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Government let down black farmer

HE wrote 11 letters to President Robert Mugabe, took a brave walk to State House risking being shot down, in a bid to save his farm.


Luke Thembani is known for being the first black commercial farmer to take his case to the now disbanded Sadc tribunal after contesting the sale of his land in Nyazura. He won his case but sadly lost the farm along with most of his property acquired over 20 years.

And now 77 years old Thembani is wallowing in abject poverty in the dusty streets of Vhengere township in Rusape. With diabetes and high blood pressure, it is no wonder the old man is bitter.

The Standard crew caught up with Thembani in Rusape last week where he was looking tired and haggard.

“No one seems to care or even remember what I contributed to my community. It is painful at my age to be going through all these hardships,” he said.

With a distant and resigned look, Thembani tells his story.

“I bought the farm in Nyazura from a white commercial farmer called Muller in 1983. He was a neighbour to a farm where I worked,” he said. “On June 4 1983 I moved to the farm. I was excited about the big plans that I had for my farm and immediately went to work.”
Luke Thembani...  He is hoping one day he will complete building his house in Rusape. Pictures: Shepherd Tozvireva

Luke Thembani… He is hoping one day he will complete building his house in Rusape. Pictures: Shepherd Tozvireva

Over the years he made several improvements on the farm. He built houses for his farm workers, constructed dams and created paddocks.

“I grew tobacco and had 40 hectares of the crop. I also raised over 250 head of cattle along with a successful piggery project,” he said.

However, the gentle farmer with a big heart felt he needed to do more for his community, especially the children.

“I realised there was need for a school and a clinic. Pregnant women had to walk 14km to the nearest health facility,” he said.

Thembani, galvanised into action by the great need of his community, wrote a letter to the government requesting a school and a clinic.

“The government said there was no money and that if I had some, I could go ahead and build the school and clinic,” he said.

In 1986, Thembani built a school with four classrooms, an office block and houses for teachers. The following year the school proudly opened to 321 pupils.

“The government deployed eight teachers and finally my dream was coming true,” he said with pride glowing in his eyes.

The black commercial farmer, now well-recognised in the society, went on to build a church for his workers and surrounding community.

“I wanted the children to know the good ways of the Lord and stay out of trouble,” he said.

However, none of the parents could come up with levies to keep the school going and after fruitless efforts to get them to pay, Thembani resolved to make education free.

“I realised that many were not able to pay and so declared free education up until 2000,” he said.

Meanwhile, as he was focused on improving the lives of his kith and kin, his farming exploits started to buckle under the stretched resources and coupled with the drought that persisted in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he soon fell behind in repaying his loan with Agribank.

“They refused to give me further loans and threatened to sell my farm to recover their money if I did not pay up,” he said.

Thembani lost his fight in 2000 and the bank put up his farm for sale.

“Two people were interested and one bidded for the farm,” he said.

The farm was sold to Takawira Zembe, a businessman who only paid 10% at the auction.

Thembani’s lawyer, a (Mrs) Makoni, managed to stop the sale but only for a short time.

“I could not pay the legal fees anymore and my farm was suffering. I was no longer in control of my life.”

Thembani went to court and won his case but it was appealed at the Supreme Court and he lost.

Desperate and hurt, he approached the Sadc tribunal in 2009 and the ruling was in his favour, but the government refused to recognise this decision.
He was finally evicted on October 16 2009 by the Deputy Sheriff.

“I only managed to take away a few possessions but the rest was left behind and I never recovered it.”

For years he fought the decision but failing health and inadequate resources slowed him down.

Hopeless and unsure how he will survive, Thembani hopes one day he will complete building his house currently under construction.

“I have no electricity at the moment, I survive on hand-outs and my health is worrying me,” he says, gazing dejectedly at his unfinished house.

Thembani is not the only farmer who lost a farm, but he is recognised for standing up for justice and trying to upgrade his community which sadly does not seem to remember him in times of need.

34 Responses to Government let down black farmer

  1. cyril May 18, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    very sorry mr God wil help very soon & enjoy yo life

    • blessing May 19, 2014 at 10:00 am #

      Sad story

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  2. Pr May 18, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Stupid Reporting….There is nothing about him going to state house, yet it is the title of the story in Bold

  3. Taiwa kinde May 18, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    Sad to happen to anyone black or white. We need to have hearts !

  4. Ifan Nyakaza May 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    Whilst Mr Thembani is to be commended for his farming venture,it appears his misfortunes can be traced to lack of financial prudence .Any other reasons by the reporter appear to be sketchy and outrightly vague.

