Between the furrows
The following students enrolled with Course 19 in 1967:
Alexander, Douglas Kevin, of Bulawayo.
Allcott, David Anthony Gregson, of Salisbury. Dave worked as Stock Manager for Keith Kirkman at Donnington Farms (Pvt) Ltd between Norton and Selous where he had responsibility for the Angus and Tuli pedigree herds, commercial herds, feedlotting and fat lamb production.
Broadbent, Nigel Patrick Stidson, of Salisbury.
Brown, George Ian Mackenzie, of Salisbury.
Buttress, Peter, of Salisbury.
Campbell, Douglas McGregor, of Bulawayo.
Christian, Michael Charles, of Salisbury died from a heart attack in Australia when riding a bicycle 2005/6.
Clunas, Peter Ian, of Glasgow, Scotland.
Coventry, Keith Raymond, of Mazabuka, Zambia. Keith is the third in his family and grew up on Anchor Ranch. Lionel and Elaine were older. Younger Brian, who also attended Gwebi, was born in 1959 but passed away in 2019, and Rob was the youngest. Keith married Eileen and they are farming at Mazabuka.
Cross, Kenneth William, of Bulawayo.
Dold, Derek, of Headlands.
Francis, Adriane Anthony, of Salisbury.
Hulme, John died from pneumonia in the first term of his First Year.
Johnson, Frank David, of Trelawney.
Kay, James Iain Hamilton, of Marandellas.
Kennedy, Noel Eric, of Kabwe, Zambia. Noel has passed on but more detail is provided below.
Kirwan, Anthony Kevin of Bulawayo was injured in a vehicle accident while at Gwebi. After recovery he returned and graduated with Course 20.
Krynauw, Steven, of Macheke.
la Grange, Michael, of Umtali. More information about Mike's movements since Gwebi are below.
Laing, Robert Forbes Adam, of Umvukwes. Having Chaired the Student Council 1968/9, it wasn’t long before Rob was elected Chair of the Old Gwebians’ Association for many years and also served on the College Advisory Council. Tragically, he was killed in a vehicle accident in Umvukwes in the late 1970s.
le Patourel, Clive Douglas, of Beatrice.
McLaren, Ian Crawford, of M’tubatuba, Zululand. Died in a vehicle accident in Kwa-Zulu Natal shortly after graduation in 1969/70.
Meiring, Andre Julian, of Mazoe.
Mullett, Graham Charles of Salisbury.
Nel, Dirk Uys, of Salisbury.
Nicholson, Sean James, of Salisbury.
Noble, Neville Eric, of Salisbury.
Padbury, David William, of Salisbury.
Pitt, Nigel Bruce of Salisbury.
Robinson, Guy Nicol Hallowes, of Mazabuka, Zambia. Guy married Lindsay, the daughter of Bernard Rhodes, who was lecturer in Animal Husbandry when Guy was a student.
Simpson, Rodney Donald, of Hartley.
Strathearn, Mervyn Gerrity Dubaj, of Salisbury.
Taylor, James Gregory Myatt, of Mashaba.
Thomson, Roger Stuart, of Salisbury.
Thorne, Christopher James of Bromley.
Venables, Trevor John, of Banket.
Watson, Anthony James, of Gwelo.
Wilson, Allan Gresson Campbell, of Salisbury.
Wittwer, Anton Norman, of Salisbury.
Yiannakis, Dennis, of Namwera, Malawi.
York, Geoffrey Owen Campbell, of Figtree.
Keith Coventry (Course 19)
Keith Raymond Coventry is the third of five siblings from the Coventry family of Mazabuka in Zambia. He followed Lionel, Elaine and preceded Brian and Rob.
Keith graduated in 1969 from Gwebi and tells his story:
“Shortly after graduating I went overseas to UK with Ian ‘Exwell’ McLaren. We joined up with Doug Alexander and Dave Johnson and travelled around Europe for three months in a Dormobile. All in all we were over there for 18 months. Sadly, soon after coming back, Exwell was badly injured in a vehicle accident in KZN and after several months in a coma passed away.
“My wife Eileen and I are still farming in Mazabuka. We do cattle ranching and have a small banana plantation. We have two sons and four grandsons all living in Mazabuka.
About three years ago Michael La Grange who is still based in Zimbabwe with his Game Capture Company came to move an elephant from our farm to the Kafue National Park.”
Vale Noel Kennedy (Course 19).
Family members are sad to report the loss of Noel Eric Kennedy the evening of 12th November 2017 from Alzheimer's. He grew up going to boarding school and took the train all the way from Northern Rhodesia, now known as Zambia, each quarter for school. He had a passion for sports, fishing, farming and growing up in the outdoors of Zimbabwe and Zambia. He was a globetrotting adventurer and storyteller who will be deeply missed by all.
