By Nomalanga Moyo
Generations of workers at Centenary Farm in Figtree are now homeless after top ZANU PF official Ray Ndhlukula evicted them and installed himself as the new owner on Tuesday.
The farm belongs to David Conolly who has been trying since June to fend off the forcible takeover by Ndhlukula, a deputy chief secretary in the President’s Office.
The farm invasion is in contempt of a Bulawayo High Court order barring Ndhlukula from occupying the property, located in the Matebeleland South province.
Ndhlukula began moving implements on to the farm Friday, ordering Conolly to leave while also boasting about his status in President Mugabe’s administration.
Ndhlukula’s distinguished position in Mugabe’s government reportedly dates back to the time of the Gukurahundi massacres when he was a district administrator in the province. Reports also indicate that he already owns another farm, registered in his son’s name.
In an interview with SW Radio Africa, Conolly said a group of about 40 people arrived at the farm on Tuesday and started evicting his workers from their quarters.
“I immediately approached Figtree police to try and get them to stop the evictions in view of the order. I spent two hours there but I got no help from the police who said they were waiting for instructions from above on how to proceed.
“Sadly by 6pm Tuesday all my workers had been thrown out of their homes which were then occupied by Ndhlukula’s workers,” Conolly said.
Conolly said he was saddened that Ndhlukula’s actions would also cost him people he had come to regard as family and friends.
“I had living on the farm 23 adults who had about 50 dependents and amongst them is one guy who was born on the farm in 1946 whose father and grandfather worked and lived with my family before me.
“This farm has been his only home and he has been my main man. I grew up with him I knew his father and his grandfather. This is the sad side to these invasions.”
Conolly has initiated contempt of court proceedings against Ndhlukula and the Bulawayo High Court is expected to deal with the matter Thursday morning.
The country’s top judge, Godfrey Chidyausiku, recently ruled that white Zimbabweans have no rights before the courts on land disputes. But Conolly said the support he has so far received from the local community is giving him the courage not to give up without a fight.
Speaking from the Centenary Farm, rights campaigner and dispossessed farmer Ben Freeth said villagers had descended on the local police station to express their dismay at the farm invasion.
“We understand there is a meeting going on at the moment at Figtree where a lot of complaints are being made to the police about the eviction of the farm workers.
“We also understand that there are war vets planning to demonstrate in favour of the Conollys and demanding an end to the invasions.
“There is also a strong feeling that Ndhlukula shouldn’t be coming to this area, given his role in the Gukurahundi massacres when he was the DA,” Freeth said.
MDC Senator David Coltart also threw his weight behind Conolly, describing him as a humble hard working farmer who had done a lot to restore the viability of the dairy industry in the country.
“I am conscious of Robert Mugabe’s statement recently that he does not want any whites to be farming the soil in Zimbabwe and I presume that this action to evict Conolly is a result of that statement.
“Yesterday I had a useful discussion with Dumiso Dabengwa who said to me ‘this is not what fought we for’. He is appalled by what is going on as, I have no doubt, are millions of Zimbabweans who are not racist, who want our country to progress and take its rightful place in the community of nations,” Coltart said in a post on his Facebook page.
On Monday, MDC politician Moses Mzila-Ndlovu called on local communities, regardless of race or tribe, to take the lead in resisting ZANU PF’s divisive and disruptive activities disguised as the land reform exercise. SW Radio Africa