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Freeth family home destroyed - Zimbabwe

Freeth home burning down

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.

Distraught farm employees

Destroyed home - Ben Freeth

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.

Archived blogs on Mount Carmel Farm


UK Diaspora says:

These images are heartbreaking. These poor poor people!

Submitted by UK Diaspora on 1 September 2009 - 6:57pm
True Grit says:

This is indeed heartbreaking for everyone concerned. The cowardly perpetrators should be brought to justice quickly, and the MDC should see to it.

Submitted by True Grit on 1 September 2009 - 9:52pm
Graham (the ori... says:

The stubborn old oak tree that stands in the face of the storm is struck and burnt by lightning, its branches are broken by the winds, and its leaves and seeds are stripped from the branches and blown away. If the old oak survives the storm, it is left damaged, weakened, prone to sickness, and liable to fall at any moment.

On the other hand, a young sapling simply bends in the face of the storm, letting the wild winds pass overhead. When the storm abates, the sapling springs back into position, filled with energy and ready to grow rapidly.

After the storm, some of the acorn seeds that were shaken to the ground take root, and nurtured by the compost from the old oak leaves, grow into a healthy new forest.

The cycle of life and death, of young and old, and the story of our people.

Submitted by Graham (the ori... on 2 September 2009 - 7:12am
Anonymous says:

it is so typical, let them have it, they don't want progression all they want is chaos and confusion and to take a once beautiful country back to the dark ages, they are now just a country of beggars, some in suits and the rest on the streets

Submitted by Anonymous on 2 September 2009 - 10:29pm
Beth Miller says:

This is devasting news. Ouir hearts go out to these brave people. We believe that we are related to Ben Freeth (through my grandmother Freeth) and would lke to help in any way. Despite being in Australia we can still feel deeply for this utter tragedy.

Submitted by Beth Miller on 3 September 2009 - 7:31am
jomz says:

untill when my God?

kusvika rinhi nhai Mwari?

Submitted by jomz on 3 September 2009 - 7:45am
annonym says:

life is more important than the farm and equipment,,, leave them for now and let law yake its course. diaspora

Submitted by annonym on 3 September 2009 - 8:48am
Emily says:

Having lived for many happy years in Zimbabwe I am constantly appalled by what is happening in this beautiful country. I am especially saddened by the lack of reponse from the Prime Minister to Ben Freeth's letters. He is obviously not unaware of what is happening: therefore, can one assume that he is unconcerned? I had great hopes for this man, but am becoming quite disillusioned by him.

Submitted by Emily on 3 September 2009 - 11:03pm
exbulawayo says:

All I want to say is destruction is the order of the day, hunger a daily thing and so the little bit that is left seems to be almost gone now...........what a sad state of affairs, and only God knows where this is all going to end.By removing the people that can guide and teach the new young upcoming generation is a scary thought for survival of the once beautiful nation and country.These deeds are making one filled with so many mixed emotions but my heart cries for you Zimbabwe.

Submitted by exbulawayo on 4 September 2009 - 8:34am
Anja Shelton says:

I've seen the special on the Freeth Family last night on German TV. I feel so sorry and outraged. Not only have the arsonists destroyed the home of the farmers but they've also destroyed the livelihood of the farm workers. What brutish ignorance and senseless destruction. Mugabe and his cronies are to blame. They must be stopped. I feel for the family and the farm workers.

Submitted by Anja Shelton on 16 September 2009 - 9:26am

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