After meeting in Europe, Noel and Marty hitchhiked down through Africa to his parent’s farm, and then obtained his own farm growing 100’s of acres of corn and then reaped 10,000 bags in his first farming season. After 5 years, they moved to a safer South Africa, where he continued to farm in the hills that were susceptible to hail. Due to this, it forced him to relocate further down into the flat valley, in the Lowveld, in a town called Barberton. This farm had a very old house, with no electricity, so he built a whole new modern house that included sheds and barns. While on the farm, he often traveled to Mozambique to camp, where he spent days fishing, spear fishing and diving with friends and family. Their new hobby of underwater hockey, helped us experience the country, as we traveled to tournaments all over Southern Africa.
During the farming years, he suffered through many floods and droughts that finally encouraged him to leave his love of farming. After selling his last tobacco farm, he spent months writing a book that Marty had the joyous job of typing. Being so eloquent with words, he wrote about his experiences from his childhood and his love of the wilds of Zambia.
Upon leaving farming, he relocated to the United States, home to a familiar place for Marty, but now a strange place for Noel. You can imagine the changes they had to adjust too. After finally settling down, we decided to see more of the world, so we went on holidays diving and spear fishing in the Cayman Islands, Belize and the Blue Hole, white water rafting in Costa Rica, diving in Bonaire, Curacaos, and then we went on a cruise ship to Hawaii.
Sue and Paul Whitaker (Course 16)
Nigel Pitt (Course 19)
Nigel Bruce Pitt was born in Salisbury at the famous Lady Chancellor Home on 27th January, 1948. “I was the eldest of three, my sister and brother came along around seven and eight years later. We went to school at Borrowdale Junior and had a lot of friends who went over the road at St. Michael’s - all good Catholics! Then I went to Falcon College in 1960, only interested in the bush which were wonderful times and sport which I was pretty good at. I went to Oriel Boys in 1965 as I decided that I preferred girls to boys! That was for one year and having skated past Chikurubi a few times decided that I should finish at Falcon.
“I did my pre Gwebi on John Burl's farm in Marandellas - he would only take me if I agreed to play cricket for Ruzawi River, which I was happy to do. Got paid Five Pounds a month and that all went on cricket! Had to pay One Pound every Sunday which was my share of costs! Bucky Rowlands, C15, was my mentor and a bloody good teacher he was and a really good man. We got into a fair amount of shit and I just found him a few months ago in Australia, not well but alive!
“Then on to Gwebi with C19 and I really enjoyed my time there. With regard to Gwebi - the one lecturer who at the end of it all had the biggest influence on me was the one and only Bokdroll! His little homily "the answer lies in the soil”, just funny that it is only in the last fifteen to twenty years that anyone has any understanding and even then VERY little still today. I feel very uncomfortable even today as to what it must have done to his kids - everyone shouting out ‘Bokdroll’ as they went around the corner! I actually learnt a lot from him as well as Jack Lane, Willing Gilling, etc. It was fun but some of the Gwebi staff got really ripped.
“After Gwebi, went to Gwelo for Officer Training with Roger Thomson and Derek Dold, we were all subbies together and went on to Kariba - it was a bit strange as we all had Gwebi guys in our platoons. I had already lived at Heany Barracks for two years and I knew what a shit place it was and had decided that I was out of there at first opportunity, plus I figured I would rather make decisions not only for me but others, rather than someone giving me the gears. I enjoyed the training, it was interesting and actually a lot of fun was had by the three of us, particularly Roger who ended up the "Sword of Honour", quite how I don’t know.
“After that I went to the US, battled to get a visa, which I finally did in Mexico, because of sanctions, and spent just on nine months mainly in Texas, but travelled through Colorado, Wyoming through to New York and then down the southern States to Texas again to catch the boat home. I was hoping to attend Texas A&M University, and spent 10 days there playing cricket with Pakis, West Indians and Indians. Rodney ‘Chief’ Mundy was organising a scholarship for me but unfortunately he died which put a stop to that. Very difficult because of the politics of the day - not being allowed to work meant I couldn’t stay.
“I came home and started working for the Harland Brothers in Makoni. They had got out of tobacco and grew just about everything edible! I think they had about 8 acres of strawberries - intimidating to say the least. My Doberman, Rebel, loved strawberries. When I think of all the poisons that we poured on, a real 'moron’ experience. We had tomatoes, jam tomatoes, berries, peaches, lovegrass seed, popcorn and Lord alone knows what else.
“As a schoolboy I had spent most of my holidays on Selous Tobacco Estates - owned by my mother and PK van der Byl and so went off there from the Harlands. Not really a very successful time. I was engaged to Suzie at this time – she came from Cape Town. My Dad’s brothers flew with her father in the war and I was all of one year old when we stayed with her folks when she was born! We go back awhile and had 8mm film of us playing ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’ when I was 5 and she 4.
