History repeats itself Mr Freeth!


HISTORY has an uncanny way of repeating itself and former white commercial farmer Ben Freeth must have remembered this when he recently returned to ‘his’ former farm, Mount Carmel, in Chegutu, accompanied by Martin Fletcher, a journalist with The Telegraph.
On January 7 2017, Fletcher penned an article titled, ‘Why white Zimbabwean farmer, Ben Freeth, returned to his farm eight years after it was destroyed by pro-Mugabe forces’.
But then in their quest for sympathy, both Freeth and Fletcher reflect white thinking and are on the wrong side of history.
The late cabinet Minister Nathan Shamuyarira claimed Mount Carmel and is part and parcel of the over 400 000 black households who benefitted from the Land Reform Programme initiated in 2000 to redress land imbalances in the country.
Freeth and Fletcher’s tragedy is that they have unwittingly narrowed the land issue to President Robert Mugabe and it is necessary for The Patriot to educate them by taking them down memory lane; to remind them that the farm was never Freeth’s from the beginning and kuti chinokanganwa idemo ratema asi muti haukanganwi.
June 27 1890: A group of about 1 000 white settlers leave Botswana for Mashonaland, Zimbabwe.
Like the biblical Israelites, they are driven by the promise to take over the land in Zimbabwe.
They are the Pioneer Column led by Colonel E.G. Pennefather, with Jesuit Priest Father Andrew Hartmann in tow.
They are accompanied by 300 black men seconded by the Batswana King, Seretse Khama, and commanded by his brother to help clear the Pioneer Column’s path to Mashonaland (not Botswana), looking after their cattle, wagons and horses as well as tending to their numerous other needs.
12 September 1890: The settlers arrive at present day Africa Unit Square and raise the British Union Jack.
It is Chief Mbare’s territory.
The locals who have for centuries had commercial engagements (based on mutual respect) with the Portuguese, Chinese, Arabs and Indians think nothing ill of these visitors.
They are soon trading their pumpkins, mealie-meal and millet for the visitors’ calico cloth and beads.
Meanwhile, unbeknown to the local leadership, the visitors have each been promised 15 gold claims and 3 000 acres of land.
And, more ‘visitors’ are on the way.
The sponsor of the Column, Cecil John Rhodes, is already putting in place measures for a military takeover.
Within a year of occupation, 3 556 000 hectares of land is expropriated from the locals and given to the invaders to share among themselves.
Ranches are created to hold stolen livestock amounting to 15 000 cattle, 6 000 sheep and 4 000 goats.
Within six years, they re-distribute and sell land among themselves and enact racially exclusive laws to protect their selfish interests in the name of ‘Christianity and civilisation’.
In response to the oppression, the locals organise a war, the First Chimurenga.
Much of the weaponry in use has been acquired in previous trade with the Arabs and the Portuguese.
In response to the locals’ rebellion against the invasion, Rhodes’ command to his assassins is: ‘You should kill all you can’.
The overzealous A.W. Jarvis (later Sir Alexander), serving with the Gwelo (Gweru) Volunteers, wished ‘to wipe them all out, as far as one can – everything black.’
An instance in the First Chimurenga: Sunday, August 9 – Wednesday, August 12 1896
Sunday, August 9 1896: After church service, a column consisting of Lord Earl Grey’s scouts, the Natal troop and Beal’s force leave Salisbury for Mazowe, armed with rifles, pistols, two Maxims (rate of fire 1 200 rounds/minute) and a 7-pounder.
Tuesday, August 11 1896: The killers hit Nehanda’s territory, burning down 13 homesteads with everything in them.
The occupants barely make it alive.
Wednesday, August 12 1896: Another settler-force under Captain Montgomery arrives in Chivi, but the locals make a stand, holding fort until overwhelmed early on Thursday morning.
Many of the locals are left dead and their livestock (cattle, goats and sheep) is looted by the settler-force.
Wednesday, August 12 1896: A settler-force under Captain Jenner patrolled Chikwaka (in Murehwa) and Marondera, looting grain and livestock, burning down entire villages, raping women and killing all possible, patrolling the neighbourhood and collecting forage and grain wherever possible.
By the end of 1897, thousands of locals had been shot, killed, hanged and beheaded as well as maimed into submission.
Nehanda, one of the heroines in the national resistance warns the murderers that ‘their children would suffer her wrath’ (Mapfupa angu achamuka).
Lord Earl Grey ignores Nehanda’s warning and declares: “Even if you wish in your hearts to re-conquer your country you must know it is in vain to fight against the English.”
Farms are soon being pegged for relatives and children who include those yet to be born.
Rhodes personally displaces other settler-families to give vast tracks of fertile land to the first settler-baby born in colonial Rhodesia.
Sir John Willoughby takes half of the Umzingwane District and the whole of Gweru District (of that time) all amounting to over 2 000 land claims.
Rhodes also gives him 8 850 cattle looted from the Ndebele.
And then, it was over 60 years (from the time the settlers took land in 1890) before any meaningful development could be made on the stolen land, despite the massive imperial and colonial Government sponsorship in the form of free/forced labour.
Fast Track to 2000
Black communal farmers are providing the maize grain (indigenous staple food) that is sustaining the nation while British settler-descendents like Peter Godwin and Ben Freeth are living large.
They are about 4 000, have the prime land, but are not using it to grow the staple maize crop, but flowers, tobacco, oranges and mangoes from which they are raking in millions they are using to sustain expensive and racially exclusive lifestyles.
In the exclusive comfort, they are busy writing fictional biographies claiming how their forefathers came with nothing in their pockets and built empires out of sheer hard work.
August 30 2009: British settler Benjamin Freeth stands on a mound at ‘his’ farm in Chegutu and watches his house go up in flames.
The chickens of history are coming home to roost.
Nehanda’s warning is coming to pass.
The dispossessed locals are unstoppable and the police can only stand and watch.
They are also the landless descendents of colonially dispossessed ancestors.
January 2017: In an interview with a British newspaper Freeth says: “It’s horrific to see your home in ruins simply because you have the wrong coloured skin… that, ultimately, was our crime.”
It doesn’t matter to him that Rhodes’ order to his assassins was ‘to kill everything black’.
Freeth doesn’t recall that on February 15 1897, Father Biehler, a Catholic priest at Chishawasha Mission, wrote the following during the First Chimurenga: “Our mode of fighting is not the proper one for the Mashonas.
“It seems to me that the only way of doing anything at all with the natives is to starve them, destroy their lands, kill all that can be killed.” (Muchemwa: 2015).
However, unlike Freeth, his type and kind, blacks have always been humane and like in every ‘war’, casualties are inevitable.
And it is important for Freeth to know that Nehanda’s bones have indeed risen!


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