Justice Denied – A road back from Ruin

Update posted by Barbara Anne Langridge On Dec 30, 2019

An account of going to Pollsmore Prison on malicious and false charges.


My Best Story – Story of U Podcast

It was hard for me to decide on my best story, because my best story is really my worst story, but I thought the content of this account would give your audience something unique. Not many people in their lives expect to go to prison. I mean, is there anyone on the planet who declares ““When I grow up I want to go to jail”.

I never imagined it would happen to me but it did and as much as I don’t want it to be an event which defined my life. Unfortunately, the impact of criminal allegations and time spent in remand detention does define your life, because nothing can ever be the same again. Recovery is an uphill battle to regain emotional, social and economic restoration..

Being Arrested and Taken to Milnerton (2nd February 2018)

On February 2nd 2018 I received a wattsapp message from a business on same block as my illustration art gallery in Cape Town. The gallery shop front window had been completely vandalised in what appeared to be an attempted robbery. I passed my mobile to my son, who had recently returned home from completing his Masters Degree in London to show him images of the broken window.

“Oh shit – it’s going to be this kind of a day”.

Ahem Art Collective was my favourite space. Wall to wall framed illustrations showcasing animation artists from all corners of the globe. Ground work had been challenging, but was finally paying off. The location was a favoured beat for drug dealers who hung out outside. The street had a reputation for mugging and opportunist crime. My dream was to rejuvenate this community and revive creative interest in the neighbourhood.

Observatory was settled in the 17th century. Cape Town’s answer to Marias District in Paris. A rich cultural heritage and beautiful old buildings are an natural fit for artists, authors, poets and cultural diversity..

I sat down at the Gallery’s teak table and called local police to report the attempted break in. Within minutes three men dressed in plain clothes arrived.

“Good Morning – are you Barbara Langridge?”


“I am Warrant Office Baily of SAPS”.

I was delighted at the quick response. South African Police do not have a reputation for being efficient. I opened the wrought iron security gate.

“Do you know Shelton Nyamatsura” enquired Baily.

“Yes – he is a carpenter, he worked at my property”.

“Do you know Andrew Muringi” he asked.

“Yes, he is an artist”. I replied.

“Do you know the whereabouts of Andrew Muringi”


“You are being charged with kidnapping and extortion and need to come with me as you are under arrest”.

At first I thought it was some kind of sick joke.

I was permitted to make a telephone call. I never had a lawyer - I looked through my mobile phone contact list wondering who would be best to call. My mind started racing, I felt cold.

My son, Matthew was running an errand. I asked Bailey if we could wait till my son returned so that I could hand over gallery keys. He agreed.

My son returned and I was led to a parked, unmarked vehicle and taken to Milnerton Police Station.


The conditions at Milnerton Police Cells were appalling. A twenty square meter space of concrete floor, an open toilet and shower. Beds consisted of a 4cm thick pleather mattress. I was handed two blankets, both filthy. Meal time was dependant the duty officer in charge. Cold inedible slop, accompanied with tea. I shared accommodation with five female offenders guilty of petty crimes – possession of marujana, shoplifting, GBH, prostitution, or illegal shebeen operation. These offenses are commonly associated with township poverty.

The youngest detainee smoked mandrax continuously and it was very stressful being in the same place where drugs were used. The police turned a blind eye. It appeared the woman had a rapport with the police and there was an exchange going on to enable her drug habit, but I did not actually see it happening.

Family visits were limited and traumatic. Trying to communicate with my children through a shatter proof glass screen. The quality of the speaker phone reminded me of going to the drive in cinema, the quality of sound like a scratched long playing record from the sixties. I was denied my right to food, reading material and reasonable conditions for legal counsel.

One police officer expected me to address him as “my husband”. I was instructed to tell him “I loved him”. I found this a form of harassment and verbal violence as well as abuse of authority. I was afraid I could be beaten or raped if I did not comply.

After two nights in police cells my legal counsel visited me. I was finally informed by him I faced a very serious crime and a formal bail application would be required.



The duty policemen prepare court dockets from 07.00 am. I, together with the other eight women, were signed out, handed back our valuables and loaded to the back of a closed police pickup truck – which is standard in South Africa. The space was very cramped.

Passenger safety was of no consequence and being driven at high speed, blue lights and sirens in early morning Cape Town traffic was traumatic. The vehicle weaved in and out of traffic, slamming on brakes and we were tossed left then right, slamming against each other. Everyone smelt really bad, and especially their breaths.

Arriving at Magistrates court was a relief.

I became acutely aware of myself at the court entrance which is in view of the public I moved as fast as I could to the court detainee area.

All female detainees are taken to one cell. The cell is Marakesh central bazaar. Totally packed, shouting, swearing {most common expletive is “your ma se poes”}, smoking tobacco and drugs. It is overcrowded. A single open toilet dominates the room, a strong stench of old waste. The police are aggressive and abusive. One of the women are subjected to a police beating. No-one protests.

