Innocent Victims by Catherine Buckle: Extract 3


Innocent Victims - Rescuing the stranded animals of Zimbabwe's farm invasions by Catherine Buckle

Innocent Victims – Rescuing the stranded animals of Zimbabwe’s farm invasions by Catherine Buckle.

“In total, 260 Holstein cows were stuck in the middle of a bitter dispute and were losing weight and condition dramatically.”

The land the cattle were on had originally belonged to the Hughes family who had bought Bains Hope Farm in 1932. In 2003 the family were evicted and the land was caught in a tug-of-war between A1 settlers and Mr Bayisa – an A2 settler. As the arguments and intimidation continued the cattle got weaker and weaker.

The extract that follows is copyrighted material.

“Mr Bayisa was a dairy farmer with 15 years experience and already had a smallholding but he had been given an ‘Offer Letter’ from the Zimbabwe government and began to move his cattle on to Bains Hope Farm in April 2003. Offer Letters were about as official as it came and were literally letters which named an acquired farm and the prospective new farmer the government of Zimbabwe was offering it to. Offer Letters were of course much sought after and many forgeries emerged which resulted in a deepening of the chaos on the ground.

On Bains Hope the A1 settlers who had planted little squares of maize and beans and vegetables on their plots could not protect their crops from the dairy cows but were not prepared to move. Mr Bayisa, with his Offer Letter from the government and 260 Holstein dairy cows said he was not moving either as the property was allocated to him.

It was a shambles that had become the norm on hundreds of commercial farms around the country. Clashes and chaos were inevitable and for two months the fight for occupation of Bains Hope continued. The A1 settlers repeatedly confined Mr Bayisa’s dairy cows to small paddocks and refused to allow the animals to graze on the farm. Mr Bayisa brought his cattle workers to live on the property but that made no difference to the situation – the workers were intimidated, threatened with violence and stopped from doing their work at every turn by the A1 settlers. In total, 260 Holstein cows were stuck in the middle of a bitter dispute and were losing weight and condition dramatically.

As the stalemate continued and there was no solution in sight, Mr Bayisa had no choice but to save his cows. By June the grass was dry and brown, it was winter and the dairy cows that were strong enough were walked off Bains Hope and back to Mr Bayisa’s smallholding, eight kilometres away in Ruwa. The cows not physically capable of the walk were moved by truck and it was during the second trip that Meryl became involved in the affair.

The rescue that followed was dangerous and protracted.


Thanks to Merlin Unwin and Cathy Buckle for allowing me to post extracts from ‘Innocent Victims’. 

Innocent Victims was published by Merlin Unwin books in 2009.  I contacted them again in October 2018 to find out if hard copies of the book are still available, and have been told that it will be as ‘print on demand’.

Merlin Unwin Books
Palmers House, 7 Corve Street, Ludlow, Shropshire, SY8 1DB, UK
The original ISBN: 978 1 906122 07 2
Currently advertised on the Merlin Unwin site as an Ebook for £6.75
Cathy Buckle’s website:

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2019

One thought on “Innocent Victims by Catherine Buckle: Extract 3

  1. Reblogged this on The Phraser and commented:

    This is the third of four extracts from Innocent Victims, the book by Cathy Buckle about the rescue of the animals caught up in Zimbabwe’s land redistribution programme. This extract shows the confusion that erupted over who got what land, and how this impacted on the animals involved.


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