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Thomas Eric Bayley

Tom Bayley passed away in his sleep 1st May 2002. It was a happy release for a tortured and tormented soul. He endured, with great courage and determination, two years of threats, intimidation and the destruction of his life's work. This culminated in five weeks of being barricaded in his home, with all night pungwes and daily threats of having petrol poured into the house and setting it alight. Finally a fall resulting in a broken leg and the need to be evacuated from his home of 66 years. The physical pain of the broken leg and the operation to pin it was insignificant compared to the mental pain of being forced off his farm and his home.

Thomas Eric Bayley was born on 25 May 1913 on Bounds Green Farm, North London, although, when he was very young, his family moved to a village called Danbury, which is near Chelmsford, Essex. He grew bored of school, so left when he was 14 and did an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner with Marconi's Wireless and Telegraph Company. When he had completed his apprenticeship, he worked on an apple farm until he was offered a position as a "boss boy" on a farm in Southern Rhodesia.

Being an adventurous spirit, and heeding the call which was taught at school at that time to "go out and develop the British Empire", he left his family and friends and sailed off to Africa. He arrived at his new job on the farm, which he later named Danbury Park, on 13 April 1936. He took with him his only possessions: a suitcase of clothes and five pounds.

At that time, all haulage and ploughing was done with oxen and he would work from sunrise to sunset, much of the time guiding the plough himself. It was a very lonely life and he spent what little free time he had making himself furniture out of wooden packing cases.

During the Second World War, his employer, Campbell Dunlop, went to fight in the war, leaving Tom to manage the farm and continue food production. During this time he met Edith (Bobs) Garde, from Shamva, who he married in 1944 in the registry office in Bulawayo.

Campbell Dunlop was killed in an aircraft accident during the war, but Tom continued to work for the Dunlop family. After a few years they decided to lease the farm to him, and then, in 1949, they decided to sell it and offered it to him. Tom could not afford to purchase the whole farm, so they agreed to sub divide it, selling the first piece at that time. They sold him the remainder in 1958.

During Tom's 66 years on the farm, he rebuilt the main homestead, built the workshop and sheds, a cottage for his brother and he was one of the first farmers in the country to construct brick housing for his labour. He built dams, stumped all the fields, cleared them of thousands of tonnes of rocks, constructed contours to prevent soil erosion, built weirs across gullies to rehabilitate them and excavated and lined a network of water furrows. He planted Cypress, Eucalyptus and Jacaranda plantations, built a network of farm roads and erected many kilometres of fencing, all of which he constantly maintained. He was proud of the 99 proper farm gates on the farm.

Tom was passionate about conservation and trees and spent many years working with the Intensive Conservation Area organisation. In the early 1990's he was presented with an award in recognition for his achievements in this field.

Tom had a great love of nature and wildlife and took pride in everything he did, traits he passed on to his four children, Jenny, Win , Val and Tommy. Tommy carried on Tom's work on the farm with the same passion, dedication and success, and presumably the beauty of what they nurtured and created attracted the interest and jealousy of someone or some people who have the power to over ride the law and basic human rights.

When the farm was invaded by "war veterans on 6 March 2000, the threats, destruction and theft started. Initially it was the felling of hundreds of trees, both plantation and indigenous to build huts. It went on to growing crops without fertiliser, thereby draining the soil of nutrients, meanwhile preventing us from growing seed maize, commercial maize and soya beans. The cutting of fences and opening of gates resulted in cattle being continually mixed and eating the crops. This then resulted in extortionary claims for compensation by the new "farmers". Finally it was the invasion of the homestead areas and workers' village, the beating of workers, one of whom died of his injuries and another hung himself, probably as a result of the stress he was feeling.

Tom, Bobs and their Cook / Assistant were evacuated from the farm on 20 April 2002, after being barricaded in their house for five weeks and having been denied visitors much of that time. On two occasions the only way the family was able to get food in to them was to give the food to an NGO to take in. The police denied escorts to a number of people seeking to visit them, including the ambulance used to evacuate them.

At this time the family has been unable to retrieve any household goods or equipment from the farm and unconfirmed reports have been made that the entire workshop and maize silo contents have been looted by the "war veterans" on the farm.

The ZNSPCA did manage to gain access a second time and collected the tortoises, but they were unable to retrieve the three remaining cats. The work they are doing is outstanding.

Tom's death is the third on Danbury Park in two months that can be directly linked to the illegal invasion of the Farm. He recovered well from his operation and was allowed out of hospital on Saturday 27 April. That evening he was cheerful and lucid and was discussing old times with his family, he seemed well on his way to recovery. On Sunday night he had terrible nightmares and was thrashing around, trying to rip off his blankets and bandages. The words he was shouting indicated that in his nightmare the "settlers"had broken into his house and were about to set it on fire. He went downhill from there and passed on in his sleep in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

His wish was to be buried on the farm next to the grave of Patterson, the first owner of the farm, who died in 1891. He wanted to be buried in a coffin made of the wood grown on the farm. We will not be able to carry out his wishes; even if we are allowed back onto the farm to bury him, we have every reason to believe that the service would be disrupted by the gloating of the "settlers", the same people that bludgeoned the brother of one of our workers to death and then crowed about it. It is also possible that these people would then desecrate the grave in the future.

Tom was a very sociable and hospitable person and made many friends during his life. The support of these people and the encouragement of numerous complete strangers helped Tom and Bobs through their ordeal. The family would like to sincerely thank all those that helped to comfort him in the last few tragic weeks of his life.

A devastating end to a man who, throughout his life, endeavoured to leave his farm and community in a better state than he found them, primarily for the benefit of future generations. Sadly, after he had achieved his dream, it was shattered in the last two years of his life.

A further tragedy is that thousands of other families in Zimbabwe are suffering the same and worse.

Trish Bayley

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