I was in the cell till about 12.00 noon, then transferred. I waited on my own for what seemed hours. The new cell was even more disgusting. The toilet was full. Someone had painted shit all over the wall, puddles of urine formed in the floor cracks.


Eventually I was escorted to appear before court. I was lead though passageways, up a staircase. The magistrate barely looked my way. The state prosecutor opposed bail and I would be transferred to Pollsmore Prison till my next court appearance.

As I turned around to leave, I saw my children sitting in court They reminded me of a frightened deer in the headlights.


February 5th, 2018 – The Trip to Pollsmore

The Pollsmore prison transport service between Correctional Services and Cape Town Central Court is a familiar feature of daily commuters along the M3.

I was transported in the closed rear of a 7 tonne van, again with other detainees. The journey is t high speed, now afternoon traffic. The vehicle is escorted by additional police vehicles equipped with blue lights and wailing sirens.

I mused about times I had been on this route behind the wheel of my Mercedes Benz, to and from collecting my children from school. Countless times. Everything felt so far away.

The girl dressed in a salmon pink evening dress was feverishly unravelling contents of cigarettes. She unpacked the shredded tobacco into cling wrap from prison issue sandwiches and made a cigar like shape. She took off her underwear, sat in a squat position and without further ado shoved the cling wrapped tobacco between her legs.

“Sorry ladies, but there is no other way”.

This image of a ball of brown covered in cling wrap disappearing between her legs won’t be something I’ll forget quickly.

I tried to look out the mesh barred windows, catching a lasting view of Cape Town. District 6, the harbour, mountains, a flight coming into Cape Town.

I tried to distract myself marvelling at the blue horizon. Cape Town is Africa with ballet shoes. The shining champagne city. A fleeting floating act across a well painted stage.

The girls in the van are dressed up in their Saturday night street gear. Crumpled short skirts, skimpy tops and scuffed shoes. Gillian had been my cell mate at Milnerton Police Station. It is incredible how one familiar stranger brings incredible comfort in these moments of noise and chaos.

The truck slowed and turned sharply, I caught a glimpse of the sign post declaring “Welcome to Pollsmore”. My very own “Hotel California”.

Pollsmore holding cell had a double volume roof, very narrow ceiling level windows all barred. It is known as the Gomerkamer. The entire contents of Cape Town’s court process stay overnight in this massive concrete cave of inhumanity. The noise, filth, wet floors, stinking toilets, harsh light, scant mattresses, inadequate number of beds, filthy blankets are the proverbial “welcome mat” of Pollsmore Prison.

There was nothing gentle, or kind about a room full of female inmates. Hardened women who appear to be institutionalised re-offenders. Remand detention is all part of the cycle of life. Shoplifters, drug peddlers, assault, murder – mostly repeat offenders caught up in the endless cycle of wanting and getting and being caught. A life of crime and spent doing time.

I knew it was going to be a long night. Not having a watch started to bother me because I could not tell the time


A young woman, I can’t remember her name, saw I was completely out of my depth and she invited me to join her group on two beds pushed together. She also gave me a second hand toothbrush, the bristles were completely chewed away from years of use. I was very grateful for the brush and her kind gesture. In a place like Pollsmore this king of gesture is very unique because everything is traded. Nothing if free. Empathy or sympathy is a gateway to abuse. The detainees are hard and damaged and a small crack of humanity is rare.

Eventually the night was silent. This is the only time prison is bearable. A few hours where you can lie and enjoy the solitude of silence, or escape to the hopes and dreams of youth. It’s a time when bravado and anger is still, when each of these broken souls turn inward to their demons.

DAY 1 – POLLSMORE CHECK IN (06.02.2018)

Being processed into Pollsmore requires a day of queing. Fingerprinting, form filling, waiting, standing, being pushed from pillar to post. After processing I was lead to the cells.

The first check point is a line of booths. I was instructed to strip naked. squat with knees touching the cubicle sides and arms stretched upward. This is the cavity check. There is nothing more degrading.

Long passages of grey walls. Shiny paint peeling in long strips and hanging off the wall like a paper bark tree. Along the top of the passage walls are narrow windows. Barred with rusted half inch metal, the occasional sky light with a grid, rusted and bits of glass missing. Designed to keep the world out and the inmates in.

The passages lead past Sections. Sections for juveniles, pregnant women, the sentenced, the sick, the 20’s to 30’s, the “ou mense” At the end of each section is a metal gate. Every gate and lock is manually opened. The correctional service officers walk around with access keys and the clatter of keys and gates is a common feature of the background noise.

As you walk past the cells, the female inmates will shout for attention. Lines of beds barely visible faces peering through the rectangular openings. After all, it’s an activity that breaks the boredom of each day. There is nothing else to do. Inside the ten by sic meter cells there is no entertainment, no reading material, nothing positive to occupy time, there is only the mundane of what is around you.

