White Zimbabwean Farmer's House Burned To The Ground
Ben Freeth's farmhouse on fire yesterday. The farmer, under siege from Mugabe's thugs, says the people who have invaded his farm watched as the house burned. They were driving around in Freeth's tractors and with his water pumps on board, which means he had nothing with which to try and douse the flames. They "did not come near us", he explains, saying they were laughing at him as his home burned.
Harare, 01 September 2009
Ben Freeth and Mike Campbell, two farmers in the Chegutu area of Zimbabwe, have had their home at their farm, Mount Carmel, burned to the ground. Some workers' houses as well as their onsite factory also burned down to the ground.
Freeth said he only managed to rescue his computer and family passports, adding that his family is now only left "with the clothes on our backs."
The fire is almost certainly an arson attack, since there are ZANU PF invaders permanently at the farm and Freeth was away when the fire broke out.
To make matter worse, his equipment, including irrigation pipes and pumps, tractors and so on, have been stolen by the invaders, so he had nothing at all with which to try and put the fires out.
It would be pointless for Freeth to try and seek an investigation from the police, who have been unable to do much to stop ZANU PF thugs from continually harassing Freeth and his father-in-law.
Freeth has been beaten up with rifle butts before, after being abducted from his farm together with his in-laws. He appeared at the SADC Tribunal with his right eye black and blue from the beatings.
Ben Freeth won a landmark case at the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Tribunal in Windhoek.
The Tribunal ruled that they could keep their farm, but Mugabe's government fumbled for a bit, saying at first that they the Tribunal had "erred" and been misguided.
Only last month, Mugabe's government, seeing that their first excuse would not wash, turned around and said that the Tribunal was not a recognised body because not all SADC states had ratified the protocol establishing it.
The farm has been targeted by Nathan Shamuyarira, who is the publicity head for ZANU PF and a long-time Mugabe loyalist who fought with the dictator in the bushes of Mozambique during Zimbabwe's liberation war against colonial and Rhodesian rule.
Freeth was visited by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, who had been tasked by Prime Minister Tsvangirai to investigate continued farm invasions which the MDC are powerless to stop.
Tsvangirai subsequently told South African media that he had investigated the invasions and that there were no new invasions. Instead, said Tsvangirai, it was the white farmers to blame because they were refusing to vacate farms that had been acquired without compensation by government.
This is despite the fact that the government's own guidelines and Mugabe's oft-stated position is that any farmer with only one farm will not have it taken away. If it is "too big", it can be reduced in size and the acquired portion used for resettlement.
The Freeths and Campbell's only have Mount Carmel farm and should therefore be protected even by this government's own vindictive Land Acquisition policy.
But this is not so.
What continues to baffle people is that Tsvangirai appears to have accepted this state of affairs. He remains not only powerless to stop this harassment, but has not resorted to aping Mugabe's own justifications for the persecution of people like Ben and his father-in-law.
Perhaps I should also give this background:
The are in which Ben Freeth and Mike Campbell farm has been under renewed and fierce siege since the last elections in Zimbabwe because it is in Mugabe's home Province.
Mugabe himself is determined that there should be no white farmers left farming in his province, where he has now built a sprawling one-storey villa under tile in his birth area, Zvimba.
This persecution is, therefore being done specifically with the blessing of Mugabe. What has now changed is that it also now being done with the blessing of Tsvangirai who says people like Ben should leave because Government has acquired their farm.
If they do not, then what befalls them is their fault. That is how far down the road of appeasing Mugabe Tsvangirai has travelled.