Reliving the Cold Comfort Farm Society

Lovemore Ranga Mataire
GUY CLUTTON-BROCK is the only white man to be declared a national hero by the Government of Zimbabwe, exemplifying his remarkable and extraordinary life dominated by a quest for an equal and just world.
His name looms large in the country’s struggle for self-rule given his selfless dedication to a non-racial society.

He was viewed in equal measure of camaraderie by both African nationalists and the masses following the founding of the Cold Comfort Farm Society at St Faith’s Mission in Rusape.

Mindful of his inimitable stock, Cluttock-Brock was compelled to put pen to paper as homage to the seemingly insurmountable hurdles he encountered as he sought to bring a better understanding of humanity.

The result of that effort was “Cold Comfort Confronted”, an autobiographical narrative that traces his roots working in England in the prisons and probation services, and youth and community work in the slums of East End of London and in post-war Germany.

But “Cold Comfort Confronted” is more than just a self-serving narrative.

Published in 1972, well before the coming of majority rule in the then Southern Rhodesia, the book is a defiant and prophetic celebration of the Independence that he was to see his lifetime.

In the opening two chapters aptly titled “The Underprivileged Society” and “A European Way of Life”, Clutton-Brock juxtaposes England struggles in the 1920s with the adversities that Africans endured during colonial rule.

He recounts how his fellow countrymen discouraged him from working in the slums, derogatively referring to the inhabitants as uncivilised, uneducated, irresponsible, untrustworthy, thieves and smelly.

Ironically, years later in Rhodesia, Brock was shocked to encounter the same descriptions being thrown on Africans by colonialists, some of whom had originated from the same slums in England.

When Clutton-Brock arrived at St Faith’s Mission in Rusape, he put to good use his professional background as a social worker and a farm labourer to immediately establish the Cold Comfort Farm Society, quickly turning it into a pioneering non-racial community.

Cold Comfort Farm become a “first class” agricultural training ground and a psychological liberation centre that was an early staging post on the long march from colonial oppression in Rhodesia to majority rule in Zimbabwe.

Some of the young people who were nurtured by the institution were Didymus Mutasa, Robert Tichaendepi Masaya, John Mature, Cornelius Sanyanga, Moven Mahachi, Dr D. C. Matondo and Hebert Ruwende.

In the mid-1950s, Clutton-Brock had met nationalist leaders Cdes James Chikerema, George Bodzo Nyandoro, Paul Mushonga, Peter Mutandwa, Dzawanda Willie Musarurwa, Edison Sithole and Kufakunesu Mhizha, and soon St Faith’s Mission became some sort of Mecca for black nationalists.

Soon the Rhodesian government took notice of this unusual cross-pollination of racial harmony on the farm, which in their view was intolerable and an unnecessary dangerous experiment.

The organisation was declared illegal and Clutton-Brock was detained.

In 1971, Brock was declared persona non grata in Southern Rhodesia and deported to Zambia with nothing but a pipe and tobacco in his pocket.

Before he left he made an emotional candid speech in which he said: “I am glad to share in the fellowship of the dispossessed … I regard the present regime as only temporary and myself as a continuing citizen of Rhodesia, so I expect to see Zimbabwe again before long. I therefore say goodbye to nobody.”

Indeed, barely eight years later, Rhodesia became Zimbabwe and Clutton-Brock and his family returned to a country that he and his colleagues at the Cold Comfort Farm Society and those in the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress had gallantly strived to make a reality.

President Mugabe and Cde Didymus Mutasa attended his memorial service in England in 1995. President Mugabe received his ashes and these were later buried at the National Heroes Acre in 1996.

  • Harwicke Holderness (author of “Lost Chance- Southern Rhodesia 1945- 1958”, Zimbabwe Publishing House) summed up his “crime”: “Your real offence is turning yes men slaves into independent human beings.”
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