In prison you suffer a peculiar sort of deformed time experience. A small time unit is filled with the tortures of boredom, noise, helplessness and a day is endless. The days become a week, a month or a year, time rolls by providing no past reference nor significance that should or would be remembered in a future time. The future has no goal, save for the passage of time and the uncertainty of when the time will end.

Days in remand are barely differentiated. The noise starts at about 4.30 every morning. The clatter of cooking pots, passage noises, echoes, shouting pulls you from sleep. Being counted. Lining up for food, showering, sitting on your bunk bed, looking out the window, sleeping. On a hot day tempers rise and fights break out.

At night I liked the silence, lying on my bunk trying to see stars, or watch moving patterns of car lights along the wall. Feeling cool summer night breezes air waft over my bunk, or trying to spot a satellite.

I slipped into a survival routine very quickly

The net end result is the system of those who incarcerate and those who are marked by the process of being incarcerated. Each have their own prisons, some are on the outside and others are on the inside.


During the twelve months immediately after my arrest I appeared in Cape Town’s Magistrate court 9 times. The State eventually withdrew charges because they could not present a case. The impact on my life has been devastating. Financial, social and emotional.

Over this same timeframe my former partner instigated a civil action because he wanted to remove my name from a property we both owned. This former partner had connection to the person who accused me of committing a crime, and after investigations there is evidence to support this claim.

At the moment I am in the process of issuing a summons against the Minister of South African police for wrongful arrest, unlawful detention and malicious prosecution. This is the only way to recover my lost sense of self.

I have experienced a lot of trauma in my life, war, death, a refugee, divorce, sexual abuse, betrayal of friends, but there is nothing worse than going to prison unjustly.

The past two years have been overwhelming. My life has been stripped down. In this crossroad of despair it became a constant emotional battle between my life expectations and what life was expecting of me. How should I conduct myself, what actions should I take to rise up and triumph in my circumstance, what did life require of me to endure something I never could have imagined would be one of my life stories.

How could I give the experience meaning?

For me the experience and hardship itself introduced a new aspect to who I am. I realised that no matter what life hands you, we have no choice but clothe ourselves in the dignity that right conduct and action will bring to our lives.

I would like to quote Victor Frankl –

When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, eh will have to accept his suffering as his task, his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.

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Update posted by Barbara Anne Langridge On Dec 20, 2019

A granite mountain range stretches as far as I can see, shades of blue and lilac. White puffy clouds hang above the horizon painted in gentle hues of dove grey and pink, and edged with buttery sunlight. After a long dry winter the first summer rain brings great relief in Africa, the ground transforms from dust and cinder almost overnight and a lush carpet of weeds and grass quickly camouflages the veldt with a new season’s first flush of green. I can still smell a whiff of a recent bushfire, fused with dust and summers stickiness. This is my first trip home.

Turning right into Riverside is the last stretch of road to Pagomo. I had set off earlier from Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, which is over two hundred and fifty kilometres to the west. I call this a pilgrimage for closure. Two of my children are with me on this passage, they are tense and slightly irritable, but also desperate to close a chapter as they move to adulthood.

I must have done this journey thousands of times while living at Pagomo for seventeen years. Mondays and Fridays it was routine to travel two hundred kilometres to take the children to boarding school. Today the drive seems to take so much longer. I played Cat Stevens “Morning Has Broken” a few times too many till the teenagers objected, then moved onto Cold Play and Bruce Springsteen. I had not been able to listen to music from the land reform era for a long time.

The landscape has changed a lot, many of the smaller towns have retrogressed into informal markets, and trader’s line the main Harare-Mutare highway as an alternative to unemployment and starvation. It’s a mango and Made in China economy.

Just before Odzi River Bridge I turn right off the main highway into Riverside. It’s is no different from the rest of the country and the road is flanked by rickety wooden stalls offering tomatoes, cabbages, dried fish, cell phone chargers, plastic shoes, buckets, hair extensions, and blankets. The hand hewn tables all look the same.

I slow down and immediately attract attention from optimistic salesmen. They surge forward simultaneously and scramble against the car window attempting to shove their circular baskets through as a desperate attempt to grab attention.

“Mangos, bananas, tomatoes, Econet” “Special price madam” “I give you discount” “Please madam, my children are hungry” “Please Madam, we are going to die” Desperate voices all wanting to turn the cogs of humanities endless striving for another day of pitiful survival. “Madam, I need a biro pen, or what about a coke, or a magazine? Just one US dollar – please madam, stop I say, we are hungry”. I buy a mangos and drive on.

The road veers to the right, Wilton Store has been renamed “The New Wilton”. The previous owners, the Slabbert’s had immigrated to the United States before land reform. I had never credited Johan with foresight but they were one of the first couples to leave. An Nguni bull grazes grass around a leaking tap, its hind leg tied to a rope and attached to a lamp post.