“Then I was offered a job at Forrester Estates in Umvukwes and started on H section which was cattle backgrounding and maize farm at that stage. I got married in my first month there and Alfa Farm in Centenary was attacked on our big day, which for us was in Cape Town. I was there for one year and then asked to take over the cattle section, backgrounding the other half of the weaners, pen feeding about 2000 head and a small piggery. It was my dream job - one that I dreamed up when I was about 14. I loved it, every day of it, until the military started with all the crap. Because I was an officer I couldn’t leave the Army and join PATU, so no release and when the six week call-up story started, well that was the end of my career at Forrester. I was never there and the farm was on the boundary of Chiweshe. We had no "Bright Lights", Suzie did not get on with my folks, we had a son and another on the way so she moved back to Cape Town.
“The difficulty for me was my Dad was Chairman of what I think was called the ‘Objections Board.’ Also I knew all the Brigadiers, General Coster, Walls and others, as they were contemporaries of my old man. I knew that there was no chance of this thing coming right, no job, small growing family so with a heavy heart and most reluctantly we packed and left - I was broken for years. Between the military and leaving Rhodesia I had severe PTSD which I carried for a long time.
“On one of my visits to Cape Town I was offered a position on Lourensford Estate in Somerset West to start a piggery - they had chosen someone who then didn’t want the position. On the day we left Forrester I got a telegram to say that the original guy had come back and agreed to take the position and as he knew the really difficult political situation of "dom passes" which the labour had, together with the wine "dop" system, they figured rightly so that he was best option. As they went for 2000 sows some 40 years ago, that wasn’t for me anyway.
“I was then offered a position on Rosetta Farm, Rosetta in the Natal Midlands. Wow - I was paid a whack of dough, beautiful area but what an eye opener. I was really paid well but it was 7days a week, 24 hours a day and a full 365 days a year expected of you. I believe that I still hold the record of the longest lasting manager - 18 months and then I couldn’t. They had everything disease wise on cattle and sheep - it was a Shorthorn stud, with commercial beef, Isle de France stud (trying for it anyway), a large number of rubbish Corriedale sheep - sideways looked like razor blades and they died! Between lightning, which killed a few hundred in the gumtrees, to them drowning in a flash flood, to going down to Maritzburg regularly with dead lambs to the State Vet - we even had disease named after the farm!
“At this time my Dad had a really bad stroke, should have died and I couldn’t go to him as the owner was taking his kids to the beach for a few days and then when Christmas day came and I was opening presents with my littlies I got shat on for not being in the office at the usual time. My father-in-law had met someone in Philippi who was a brilliant farmer and marketer. We move to Cape Town, and the Cape Flats. Well, that was also interesting, between the wind, the brack water, the beach sand and permanently drunk labour it was pretty tough. My first crop of 2500 large bunches of carrots I received a cheque from the Market of R22.50 which worked out to one cent a bunch. Cabbages were for free, just cut your own. The area consisted of about 35 German families and they were really tough and produced 85%of Cape Town’s fresh vegetables and still do. Most of the German families have now moved out of the area. I apparently was the first "Rooinek" in 30 years to try the challenge.
“A Jewish fellow bought a farm there as well about the same time, and he brought in farmers from Israel - we learnt a lot from them - but three months was the most any of them could take at a time. They said in Israel, they had some of the problems, little water, sand, etc, but not everything that was served up all at once! We had howling winds, the South Easter can blow here for three weeks continuously. Suzie and I decided that it would be better to sell our own produce, so we started a small farmstall in Kenilworth just off the Main Road. I had brought in seed from US and Italy and was growing a lot of veg not seen in Cape Town at that stage and in fact had the French ladies from Koeberg Power station as very regular buyers. We also had weekly visits from the Sales Director of Woolworths, a varying number of store managers through there regularly. Directors’ wives even came to work there so we must have done a reasonable job - it was pretty rustic all round.
“My father-in-law had restaurant called ‘Jakes’ just over the road and we managed to get a food licence and bakery licence, both of which were really difficult to get and we used the Restaurant to bake and make all sorts of goodies. Around then we bought a small property next door and started a restaurant called Pittance, a play on our name and also charged very little.
“My father-in-law had serious bust up with the property owner of Jakes and I ended up taking it over. Not the best deal as I had terrible issues dealing with people, not so hot when you want to tell the punters "just leave your cheque and fuck off", cos that was my attitude.
“I sold the restaurant in 1996 when I had my first hip replaced. I had to have my second hip replaced in 1998 and having been skinned the way I was when I had the first one done, we decided to sell the restaurant. It was not a good idea but I was drinking a LOT of beer every night. It’s a long haul from 5pm to 1 or 2 am and life is easier being "nice" to people with a bit of a skinful - especially when you don’t like folks too much. I was especially pissed when four different orthopods told me that it was beer that caused the issue, 12 years later I find out that I had a blood disease called polycythaemia, which means I make too many red blood cells which was the real reason for the symptoms I suffered from. I apparently had it for at least 30 years before I found out. Blood can’t move through all the small veins, arteries and capillaries.
