7 January 2018

Zimbabwe: White Farmer Returns Home in Style

Photo: The Standard
Robert Smart

SPIRIT mediums and traditional leaders yesterday led a cleansing ceremony at Lesbury farm in Rusape as Robert Smart and his family made a grand return to the farm over six months after they were evicted to pave way for a top cleric.

Hundreds of people among them local villagers, war veterans, soldiers, Zanu PF officials and former workers witnessed the cleansing of the farm which was reportedly defiled by invaders.

The Mafuwe drumbeat could be heard from a distant over the hills with popular spirit medium Tenzi Nehoreka commanding several groups of other spirit mediums drawn from the country's 10 provinces.

Smart (71) and his family were evicted from the productive farm outside Rusape by former president Robert Mugabe's allies in June last year to make way for Bishop Trevor Manhanga.

Manhanga allegedly brought in three other farmers and allocated them land at the 700 ha farm.

However, following the inauguration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa after the ouster of Mugabe, the Smart family was offered a chance to return and resume production at the farm.

Local traditional leader Chief Peter Tandi said the return of the Smart family would result in the resuscitation of the 'local industry'".

"We want to thank President Mnangagwa for remembering us. Former president Robert Mugabe had no care for this community. Instead he enjoyed oppressing us for the benefit of the G40 cabal. The return of Smart means the revival of our industry.

"The white farmer means a lot of us. He built a school, constructed and maintained roads, created employment and made shops available for us -- something that government failed to do in years," he said.

Chief Tandi said the ceremony was meant to cleanse the land allegedly defiled by Manhanga who also built a church at the farm near the graves of the area's first inhabitants.

When this paper visited the farm yesterday, most of the land lay fallow while a small portion of land with a struggling tobacco crop was visible near the farm compound.

The farm machinery and infrastructure has already been vandalised.

Smart, who attended the ceremony together with his son Darryn (40) said they would start serious business tomorrow.

"We are back in full force, and next week (tomorrow) we are starting production. The time is up for us to plant and we will start with potatoes, maize, paprika and other crops. We are looking forward to massive re-investment since we lost a lot of things to looters," he said.

According to Darryn, $3 million worth of assets and other goods were lost.

"Those who looted had no mercy at all. They even stole goods from the farm workers' compound. They left them poor," he said.

The invaders allegedly stole $70 000 that was meant for workers' June salaries.

It was a moment of joy for the Smart family as they re-united with former workers with the later hoping to resume work tomorrow.

Before the invasions, Lesbury farm had 300 permanent workers. However, Smart said he would start with 100 workers until he intensifies production.

Samson Magumura (42) who has been a security guard at the farm for seven years recounted the horror he witnessed during the violent evictions and thanked government for giving back the farm to its owners.

"It was a horrific encounter. On June 19 last year police ambushed us at the farm, beat us up using batons and told us that the farm was taken by Manhanga who prays for the first family. Some of us were taken into cells while others fled to the nearby mountains.

"We had no food and clothes since we were not allowed into the workers' compounds. The Smart family has done a lot to develop the Tandi community and we are thankful to the government for rescuing us," he said.

The Smart family has been occupants of the farm since 1930.

One of the workers said the invaders were cruel to the extent of using the farm cottage as a cattle pen.

The cleansing ceremony that started Friday night ends today.

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