Riverside Garage looks deserted and the front yard is scattered with farm implements. Ploughs, trailers, rippers and even remnants of an old Toyota pick-up truck lie rusting as scrap metal in the grass, partly obscured between overgrown shrubs. I think it was always like that though even when old man Jock Torrie owned the business. Two fuel pumps look unused for years, totally rusted. Old man Rademeyer’s vineyard has survived years of neglect too, he was known in the community for his lament at our local pub – year on year he waited patiently for table grapes to ripen, but it was always the same – he never reaped a bunch – that’s the folly of a roadside crop.

I drive on toward Odzi village weaving right and left to avoid potholes. Msasa trees have grown over the road forming a canopy of foliage filtering late afternoon sunlight. Fernicarry Farm is on the right. The perimeter fence is broken in many places and the farm looks abandoned. The entrance wall has completely cracked in half and I can make out the unpainted “R Knight” which was in former years covered over with brass lettering. I always wondered at the logic of using a valuable metal on an entrance gate – so impractical, hardly surprising someone removed it, the proceeds potentially fed a family for a week. It probably ended up as decorative salad spoons.

Remnants of a previous crops stand like scare crows, a lone tobacco plant from last season has germinated and looks healthy. One year I had a few tobacco seeds germinate in my garden. I had sprinkled tobacco scrap from the processing shed as garden mulch, it is fascinating how regrowth is so hardy yet cultivated tobacco requires endless attention to prevent nematodes, viruses and all manner of pests plague crops from germination to reaping. An abandoned tractor leans on its front axle, partially blocking the entrance.

Mount Mapembi becomes visible in the distance - a granite dwala marking an area I called home. The outline appears smooth from far, curving over the earth a lopsided half-moon flanked by mountain ranges near one of our former neighbours farms. We were part of the Odzi South community – the three de Klerk families, the Holmans and Landos’s. All of us were evicted by the end of 2004. Spero Landos was one of the few white Zimbabweans who defended himself during a farm attack. He was arrested from his hospital bed, multiple broken ribs, broken arms, stab wounds and internal bruising, he stayed in remand waiting for trail nearly two years.

Mapembi is about ten kilometres away, from this distance orange lichen, resurrection bushes, aloes, butterflies and boulders of Mapembi are invisible. That’s the joy of hiking, you get to know a landscape intimately. Mapembi is an amazing piece of granite to summit, cutting a path through a base thicket and scrambling upwards over painted rocks to reach the silence of warm air pockets and breezes at the top, I can never forget it.

There is a faint hint of the potato tree scent as I drive down the hill and over a single lane bridge just before Odzi railway line crossing. The low bridge is regularly submerged by storm water and travellers have to sit and wait till the levels subside. By some miracle no one ever drove through by accident after a heavy night out at our community country club.

The potato tree is significant in shona folklore. Kigealia Africana produces large phallic fruit and is used in fertility rituals.

I stop at the rail crossing, a child forages for maize seeds between the stones and railway track. Her childish frame appears overwhelmed in an oversized garment and her shoulder bones are exposed. The fleur de lille pattern fabric is hardly recognisable. A tragic portrait of childhood. Her eyes did not smile, her innocent delight of youth repressed through hardship. She turns to acknowledges our presence with visible alarm, looks down, looks up, looks at her mug, an uncomfortable shifting of gaze from her naked feet to her maize seed filled cup, then back to us. Gone is enthusiasm and she turned back and continued to scratch for her supper. I catch a last image of her in my review, she remained bent over the track, she seemed so small and still.

Odzi Post Office stands at the fork between Odzi Drift and Marange Road. The building looked recently repainted with bright red and buttercup yellow gloss enamel - I pull up and parked alongside the red mail box. I climb out and walk toward a wall of post boxes each with a number stamped into a brass plates. I locate ‘two three four’ and trace over the numbers with my fingertips. It brought back thoughts of a visit to Washington’s Vietnam War Memorial where relatives undertake a pilgrimage as part of a passage to healing. The relatives of ten thousand dead locate the names of their lost all finding a kind of prayerful solace in touching the outline of a familiar name, a loved name, a lost person.

It seemed like no time had passed since I did my last routine stop to collect mail. I felt like I had never been away. An vanished era preceding digital communication when I could experience the intimacy of a simple hand written letter. Letters which had travelled great physical distances. A miracle in logistics if one considers the odds of a single envelope reaching its destination, especially an obscure outpost famed mostly for its predicable inefficiency and brightly coloured post office exterior.

“Excuse me, I used to rent 234 – I left Odzi in 2004, can you tell me what happened to our uncollected mail.” “I do not know anything madam”, the post office worker replied, and walked away.

A battered truck pulls up, it is overloaded and many faces are faces pressed against the canopy windows. The radio aerial is bent toward the cab and tied down with a piece of wire and both review mirrors broken. Oliver Mutikudzi is blaring from the radio “Usaore moyo kaNeria Mwari anewe, mwari anewe kaNeria mwari anewe, kufirwa nemurume hazvanzi, zvinoda moyo wekushinga”. The driver stops the vehicle and the music is turned off. A white woman with teenage children parked at the post office would present an unusual sight for locals. Whites had fled over ten years before, evicted from homes, farms, businesses . The driver and his passengers were all staring in my direction, were they ZanuPF? I felt edgy. The driver calls out “Barbara! Barbara! Is that – Amai Pagomo? “ “Are you coming back? “. I stared back without responding. I had not recognized the man “I’m John Munenga. I worked at Kondozi pack shed. The place is fucked up. Those bastard thugs came and stole it all, but they are gone?”

