As the situation in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, Crikey received the following email from a family of white farmers whose property has been co-opted by local officials — this is their story in their words.

First, some background from emailer Eric Harrison:

In the hopes that the justice system in Zimbabwe would prevail, Digby Nesbitt and his family kept silent as the nightmare began to unfold — they had various court orders that should have prevented it from ever happening.

Ordered to evacuate their farm by November 30, 2007, they stayed because they were assured that lands minister Didymus Mutasa was coming to the Lowveld on December 19 to resolve the issue. On December 18 they were told the trip had been postponed to early January.

At the end of January a Mr Veterai, the assistant police commissioner, who had threatened Digby Nesbitt on several occasions, arrived at the farmhouse with about 15 people, including his wife and some green bombers (Zanu PF youth militia). He showed the Nesbitts a new letter of offer saying he was taking over 71 hectares instead of the original 40 that he had been allocated.

“This meant that absolutely nothing was left for us. When I told the governor, Mr Chiwewe, he said that Veterai’s offer letter was fraudulent and he said that I should tell Veterai that he had said that. Veterai replied that he did not care and that he was taking his 71 hectares and that no politician would stop him because they are all corrupt,” Nesbitt told The Zimbabwean on Sunday in an exclusive interview.

This is Nesbitt’s account of what happened in the following weeks:

Veterai had just broken into our office down at the compound and taken everything out and dumped it on the lawn. He also broke into my mother’s cottage and took all the keys with the result that every time I went to feed her cats, I had to climb through the lounge window where two louvers were missing.

Veterai threatened our crocodile manager, Sam, and said that he was going to kill him and throw his body into the croc pen. A couple of weeks before, Sam was told that he was going to be castrated if he did not move out of his house. While we were in South Africa during the month of December, his furniture was thrown out of his house into the mud as it had been raining. Since then he and his family had been living in the little cottage next to our house. He was scared out of his wits.

Veterai came into our lounge and sat down, saying that he and his family and guards would be moving in with us that day, whether we liked it or not. When I said that I objected, he called me a racist and said that it was because he is black that we did not want him living with us. He shouted and ranted and raved like a madman again, saying that he knew how to eat with a knife and fork and that he knew how to use the bathroom properly.

He just made himself at home in the lounge for the rest of the day while his family moved their pots and pans etc into our kitchen. They took over the three guest rooms down the passage and the guards were posted in the lounge and dining room. Our front gate was locked and two booms were put up, one down at the compound and one just outside by the stables. We were prevented from leaving the house.

On the Wednesday morning the guards unlocked our front gate obviously wanting us to leave everything and run. Our minister’s wife and another friend came to see how we were doing and we were sitting in the one section of the lounge, away from where the guards were. Veterai walked in from the bedroom where he had locked himself in until that time. He said that I had called him a baboon and started shouting and screaming and going beserk like a lunatic. I was flabbergasted as it was a total lie — I would never insult anyone like that, no matter what. Anyway, he calmed down eventually and went out of the room.

After my visitors had left and I was walking back to the lounge, Veterai came walking out and as I passed him, my dogs (dachsi, Jack Russell and two very gentle mongrel crosses) started barking at him. He immediately lashed out at me, saying that I had set the dogs on him and kicked them, at the same time pulling out his pistol and pointing it at them, saying that he would shoot them and anyone else who got in his way. That night we locked ourselves in our bedroom at about 5.30pm and went to bed absolutely exhausted.

On the Thursday morning we woke up, got dressed and went through to the kitchen to organise breakfast only to find about four women busy cooking sadza on our stove. We then proceeded to the lounge and found an absolute mess, obviously a party had been held the previous night as there were empty beer, liquor and coke bottles scattered all over the carpet and the furniture was in disarray. I confronted Veterai about the mess and said that it was disgusting; he immediately twisted what I said and accused me of calling him disgusting.

Later that morning the member-in-charge from the Police Station in Chiredzi came out to the farm and basically informed us that there was nothing they could do about the situation unless there was any violence, as this was a “land issue”.

Peter Fray

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