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Nuns didn’t tell the truth

IN response to the letter published in the Zimbabwe Independent from the Superior General Sr Helen Maminimini, I would like to correct certain misleading information.

NT face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Sister Maminimini mentions a “plot” and goes on to mention “small scale farming”. She goes on further to indicate that “an Arex officer advised us that the land, already allocated for LCBL (Little Community of the Blessed Lady) use, was too small to carry a few beasts”, and most amazing of all “we continued with our farming activities but suddenly he (Mr Swales) engaged the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture”.

I wish to give a correct account of the nuns’ complicity in the invasion of Malabar farm. A report was sent to the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in Harare asking them to investigate the matter and report back, as the media were interested in publishing the story. This was followed up with several phone calls to them but they failed to reply. Only two weeks later was the article accurately published in the Zimbabwe Independent of June 4.

During November 2002, six LCBL sisters approached both Mr Harvey (farm owner) and myself (farm lessee). They had two Arex officers with them, a Mr Mavunzi and a Mr Reward. At no time was subdivision or land ownership mentioned, and they merely requested a few small lands alongside the Manyame river frontage. Of course we were happy to assist, thinking and believing that we could assist in helping the mission hospital supplement their food requirements.

On March 20 2003, the LCBL sisters requested a meeting at the farm and an Arex officer called Bartholomew Mupariwa attended at the sisters request.

At this meeting we asked the sisters: “Are you Al or A2 settlers?” The reply was “Neither, we are commercial farmers”. They were asking for title deeds and land ownership. We explained that to get title deeds they would need to purchase a farm, and told them that Malabar was Mr Harvey’s only property, therefore his only source of income. The future of our 80 employees and their families hung in the balance.

When all this was happening, the farm was not listed. Under intense pressure, we gave the LCBL the use of an additional 20ha arable. They now had the use of 55ha arable and several fenced grazing paddocks. On June 3 2003, we discovered LCBL employees putting up poles for a “boundary fence”, demarcating 110ha of the farm’s total 160ha arable land for the LCBL sisters. It also included most of our irrigation lands. We were told that Sr Notvurgo (the farmer nun) had instructed that should we have any queries we were to phone the district administrator at Murombedzi.

I then phoned the late Bishop Helmut Recktor, in desperation, and he said he would talk to Sr Electa about it. Later Sr Electa phoned me, absolutely furious that I had phoned the Bishop.

We then had a meeting with Mr Stanford Katonha (Zvimba district lands officer), a Mr Ernest Chikambi, a representative for LCBL (also an A2 new farmer on neighbouring Rocklands farm), Mr Vitalis Matambudziko (an Al settler on adjacent Taunton Farm), Mr Zimuto, a Zanu PF councillor and headmaster of Kasawe School, Bartholemew Mapariwa and a police officer from ZRP Darwendale.

At this meeting we are told by Mr Katonha that Mr Harvey had one week to give the nuns part of the farm or he (Katonha) would issue a Section 8.

I asked Sr Manimimini in front of all present, whether as head of the LCBL order she was happy to take part in this. Her reply was “yes”.

On November 14 2003, Sr Notvurgo and Ernest Chikambi arrived and Chikambi was extremely angry that we were intending to plant for the 2003/2004 season. He said he would be ringing DLO Katonha to “sort us out”. I then phoned the Ministry of Lands Chinhoyi, and spoke with an official, who asked if the nuns had ever shown us a letter of offer.

When I replied in the negative, he said it was highly irregular so we were allowed to continue farming. On November 17 2003, an ambulance from Father O’Hea Memorial Hospital drove into our barnyard. Present were: Sr Joanna Mawire, the matron of the Father O’Hea hospital, Sr Notvurgo, Eernest Chikambi, and Katonha.

Katonha was extremely rude and was shouting at both Mr Harvey and myself. He said that he could demarcate and allocate this farm as he wished, and that when we left, we would remove nothing off the farm. I went to see what all the noise was about, and could not believe my eyes to see both sisters laughing.

On December 1 2003, Katohna, being driven by a nun in a white pickup, arrived and served us with a Section 8 Order, I wish to make it known that Mr and Mrs Harvey own no other property in Zimbabwe or anywhere else in the world and that the lease income from Sagar is their only source of income.

On Monday May 3 2004, Katonha and three sisters arrived. Katonha said we had 24 hours to leave the farm as the LCBL sisters had been given 495ha of the farm, which included the houses and barns, sheds etc. I refused, telling him I had a lawyer’s letter confirming that the Section 8 had not been registered with the Administrative Court, and was therefore ineffective.

When I asked for the letter of offer, Katonha flew into a rage and said he had instructed the sisters never to show us their letter of offer.

Interestingly, the sisters plated approximately 10ha of maize in one of the lands allocated to them in 2002/2003 season (land preparations all done by us, free of charge).

Using the same piece of land, they planted even less in the 2003/2004 season. They have never ever used the balance of 40ha arable that we gave them the use of.

It is a disgrace to the church that these nuns invaded a farm working with undesirable elements. Father Thamm recently came and extended his and the church’s sincere apologies of the nuns’ unbecoming actions.

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