“So I started a small business making wood and steel garden furniture. We made some really nice stuff, but no money so ended up making security gates, burglar bars and other stuff. My guys were all qualified and up against people working out of home garages with no real chance of succeeding as their costs were not what mine were. So I gave that business to one of the guys that was working for me and I started looking around.
“I met the wife of a what I thought was a friend of ours - had known them for a very long time - he was Portuguese, very well known in the fishing business here, and now I know why all fishermen/fish industry personnel are actually pirates. They all have a wooden leg and parrot on the shoulder! He was working out of Luanda, and since I was a young boy, I had always wanted to go to Angola. He was exporting potatoes and onions as about 95% of all foodstuffs and other products were imported. They used to grow sugarcane, all their mills were blown up by the Cubans and they were told they had to get sugar from Cuba! Big coffee farmers, lot of cattle in the past. The Porks have always been excellent farmers but the whole place was a mess.
“Well I loaded 6 containers of potatoes and onions and my friend when exporting put the wrong address on the documents - the ships take about 5-6 days to get there but the containers then spent three weeks while I was sorting out the mess and I had lost just on R800,000 in cash! All the vegetables were rotten. I decided then and there to go and be there myself which is what I should have done to start with. The start of making, losing, making and finally losing the lot of what we had worked for all our years.
“I exported fruit, maize meal, onions potatoes, tractors, generators, but my main concentration was on oil remediation. Another friend had patented a product made from sunflower husks and 1 kg of this, milled, would absorb up to 12 litres of hydrocarbon - a fantastic product. I was working with my Angolan "partner" who had been the military attaché for the MPLA in London, Paris and Lusaka. He speaks fluent French, Spanish, Portuguese and English and his obvious knowledge of the workings and whose palms to grease were really important. We were doing well, Sonangol, BP, Elf and all the other oil companies liked our products, as I had many other products for airfields, First Responders etc.
“Luanda was a mess - if it rained no one went to work as if you lived out of town (± 10kms it would take an easy 8 hrs to get to work and 8 hrs to get home again.) Roads were appalling , lined with huge bins of rubbish which stank, nothing really worked. When I first arrived the shops operated on one selling coffee, matches, sugar etc, the next long life milk, candles bread/rolls etc. After Savimbi was killed things improved for the average Angolan but were more difficult for us.
“In about 2004 I slipped and smashed my right femur in 4 places (because of the prosthesis) and I nearly died - luckily I met up with a really good military Doctor who was used to no legs because of all the many landmines. He stabilised me and I flew to Joburg. Now had to start the business up again and whilst at home plenty of others poured in and took my slots. When I first flew in I was one of seventeen whities on the SAA 747 - the other 16 were going off to Cabinda and I walked into Immigration as the sole whitey. It was interesting - I was warned that all the walls had ears, no politics, and the security police would know who I was, where I stayed and who I was with within 12 hrs.
“In 2005 I was contacted by some Nigerian guys so went off to Port Harcourt, the centre of the oil industry - well that was interesting, being driven everywhere with a security guard, or guards quite well armed, and watching the British expats who start drinking seriously at 9am with the whores into them that early too. I have to say they were beautiful girls absolutely stunning, all out of Mali and Ethiopia. I was only there for 10 days but enough! Had to pay $100 to go to Egoniland, not to be kidnapped by them. I was with the oil specialists. The Chief of the tribe was standing on the platform when his Chief was hung - an apparently brilliant man. His name was Ken Saro-Wiwa. Shell had the oil rights to that area and apparently it was the best quality oil out of all West Africa. All the roads were tarred, except to the main village. We had to cross a stream past a broken school, all students sat on the ground. Shell refused to do anything and that was the reason for them kidnapping anyone white. I had the most unpleasant meal of my life and I have eaten some dodgy crap in my travels. The Priest, all the Elders, the Chief and all the hangers-on were all there, it was a big deal for them. It was awful for me. But they enjoyed it.
“All I can say is that there are a heck of a lot of Nigerians! It gets dark early! Chris, the man I was talking with was also a Member of Parliament, explained that they are very clever people, when you see the names at Oxford, Yale and all the other prestigious universities of all the Professors it is notable to see how many are Nigerians. Once was enough there.
“Those Customs guys are pretty tough, but not as tough and thoroughly unpleasant as my next port of call which was Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Wow, is all I can say. I was there just before the Hajj - when about 3.5 million people arrive in literally days by air from all over and those Immigration guys do NOT play! I started exporting oranges and lemons as they are huge importers of fruit - and I mean shiploads at a time. I was working with an Islamic scholar and I was taken at night to the hills above Mecca where he had a small farm. There we sat having a picnic in the middle of the night and because it is so hot most business is done at night. Well it was getting cooler but still 38C at 4 am is not fun.
