Originally published in
The Daily Telegraph
10th July 2004
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare
The exodus of whites from Zimbabwe is gathering pace, with most heading for Britain or Australia.
Many of those leaving had put up with four years of persecution in the hope that President Robert Mugabe would relent. But last week, when he ordered the closure of private schools for a week for raising fees, some lost their nerve.
Jeremy Callow, 55, a solicitor, said: “It was a painful decision because this is the only home we know. I love Zimbabwe, love the people, but can’t take it any more.”
Mr Callow said he succumbed to the “relentless” grind of trying to help white farmers fighting to recover possessions through the courts – and then struggling in vain to get the orders enforced.
“I spent 80 per cent of my time with farmers counselling them,” he said. “I am not trained for that, nor can I cope any longer with seeing grown men cry.”
Under a law introduced before the flawed presidential elections in 2002, Mr Callow had to renounce his British citizenship to vote. “It is costing an arm and a leg to get it back,” he said.
Among about 350 white farmers who remain on the land are some who had previously avoided the attentions of militants from the ruling Zanu-PF party. They, too, are now abandoning their homes.
Hendrik Olivier, director of the remnants of the once 4,000-strong Commercial Farmers’ Union, said: “We have recently noticed quite a number who have been left alone the past four years but are leaving.”
John Winward, 57, spent Monday night in police cells in Karoi, a village 120 miles north of Harare.
Under pressure from Zanu-PF invaders to leave his farm, Mr Winward went to the police with court orders stating that he was allowed to remain until September to process his crops.
“The policeman didn’t believe or understand the court order and locked me up for the night,” he said. “I wish now we had quit when the heat was on a couple of years ago.”
Chris Shepherd, 38, a father of four forced off his Karoi farm 21 months ago, had hoped to remain in Zimbabwe and await a calmer future. But, now struggling financially, he will travel to Australia to seek work. “I do this with a heavy heart,” he said.
David Coltart, an MP from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said: “This is ethnic cleansing, not in the Bosnian sense of the phrase, as they knew they couldn’t get away with wholesale murder.
“It’s more subtle, designed to drive out whites because Mugabe believes whites provide funding and administrative support to the MDC.
“The laws were changed to deprive whites of land. Private schools were closed to get at whites even though most pupils are black. Mugabe said whites were ‘enemies of the people’ and he is still hammering away at them.”
Rose McCullum, 39, owns Ocean-Air Packers and Removals. “Top businessmen are going in droves,” she said. “Most go to Britain, Australia or New Zealand. A few go to South Africa but they won’t stay there as they worry about the future there as whites.
“My two best friends are leaving and we are unsettled ourselves.”
The International Monetary Fund has granted Zimbabwe a temporary reprieve from expulsion, giving it six months to prove it can turn around its economy.
The IMF said it was doing this in recognition of reforms which have reduced inflation and progress in repaying debts.
But it said it felt “grave concern over the continued and sharp decline in economic and social conditions” and “the widespread HIV/Aids pandemic remains largely unchecked”.
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