Zimbabwe Eye Witness Report
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Sent: Thursday, April 20, 2000 5:15 AM
Subject: Fwd: [rhodesia] Zimbabwe Eye Witness Report
Sent: Sunday, April 16, 2000 7:55 PM
Subject: held hostage

R, the following is to be distributed as widely as possible, I am
sending to the Times as well
hope all is well with you and M
best k

This weekend, myself and a Zimbabwean friend decided to go for the weekend to a friends farm in Centenary (about 140km north from Harare).We knew trouble had been brewing, but we were told that this particular farm was fine for the moment. As we set out from Harare on Saturday morning, a log-jam of  traffic on the way into the centre stalled our progress, a rally was planned and the police were searching all vehicles.
Eventually we got on the road, winding our way through spectacular country. I have been in Zim before but only for a few weeks this time. Some distance from Harare,turning of the main road was a car Ginny recognised, we hooted and the car now on a dust track stopped. The elderly, bearded farmer, looked behind him nervously, and then broke into a smile of recognition. he told us later that his hand had been on his pistol as we came along side him.
We went for drinks at the farmstead, his wife is close to a breakdown. He told us that the war veterans (or as I now call them terrorists - an apt description) had come up to him in the last few days and said straight to his face that they were going to kill him. After expressing our support for these two lonely people, we carried on.
Our friends in Centenary are working for a farmer, as a tobacco manager and his wife. War vets had put up a roadblock but they waved us through. Previously I had been under orders,from my friend, not to talk to any vet should we be stopped at a roadblock, being British is not popular with the terrorists.  We were glad to see our friends, and although we tried not to talk of politics, the ever present chatter on the farm-based radio network kept us focussed.  We went into town to get some beers, at the local store I saw my friend talking to an African wearing a cowboy hat. On his return I asked who the said gentleman was "a Vet" was his reply, I commented that he looked quite a reasonable bloke. 'No he's the Vet!', replied my friend.
That night, back at the farm compound, a single person, our friends brother turned up for our braai. Eating outside we could see the farm a mile away that was under siege. The panicked radio messages were coming in thick and fast. The vets had entered the homestead and demanded to search the place .They removed all the farmers personal weapons and left to join the drumming and dancing on the lawn. All that evening tense negotiations occurred, the guns were first given back and then reclaimed by the vets. The vets demanded that the farmer leave to go to the police and obtain the original gun certificates, but they must not tell the police why. The wife of the farmer heading the negotiations with the war veterans, was crying on the radio, begging for her husband to return home. Planned for the next morning was a meeting to be held by the vets and ZANU-PF, all farmers and their workers were ordered to attend, the workers first and the farmers later. The expectation was that the guns would be shown to the crowd, which would then be worked up, and the farmers would then be brow beaten and possibly assaulted.

At 4.30am, Sunday, the panic resumed - should the farmers go and what retribution would follow if they did not go ? In the morning we first learned by the farmer's radio network of the execution of one of their colleagues in Mazoe and the abduction of others(we now assume these two to be dead as well). Anarchy, and fear are just so palpable in this situation.

My friends on the verge of packing up and going decided to visit their grandparents, on a homestead, 20 km away. At least it would be outside of the immediate problem area. When we arrived, these old folks in their 70's could not have been more hospitable to me an outsider, a Scot just visiting. We sat and watched the test (SA v Australia) the old grandfather is no longer a farmer having sold up last year, but he and his wife are allowed by the new owner to stay on in the farmhouse. We were seven persons, ourselves, the old folks, their two adult grandsons and the wife of one of them. a pleasant lunch, we caught the BBC on satellite and heard of the impending chaos in Mazoe and the murders. As we were near finished lunch, we heard the sound a tractor and trailer coming nearer, they were on and walking beside the tractor, approximately 30 or so of them, some carrying sticks, some police batons and one carrying a drum. We all tried to remain calm, my friend jumped up to go and lock her car, but in chorus we all said that it would best to sit and finish our lunch while trying not to look over at them. They were now out on the lawn, yards from the windows, sitting, squatting, picking lemons of the tree. Our farm manager friend, the eldest grandson, first called the farmers network to appraise them of the situation, and then bravely went out to parley (he is 25 years old). In the ensuing tension the cricket was accidentally turned off, the old grandfather calmly finishing his lunch said ' why has the cricket been turned off, I'm not letting these bastards spoil my viewing'. Our friend returned , they were demanding food, tea ,bread etc. The grandson had explained that this was not a farm any longer and there was no land to peg except for the lawn. An hour later at 2.30pm, our friend asked the vets leader for permission for us to leave for Harare. They had to stay to protect their grandparents. We hugged these good people good-bye, I asked the old grandfather if there was anything we could do for them in Harare, he said 'let the world know what is happening here'.

These farming people have showed amazing restraint and dignity in the face of this organised provocation. A 56 year old farmer died within hours of his farm being invaded from a heart attack.
It is now 6.30pm,Sunday 16 April. We have phoned our captive friends and they say that the vets are camped on the lawn and the drums are beating, no doubt drink and drugs will figure later as they did in the previous evening.
This is worse than the war, the vets have confiscated hand-held radios and are listening into the farmers network. The vets are organised and deploying psychological warfare.
The farmers have no back up and are being increasingly isolated.
The Police will stand aside at the first sign of trouble and are anyway too busy bussing the vets around and providing the food and the daily wage given by Mugabe and ZANU-PF. The conflagration could start any day. My nerves are jangling after a weekend of this, this has been happening to farmers for months and is set to get worse, they have nobody to turn to, including Britain. Some idly day dream of British troops coming in and making easy work of these vets, this won't happen. Maybe the EU and UK may impose sanctions in a few months time, maybe longer.
The western world must react now, total sanctions that failed in 1965, must work this time, the country must be strangled until it is time for a new birth. Plans must be made to get white farmers and others out of here. Mugabe must be indicted for these murders and the atrocities in Matabeland. We made the mistake in the past of trying to negotiate and pander to Idi Amin, you can't hold a dialogue with the insane. Cook should hand over Zimbabwean matters to Hain, ironically now respected here, get tough, the tough here have more than done their bit.

On the way back we hit a dove and killed it instantly, a symbol of peace now lies crushed on the road.
Write to your MP, demand action, these people here are part of our heritage and culture, it is time to support them.

K. F.

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