A rush of adrenaline surged through me, I felt so nervous, the last thing I needed was to be picked up by authorities and put into Odzi Police cells for the weekend. I had visited the cells once before. A few apprentice farmers had got into a brawl at party and a young Englishman died. The farmers were arrested and charged with murder, I had delivered food and blankets to the police cells which were more like outdoor cages constructed of wire mesh and exposed to the weather. The thought of spending anytime locked in there, was daunting. As if sensing my fear Munenga continued “There is no-one on the farm. You can go there. Everyone is gone. Don’t worry madam. There is nothing happening there anymore. Mushorwe is gone. Your house is gone. It is burnt down by Mushorwe. It was the biggest fucking fire ever, we saw the house exploded. You can go madam, don’t worry. No one cares. It is all fucked.” Everyone climbs out of Toyota truck and we gather in a circle sharing anecdotes of our connected experience of a farm in Africa. “Is this your son – he looks just like Boss Koos, he is so tall and strong – like his father” “Where are you now”, “Life here is very hard, we are going to die”. The forgotten, disenfranchised and hopeless - collateral damage of Robert Mugabe.

It felt like a strange bonding, all of us recounting and exchanging how we suffered through similar uncertainties of unemployment, displacement and un-belonging. We laughed about having our “arses kicked”, connected through common thread of bitter sweet moments woven into a fabric of sorrow and joy.

“Amai Pagomo, take a picture of us, we need to have photos, please post them.” Munenga was smiling, though a toothless grin and haunted eyes. I passed the mobile around so everyone could see themselves in the image. The group joked and accused each other of being ugly, this sense of camaraderie is typically unique and at the heart of Shona humanity. The encounter was a brief celebration for a phase of life on which the sun has set, but we healed maybe just a little.

Across from the Post Office “Farm & City Centre, Saurombe Butchery and Odzi Hotel are permanently closed. A previously vibrant commercial hub stands derelict and abandoned. Rubbish piles up along the street between informal traders. The occasional dog dashes past, tail between its legs. A donkey stands, head dropped in eternal surrender, under the shade of a flamboyant tree whose branches stretch over like a crimson Karros, another reminder of colonial settlers who introduced these exotic plantings from another fallen empire. Chickens scratching in the red dust, looking for bugs.

A short stop at the Dutch Reformed church leads us through an overgrown playground, the foundation stone is torn out of the wall and lying upside down. The last hymn order still displayed under a gold inscription “Ons is lief vir ons Here” A few Afrikaans hymnbooks and bibles are stacked on a table. It felt as if a wind had blown through the building taking way the memory of worship like chaff.

I drive on towards Pagomo, six kilometres of gravel road is almost unpassable. An emerald spotted wood dove flies up as I reach the stone entrance wall and cattle grid of short stretch up to the house. I detour around the collapsed grid. The road is completely overgrown with thorn trees and I decided we should walk the rest of the way. It was only about 100 meters, but a steep incline that was completely eroded. Without the protection of my car this felt very risky. I reached out to hold hands with my children and we walked up the hill towards “Pagomo”.

Each of us lives a different experience when revisiting the past, we have different memories to that place, wrapped in contexts of time, relationship and the way we individually experienced the world. Ten years had passed since I was evicted, this was the first time I returned. The years in between were frozen, sealed in the moment significant only to its keeper.

The concrete walls rise up out of the undergrowth. A burnt ruin, a monument or perhaps a grave stone – here lie the memories of a family, resting in pieces of broken bricks and mortar. It seems a long time ago. It seems only a moment ago. The moment swings like a pendulum between past and present and thoughts collide between these two frames of time.

I walked through the ruins and sat quietly. The walls wrapped around me and it felt calming. Before the house was built it was difficult to imagine how the architects plan would translate to a finished project, and sitting in the ruins it was equally as inconceivable to imagine life ever took place inside these broken walls.

This was, once upon a time, a place I called home.

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Update posted by Barbara Anne Langridge On Dec 17, 2019

Listen in your browser to a brief account of life as it has been experienced as a white African - growing up through war, patriarchy, segregation, sexual abuse, violence, and a type of genocide.

Thanks to Shawn Broom for being a great listener and making it happen.


Add a Comment

Update posted by Barbara Anne Langridge On Dec 17, 2019

Listen in your browser to a brief account of life as it has been experienced as a white African - growing up through war, patriarchy, segregation, sexual abuse, violence, and a type of genocide.

Thanks to Shawn Broom for being a great listener and making it happen.


Add a Comment

Update posted by Barbara Anne Langridge On Nov 25, 2019

I was 10 years old when we were attacked in our home by six armed men. It was the night of 22nd January 2004. My life has never been the same again.