“The first day that I was there, the Arabs told me we had a meeting at 12. Well, I said, fine, not realising they meant 12 midnight! They do a lot of work at night because it is just too hot during the day – however the poor bloody expats have to work, especially the blacks and Pakis - they get a real work out. So off we went, to a meal where you all sit around on the floor and with my ass being full of steel, not so comfortable. Some nice "lamb" all the way from Oz - they slaughter on site and you eat - still warm onto the fire. From there we went down to the Red Sea, to find whole families on the beach and rocks, fishing, swimming and generally socialising at 2am. Rocks covered with Persian Carpets to make it a little more comfortable. One trip there was more than enough. Coming home you enter this massive room, after immigration, and whole plane loads sit together while you wait to be called. There are like 12 -14 plane loads of people all in blocks.
“Had a breakfast meeting the next morning - you go into this dining room and it is full of Arabs all in their white "dresses" with red checked dishcloths with black rope on their heads all with black moustaches, most without beards (all our Muzzies here in Cape Town wear beards after visiting Mecca). Trying to find your hosts amongst 200 or so Arabs is impossible. My hosts were hosing themselves as I went table by table. At least I was paid!
“I was then contacted by an English guy living near Arusha in Tanzania who was growing aloe vera and made a juice out of them - having tried it here, I was really surprised at how good it tasted, just pure juice with nothing added. My brother-in-law lived there. He had fallen on hard times as he was working for a Belgian company, a hunting concession, and his friend had an affair with the boss’ wife and they decided he had to go. Well he hadn’t been paid for three years as he said he didn’t need any cash whilst in camp. He met his future wife, Stella, a delightful Tanzanian, with a huge heart. She literally took him out of the gutter. Anyway after talking to Suzie, my wife, we decided to help him and I managed to get a sizeable sum to him to start a business. Well he is a Born Again Christian (I have been skinned by more Christians than any amount of Muzzies ever could) and he gave the money to the church. Great Happiness from us! I tried to get the aloe vera juice into South Africa but having to load a container was too expensive without some deep pockets. I enjoyed my several visits to Arusha and Mwanza on Lake Victoria. I particularly enjoyed Mwanza and actually could easily have lived there.
“Anyway back to Angola and a lot of trips to DRC, mainly Kinshasha and Lubumbashi. I was offered four farms outside Lubumbashi - they were really nice properties and met a few Zim farmers who were growing veg and one was working for the President who had taken all the equipment from the farms I was offered to his own farms. Well, that’s why you are a President in Africa! You can do all this shit and no one bats an eyelid. Well I have seen the start of the Congo River and the mouth. I would love to have travelled down from start to finish.
“In 2010 I was contacted again by my brother-in-law, (that was fun!), wanting to know if I had a contact for diamonds as the Hasidic Jews in US were looking for 250,000 carats a month. I had a young friend there who was a Chief in the Tchokwe tribe, they are the people who live on the east of Angola, and cover the Lunda Sul, Lund Nord and Bie Provinces. His uncle was General Tchisainga (otherwise known as the Tchis) a startling figure, in his late seventies who'd had his hand and arm blown off in a hand grenade accident. He was Dos Santos' right hand man and in overall charge of security. When the fight started with the Portuguese, (incidentally they were as savage as the Belgians were to the Congolese), he had already brought in equipment for a battalion of trained soldiers ready for battle. He died about six years ago. His best entertainment was watching big bangs, tanks, explosions and war movies on TV. You could hear him shouting with glee right down the hall. Anyway the American arrived (I organised his visa, hotel accommodation and all the other documentation he needed and we met with all the people that he needed to see. Sodiam and Endiama agreed, but he had to come up with money to pay to start the Yetwene Mine again. This mine belonged to Simon Mann, the British mercenary. He and the Executive Outcomes boys were given the mine for saving the MPLA's ass at the battle of Soyo fairly close to Luanda. In 1999 Unita overran the mine and several UK guys were kidnapped and never seen again. The Executive Outcomes guys packed it in, the mine stopped operating. It is very close to the big mine, Catoca, operated at the time by Lev Levieve and Dos Santos’ daughter. A happy bunch of crooks!
“I was then fired by my brother-in-law and Harold, the US poes, they didn’t realise that Mario (the Chief) was who he was, and when the family found out they were a little cheesed to say the least as we were regarded as partners. Brother-in-law and Harold then spent nine months trying to get the mine off the ground again. It didn’t work, but I was prevented from going to Luanda for nearly two years which effectively stuffed my businesses there. I ended up losing 2 x 40' containers of oil remediation equipment and materials as all the warehouses in the Sambizanga area were knocked down to build new apartment blocks. They were moved to who knows where. Also all the guys from West Africa either ended up going back to their respective countries or moved. Anyway, I lost a lot.
