Donkeys – a lifeline to Zimbabwe

The VAWZ (UK) stall at the Whitely Village Summer Fair 2014

The VAWZ (UK) stall at the Whiteley Village Summer Fair 2014

I am high above the clouds en route to Naples but in my mind is an English summer fair held almost three weeks ago at Whiteley Village. The sky that day was the same blue as today’s with storms smudged briefly across the far horizons.

Whiteley, a retirement village, is a web of cottages set in acres of Surrey. Its annual summer fair is a well-known local event.

This year it was hot. An ice-cream van dotted the crowds with dripping cones while beneath the bunting skin ripened, bands tootled and stalls set out their wares. The visitors were a mixed selection of locals and the further-flung, with a strong dash of Zimbabweans adding to the flavour.
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Innocent Victims by Catherine Buckle: Extract 4

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.

Innocent Victims is about animal rescues in Zimbabwe during a violently enforced land redistribution programme which spilled across the country’s farms at the turn of the millennium.

Meryl Harrison and her small team from the ZNSPCA were at the heart of the rescues.

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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.

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Innocent Victims by Catherine Buckle: Extract 2

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.

Terry Ford was murdered on Gowrie farm in Norton in Zimbabwe in March 2002. A photograph of his body, concealed beneath a blue bedspread and with a Jack Russell curled against its side, was picked up by news teams around the world.

The dog was called Squeak. His defiant vigil ensured that the world acknowledged his master’s brutal death.

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The courage to save the animals – interview with Meryl Harrison

Meryl Harrison of the ZNSPCA who led animal rescues at the time of Zimbabwe's chaotic land redistribution programme

Meryl Harrison of the ZNSPCA who led animal rescues at the time of Zimbabwe’s chaotic land redistribution programme (photographed in England in 2012)

Ten years ago the BBC presented Meryl Harrison with a Special Award for Outstanding Work in Animal Welfare. Her ‘outstanding work‘ was done on Zimbabwe’s farms whilst Mugabe’s chaotic land redistribution programme was in full surge.

This was in the early 2000s.

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Innocent Victims by Catherine Buckle: Extract 1

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 2009 Merlin Unwin published Innocent Victims by Cathy Buckle – a book about the efforts made to rescue the animals caught up in Zimbabwe’s farm invasions. Meryl Harrison led the team that tried to help.

Here’s a little background as to how it all began, followed by an extract of a few paragraphs to give a flavour of the story.

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