“It has been a few days since the eviction began and we are still unable to find words to articulate the feelings felt to see our home of 22 years literally carried out of the door and loaded into vehicles within a matter of hours.”
These are the words of Martin Grobler, a commercial farmer in Zimbabwe, speaking to TimesLIVE about being evicted from his land on Friday. It came a month after the Zimbabwe government signed a $3.5bn deal as compensation to white commercial farmers who were evicted from their land two decades ago.
Grobler, 63, and his wife Debbie were given 24 hours to vacate their Protea Valley Farm in Ruwa, 22km southeast of Harare.
The new landowner, Ivy Rupindi, an official in the ministry of lands, arrived on the farm armed with an eviction order and a police escort.
Grobler’s farm covers 445ha with 80ha of arable land and 250 head of cattle. Its 105 employees produce flue-cured tobacco.
Evicted 20 years ago
The couple rented the farm since they were among the 4,500 white farmers evicted under then president Robert Mugabe’s land reform policy in 2000.
“We were leasing the farm from the original title deed owner. After nationalisation of farm land in Zimbabwe, we pursued the appropriate channels to acquire an offer letter for the farm from the government, with the consent of our landlord. When our offer letter was approved and ready, officials demanded $100,000 as a bribe, which we couldn’t pay,” said Grobler.
Rupindi say she is the rightful owner of the property, which was allocated to her by the government after she applied for the land and was given an offer letter.
“It makes us profoundly sad. We are now staying with our daughter and our future is not clear. Our belongings are spread among people who helped us to move out. We will need to piece our lives back together one step at a time and our future day by day,” said Grobler.
Stories about farm evictions are familiar in Zimbabwe.
‘I left with nothing’
Dave Conolly, 60, a commercial farmer now living in Bulawayo, said he lost his 2,000ha Centenary Farm in Figtree, 50km from Bulawayo, two decades ago.
“I did dairy farming. I had 600 head of cattle and 40ha of vegetables for the market in Bulawayo. We supplied the local market with beef, milk and vegetables. In the end I left my farm with nothing,” said Conolly.
More than 4,500 white commercial farmers lost their land during violent farm evictions in 2000.
Another white commercial farmer who was evicted from his 1,500ha Aqua Farm in the Doma District, in northeastern Zimbabwe, spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety and did not want to jeopardise the chances of getting his original farm back.
He said in 2001 both his house and parent’s home were burnt down, his movable assets were stolen and his crops were raided by invaders.
“It is the most chaotic and counterproductive land reform programme. We were given three months to leave the farm. The only things I left the farm with were my bakkie, my wife and two dogs. We lost everything and had to start again,” he said.