“Eventually, Tony, the young man I had met on my first trip there came to Cape Town and asked me if I could help him and a couple of others get their farms going. He said to get on a plane and don’t worry about a visa, he would meet me at the airport and get me through. Well another traveller, Gerrie, an irrigation specialist who had been going there as long as me, was sitting next to me in the plane. When I told him I was visaless, he laughed and said rather you than me! I got through, spent four days in a hotel room before Tony arrived with my passport. We went off to Quibala, central Angola, (Cuanza Sul) which is an area where the Portuguese grew lots of rice. It has 5500', the rain buckets down like I have never experienced even in the DRC. The rivers used to be a beautiful green, and lots of water. Now dirty brown with all the rainforest hardwoods being turned to charcoal. It is so sad.
“The other farms didn’t happen - it is quite a usual thing in Africa – if the locals sees a possibility that you just might help the others do better than they might, the locals like to keep you close. So I ended up with a very talented and able engineer from North Western Province and we developed this farm. That’s when you realise that farming is really for young people especially when there is nothing on the ground. Tony now has a beautiful farm - sheds, irrigation, cattle handling facilities, goat yards, etc. And now I am home all the time ...
“Very sadly, Suzie, my wife and partner of more than fifty years passed away in October 2020.
Guy Robinson (Course 19)
Guy Nicol Hallowes Robinson was awarded a First Class diploma in 1969 with a Distinction in Practical.
"I was extremely fortunate to be offered a place at Gwebi and started my course in October 1967. Keith Coventry and I were fortunate to follow nine Old Gwebians from Mazabuka - all successful farmers in the district.
"On graduating from Gwebi in July 1969 I came back to the family farm - Kushiya - and for a year worked with my parents. They then retired to RSA and I was left to run the farm. In September, 1970 I married my long time girlfriend - Lindsay Rhodes - the Vice Principal’s Daughter. Probably the only way I could see my way to getting a much cherished Gwebi Diploma!
"Lindsay and I worked hard on the farm as agriculture was difficult here and we had to find funds to pay out my parents. We grew 400ha maize with three tractors and an Imco 4 row planter and we had a large herd of ranch cattle which did us well at that time. When time permitted we both played polo and when borders opened eventually, we had great fun with the Zim boys. I got to a 4 handicap before taking off to become a Professional Hunter full time.
"In 1975 we had our first child, a son - Gavin. A month before he was due, our Health Minister nationalized our only private hospital and gave it to the Army. Plans were quickly hatched and Lindsay was on a flight to my parents in Port Shepstone, via Malawi as no flights were allowed to South Africa. Gavin was born and three weeks later we were on our way home. Left my folk’s home at 04.00 to fly Durban/Joburg/Blantyre/Lusaka - arriving home at midnight. Not a pleasant journey in the September heat with a baby and us having no clue as to what to do with a three week baby! Anyway, we all survived! Three years later we had our next baby boy - Ian - and now were experienced parents, via the same route to get home.
"In 1976 I was elected Beef Chair of our farmers group Commercial Farmers Bureau (CFB) and served there for a while, eventually being elected Vice – Chair of the CFB. At this stage Presidents were not allowed! It was a very difficult time in our history and one thing I learned very quickly was how to be diplomatic and read situations carefully. Travelling up and down to Lusaka for meetings, etc was always very challenging what with many army roadblocks and curfews often in place.
"While serving on this Board I was involved with a few farmers who had the foresight to then establish an organization representing all farmers. This led to the establishment of what is now the ZNFU (Zambia National Farmers Union) encompassing Corporate, Large Scale, Emergent and Small-Scale farmers. The 80’s saw a lot of challenges to farming with the Country having very limited forex and obtaining funds for the likes of spare parts, medical and education all became a real Issue. Farmers that had irrigation tried export crops. Very risky and many fell to exorbitant interest rates of as high as 300%!
"So I went Hunting.
"A lovely Profession but a long time away from Family as I tried to earn forex to pay education, medical and obtain vital spares. Lindsay did an amazing job in running the farm and bringing up the boys while I was away for 3 or 4 months in the dry season. She certainly inherited her Father’s genes! I hunted off and on for 21 years and guided some very famous clients.
"Our two boys were very fortunate to be able to attend both Whitestone School and Falcon College outside Bulawayo. Happy times and I met up with so many ex school mates and Gwebi boys. Gavin then went onto the ‘Old Blackfordby’ for one year and then the ‘New Blackfordby’ for the last year, passing out as DUX student. Ian followed two years later and both were taught by Gwebi’s famous Fred Gilling !! Ian passed with a Distinction in Engineering, thanks to Fred. What a man.
"Time moved on and the 90’s saw a big change in our Government and we went from a totally controlled economy to a very free economy. Maybe in hindsight, too fast, but we were all elated and business, investment etc took off at real pace.
"In year 2000 I was again asked to go back to serve on the ZNFU as the corporate chair of the ZNFU body. I was responsible for the large Multi National and very large farmers of Zambia. A great challenge as I took on the Banks head on to challenge their ridiculous high interest rates!