Even though I do not feature in the video, Justice Denied, my family speaks in part about the experiences we went through. Although we lived through the events in the same way, we all came out of it scarred differently. My sister wrote something that I felt was so true - the fact that we never really open up about these things.

I don't share this part of my life with many people, and those whom I have, are a select few, but, with all the voices being aired currently and people making their mark and telling their own stories - I guess it is safe enough to be vocal about the things I went through as a child, and I guess it is okay to feel the way I feel.

I have struggled for a long time with my own sense of identity and belonging - never feeling like I fully have my feet on either side of the soil. I was lucky enough to come to SA when I was 14 so I have spent a lot of my formative years here in Cape Town. I have “found myself” here, and I have come to a point in my life where I have built up strong social and economic foundations, but it can also be incredibly isolating- being part of this history that I never feel really safe to speak about.

The discourse in South Africa regarding land reform and white and black farmers has always been something I get scared to get into conversations about, solely because of the lived experience and the trajectory of misguided land reform in Zimbabwe that we went through. It destroyed us all.

I lived through Zimbabwe’s land reform and I revisited Zimbabwe a number of times and have witnessed the loss of life, community, well being, and production which was a direct cause of Robert Mugabe’s Land Reform.

This is not really meant to be a piece about land- but I felt it necessary as the footage does showcase the places I lost a lot of my childhood to. There was something so naive about that time but also so dark and brooding. Despite the merits of post colonial land reform, which is necessary and important- especially in contexts like South Africa there was another side to it in Zimbabwe.

White Zimbabwean farming families were just ordinary citizens, doing the best we could and making a life in a place we considered our home. I knew numerous skilled farmers, black and white business owners, and none of us deserved to be treated in the way we were. The violence and torture, the burning, the slaughter, the rape. That was not what reform was meant to be.

My family were one of many families, black and white Zimbabweans targeted by the government, attacked and beaten in our home. When a regime bases itself on fear- it has to maintain fear to silence opposing voices to subdue the nation.

After the night of our attack, we all suffered trauma that has manifested itself in many ways till the present. I hate sleeping alone in houses, I get scared of noises at night, sometimes the fear can be so crippling that I lie in bed, sweating, paralyzed by my fear. I have tried hard to overcome that but it has been more than ten years but it still hurts me.

It's hard to write this, to be so honest about this fear.I am haunted by the past in ways I do not know how to move on from. Some of those demons take the form of nostalgia, some exist in the relationship I share with my dad, some take shape in the deep need I feel for friendship and security.I am a chronic over thinker. Those past uncertainties made me always feel the need to over plan as a way of controlling my environment.

The degradation of politics in Zimbabwe impacted on families and communities- with people leaving the country to work elsewhere to support their families who remained in Zimbabwe. Many marriages could not endure the pressure of separation of working and living apart. My own parents were victims of this situation, my father went to work in Zambia and my mother remained in Zimbabwe taking care of our schooling and day to day needs. This, coupled with material loss was too great. Male ego too strong. Divorce rates soared, stresses increased, struggles resumed.

There are things that happened to us that we couldn't even speak about among ourselves. Too much water has flowed under the bridge and we no longer knew how to tread the ever widening gap between water and shoreline.

So many fears that have come in to play- that loss. Fiscal, physical, emotional, tangible. It made us all a little crazy I guess. It leaked into the way I treated people, the way I love fully and hard, even when I love people who are unkind and uncaring, because the thought of losing the person or being left by them, after everything - it felt like it would be too much to bear.

I guess, carrying that baggage and sharing it. That's the point of all of this. So, here. A snippet of a life that used to be mine and some vistas of the wreckage that lay on the land and in my heart.

At present (2019) I live in Cape Town. I have a degree in Political Science with and Honours Degree in Political Communication. I will probably never work in this discipline because as a white I feel there is no place for my voice nor opinion in South Africa. At University I wrote my Thesis on Land Reform in Zimbabwe as reported in South African Media, and this research lead me to the concludsion that there is no place for white narritve in South Africa. I was at University at the time of the #rhodesmustfall protests, this was a difficult time, and I felt the same sense of isolation as a white South Africa because my views, even if they were not different from current context and in tune with protests, were not wanted, and I felt again, excluded and denied full citizenship.

I try to ignore current politics and express myself through poetry, art and mustic. I am member of band Orah & the Kites.

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Update posted by Barbara Anne Langridge On Nov 20, 2019

SADC Tribunal Rights Watch

October 14, 2015

A British doctor and his wife have joined the relentless onslaught by ruling party officials on Zimbabwe’s few remaining white commercial farmers and are currently involved in the invasion of a tobacco farm north-east of Harare.

For the past month, Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro (45) and his wife, Veronica, have been trying to drive a highly experienced commercial farmer, Phillip Rankin (57) and his wife, Anita, off Kingston Deverill farm in the Centenary district of Mashonaland Central province.

