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Fugitive farmers end flight from cops

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Three Nyamandlovu farmers, Gary Godfrey, Nigel Fawcett and Russell McCormick — accused of occupying state land illegally- yesterday turned themselves in to police and were immediately detained after spending more than seven weeks in hiding.
Godfrey and Fawcett are being charged under the Gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act, for being in occupation of state land without an offer letter, permit or lease.
The farmers argued they remained on the land following a High Court order to that effect.
Godfrey and Fawcett went into hiding after Nyamandlovu police descended on their farms in May, switched off power supplies and ordered their farm workers to stop work until their bosses surrendered.
NewsDay caught up with the farmers before they turned themselves in.
Godfrey, the owner of RH Greaves and Son Highfields Farm said: “I am giving myself up because my farm is suffering as most of my animals on the farm have died and at some point my farm produce was stopped from going to the market. Recently, the workers at the farm were allowed to sell my produce but were not allowed to handle the money. My family has also greatly suffered from all this and I think this must end at some point, that’s why I am handing myself over to the police.”
Fawcett said: “My farm produce has greatly suffered and so have the families living on the farm. I spoke to Obert Mpofu (MP for Umguza) two weeks ago who said I could return to my farm. As soon as I arrived there, I got wind that some police officers were on their way to arrest me and I had to make haste get away. However, I also believe this has gone on for too long and at some point it had to end.”
NewsDay also witnessed the farmers turning themselves in before they were arrested.
The farmers are represented by Advocate Tim Cherry.
Advocate Cherry said his clients should not have been arrested because they had not committed a criminal offence.
“The police were not supposed to detain them. However, I am hoping that if the police agree to bring them before the court, I could ask that they be remanded out of custody,” he said.
After a while, Cherry claimed that the Acting Officer in Charge, identified only as Assistant Inspector Monyera informed him that the dockets could not be located.
Cherry then approached the courts for reprieve, but magistrate Abednico Ndebele said: “I have heard your case and there is nothing that I can do as long as they are not brought before the courts. I will go and check on them in the cells after court.”
The farmers will be held in custody until Monday.
McCormick’s wife Derby sobbed at the sight of her husband being taken away by the police. McCormick is Fawcett’s farm manager.
“I am even afraid of going to the farm to collect some items for these guys as I also face the risk of being arrested for returning to the farm. However, that is the only home I have and I am going back there,” she said.
The chairman of the Southern African Commercial Farmers’ Alliance Chris Jarret said the police were just being vindictive.
“There was absolutely no reason for the police to detain the trio, considering that they gave themselves in. This is just a vindictive act towards them,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from the police were fruitless yesterday.
The invasion of Godfrey and Fawcett’s farms were the latest raids in Nyamandlovu, Matabeleland North province, after other farm invasions in Nyathi and Nkayi district in Bubi Umguza.
Most of the ongoing farm occupations are illegal as the farm owners have authorisation from the courts to be on the farms.

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