These images are of the Freeth family home burning to the ground - possibly an arson attack. More via SW Radio Africa below. Links to previous blogs about the terrible experiences of the Freeth family are provided at the end of this post.
This article via SW Radio Africa:
A beleaguered commercial farmer in Chegutu, who has faced months of intimidation and attack by land invaders this year, was on Monday night without a home, after his farmhouse was burned down in an apparent arson attack on Sunday.
Ben Freeth has endured some of the worst attacks on Mount Carmel farm since the renewed offensive against the commercial farming community began in earnest this year. His farmhouse, the homes of some of his workers and an on-site factory for the farm produce, were also burned down in the fire, which started while he and his family were at Church. Freeth explained on Monday that because land invaders have stolen all their equipment, including their tractors and irrigation pipes, the family was not able to put out of the fire when they returned home. He described how, with a strong wind, the fire quickly spread, destroying his home and the houses of his staff.
“There was only enough time for me to get my family’s passports and our computer, but that was all,” Freeth explained. “We have literally been left with the clothes on our backs.”
Freeth’s staff have also lost everything, and Freeth said he is determined to rebuild and give his staff a chance to also rebuild their lives. He explained that arson would never be proved, but argued that the fire would not have been so devastating if land invading ‘thugs’ had not stolen their equipment. Freeth added that surrounding farmers would usually rush to help fight a fire, but the renewed attack against Zimbabwe’s farmers means most have fled. Freeth said he, his family and workers were left alone to battle the blaze.
“While we were fighting the fire, some of the thugs were driving around on our tractor with our water pumps and dowsers, but they didn’t come near us,” Ben explained. “They were probably laughing at us.”
The attack came mere days after South African President Jacob Zuma delivered an implied rebuke to Robert Mugabe over the continuing lawlessness on white-owned commercial farms, when he said that the six-month-old coalition government should ensure productivity on all agricultural land. Zuma was in Harare last week to mediate in the unity government dispute and made it clear that he backed Tsvangirai's insistence that Mugabe had failed to meet his obligations to restore democratic reforms.
Last year, Freeth and his parents in law, Mike and Angela Campbell, were abducted and severely beaten, on the day that Mugabe was announced the winner of the farcical one-man presidential runoff election in June. Freeth, his family and his workers have since endured months of intimidation and harassment by farm invaders, working for ZANU PF top official Nathan Shamuyarira. The intimidation continued, regardless of the formation of the unity government in February. In April some of Freeth’s staff were arrested and severely beaten when they tried to defend the farm against the land invaders. Mike and Angela also fled the farm months ago because of the constant stress of the harassment by the land invaders.
The invaders meanwhile have completely taken over the farm, destroying and looting property and plundering the farm produce for personal gain. All the attacks have been reported to the Chegutu police who have repeatedly refused to aid Freeth and his family.
Freeth has also written urgent letters to Prime Minister Tsvangirai pleading for the unity government’s intervention, but the pleas have apparently fallen on deaf ears.
Despite promises by the unity government to encourage food production on farms, there still has been no effort to stop the attacks that have left the community reeling. The government has instead been at pains to dismiss the farm invasions as isolated ‘disturbances’, which Tsvangirai said were blown out of proportion by the media.
Freeth’s farm is supposed to be protected by a ruling passed down by the human rights court of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) last year. The SADC Tribunal ruling ordered the government to protect more than 70 farms against future attack in the name of land ‘reform’. But the ruling was ignored and even nullified by Mugabe, who condoned the renewed farm invasions this year. The Tribunal then ruled the government was in contempt for ignoring the earlier ruling, but this has done nothing to prevent the attacks from continuing on the farms.
Meanwhile, the complete breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe continues to take its toll on the farming community’s elderly people, after a farmer’s wife was found murdered in their home this weekend.
75-year-old Sophie Hart was discovered bound and apparently strangled, when her husband returned to their home in Kadoma on Sunday. The house had reportedly been ransacked, but not much was missing, suggesting the intruders were merely after cash. The death brings to three the number of murders of elderly farmers that have taken place in the country since the unity government was formed in February. The Commercial Farmers Union has previously said the attacks show the rule of law no longer exists in Zimbabwe, and that the elderly are soft targets for criminals.
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