‘All of this happens for a reason’

2011-12-07 13:53

When the 79-year-old Rose Androliakos came to Zimbabwe in 1962, she never imagined she would see the day the last piece of her once-bustling farm would be forcefully taken from her and her family by her countrymen who are better connected than she is.

As a young nurse Rose, called Mother Rose by everyone who knows her, joined the missionary groups of the Catholic Church in Germany and made her way to Africa.

“I was always an adventurous spirit, always thought I would go out and see the world. Then, when this opportunity came, I was first in line,” she tells me while we sit on the sheltered stoep that overlooks the garden of her son’s house.

The rains have been good in Figtree, outside Bulawayo, and the garden is green and plush.

Before her three-year contract in the Zimbabwean (then Rhodesian) hospital was over, she met her husband Nicholas, a Greek fitter-and-turner from Beira, Mozambique.

Together they set up home in Figtree, and bought a 10 000 hectare farm to raise cattle.

“We got the farm cheaply,” Rose admits. “At the time no-one wanted to live here because Figtree was one of the flashpoints in the Matabeleland massacres. So we got it for cheap.”

The family grew but they never had much money.

They made ends meet by borrowing money and repaying it as their wealth grew. It was only after Nicholas’ death when her son, Mark, took over the family farm that it flourished.

Mark developed it into a business, which included a stockfeeding scheme, a supermarket and butchery.

Today only the stockfeeding scheme remains. Everything else had been taken away by the war veterans.

As we spoke so-called “settlers” were moving cattle off Rose’s farm, the last remaining piece of land she had left. Since 2000, when the controversial land reform programme started, her farm has been overtaken bit by bit.

Now it came to the last bit that is left, and this afternoon the sheriff of the court broke the locks to the farm gate and allowed the 15-odd settlers to enter with a small Isuzu truck.

For the rest of the day they will load as many cattle as they can on the truck and remove it to be slaughtered.
Rose knows this, but remains calm.

“All of this happens for a reason, I pray to God every day and I know this will not be forever,” she explains her take on the land grabs in Zimbabwe.

Her only real disappointment is that she won’t be able to pray in the farm chapel any more.

When things started going well for the family, Nicholas built a small chapel on the farm, complete with glass-stained windows.

“He wanted to thank God for all the blessings we have received,” Rose explains.

This is where she and her labourers would gather for morning prayer, but in the evening she would go and pray alone.

Going back to Germany is not an option for Rose.

“I love Zimbabwe, I love the people here. Yes, some of them do evil things, but I still love them. I pray for Zimbabwe every day.”

Now a long and drawn-out court process starts, which costs her son Mark $1 500 (R12 200) per day.

Their last hope is to go to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes in Paris, because the tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which previously ruled in favour of farmers like Rose, collapsed due to lack of funding.

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