Friday, September 28, 2012

'It's Our Right to Fight for What Belongs to Us'

‘It’s our right to fight for what belongs to us’

Saturday, 29 September 2012
Zimbabwe Herald

Ever since he staged a one-man march and carried a cross to the British Embassy in Harare, demanding to be crucified unless Britain bankrolled Zimbabwe’s land reform programme, Retired Captain Francis Zimuto popularly known as Black Jesus (BJ) has remained steadfast. He was also the first person to single-handedly occupy a white owned farm and eventually kickstarted the land reform programme. Our Features Editor Isdore Guvamombe (IG) recently caught up with him at a funeral in Chirumanzi and talked to him about this and other issues.

IG: Who really is Black Jesus?
BJ: I was born Francis Zimuto in Fort Victoria in Rhodesia, now Masvingo in Zimbabwe. I went to war as a young boy in 1973 on the Zipra side, the military wing of Zapu and operated from Zambia into Zimbabwe.

I became a member of the Zipra High Command. At independence in 1980, I was attested into the Zimbabwe National Army from where I retired after a few years. I am a retired captain.

IG: Where did you get the sobriquet Black Jesus?
BJ: What is a sobriquet?

IG: Nickname!
BJ: Aah! This is not a nickname. A nickname makes it sound like I am a joke. It is my name. It is my war name. My Chimurenga name. I was born to save my people from colonialists and imperialists. So don’t say it is a nickname.

A nickname insults me. The war was not a joke. Black empowerment and indigenisation is not a joke. It’s a national issue. Very serious!

IG: Okay, okay, okay. So, what drove you to carry a cross to the British Embassy in Harare in 2000?
BJ: It was in protest. I carried the cross from Masvingo to Harare and like the Biblical Jesus Christ, I made simple demands.

IG: What were your demands?
BJ: I demanded that they return the land stolen from blacks during the colonial era or that they give us land in Britain equivalent to what their kith and kin occupied in Zimbabwe and lastly, I demanded that if they did not want that they should crucify me. I readily provided them with the cross.

IG What did they do?
BJ: They ran away or locked themselves up, but I handed them a petition to give to Queen Elizabeth, demanding the same.

IG: Did the queen respond?
BJ: No. The whole system was arrogant and bureaucratic.

IG: What then did you do?
BJ: That is when I decided to move onto a farm in Masvingo to show them that I was serious and I meant it.

The farm was at the intersection of Gutu-Chiredzi and Masvingo-Mutare highways. Many people then followed and it became national.

IG: Do you regret the move to the embassy and the occupation of the farm.
BJ: No, no, no! The black person’s life in Zimbabwe has been a struggle. It is still a struggle. My life is a struggle. We have to fight for everything. I had to fight for everything. I fight for myself and for others.

I am the saviour of my people and I must play my part. I am glad I have played my part and I still play it. I make no apology and I have no regrets for all the efforts I have made to completely liberate Zimbabwe.

IG: Okay, are you still at the original farm because people say you now own more farms?
BJ: That is nonsense. They can say what they want. I left the first farm for my son. I had to look for another farm in Chiredzi because I cannot share that one with my son. He is grown up and doing very well.

IG: But it is on record that you are a beneficiary at the controversial Save Valley Conservancy. Are you not in double ownership?

BJ: No. Listen, I said I left the other farm for my son. Yes, I am a beneficiary at Save Valley and that is the last phase of the land reform and indigenisation.

IG: They say you are chasing away whites from conservancies?
BJ: That is mischievous. We are not chasing whites away. We are sharing with them. The Government is very clear on that. This is a hybrid model of indigenisation where we must co-exist.

But we are not chasing away the whites. They are just resisting. They are our brothers, but they are resisting so end up reading that they hate us and they still want to oppress us. They cannot be an island in our country. So we are not moving out.

Those who resist, we welcome their departure. We are facing stiff resistance. Save Valley is not in America or Germany.

It is in Zimbabwe, in Chiredzi. It is not in Britain. We did not import the wildlife from America or Britain. We did not import a grain of sand from that country to form the soil in Save Valley. We will continue with the struggle.

IG: Others say you were ordered out of Save Valley?
BJ: We are not going back. We don’t take instructions through newspapers. We just read something like that in some silly newspaper.
We don’t take such papers seriously. We have structures and we get communication through proper channels. After all, we have a history of liberating this country.

IG: On a different note, are you employed?
BJ: Yes.

IG: Where?
BJ: I am employed by the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Employment Creation as the chief provincial officer responsible for national youth service.

IG: You talked of your son occupying the first farm you got. How big is your family?
BJ: I have four children. Like I said before, my first born is a son who now occupies that first farm. The second one is studying law at East London University in South Africa.

He is finishing this year. The third is a girl and is married. And the last one is in Form Two at Gokomere High School in Masvingo.

IG: Now, your last word?
BJ: The black person’s life is a struggle and the struggle is not yet over. President Mugabe needs our support through our actions and we should all appreciate the land reform programme and indigenisation. For some of us, there is no going back.

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