatsworth – the Edina Farm owners are elderly. Zanu (PF) Youths surrounded their home and made threats they should not come outside. They stole the solar panels from the roof and ran off. The following day one of the owner’s calves was chopped on the head with an axe. At Muirlands Farm one Friesland heifer was slaughtered on 03.03.02 and six in-calf heifers were chopped with axes. Two have since died. The Grasslands owners dog was fed meat laced with glass thrown over the fence. The same happened with the two guard dogs at Chibakwe Farm Polling booths have been set up at Condor A Farm, Good Luck Farm and Lauder Farm.
Mwenezi - A man known only as Nkomo has been offering farm workers in the Mwenezi Area 7 head of cattle each if they cast their vote for ZANU PF, and only given to them after the election if ZANU PF wins. This election bribe would be worth over ZW$ 200 000 each. It was reported at the weekend Mwenezi MP Isiah Shumba was giving out ZW$ 1000.00 to potential voters in Mwenezi Village.
No report received.
|By the BBC's Fergal Keane in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe|
If you didn't know what had happened there, you'd believe it to be the most beautiful place in all of Africa.
But in Matabeleland even a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I am not at all a superstitious person, but I have always found places where terrible things have happened, seriously unsettling.
And if you have read the tour guide's brief history of Matabeleland you learn enough to feel, well, at the least unsettled.
I looked like one of those white Johannesburgers who raves about having a mystical attachment to the bush, but who never ever succeeds in looking anything other than a large, white man in Africa.
The disguise fooled the officials at passport control, though there was a nervous moment when I was asked exactly what kind of work I did.
You may find this hard to believe, but lying does not automatically come easy to a journalist.
I had to think quickly, and sought refuge in my favourite hobby.
"I am a fisheries expert," I said.
"What does that mean?" said the official.
"It means I try to stop foreigners stealing my country's fish," I replied.
In a country in the grip of state paranoia, a tourist with a camera and a notebook tends to stand out
The difficult thing about being a tourist who has a lot of journalistic work to do is that you do have to go through the motions of being a tourist.
In a country in the grip of state paranoia, full of spies and government lickspittles a tourist with a camera and a notebook tends to stand out.
So every day I and my colleagues did something touristy.
One morning the tour guide suggested we go and view some Rhino in a game park.
We headed out in the warm, early sun, the glorious silence of the bush punctuated by the endless chatter of two elderly Italian ladies seated in front.
I have a feeling they were the only genuine tourists in Zimbabwe.
We quickly came across some Rhino munching happily in the thorn bush.
I was quite happy to observe this from the Landrover - the Italians wanted to get up close and the guide reluctantly agreed to lead them into the bush.
I was shamed into following.
The problem was that the Italian ladies would not stop chattering. The guide pleaded and for a few minutes the torrent subsided.
But then it resumed, and as it did the Rhino caught our scent on the wind. There was a fierce snorting from the other side of the bush, a loud rumble and then the sound of huge animals galloping - away from us.
I pictured the headline: "BBC undercover man gored by rhino."
And then the thought of leaving hospital only to enter the tender care of Mr Mugabe's security police.
Most of my time in Matabeleland was spent travelling, for I had come to Matabeleland to investigate the worst crimes of the Robert Mugabe era - atrocities committed nearly 20 years ago when Britain and the rest of western countries believed he was a good thing for his nation, or at least if they thought otherwise they were diplomatic enough to keep any doubts to themselves.
When they were withdrawn nearly two years later between 10,000 to 20,000 people were dead and an entire population traumatised.
It was a campaign of rape, torture and mass killing - Mugabe called his men the Gukuruhundi: the storm that sweeps away the chaff.
In Bulawayo - the main town of Matabeleland - the memories of that terrible period are undimmed.
And there is fear about what Mugabe's men may do next.
One morning as I was playing the tourist in the city centre, I encountered a large group of young men carrying posters of Mugabe.
I smiled at them but they glowered back.
"Go away white man," said another.
I was on my way to the Roman Catholic cathedral to meet one of the bravest men in Africa.
My secretary was worried that I might endanger myself, but I have to speak out. How can you not speak out?
Archbishop Pius Ncube
Archbishop Pius Ncube has been campaigning on behalf of victims of the 5th Brigade for years, and he is hated by Robert Mugabe.
I asked him if he was worried about doing an interview.
"My secretary was worried that I might endanger myself, but I have to speak out. How can you not speak out?" he said.
I have returned safely from Zimbabwe.
But Bishop Ncube is still there, still speaking out, still being threatened.
Whenever you are tempted to despair of Africa and its seemingly unending miseries, think of the Bishop with no other weapon but his courage.
Think of him and be comforted.