A night of barbaric terror in Marondera.

By cathy buckle.

One afternoon this week I sat in a civilized Marondera restaurant and listened to an elderly couple relate the events of a night of barbaric terror. A mob of 40 youngsters stormed a farm house and left a trail of utter destruction.

As is more and more often the case, these cowardly thugs claimed to be war veterans and they came at night. Shortly after 7pm there was frantic barking at the back of the house and desperate knocking on the front door. One brave farm worker had raced to warn his employers that a rabble were approaching. The farmers' wife heard the roar of a mob at the gate and barely had time to lock the back door. The rabble broke the garden gates and swarmed towards the house, roaring, shouting and bellowing. The elderly woman and her husband had nowhere to run to, no way of getting out of their own home because in moments the house was surrounded. Windows were rattled, gutters banged and a steady and incessant thumping began on the back door. The noise was overwhelming. 'It was just a great roar,' the farmers' wife told me and they had to shout as they called for help, from neighbours via the radio and from the police on the telephone. The situation was deteriorating by the second but the police did not come. The couple heard the back door being broken down and they retreated down the passageway, closing and locking an interleading door behind them. The noise escalated, someone was on the roof, smashing a hole into the asbestos and windows were shattering all over the house. Then the thugs started on the interleading door, banging and hammering and the couple were forced to leave the farm radio and retreat to their bedroom. They heard the second door being broken down and could only communicate with their cellphone. Still the police did not come. The bedroom windows were smashed and a burning truncheon came through as the mob attempted to set the curtains on fire. For three hours this went on: smashing, banging, shouting and destruction. For three hours 40 men rampaged through the farmhouse.

When at last help came at 10 pm, there were no sirens, arrests or handcuffs, instead the situation was 'defused' by political intervention. The elderly couple came out of their bedroom, in deep shock, frightened and thankful to be alive. They saw the ruin that had been their home. A plug had been put into a sink and the taps turned on. The lounge, pantry and dining room were completely flooded, carpets and furniture stood in 5 cms of water. The contents of the fridge and deep freeze - meat, milk, fruit, vegetables and bread - were gone. Plates and glasses were smashed and there was broken glass everywhere. Cutlery had been taken from the drawers, tools from the garage and someone had attempted to drain the petrol from the farmers' car.

25 geese had been stolen from the garden and for that three men were arrested the following morning. For the destruction amounting to nearly half a million dollars worth of damage, no one was arrested. For the empty fridge and deep freeze, the missing cutlery and tools - no one was arrested. For the breaking and entering, smashed windows and doors, flooded property and extreme intimidation - no one was arrested.

The words that this couple used as they told of their horror, are ones that are being echoed by farmers all over Zimbabwe. "It could have been worse," they said, "at least we are alive." When I asked them what they were going to do, the couple were united. "We haven't got a Plan B. That farm is 40 years of our life. We haven't got anywhere to go."

This is what we are made to believe is the face of land hunger in Zimbabwe. We are told that these 40 men are landless peasants. We are told that these 40 men are the ones who will be responsible for growing our food this season. We are told by the police that there is no violence on the farms and that criminals are being arrested. It is not true. Day after day and week after week there is unspeakable terror on farms around the country. Now we are told that all farmers with Section 8 letters of Compulsory Acquisition have 90 days to get out of their homes and off their land so that the landless peasants can get on with the business of growing the food for Zimbabwe's 13 million people. God help us.

cathy buckle........ 19 November 2001


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