Rankin bought the farm in 1983, three years after independence, with the consent of the Mugabe government. Originally he produced high quality irrigated tobacco as well as the country’s staple food crop, maize (corn) and passion fruit.He also farmed cattle and pigs, but the farm has been severely depleted by continual seizures.

Nyatsuro, who was born in Zimbabwe but is believed to have emigrated around 2003, is now a British passport holder. He owns “The Willows” weight loss clinic in Nottingham, England.

During September, the Nyatsuros arrived at Rankin’s farm with ruling party thugs, police and government officials, and presented a letter which they said authorised them to take over the farm.

Although Nyatsuro was not personally aggressive, the group was very threatening, warning Rankin that his farm and his equipment would be taken, and he would be left with nothing.

On October 12, pressure mounted against Rankin and his wife, who were locked into their house by aggressive invaders.

Rankin is involved in giving evidence against the ruling party Governor of Mashonaland Central province, Advocate Martin Dinha, for extorting large amounts of money from desperate white farmers so that they would be allowed to continue farming.

Under current Zimbabwean law, if a white farmer refuses to hand over his farm, he can face criminal prosecution and up to two years in prison for continuing to remain on “state” land. Paying a bribe is very often the only other option.

Dinha was involved in the defence team for the Zimbabwe Government in the Campbell Case in the SADC Tribunal, which ruled in November 2008 that the government violated the SADC Treaty by denying access to the courts and engaging in racial discrimination against white farmers.

Rankin managed to get a High Court order barring the British doctor and his “rent a crowd” from the property.It was served on them on the evening of October 12 by the messenger of the court.

Rankin and his wife then spent the night bravely at home, but were deprived of sleep by the rabble-rousing crowd. The following day, October 13, again in defiance of the High Court, Mrs Nyatsuro came with a bus of reinforcements for the invaders.

“Such lawless behaviour happens all the time in Zimbabwe,” said Ben Freeth, spokesperson for SADC Tribunal Rights Watch. “Police simply refuse to uphold High Court orders when their political masters tell them not to.”

“For 15 years, we have been battling with racist attacks on white-owned commercial farms, and from time to time, white-owned businesses – it is a culture of complete impunity,” he added.

On October 8, it was reported that the UK and the US have pledged US$43 million for food relief for Zimbabwe in a bid to rescue at least 650,000 hunger victims. Since 2002, USAID has provided more than US$1 billion in humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe.

USAID mission director, Stephanie Funk, said that humanitarian assistance alone was not enough and that the root cause of the poverty and hunger needed to be addressed.

Freeth believes that the diplomatic community, which has provided such vast and generous amounts of food aid since the beginning of the farm invasions 15 years ago, needs to visit invaded farms and witness first-hand the lawlessness which is the root cause of the hunger and poverty.

“They haven’t been to a farm which is experiencing a lawless takeover for at least seven years - and yet it’s been happening all the time,” said Freeth.

“The international community needs to initiate an investigation under the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.They can’t just watch this abuse from a distance and do nothing about it,” he concluded

Credit to Ben Freeth, SADC Tribunal Watch


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Update posted by Barbara Anne Langridge On Nov 19, 2019

"KAT" is currently living in Zimbabwe and believes if she were to publicize her story, she could expose herself to police harrassment. This is KAT's story:

We were kicked off of three farms between the time I was born till I reached 12 years old, the main ones were downs farm in Chegutu and Musasa Seedlings.

My dad was managing both for people who had fled the country when the invasions started. These were my childhood homes.

We went through a lot, there's too many stories to tell. Unfortunately I was quite young when it first started so I don't remember all the details. I only remember from when I was about ten years old, being chased by a mob, seeing farm workers beaten by the mob. These memories haunt me and are the ones I remember.

I moved to South Africa when I was 12. My dad carried on in Zimbabwe because it was too dangerous for me. We were being chased and shot at. I had to live with other relatives. I did not see my dad for a long time. It was difficult to be alone.

I don't really feel comfortable about saying where I am now and what happened because it might turn around and bite me. My Dad doesn't want me to mention him cause he doesn't want issues while he lives in England and I'm here in Zimbabwe on my own.

I would love to tell my story but to be honest I can't remember details which I know is what you want and I'm slightly scared of what could happen. There is a short account on Utube.

After we were chased out of or home, my dad and I camped at my junior school because we had no-where else to go. My dad had no money and we had lost all our possessions in the eviction. The possessions were stolen by the mob. It was a terrible time. I was twelve years old at the time. I was just a kid.

We have moved house alot since being evicted from our home. I've been to 8 different schools in 3 different countries. I live in Zimbabwe now but my dad lives in England.

I think people are still too scared to do anything. .When I saw the Justice Denied post on Facebook I knew I had to message you!

I think a lot of what's said about the farms is different to what really happened, people need to know the truth.


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Update posted by Barbara Anne Langridge On Nov 19, 2019

Beitbridge farmer’s lone battle against invasions

August 28, 2016

Eighty-year-old Mananje conservancy and Benfer Estate owner Ian Ferguson, has been fighting to hold on to his two properties which have been invaded time and again for over a decade.

