Homeless, with no income or relative to turn to and with nowhere to go: this sums up the predicament in which former dairy farmer, Yvonne Goddard, finds herself after her Cresta Ibeka farm on the outskirts of Masvingo was grabbed by suspended Zanu PF provincial chairman Ezra Chadzamira.
By Tatenda Chitagu
Despite twice staving off attempts to invade her property — first by a senior intelligence operative and then a senior army official — for the past decade through donating to Zanu PF, the 66-year-old widow and long-time ruling party benefactor finally lost the 120-hectare farm in February this year.
Now without money for rentals, she is in the care of a friend.
“Things are really terrible for me. I am living at a friend’s place since I am now homeless and without a source of income,” she said.
After living at the farm for the past 45 years and knowing Zimbabwe as her only home since she and her parents were born and bred here, Goddard says she has nowhere to go.
“My parents were both born here. I am a Zimbabwean as well. I have no kids or relatives to turn to and farming was my only business,” she said.
Trying hard to avoid shedding tears, Goddard said she was trying a hand at landscaping and interior décor, but business was low.
After Chadzamira took over the farm — including the farmhouse — she said she had to sell all her dairy cows and is now left with a few bulls, which she leased to a neighbouring farmer.
The justification to take over the farm was that she was “under-utilising” her property.
“The farm was not being fully utilised. We could not just watch the land lie idle yet it has the potential to grow the economy,” Chadzamira, the Masvingo West legislator, said then.
All this was despite the fact that Goddard and her late husband Graham, who died of a heart attack, had been funding Zanu PF since 2000.
Leaked documents in our possession reveal that the Goddards paid ZW$20 000 in February 2001 for the “successful” hosting of the party’s provincial conference.
Then Zanu PF Masvingo chairperson, the late Samuel Mumbengegwi wrote to the Goddards on February 26 2001 to thank them for their donation to the ruling party.
“We are very grateful for all the trouble you have taken to support our cause. We realise the difficulties faced by business these days, making us all the more appreciative of your donation,” he wrote.
Mumbengegwi went an extra mile by adding a handwritten post script (P/S) which read: “I would like to meet you in person to thank you again for such generous support.”
In 2005, the couple again oiled the ruling party’s election campaign machinery with a cash donation of ZW$1 000 000.
In another stamped letter, with a receipt with the party’s logo (number 48811), dated June 27 2005, then provincial treasurer, Lovemore Matuke, thanked the couple for the support.
“On behalf of the party, I wish to express my profound gratitude and sincere appreciation for the donation towards the 2005 parliamentary elections,” reads the letter.
“Your donations will go a long way in assisting the party. Once again, I wish to thank you sincerely for supporting the party.”
After pouring such large sums of money into a bottomless pit, it has finally dawned on Goddard that one good turn does not automatically deserve another.
However, she is not the only Zanu PF benefactor to lose her farm.
Former liberation war financier, Allan Munn’s family also had its Mashonganyika Farm in Goromonzi grabbed by First Lady Grace Mugabe’s aide, deputy police commissioner Olga Bungu.
Munn was heavily involved in the liberation struggle, fighting in Zanu PF’s corner and later played a pivotal role during the negotiations leading up to the September Declaration and the signing of the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement, which culminated in Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
At her peak, Goddard produced 65 to 75 litres of fresh milk per day, as well as 30 litres of sour milk. The 12 workers she employed were also entitled to two litres of milk per day, she says.
She had 21 dairy cows and five quality Braham bulls, according to records she produced.
“Every six weeks, six cattle from the surrounding farms would come for mating with the bulls and the next lot would come. At every time, there were around 50 cattle for mating with the bulls,” Goddard said.
“But what pains me is that nothing is going on at the farm. He closed the gates and refused to grant neighbours water from the farm.”
The government also disregarded a petition signed by 106 indigenous farmers from the surrounding area who were benefiting from the bulling programme and opposed Goddard’s eviction.
The petition was handed over to Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa and copied to Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora and his deputy responsible for livestock David Marapira.
“To date, 106 farmers from undersigned, have benefitted with cumulative droppings of 643. We are very desirous to see the programme progress through our five-year development plan which will culminate in the winding up of Mashona breed replaced by quality cross breed which will attract favourable returns on the market,” it reads.
“This project with the Goddards has a high prospect of changing the livelihoods of our communities and the cooperation ought not to be disturbed by any other arrangements.
“We, therefore, impress on government to consider the interests of the majority over an individual, running around the province scouting for land after 16 years past the land revolution.
“The allocation of Ibeka should be reversed without delay as it has already affected our operations immensely and we have lost 12 breeding weeks.”
The petition added: “We are one family with the Goddard family; sharing anything and everything we possess.
“We thus urge government, particularly the Minister of Lands in this case, to act in the best interests of the majority and consider Ezra Ruvai’s [Chadzamira] desperation for land outside Cresta Ibeka.”
A visit to the farm on Friday revealed no meaningful activity as the gates were locked, although there were a few bulls grazing in the pasture.
Efforts to ascertain what production Chadzamira was doing at the farm were fruitless as he did not pick up his phone.