Howick old boy jailed in Zim

2010-07-21 00:00

POLICE in Zimbabwe have arrested a former midlands resident for the second time in on-going harassment set against that country’s land expropriation programme.

Former Howick High pupil Gary Godfrey (41), who farms in Nyamandhlovu north of Bulawayo in Matabeleland, was arrested last week along with another farmer, Nigel Kennelly, and his farm manager, Russell McCormack.

They were released on bail on Monday night. They are to be charged with occupying state land without permission. They were charged with the same offence in 2009, but the prosecutor declined to proceed against them.

Business Day reports on-line that the Zimbabwe Home Affairs co-minister, Theresa Makoni, protested the arrest of the two, which contravenes a bilateral protection agreement signed by Zimbabwe and South Africa in November last year.

According to an online report on AllAfrica.com , Zimbabwe’s Mines Minister, Obert Mpofu, is behind the harassment of Godfrey, as he has been trying to force him to give up the farm for several weeks.

Godfrey and his wife, Debbie, live on what is left of her family’s Highfields Farm. They are both South African citizens. According to Godfrey’s parents, Kim and Carol Godfrey of Howick, the couple are left with 600 acres of the original 23 000-acre farm.

According to a statement released by the Commercial Farmers’ Alliance in Zimbabwe, harassment began in May when the police cut the power supply to Highfields, leaving residents, 10 000 chickens, 130 cattle and 260 sheep without access to any water. They stopped the staff from working, leaving livestock without food and also prevented staff on Kennelly’s neighbouring farm from working.

The state vet and SPCA intervened to get electricity and water restored and to allow staff on both farms back to work and see to the livestock. The sale of eggs and tomatoes, which police had earlier stopped, was allowed to re-sume. However, Godfrey, Kennelly and McCormack were not allowed to return to the farms and police stationed at the two homesteads were instructed to arrest the three should they return.

The police then reinstated the ban on the sale of produce, allegedly to “bankrupt them into surrender”, said the statement. The police then reportedly authorised staff at Highfields to sell the produce on condition that they do not give the proceeds to Godfrey.

On Monday, the three went to the Nyamandhlovu police station to try to sort out the situation. They were “immediately jailed at gunpoint”, despite the fact that Godfrey has a high court order authorising him to use his farm assets.

The statement says the Zimbabwean Lands Department had instructions to allow only six whites to farm in each district. It appears that authorities are now aiming “to leave only two white farmers per district. Since they are unable to expel the remaining farmers through the courts the method is to jail and intimidate them until they ‘voluntarily’ agree to vacate.”

Kim Godfrey said: “We are living on tenterhooks waiting for phone calls to update us on the situation. Our grandsons, Brandon and Robert, attend the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School, but their parents have been unable to bring them back [to school].”

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