"In 2003 I was pushed by some farmers, who I really thought were my friends, to take on the position of President of the ZNFU! I reluctantly agreed and for 6 years held this position representing an ever-growing number of Large-Scale farmers, now moved from about 250 in total to over 500, plus Emergent and Small-Scale farmers whose numbers I got up to over 600,000.
"I travelled the length and breadth of Zambia. Slept in crazy places but was ALWAYS given a very warm welcome by all farmers, especially the Small-Scale farmers. I will always cherish those fond memories of meetings under trees followed by traditional dances and wonderful singing from hundreds of men and women in the rural areas.
"I was extremely fortunate to have had a wonderful working relationship with the then President, the Late Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. He convinced me at our first meeting that he had to be ZNFU Number 1 member every year! For all the time he was with us, his subs for the union came in on the 2nd January!! What a great man. He always joked with me that my title was with a small ‘p’ and his a big ‘P’.
"I was also very fortunate to have had a great Minister Of Agriculture and we worked very well to try and develop the Agricultural Business in the country. In two seasons, we went from a net importer of Maize and Soya, to net exporters. The fertilizer assistance package that the President, Minister and I hatched, offered fertilizer at reduced cost to farmers and this worked well with the million odd small scale farmers now producing viable crops.
"At this time too, sadly, we will all remember the terrible situation developing with farmers in Zimbabwe. President Mwanawasa and his Minister did all they could to assist and help provide conducive opportunities for the farmers to invest here. This boosted our agricultural production massively, especially tobacco.
"With all this and much more going on I was forced once again to almost abandon the farm and leave it in the capable hands of Lindsay and Gavin. Ian by now was a fully fledged Professional Hunter so assisted during the wet months.
I was not only doing the ZNFU job but was also asked to assist the President in running his farms. In his second term as President he twice asked me to take on the portfolio of a full Minister! I very diplomatically declined, much to his disappointment, but he loaded more and more onto me as president (with a small p) of ZNFU. His passing was a tragic blow to our Country and in particular, Agriculture. MHSRIP.
"During this time I had also been put on many – too many - Boards. I think at one stage was on 8 or 9, I can’t really remember! From the GRZ bank, to Chair of the Investment Centre, ZDA, Seed - Co, Tiger Feeds, Parmalat, Mazabuka Farmers’ Security Chair, Musikili School Board, Mazabuka Vet Service and Chaired for three years the Government Food Reserve Agency as well as the Wildlife Board.
"Now, I am just a thorn in Ian’s side as he runs the farm with his Mom milking 550 Holstein cows. Lindsay does all the dairy and still finds time to do farm budgets. Her Dairy herd has for the last 8 years won the sponsored competition – best herd in Zambia. She is definitely her Father’s daughter.
"Ian expanded into Sugar Cane in 2007 and irrigates 460 ha. He has a pedigree Tuli herd of 150 lovely cows and has approximately 1400 game animals of about 10 different species. He is currently Chair of the Wildlife Producers Association of Zambia and doing a great job. He has been Chair of our Mazabuka Farmers’ Association and Cane Growers’ Association. It’s in the Robinson genes! Ian married a lovely American girl – a qualified Equine Veterinary Surgeon and they have three daughters.
"Gavin married a lovely girl who trained in USA and is the only Dr of Physiotherapy in Zambia and she runs a practice, while Gavin is a Commercial Pilot for a huge copper mine, owned by ex Peterhouse men. They have a son and daughter.
I try and keep out the way - I take kids to school and teach them to fish and shoot. We bought a safari camp right up in North Kafue National park and I am sent there to chase poachers, fish and enjoy a beer or 23 with ex Gwebi mates, Lionel and Keith Coventry and Mazabuka mates who dare the 10 hour road trip up! If I am at home, a bunch of us seniors try a round of golf every Wednesday. We beat trees, test the rough and rely on expert caddies to find that bloody ball! The ninth hole is by far the easiest, with all the expert practice we got at Gwebi.
"The one real highlight of the year for me is to have a great bunch of eight Zim farmers – mainly Marondera (Peterhouse) lot up for an annual guinea fowl shoot."
Mike la Grange (Course 19)
Mike was born in Umtali on the 27th of October 1949. He grew up on a farm where he developed bush skills as a child. He left school in 1966, went to Gwebi in 1967 and joined the army in 1970. Mike joined the then Dept of Internal Affairs as an Agricultural officer where he spent more time dealing with Problem Animal Control issues and setting up a small game project than farming. He later joined the Dept of Wildlife and National Parks in 1971. He worked in Buhera and Chisarira, becoming the head of the National Parks Problem Animal Control unit dealing with all wildlife management issues that included culling and translocation. During this time he attained a certificate in Field Ecology at the University of Zimbabwe. Mike then moved to Hwange National Park where he was Warden at Sinametella camp.
