Skip to comments.Kathy forced off her Zimbabwe farm
Posted on 06/05/2005 12:32:23 AM PDT by MRMEAN
A FAILING economy and the collapse of the once prosperous farming system leading to general starvation, have plagued Zimbabwe in recent years thanks to an oppressive land reform programme introduced by tyrannical president Robert Mugabe. Portlaw woman Kathy Martin has been living in Zimbabwe for over 40 years. On a rare visit back to see her family, she spoke to Waterford News & Star reporter Jennifer Long about her own distressing experiences of the oppressive regime that has brought her beloved home country to its knees
and what its like to be re-united with her family back in Portlaw after 11 years. WHEN she upped and left her native Portlaw for southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1964, Kathy Martin would never have imagined that violence, fear, intimidation and oppression would end up being part and parcel of her life.
The young nurse was aged 25, headstrong, eager to travel, ambitious .and Rhodesia was then a prospering farming country that had much to offer both its own citizens and the world market abroad.
I remember arriving there and basically falling in love with the place, recalls Kathy. It was such a wonderful country; the people were and still are amazing and I remember being made to feel so welcome at the hospital where I was due to work.
Kathy Martin, who had just qualified in general nursing and midwifery, had caught the travel bug.
I had just qualified and I suppose I had itchy feet. I didnt mind whether I went to Australia or South Africa but as it happened, I got a reply from the embassy at Rhodesia first and off I went.
My parents (Richard and Nance OKeeffe, Connolly Road), were okay about it but I remember older people in Portlaw being absolutely horrified that Id want to go to South Africa!
She didnt know it then but while her early days in Southern Rhodesia were wonderful, the 41 years that she has spent there to date would end up being a mixed bag for Kathy.
When I went there first it was fantastic. There was a great camaraderie between the black and the white people. It was a very productive country at that time but I suppose trouble was already brewing in some of the outer areas; the Zanu PF (Mugabes party) were beginning to get restless and there were little agitations here and there. In 1965, the conservative whiteminority government of Rhodesia declared its independence from Britain.
The country resisted the demands of the black Africans and Prime Minister Ian Smith dug his heels in to withstand British pressure, economic sanctions and guerrilla attacks to uphold white supremacy.
Eleven years of unrest followed from the Black nationalist movement, including guerrilla leader Robert Mugabe of the Zanu (Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front) who advocated revolution.
The war years were difficult, said Kathy. I was working as a nurse so, as you can imagine, it was very hard at times to witness first-hand the troubles. My husband Dennis was also shot at one stage; Ill never forget how difficult that was particularly. When Mugabe came to power in 1980, there was undoubtedly a feeling of relief nobody ever imagined what was to follow.
I wont say I was an admirer of his because I didnt like the way he went about things; he had been accused of a massacre in the past. But we were glad to have peace, to have our men back, the chance to get on with lives and so the white farmers gave the full support that was needed at that time for change.
Look at Nelson Mandela and the bitterness he could bear to this day yet hes a wonderful Statesman. I dont know whats made Mugabe different unfortunately he just is and its been to the detriment of our once fine country.
Kathy Martin, a 66-year-old grandmother, has spent 41 years living in Zimbabwe which she now considers her home.
She met her South African born husband Dennis there and they married in 1968. Their livelihood became their land, the 3,000-acres Kanowna Farm situated close to the district of Mutoroshanga, which they bought after acquiring a taste for farming as a result of leasing another property.
We bought the farm from a woman who had lost both her husband and her son; we built it up into something quite reasonable, producing crops such as tobacco, maize, soya beans and wheat as well as farming cattle. Our wish was that our son Sean would take it over in time and, I suppose, look after us both in our old age.
We had 80 workers there and they were essentially a part of our family. We provided them with homes and everything was going well. But it all came to an end when the Mugabes land reform programme kicked in.
In basic terms, the land reform programme spearheaded by the Mugabe has brought the once-prosperous Zimbabwe to its knees. It boils down to simple facts.
