DISPOSSESSED commercial farmer Ben Freeth recently took time to pay a “courtesy” call on former cabinet minister Nathan Shamuyarira’s widow during which he boldly reminded the new land owner how much she had ruined the once productive farm.
Freeth was thrown out of Mount Carmel Farm near Chegutu during the height of violent land grab exercise sponsored by President Robert Mugabe’s government.
Militant Zanu PF supporters torched the family’s home and looted property to allow Shamuyarira to take ownership of the 1,200 hectare property.
Years after the family was thrown out, Freeth says he decided to visit the Mango producing farm few weeks ago where he was shocked to find it had become derelict.
He said he also took time to chat to his former workers at the farm who confided in him how they were now worse off than they were when he was still farm owner.
When he was still farm owner, Mount Carmel Farm produced up to 1000 tonnes of export quality fruit mangoes and citrus, 500 cattle, over 500 giraffe, zebra, impala, sable, water buck, kudu plus tonnes of maize and some 200 tonnes of other fruit per season.
Realising that was no longer the case, Freeth then took the bold decision to visit Shamuyarira’s wife in Harare’s Borrowdale suburb.
“I went to see her because I had been out at the farm and it seemed that people were hungry at the farm, our workers were hungry; people around there were hungry and there was nothing going on.
“All our trees were burnt; none of the irrigation was working, the whole thing was an absolute mess. None of the tractors were there; we could not see any of our tractors.
“So we wanted to find out what was going on; what her intentions were, why nothing was being looked after as it should be looked after,” Freeth told NewZimbabwe.com adding that there were no more animals left at the farm.
Freeth said Mrs Shamuyarira told him she could not produce anything meaningful at the farm because there was rampant theft of crops and some other produce.
She became offended when she was told thefts at the farm were nothing new as the farm, during its peak, could produce enough for exports in spite of the thefts.
It is then that Mrs Shamuyarira became cross and told the former land owner to go and register his complaints with the government, something he found too difficult as this was the same government that refused to respect a SADC Tribunal ruling compelling the Zimbabwean administration not to interfere with farming operations at the farm.
Freeth says he told Shamuyarira’s widow that he respected the late politician’s decision to take part in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle to bring equality across races but was disgusted with the former minister’s decision to go against the same values that he fought for.
Now a prominent rights activist, Freeth has been the face of the commercial farmers’ fight for compensation following government’s decision to grab white owned farmland.
Together with his late father in law, Mike Campbell, they once led a group of commercial farmers to the Namibia domiciled SADC Tribunal which ruled that Zimbabwe’s land expropriation process was unjust as it targeted whites for their skin colour.