During his time with Parks he also became well known for his involvement in elephant culls. He later headed up one of the National Parks of Zimbabwe capture units. In 1981 he was stationed at Nyamanechi National Park as warden until he left Parks in 1989 to form his own private capture company. He has been capturing wildlife in Zimbabwe ever since. Mike was a co-founder together with Chris Brice of African Wildlife Management and Conservation and they have since handed over the reins to Mike's son NJ, and son-in-law Josh.
Mike now works on a consultancy basis with wildlife farmers and game parks and is also involved with a number of NGO's on Human Wildlife Conflict projects and PAC work. Although he is no longer part of the day to day running of AWMC, he is a company director and is still passionate about wildlife capture and remains very much a part of their team.
Mike was married for 32 years until his wife, Cathy, passed away suddenly in 2006. They had 3 children together; N.J, Jacqueline and Deidre. Mike and his second wife, Trish, currently live in Harare.
Brian Kelvin Coventry (Course tba?).
Brian was born on the 13th June 1959 at Mazabuka Hospital in Zambia. He was the fourth of five siblings in the Coventry family. He followed Lionel, Elaine and Keith (Course 19) into this world. His younger brother Rob is the youngest. From a very early age Brian loved spending all his spare time in the bush. He knew this place like the back of his hand and became an expert bush tracker and marksman and often spent long hours out on the home farm, Anchor Ranch, honing these skills. He also became mechanically proficient, having an old Leyland Mini Moke which he spent many an hour tinkering with. He also loved his motorbikes and was fiercely competitive at the Motocross events held on the Robinson’s Kushiya farms and at The Dorvic track. When he could, he would also take off on a horse around the farm and this resulted in him becoming a very skilled horseman.
With regards to his education, it would be an understatement to say that Brian was not too enamoured with the regimentation of his School life. He attended REPS School in the Matopos, and then moved on to Falcon College in Essexvale for his senior schooling. He hated the regimentation of school life at Falcon and family history has it that he and a friend ran away from Falcon at the height of the bush war, getting as far as Gwelo before being found at the local Railway Station where he was awaiting his express train to freedom. After Falcon College he attended school in Wales in the UK, and then came back to Africa. Brian attended Gwebi but the dates are not known. He joined the Rhodesian Army where he served in the Military Police before returning to Zambia. Brian farmed at Glencoe and Monga Farms at Mazabuka for a number of years. He met and married Shelly Sumpton, whose parents were working on the Sugar Estates. From his marriage to Shelly came Brian's son Tom but sadly his marriage to Shelly broke up after some years. Ultimately, as all the Coventry men did in those days, Brian took up Polo which he loved. He helped on the committee of the Mazabuka Turf and Polo Clubs to organize events like the Hired Assassins/High Goal Polo tournament. To Brian's credit he had a wonderful string of Polo ponies and his horses were often requested by visiting Polo teams when visiting Mazabuka. Later on Brian married Sarah Coxe in February 1987 and both set down to the hard work of running their farm. Like many of those farming in Mazabuka in the 1990’s, the farm suffered a string of bad seasons which were made the more difficult by the high cost of borrowing for seasonal overdrafts and huge increases in costs like ZESCO. Brian also involved himself on the Musikili School Parent Teachers Association serving as the PTA Chairman for a number of years. His involvement with Musikili didn't end there as Brian and Sarah took on the task of camp building and catering for the Musikili Grade 7 Chongwe trips.
In the early 2000’s Brian and Sarah took the momentous decision to move down to Livingstone to run Musanza Brewery for CHC. The move to Livingstone was a successful one in that it allowed Brian to establish more financial security than when he was farming a dry land farm in Mazabuka. Brian and Sarah were also both able to work in Livingstone and this allowed their three daughters, Vicki, Anita and Hannah, to enjoy a private education. In recent years Brian and Sarah started farming again. Ultimately it was his love of the bush that led him back into the farm lifestyle. One of the benefits of being back on a farm was that he was able to get back out into the bush. He thoroughly enjoyed taking his Grandchildren out camping or Nkwale shooting on the farm that they rented north of Livingstone.
Since the early 1990's and especially since he moved to Livingstone, Brian has been very active in the Zambia Police Service Reserve Section and rose to the rank of Reserve Assistant Commissioner of Police in Southern Province, making him the most senior Reserve Police Officer in Southern Province. He escorted senior dignitaries and even Presidents of Zambia during their visits to Southern Province and he was extremely well respected in the Southern Province Command. Brian also served as an Honorary Ranger for the Zambia Wildlife Authority as well as a Board Member of Acacia International School in Livingstone.
Brian passed away aged 60 from organ failure on 3rd November 2019 and is survived by his wife Sarah, his son Tom, daughters Vicki, Anita and Hannah, his mother Mara, and his brothers and sister, Lionel, Elaine, Keith and Rob.
Eulogy written by his brother-in-law Charles Coxe.
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