By Alexander Kanengoni
BENJAMIN FREETH, the former leader of the whites-only Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), is taking The Patriot to court because we reminded him as a recipient of Rhodesia’s ill-gotten land, he was culpable to its crimes of genocide at Nyadzonia, Victory Camp, Chibondo and other mass-graves around the country.
Ben argues he has nothing to do with Rhodesia because he came here with his father in 1980 who was part of the British Military Training team, BMATT to build the Zimbabwe National Army.
And like many others before him, when his father’s tour of duty elapsed, the young man decided to stay.
That was how he eventually got married to a Rhodesian farmer’s daughter, Laura Campbell. And when Laura’s father, Mike Campbell died, Ben and Laura inherited the farm. That is how Ben got embroiled in Rhodesia.
This is the same Ben whose team took Government to the now disbanded white-dominated SADC Tribunal in Namibia in 2006, challenging the legality of the land reform programme.
And like all Rhodesians, the man is obsessed with the land issue. He stokes fiercely the dream of those farmers who lost farms but continue to hope that one day, they will return to them.
Every day, they concoct figures to prove that it is only them who can return the country to its former bread basket status, to its days of glory. But they are wrong.
Dr. Felix Muchemwa will be publishing a book called: The Struggle for Land in Zimbabwe: 1890 – 2010 on the history of the land sometime in November.
It is a disarming revelation of how Cecil Rhodes parcelled out our land, down to the present owner.
It is the tragic story of how we were dispossessed of our land; how chiefs and their people were evicted from their lands to make way for white settlement; how entire communities were moved from their ancestral areas to establish white communities; how the Jesuits were given 15 000 acres from Chief Chikwaka to build Chishawasha; how the Wesleyan Methodist Church got their 10 000 from Chief Nenguwo to establish Waddilove.
Dr Muchemwa’s book goes beyond the furthest narrative that anyone has ever reached to tell the story of how we lost our land to the white man.
I was still very young then, in 1958, but I remember the panic that swept through the village the day we were forcibly moved from Mtekedza Tribal Trust Land area to pave way for the creation of the Wiltshire cattle ranches.
I particularly remember the fear in my father’s eyes.
I don’t know whether the Native Commissioner at The Range had notified anybody about the intended eviction because everyone seemed surprised when the lorries from Native Affairs Department arrived.
My elder brother was out in the pastures herding cattle with the other bigger boys.
I thought my father wanted to run away each time the white police officer in charge of the operation barked orders at his black subordinates to get the people to pack their belongings quickly onto the lorries because he didn’t want to go back to Enkeldorn when it was dark. My father and several others eventually returned to fetch my elder brother, the other bigger boys and the cattle the following day.
And yet when the white man came in 1890, his mind was not fixed on the land at all but on something completely different – gold.
To the point that everywhere one goes today, there is a disused mine shaft on the farms where we got our pieces of land during the land reform programme.
The shafts are proof of that original intention when they invaded the country in 1890; they wanted to seek their fortune in minerals and not farming.
They had come here believing to find the northern limits of the Johannesburg gold reef, the Rand. That is why once they hoisted the Union Jack at Fort Salisbury on 12 Sept 1890, they quickly fanned out into the country side with shovels and picks, to lay claim to gold concessions.
When they failed to find enough gold to make them rich quickly, the BSAC encouraged them to turn to farming instead.
But even as they reluctantly farmed, they still searched for gold. That is how the shafts proliferated on the farms.
We have said it before that in Zimbabwe political dynamics, the MDC is a mere pawn that the real power players are the whites and those are the people we should confront, not their surrogates.
That was why it was easy to crush the MDC in the harmonised elections.
The crushing defeat exposed the MDC’s complete inability to advance the cause of the white man, leaving him with no choice but to take the bull by the horns and talk about the centre-pin of Zimbabwean politics – the land.
But the issue of land has already been fundamentally resolved. Ben Freeth and his ilk may cook up figures to paint a false depressing picture about the situation in the country but they know they lost the war a long time ago.