    • tafamutekwe May 19, 2014 at 10:47 am #

      I too sympathize with this old gentleman but after reading throughout the article it seems the farm was fairly and properly repossessed. Banks are not in the business of charity but to make profits after being entrusted by account holders to invest their financial resources wisely.Drought and bad planning appear to be this poor man’s undoing.So what came of his “long walk to State House”? Was he accorded a hearing?

  5. Bhakos May 18, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    Bhadharai zvikwereti mdara. Tose tinongochema takadyirwa mari mumabank tikaruzawo zvakawandisa. Hapana yokutamba.

  6. Chapel May 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    ko nyaya yekupinda mustate house irirpapi apa.

  7. eagle May 18, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    poor reporting where is the part of going to the state house

    • vee May 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

      I must agree with you. Would have wanted to read about what happened when he walked to the state house and the outcome of it. ..

  8. IMPACT AUDIO STUDIO May 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

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  9. bra May 18, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

    This story is an example of clickbait .they put on a headline that you can’t resist ,but to click and see it.what a dissapointing story but the newspaper

  10. Florence Utah May 18, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    A story by Mbanje. Zvadzinongowa mbanje dzoga dzoga. Hapana nyaya apa. An interesting problem in journalism. Quite fascinating.

  11. Boyz dzeSmoko May 18, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

    Kadhara aka mokanyepera kanga pinde muState house Gushungo vakayeva minana yakadaro, Tsvangi akadashurwa paMachipsa chaipo asati ambokanda kana nhanho mbiri, Himhiiii…… tambai nezvimwe bhurugwa raMai hariedzwe!

  12. dzakutsaku May 18, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    Nyaya dzemu Zimbabwe hadzigadzirike

  13. Addy May 18, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    Wer s e state haus visit nxaaaa poor journalism

  14. zuda May 18, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

    why didnt he just sale some of his land to pay off the loan

    • tafamutekwe May 19, 2014 at 10:57 am #

      Not possible. The farm was used as collateral to access money for his farming activities.

  15. oliver May 18, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    poor story nxaa

  16. chamvari May 19, 2014 at 12:44 am #

    Headline nenyaya yako hazvienderani. wakabuda muchurch uchiti uri kuenda kubhawa!!!!

  17. Tari May 19, 2014 at 5:49 am #

    So wat happened to him asvika ku state house? Was he denied entry, was he harrased, was he allowed entry, who did he meet there, wat was the outcome of his visit there? Reading your headline, i ws expecting answers to thz questions. Dnt play nepfungwa dzevanhu.

  18. TURN TO PAPA GOD WOO May 19, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Poor reporting mr journalist. Anyway Baba kuma mwari wandinoziva nearing abraham isaac and jacob. He is the same God yesterday today and forever. I saw this same God in UFIC. Come he will restore everything for you. You need to accept Him and repent your sins. Anokunzwai.

  19. edmore mbuzana mlambo May 19, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    Mr. Tembani owned a company called LMT Estates and it went under liquidation. He sold the farm to a fellow farmer in Nyazura a Mr Zembe. The reporter has deliberately left out some details to suit his pro- Rhodesian agenda.

    The old man is suffering from diabetes and I believe the Editor should direct the reporter to write an article on this topic.

  20. maxwell May 19, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    hapana zvawataura cde still waiting to hear state house issue

  21. polit May 19, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    The jono is making me thing that the story is manufactured at Siyasoo,if its true old man I saw on the pic you started a tuckshop that your way out it was just a band not end.

  22. mduduzi moyo May 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    and what happend at state house????????

  23. Carlos Promise May 19, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    saka ndopastate house pacho kere apo paakamira…kkkkkk,Hakuna hupenyu hwakapfava kudaro..chero kudarika nepo uchienda kwaunoenda unonzwa kuti environment yachinja imi ndopamunotaura kunge kusvika pastate house kwakafanana nekungopinda mutoilet

  24. zvazvinhu May 19, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    He Wrote 11 letters to President Robert Mugabe, took a brave walk to State House risking being shot down, in a bid to save his farm.

    Uyu reporter uyu varume anoziva here zvaari kuyita musoro we nyaya wakasiyana nenyaya yacho ndabva ndatoshaya kuziva kuti zviri kufamba sei

  25. wablabla May 20, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    ndatoshaya kuziva kuti zviri kumbofamba sei ndopaState house pakamira?

  26. rudende May 20, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    Isaskamu with good heart

  27. sheriff May 21, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    headline and the story has no coherence,grow up mr editor but anyway sorry mdara ndozvakaitwawo mabhunu nevamwe vako.uri nani wakatomboenda kumatare

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  29. Confused May 25, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    I wonder what court cases he won including at the SADC tribunal as surely he was in breach of contract with his bank. It is ver vague as per various contributors.

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