- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Editor's Note: The following letter, written by a white farmer living in Zimbabwe was received the same week a group of about 4,500 mostly white farmers filed a Supreme Court action challenging President Robert Mugabe's power to seize their farms with little or no compensation in order to resettle blacks there. The president said it was up to Britain, the former colonial power, to pay compensation. Meanwhile, the white farmers' territory had been invaded and the farmers harassed by Mugabe-backed black "war veterans" since February.

Dear family and friends,
Sorry for my silence and no letter last week. Aside from the fact that the telephone went down and the phone company was out on strike, we had reached the point where insanity was drawing frighteningly close so took ourselves off to Mana Pools for a few days to try and get our thoughts together and put things into perspective. We have now very reluctantly made the final decision to leave our farm and will spend the next few weeks (assuming we have that long) selling all the remaining livestock, disposing of mountains of farm related bits and pieces which have accumulated to alarming proportions and generally closing our operation down.
This has been an incredibly painful decision but perhaps for the best as the future of commercial agriculture in Zimbabwe seems to be drawing to a close. Sadly we are not alone in our decision; our immediate neighbor has already left his farm, another plans to leave within the next few months and a third has started winding down his operation as well. It seems without doubt that this was the ultimate aim of the war veterans simply wear us down, cripple our operations, drive us to the edge of bankruptcy until we gave up and now they have won.
Insane as it may sound, I am going to attempt to put our farm on the market. We have still not been listed for compulsory acquisition, have still not received the dreaded Section 8 letter informing us of impending government takeover. An estate agent has first to apply to the government for a Certificate of No Interest and it will be interesting to see what happens when they try on our behalf.
Our squatters are now living permanently on the property, driving vehicles across the fields and felling the timber, stripping its bark and piling up great heaps of prime gum poles. We are absolutely helpless and I find it hard to describe the feelings that churn in my gut as I see trees that I planted with with my own hands, pruned over the years, weeded and protected for all this time and now have to watch as they simply take them.
Last Saturday a great crowd of people gathered in our fields and waited for the arrival of the Zanu PF MP for Marondera East to arrive. The esteemed gentleman had apparently sent word that he would himself be sharing out our farm on that day, but as the day wore on and he didn't arrive, people became restless. Finally a messenger came to say that the MP wouldn't be coming, he had rolled his brand new government Pajero five times a few kilometers from here and was dead. It obviously took the locals a couple of days to work out the implications before they must have realized that this now means a by-election back to square one with the intimidation, the rallies, the beatings and finally the voting.
Three days after the death of our MP, the youngster who pulled a gun on me some weeks ago, moved onto our neighbor's land, started felling the trees on their 300 acre plot and building himself a hut in their cattle paddock. Until now largely untouched by the W. V.'s, our neighbors in their 70s have now to endure the rape of their land for the third time. They lost everything in the Mau Mau in Kenya, lost everything again in Nyanga in the Zim war in 1980 and now it starts all over again. We all begin to feel more than a little like the Jews who were stripped of their human rights, property rights and then their lives in Nazi Germany.
We can only hope and pray that for us we can get off our land with our lives and can remain in the country of our birth and try and rebuild. Ethnic cleansing such a strange term, how terrifying to be the victims of it. So now, for the first time in 10 years I am going to attempt to find a job a scary prospect having been a boss for a decade. Even scarier the thought of living in a little box in a town, but after this six months of hell, even a smallholding has lost it's appeal as perhaps those little pieces of land will be next on the list. For Zimbabwe I weep. What is to become of her and her people when, by this time next year it won't only be diesel and paraffin they are queuing for but bread, sugar, maize meal, meat, etc. etc. etc. There are now so many farmers doing what we are doing. Agriculture has become untenable, there is no end in sight, there is no one that seems able to quell this utter insanity. How very very sad that it has come to this and to think of what it will be like in a few months from now. I apologize if I missed out answering anyone's letters these past few days. We continue to appreciate everyone's supportive and caring messages. Thank you.

Cathy Buckle is a farmer living in Zimbabwe. Her published letters about the plight of white Zimbabwe farmers can be found at www.1freespace.com/beetee/index.html

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