Friday, September 19, 2008

(NEWZIMBABWE) Britain's other black farmer almost arrested after he's mistaken for a thief

Britain's other black farmer almost arrested after he's mistaken for a thief
By Staff Reporter
Posted to the web: 17/09/08 01.57:21

SPARE a thought for David Mwanaka, said to be one of only two black farmers in Britain. Twice last Saturday and Monday this week, the Zimbabwean was almost arrested after neighbours seeing him on his Leicester farm called 999 to report some THIEVES in a cornfield.

“It’s a bit of a bad spot for a black man,” Mwanaka said of the 10-acre strip of farmland in the Rothley Village, just outside Leicester. “It’s behind houses in a small village where everyone probably knows everyone, and when a black man is seen in a cornfield busily harvesting maize, he easily passes for a thief because he is not expected to be there.”

On Saturday, Mwanaka got a rude shock when police arrived in FOUR patrol cars to capture the “corn thieves”. He was with his wife, Brenda, and an employee, Edward Sibanda.

“The cops came out of the cars and said they had received a report that we were stealing corn,” Mwanaka told New “They were not ready to believe that a black man could be farming at this particular place.”

After a 45-MINUTE grilling and police checks, Mwanaka was given the all clear to continue harvesting.

“All the while, as the police were questioning me, a small group of neighbours, presumably the people who made the report, watched from a distance. I wonder what they thought when the police left without arresting us.”

Mwanaka thought that was the last of the incident. But he was wrong.

“On Monday, I was just dropping some maize at the edge of the field and a police car pulled up,” he said. “It was the same script: someone had reported that I was stealing maize. We went through the same drill again as on Saturday. I must have spent 40 minutes trying to prove I am just a farmer just going about his business.”

Finally, the police established he was not a thief and made their apologies before leaving.

“A very friendly neighbouring farmer, white of course, told the police that the next time they get a report of black people stealing maize, they should ignore it. If the thieves are white, they should respond. I found that an interesting solution to this little problem,” said the 41-year-old father of three.

A spokesperson for Leicestershire police said: “Police were called to land off Mountsorrel Lane, in Rothley at 9.47am on Saturday, September 13 after a report of a suspected theft.

“Two further calls regarding suspicious activity at the land were received at 8.32am on Monday, September 15 and 8.30am today (Wednesday).

“On all occasions officers attended the scene and after initial investigations they were satisfied that there were no suspicious circumstances.”

Mwanaka, who moved to the UK 14 years ago, missed white maize so much that he began growing it in a field near Enfield, London – defying expert opinion that “you can’t grow white maize in the United Kingdom”. He has grown to become one of Britain's most successful small farmers, supplying white sweet corn to Sainsbury’s and soon Harrods.

He grows a variety of African fresh produce including white maize, pumpkins and pumpkin leaves, groundnuts, choumoellier (kale) and sweet potatoes on a 20 acre piece of land in Enfield, on the north-eastern outskirts of London. This year, Mwanaka sought more land and got another 10 acres in Leicester.

The former journalist who quit his job as a bank worker in 2002 to go into full time farming has also recently opened a butchery in Enfield which also sells African food products.

If you wish to buy any of Mwanaka’s farm food products call 01992 765668, 07708 572914 or 07859 813238 or visit their shop on 619 Hertford Road, Enfield, London, EN3 6UP

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