By Kudzai Kuwaza

Ferguson has spared no effort in his quest to protect his properties, the 17 500 hectare game ranch Mananje conservancy and the 1 400 hectare citrus Benfer Estates in Beitbridge.

He has knocked on the doors of the two vice-presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko in his battle to retain his conservancy and farm.

Mananje has been invaded four times since 2000 with the most recent being in 2013 which has resulted in the killing of animals, the ransacking of lodges and theft of 57km of fencing.

The game ranch has been flooded with goats, sheep and cattle, threatening the conservancy’s ecosystem. Tourists who used to visit the conservancy, are now gone due to the invasions.

The invasion of Benfer Estates by among others, army official Darlington Muleya has severely hampered operations with most citrus trees destroyed. The damage caused by the invasions has forced Ferguson to abandon the export of citrus fruits which helped bring in the much needed foreign currency.

Ferguson said the invasions at the conservancy alone had set him back by more than two decades.

“The invasions at the conservancy have set us back by 25 years,” Ferguson told The Standard. “Most of my fellow farmers have given up. I have been invaded four times at Mananje and every invasion was a jambanja (violent).”

Ferguson, who was at one time arrested for holding on to Mananje, has had to replace his property stolen by invaders on three occasions at great cost. Some of the property stolen is of huge personal significance which has been passed down from generation to generation.

The invaders have even built structures despite having eviction orders served on them. Ferguson said efforts to get the police to evict them had been futile as they consistently ignored his pleas.

“All the nonsense that is happening would have been unnecessary had the police done their job,” he said. Ferguson says he feels let down by fellow affected white farmers in the area whom he says abandoned him to fight his battle alone.

“I have had no support from other white farmers,” he said. “I feel absolutely betrayed by other affected white farmers with one of them even telling my son ‘You have made your bed, now you must lie in it.’”

Ferguson, who settled in Beitbridge in 1953, vows he will never give up his fight to reclaim his properties despite getting no joy from senior government officials among them Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora and the two VPs.

“We have come so far in our fight against the illegal invasion of our properties and to give up now would be stupid,” he said. “I have never thought of myself as any sort of martyr but have just tried to live by the old world values that I was brought up in and doing so I feel I have retained my dignity and self-respect and have never subscribed to the adage of ‘feeding the crocodile hoping it will eat you last’, as so many of the farmers have done.”

Lawyer Winston Tshakalisa has stood beside Ferguson in his bruising legal battles and the two have formed a close bond.

“I would not be here had it not been for Winston,” Ferguson reflects. We speak four times a day and none of the conversations are shorter than five minutes and never has he once charged me for his services.”

Ferguson also attributes his resolve to keep fighting on his workers who have stuck by him through the trials and tribulations brought about by the invasions, sometimes at the risk of their lives. Some of the workers have been with him since 1967.

He employs 20 workers at the conservancy and has 140 at Benfer Estates.

Ferguson communicates fluently with his workers in the Sotho dialect Lozwe spoken in the south western areas of Zimbabwe and the border with Botswana. He attributes the fluency in the language to working in the Beitbridge community for many years where he was an irrigation specialist.

A former head boy and rugby captain, Ferguson qualified to be an airforce pilot and at one time owned a plane. A close friend to Ferguson who requested anonymity describes the farmer as a fighter who does not know when and how to quit.

“I have assisted this gentleman over the years in his personal and lone struggle against this brutal regime. To my knowledge he is or was the only farmer to commit to the legal process right through to the very end and won,” he enthused.

“This is despite every ounce of government resources and whatever thuggery they could disguise, being thrown at him, month after month and year after year.

“Ian is a gentleman, proud African and someone who has committed his life to the people and country he loves.

“He built an enterprise employing many who would otherwise be destitute in one of the poorest corners of Zimbabwe.”

Ferguson is Australian rugby star David Pocock’s grandfather.

Pocock’s parents were forced to flee Zimbabwe after their farm was seized by the government.

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Merry Xmas and I wish you a prosperous 2020

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There are some people who give their whole being to help and assist others there are some who dont care............. Barbara has always been one of the former! A hard-working and dynamic person- giving the last shirt to help others. Its only hoped this will help however small to get you feeling better Barbara. You will raise again my friend x


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I love and miss you all. Stay strong, and I hope that we will meet again one day! xxx


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After the drought comes the... Barbara, you are a great woman. This is just symbollically so you know I am with you in heart and mind. Here's a tender hug.

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I love you guys and I'm sorry you're struggling. Your mom is amazing. ❤

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The human species has a knack for believing that it can escape justice in the flesh. To evolve, it will have to learn that this thinking is unacceptable.


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Please support this remarkable lady. Let her know that there are people who care.


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Barbara Anne Langridge

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I am Zimbabwean. I love my country. In 2004 I was evicted from my home. I am a victim of political genocide and a refugee.


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