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Friday, October 28, 2016
Zimbabwe: nuns respond to farm seizure story
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 On 7 June we carried a story attributed from several sources, in which it was reported that a group of nuns were helped by ZANU PF youths to confiscate a farm. Fr Oskar Wermter SJ from Jesuit Communications in Harare has sent the following letter from the sisters today which gives their version of events. Sr Helen Tendayi Maminimini, Superior General LCB writes: It is true that generally as a congregation we were visualising ourselves with a plot on which we could till land and produce something with which to boost our resources. The Sisters at Fr O'Hea Memorial Hospital knew a Mr Harvey, a retired farmer who owns Malabar farm. The farm is within walking distance from the hospital. The sisters, who belong to our order (Little Children of the Blessed Lady), approached him with a request for a small piece of land on which they could do small-scale farming. Mr Harvey who had no problem with the request had a meeting with a Mr Swales who is leasing the farm. Mr Swales offered us 30 hectares of land along Manyame River. He and his wife expressed great joy at having the sisters as neighbours. The relationship between the sisters and the Swales was actually very good to the extent that we invited Mr Swales to join the board of our plot. He declined due to pressure of work. The agreement between Mr Swales and us that farm issues should only be discussed with the regional superior and myself was to prevent confusion in administration. When we wanted to keep a few beasts an Arex officer advised us the land was too small for the project. We approached Mr Swales for advice, all in good faith and he offered more land. Never at any time did we have the intention of taking over his farm. Mr Swales agreed to add 10 more hectares and said he would draw us another map to this effect. No map was drawn. We continued with our farming activities but suddenly he engaged the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture in a meeting at the farm. I was not aware of the meeting at the time. Some disagreements must have occurred between the ministry and Mr Swales resulting in his being offered eviction letters. When we discovered this, we wrote a letter to the ministry informing them that we were pulling out of the farm. We did not want to be the reason of Mr Swales' eviction. Copies of the letters and documentation of all agreements between Mr Swales and us are readily available. We are actually in the process of removing our property from the farm as we have pulled out. We never intended any harm to the Swales and are shocked at the article in which I was quoted out of context. The article has done a lot of damage to the Order. It implies that we are political and suggests that we engaged the youths to threaten Mr Swales. This is far from the truth, as we never engaged the youths in any activity. I have realised that the regional superior and myself may not have done a lot in the way of supervising the plot. Much could have happened without our knowledge. I apologise for tarnishing the image of the Church. Sr Helen Tendayi Maminimini, Superior General LCBL
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