Dipping Day: then and now

Dear Family and Friends,

Every week in summer and every fortnight in winter we used to round up the cattle and herd them over the road to a neighbouring farm. This was dipping day: hot, dusty, dirty work as over a hundred breeding cows and their calves, along with two temperamental bulls, forced their way into the fenced dip paddock. Pushing, shoving and head butting was the order of the day accompanied by cows bellowing for their calves when they got separated in the melee. One by one the beasts were herded along the ever narrowing race lined with strong poles; soon they had no choice but to be in single file and could only go forwards. As they stepped onto the cement and then into the foot bath a couple of metres from the dip, you knew that they knew: one last, futile attempt to turn back, wide eyes and then splash. A short swim to the other side and they clambered out.  Standing in the sun on the sloped concrete drying slab, the fear was gone for the cattle as they dripped dry, the excess chemical-laden water running down the cement drains and back into the dip tank. It was all over in less than two hours: hair skimmed off the top of the dip tank, manure shoveled up, concrete hosed down, gates closed and home in time for tea. In exchange for the use of his facility, along with lots of advice and laughs, our neighbouring farmer charged a box of dipping chemicals a month.

I didn’t realise how we took that well organized, routine operation for granted until I heard this week how it is now for the people who seized our farm and our neighbour’s farm fourteen years ago. When they need to dip their cattle now it involves a six kilometre walk to the nearest functional facility. At the end of the long walk there and back, they question if there’s enough chemical in the dip because the ticks are still alive and clinging to the necks of the cattle, in their ears and under their tails.

How sad it was to learn that the dip on my neighbours farm that saw hundreds of animals treated every week has now been completely destroyed. The fence around the dip paddock has gone; the poles along the race have gone; the concrete foot bath has been smashed out of the ground; the sloped, concrete drying slab no longer exists: broken up, dug out and carried away in jagged squares. The dip tank itself is still there but unusable: dry, cracked and silted up with sand. Broken water pipes and pump, no money to replace looted fencing, no interest in erecting new poles, no agreement by livestock owners on both sides of the road, or in the neighbouring village, to contribute money to lay new concrete and renovate the dip on the seized farm to benefit all.

This sad little picture of before and after comes at a time when little snippets of information are revealed about what’s really been going on during Zimbabwe’s land seizures. Recently the he Minister of Lands whet our appetite for the truth with news that even 10 year old children had been allocated plots on seized farms . The Minister said people acquired farms on behalf of their children, lying about their dates of birth to do so. He said farms and plots fraudulently acquired would be taken back by the government.  Apparently a full land audit of acquired farms is set to take place next year at a staggering cost of 35 million US dollars.

What many of us wouldn’t do to be a fly on that wall as those farms are visited and the real truths uncovered. How eager the nation is to know who got what, how they’ve treated the farms they were given and what they’ve been doing out there all these years that’s left us importing 80% of our food.  Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy. 20th June 2014.  Copyright © Cathy Buckle.


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    Cathy it is very sad that this has come about. The amazing stories that we could tell the coming generation. I don’t know if we will be believed unless we do something about it. In Nyamandhlovu the farming community there used to donate eggs that had slight cracks to the schools around the area.You could buy meat according to your pocket because they graded the meat and obviously people bought what suited their pockets so everybody ate. It was not unusual to see a farmer doing a temp repair on the roads they used. This culture sadly is a thing of the past. To make matters worse these people are not even embarrassed by their behaviour.

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    poignant piece of writing – then and now portrayed in a meaningful way

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    Roving Ambassador 8 years ago

    I have got an Aunt who was a teacher on one of the occupied farms, she tells me the chaps came in ,burnt all the citrus trees, because they wanted to plant mealies is as per ZANU orders. They slaughtered all the dairy cattle for beef. The school was closed that very month.
    Always easy to destroy but difficult to build. As for ZANU ,they cannot build anything.

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    allen 8 years ago

    Again, Its those bloody sanctions!!!

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    godfrey c 8 years ago

    In the 80s and before independense there was a dip tank within a five kilometer radius of every rural home in this country and these were always fully supplied with chemicals and were very well organised. Vana mukoma during the war would celebrate with an all night pungwe nepovo if they had succeded in destoying one with a Bazooka, inga zvakaoma vanhu wee.

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    Thought provoking piece. Cathy, ZANU PF as we know it today is a product of the Rhodesian Front. If the white electorate had not rejected moderate leaders like Garfield Todd, Allan Savory, Pat Bashford and Sir Humpfrey Gibb’s son (his first name escapes me), the African nationalist movement was going to be dominated by moderate leaders like the early Joshua Nkomo, Percy Mkudu, Micah Bhebhe and Abel Muzorewa. The beautiful nostaligic scene you write about is one in which the highest position an African could aspire for was ‘Bass Boy.’ or his wife. Not attractive for any Black person.
    Incidentally, South Africa’s ANC is currently led by moderate Blacks. The white farmers should assure their own future by giving the ANC practical support. This includes selling land at a reasonable prices to Blacks with a love and knowledge of farming. Failure to do this will result in ‘radicals’ like Malema becoming the voice of the Blacks.
    Cothoza Mgcozo

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    As usual, a brilliantly written article. Cathy you have an amazing ability in writing, that one can almost smell the dust in the air as the cattle are dipped. But as usual, your letters paint such a sad picture of the truth that this evil regime has done in destroying our once beautiful country. Thank you Cathy.

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    Swagman 8 years ago

    Cathy, I remember our farm dip, as most the farmers had their own dips. We would pump water from the Mazowe River, fill the dip, splash in the acrid smelling chemicals, test the strength.

    In the distance, the bellowing cattle approached ever closer, their herders cracking the whips above their heads. The cattle were separated into oxen, dry cows and milkers went in first. Our small calves were hand doused, the chemicals being too strong for their delicate skins.

    Lastly, in went the hornery bulls, lashing out at one another, being very aggressive. When the muddy dip water settled, our reluctant Dobermans were thrown in, their shiny black and tan skins glistening like ebony.

    Then it was back to the farmhouse for breakfast, driving past the still wet beasts, heading back to their seperate grazing lands.

    Such memories are what we remember with sadness,for the ‘good old days’.

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    Johann 8 years ago

    As with all the living, the president is in the raceway and soon he will have no choice but to jump into the hereafter, but it is doubtful he will come out clean on the other side.