The white farmers owned the best land from the colonisation days and Mugabe wanted it back for the blacks but, detrimentally for the economy, was determined to resort to whatever means necessary to get it.
In 2000, war of independence veterans began squatting on white farmers lands and in 2002, Mugabe ordered all white farmers (about 4,000 in total) to leave their land without compensation. He even gave the go-ahead to his black supporters to kill if they had to in a bid to further his aims.
Mindless violence, the slaughter and destruction of animals and white farmers lands became widespread. Some white farmers were killed. But also black farm labourers and anyone suspected of supporting the political opposition (the Movement for Democratic Change) became targets including Kathys son Sean (35) who was severely beaten by Zanu PF youth militia.
Kathy and Dennis Martin were among the white farmers who came under siege in Zimbabwe and, as a result, were to lose everything theyd worked hard for.
In 2002, they had to contend with up to 70 settlers on their land; they found themselves barricaded into their homes on several occasions by Mugabe supporters who beat drums outside their front door as an intimidation tactic. They also had to endure the beating of their son and the merciless slaughter of their cattle all because they defied an edict to give up their home and livelihood.
At times, it was just awful. The threats, the intimidation the fear, said Kathy. We werent allowed to farm the land and so we had to let our workers go. The settlers were growing their own crops on the land, it was okay for them but we had nothing for our future. We had to keep our cattle in our front garden so they wouldnt interfere with the settlers crops.
Its the way everything was done that caused the problems. If they (Mugabe and his supporters) had been willing to compromise with the white farmers I dont think the problems would have been there .if they said well take this and you keep the rest.
Kathy, who ran a small clinic from her farm since she retired in 1981, as well as a shop supplying basic groceries for the locals in her area, said one of the most difficult incidents for the family was the violent attack on her son Sean.
Sean is a supporter of Morgan Tsvangirais MDC; hes for change we all are. We were away when it happened; Sean was on the farm alone when he was attacked by a group of ten Zanu PF youth militia. He was severely beaten with a fanbelt from a car and then chains.
When he told me over the phone, my immediate concern was whether or not hed hit back. Because if he had, they would arrest him and have him thrown in jail for assault. Thankfully, he found the control to keep his hands down all the time.
Kathy said that in another incident, two of the familys cattle were inhumanely butchered by the Zanu PF.
They were taken away and axed to death; they was nothing merciful about it. The worst part about it is the intolerable cruelty that these people are capable of. I know of people whose homes have been absolutely desecrated for no good reason. Its a very, very serious situation out there.
FAITH AND HOPE
Kathy says that despite the threats and intimidation, she and Dennis stuck it out on the farm for so long because it was their home, their livelihood and they had faith that things would turn out okay.
People say to me why didnt you leave earlier but I had faith and hope that it would be okay. The farm was our home; we worked tooth and nail to build it up over many years. We reached a compromise with our settlers to stay in the short-term. The important thing to remember is that we had a wonderful relationship with the black people; we still have. Its just a small segment that have caused the problems. After sticking it out for nearly two years, Kathy and Dennis did up and leave for a new home 15 miles away .because of what they are convinced was a genuine immediate threat on their lives.
We had someone come to our door and tell us we had 48 hours to leave or the whole family would be killed. I asked that man why it was necessary. He looked at me with pure hatred in his eyes, pointed to my skin and said it was because of that, as in its colour.
We knew we had to go. Thankfully, we got the 48 hours extended to four days. We were packing up not only our home but our business. I just knew that it wasnt a light threat our lives depended on us leaving at that stage. Kathy and Dennis now live three miles from Mutoroshanga (15 miles from the farm) and she says that for the first time in years, they are getting on peacefully with their lives.
From the farm, they managed to bring with them some lorries and combine harvesters and are trying to make a living from a little transport business where they now employ just two workers. The possibility of acquiring land for a new farm is a non-runner however; they got a letter to tell them they were never to break into farming again. Were moving on, says Kathy who is back in Portlaw on a two-month break to see her brothers and sisters; her first visit home since 1994.
