The day I was 're-educated'

In the week of May 14, Border Timbers Sawmill in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe was invaded by 'war veterans'.

"YESTERDAY I WENT to our sawmills in Chimanimani and arrived there just in time to be included in the Chimanimani chapter of the war veterans' political re-education programme. These so-called war vets, some of whom were under 20, had just marched into our largest sawmill and demanded that it be closed so that they could hold an illegal rally. They were accompanied by two totally ineffective policemen.

When I arrived they had already started the rally. I was pulled from the car and forced to march to the back of the sawmill. I tried to reason with them, but each time they would shout in my face, 'Stop calling us bloody kaffirs'. I tried to say that I wasn't, only to be told I had called them 'black bastards'. They then told me to sit down with the workers and listen to the rally, all of which was in Shona so I didn't have a clue what they were ranting and raving about.

One of them then noticed a bulge in my pocket and started shouting that I had a gun, I said 'Don't be silly it's my keys,' and pulled them out of the pocket. I was rewarded with an open- handed, full-force slap across the ear, which knocked my glasses flying.

I was then pulled up to the front of the crowd where I was again accused of calling them 'black kaffirs' and 'black bastards'. I denied this, which just made them madder. At this point the police inspector, who was at the rally, came up to me and said, 'Please just apologise for your own safety.' I explained that I had not said anything that I was being accused of, he replied that it did not matter and that I should just apologise anyway.

The so-called war vets are absolutely insane, and pure evil exudes from them. They have a demonic look in their eyes, and they refuse to listen to any reasoning. I was then told to sit in the mud in front of the sawmill workforce, and was forced to chant Zanu-PF slogans. They then called me up to the front to stand with them, and forced me to read out a totally fictitious document that was meant to be an agreement between Anglo American and the Movement for Democratic Change, with the details of how the country's assets would be divided up after an MDC victory. Anyone with even half a brain could tell that this was just Zanu-PF propaganda. It was so poorly written and so unbelievable that it would have been funny, had I not been surrounded by people carrying spears, batons and machetes.

After a couple of hours of this they sent the workers away and asked the management to stay behind, so that we could take down a list of their demands. One of the other white managers suggested that we go into the offices, so that we could take notes properly. One war vet screamed: 'This is our fucking land and you can't tell us what to do.' These people have crossed the line and are no longer sane.

Anyway, we took down a list of their demands, which were as follows:

  • Mr Bottger and Mr Coates (the two most senior managers in Chimanimani) are to be replaced with black managers in the next 48 hours.
  • Mr Bottger and Mr Coates are to be delivered to the war vets.
  • Border Timbers is to fund Zanu-PF's election campaign.
  • Border Timbers is to provide transport to ferry the workers and their families to the Zanu-PF rallies.
  • Border Timbers is to supply two cows for meat at the rally.

My name, along with the names of the other three managers with me, was taken down, and we were told we would be held accountable if their demands were not met. They then left the premises to go onto other commercial enterprises in the area. Followed closely by their police escort.

I went back to my car only to find the war vets had stolen my car radio/tape, my radar detector, and a jacket that was on the seats. This once again proves that they are nothing more than common criminals and thugs.

As for me, I am fine but am no longer a passive supporter of the Opposition. I will not do anything stupid, but I am more determined than ever to stay here and vote this evil bunch out of power and into the jail cells they deserve.

One driver from Chimanimani was braver than me and refused to take off his MDC T-shirt. He was beaten senseless and left in a ditch until they had finished intimidating the rest of us. Only then, four hours later, was he allowed to be taken to hospital."