The book is an account of events in the Nymandhlovu farming district, southern Matabeleland, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) 1977 to 1983/4, written by farmer’s wife, Susan Gibbs.
Sue Gibbs loved the farm, the bush and Rhodesia – this comes through clearly on every page, but in the end President Robert Mugabe’s genocidal attacks against the Nedbele, and their leader Joshua Nkomo, plus the crimes of dissidents, who stayed in the bush after Independence and were nothing more than bandits, committing farm murders and ambushes – made life on the farm too dangerous. Despite having the Agric Alert radio system, and despite PATU (Police Anti-Terrorism Unit) and the Army being on hand – despite living in wired enclosures, despite carrying sidearms and driving around in bombproof vehicles on account of the landmines: the slaughter of farmers continued. In the end, these factors drove the Gibbs (and many other farmers) away from their farms, the land and the people they loved. And I need to emphasize that the phrase people they loved refers not only to their friends and families, but also to long-time loyal farm workers and servants.
On a very personal note: I lived in Bulawayo during the 1970s, and worked for a time at the Matabeleland Farmers’ Co-op and came into daily contact with many of the farmers mentioned in her book, including her husband Tim Gibbs. The sunburnt, hard-working men and women came into the Co-op on their weekly visits to town, to collect machinery spares, veterinary products, building supplies, seed and fertiliser, plus an enormous range of other items necessary to maintain a farm in the Rhodesian bush.
Our family had a close friend who ran a cattle ranch in the Shangani District, so I could relate to Susan Gibb’s account of farm life in Rhodesia – the lovely gardens, the servants, the animals, the snake stories, the floods of visitors. Rhodesian farmers were generous, hospitable folk, always ready to offer a meal, or a weekend on the farm, out in the bush.
On the one hand the book is a lovely read in the nostalgic “when-we” category. On the other, an exposure of black atrocities against white farmers, and their black farm workers, in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. There was enormous suffering all round in the farming community.
I hope Susan Gibb’s book receives wide recognition for an honest account of the attrition.