Im trying to close the door on that other part of my life; it was wonderful while it lasted but now its gone and Im trying to move on. Our son Sean is now in Capetown and is working in the construction industry with his father-inlaw. Our daughter Bridget Rae is living near Kwekwe (a townsland near Victoria Falls) with her husband and two children. They are happy and getting on with things.
She says that while her heart remains in Portlaw and she is really enjoying being re-united with her brothers and sisters, after 41 years Zimbabwe is now her home and despite all that has happened, she still loves the country.
It is such a beautiful place; there is nowhere like it in the world. It was so productive and could be again. Its where I married, where I brought up my children; its been my home for 41 years to date and will be my home now into the future. No matter what has happened, its where I belong.
WHEN she upped and left her native Portlaw for southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1964, Kathy Martin would never have imagined that violence, fear, intimidation and oppression would end up being part and parcel of her life.
-Pity About Africa...--
-South Africa - The sellout of a nation--
-Cry, the Beloved Country--
-Robert Mugabe and the Struggle for Power--
-A Capsule History of Southern Africa--
-Rhetoric of blame is now a white lie--
-First it was Rhodesia then SA now America paying the price of silence--
-Parallels between Apartheid SA and USA--
-Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight--
"Why do you keep posting this stuff? Nobody cares about Africa, anyway..."
Clive, Cincinatus's Wife, blam, myself, and a few others get asked that occasionally- we are among the keepers of the "AfricaWatch" columns, and we continue to post articles about what I believe will prove to be one of the great, tragic stories of the new century.
The truth is archived here on Free Republic, and I maintain that one day, when things over there are too awful to be ignored any longer, those who have eyes to see will read the stories here, and be appalled at the silence.
That is all...
"I shall stop the killing when it is necessary.'
I have saved as many of these articles as I have run across. This is a great tragedy in my lifetime and sadly among many more to come. Thank you all for posting.
Mandela is NOT that great of a statesman; he's just a lot smoother than some of the other African thugs. How well has South Africa been doing under his tenure?
I care,I am a son of the American revolution but my wife was born there and still has family there.
I am so sorry to hear this for Kathy, and for all the innocent in Zimbabwe. This has been such a long ride, and so sad a state for what was once such a beautiful nation -
indeed, the whole country is in such peril. We must continue to pray for all of our brothers and sisters in Africa...
I met a foreign student from Harare recently, and talked to him about Zimbabwean politics. From what I gathered, the nation is potentially very rich, but it is in desperate need of good management.
The country was rich when the evil white man ran it.
But then I knew it couldn't be her as she had been driven off her farm near the beginning of the "hondo yeminda".
There are very few commercial farmers left and the land confiscation continues.
Very few of the confiscated farms are still in production. All the skilled farm employees are living hard in the bush or in hastily erected dagga huts or shanties near the cities where they are serving no good to the agrarian economy upon which Zimbabwe was once based.
And the west will have to send 1.2 million tonnes of maize to make up this year's shortfall in a country that once was a net agricultural exporter.
And Mugabe will complain if so much as a tonne of the maize is genetically engineered.
And Zanu PF will try to control its distribution. Hunger is used as a political weapon in Zimbabwe.
Africa Wins Again.
"Name me some or any of the great black controlled nations since early Egypt."
Why do people say the early Egyptians were black? Modern day Egyptians are Semites, they aren't black. I thought this was an "Afro-centric" myth. Is there any truth to it at all?
I imagine 95% of Zimbabweans would trade Mugabe for him in a nanosecond.
They just haven't come for him yet.
Africans are as bright as any people on earth. The information they need for a prosperous and productive future is right in front of them. Their fate so far has been to be led by people who play on their ancestral beliefs of tribe and totem, less so lately the latter but tribalism is still strong and will serve to divide them for as long as it can serve the tactical purposes of kleptocrats.
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