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Family fear for relatives in Zimbabwe

PUBLISHED: 11:34 26 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:54 03 March 2010

A COUPLE has spoken of their concern for relatives living in troubled Zimbabwe, where members of their family have been farming for two generations.

Ann and Derek Barbanell, from Washbrook, near Ipswich, claim they feel "helpless" at the plight of many white farmers in the African country, including their two nephews.

A COUPLE has spoken of their concern for relatives living in troubled Zimbabwe, where members of their family have been farming for two generations.

Ann and Derek Barbanell, from Washbrook, near Ipswich, claim they feel "helpless" at the plight of many white farmers in the African country, including their two nephews.

Mrs Barbanell's brother John Walmisley went out to the country in the late 1930s as an assistant tobacco farmer.

When the war came he joined the Rhodesian squadron of the Royal Air Force and was based in the Middle East during the conflict.

At the end of the Second World War, along with others who had served with the squadron, he received a 2,000 acre plot of virgin uninhabited land at Raffingora on which he built a flourishing farm growing tobacco, maize and cotton.

He employed up to 200 people on the land and built a school and paid for a teacher to give some rudimentary education. His wife, Rosemary, ran a clinic and was the midwife for the area.

Mr Walmisley sold his farm in the mid-1980s and continued to live in the country until his death six years ago.

Today his sons continue farming, Bill owns a tobacco farm in Banket and Robert manages a vegetable farm at Ruwa. While his daughter Sally Bown lives in the capital Harare, where she used to work in a safari office until the numbers of tourists coming dropped off. She now runs a bed and breakfast business in Harare.

With the political uncertainty in the run up to elections and with a land reform programme which is aimed at seizing land from white farmers, Mrs Babanell and her husband are concerned for the safety of their relatives.

"They want to take land by force now. All the white farmers understand they have to cede some of the land, but it's a question of time. But some people can't wait. It's really very, very serious," she said.

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