23 Sept 2008

According to the DAILY MAIL

Black farmer quizzed by police THREE times on suspicion of stealing food from his own field

By Andy Dolan

Last updated at 6:13 PM on 22nd September 2008

Huckled: Farmer David Mwanaka with part of his latest crop

A police force sent four squad cars to question a black farmer in his field after receiving reports that a thief was stealing maize - the third time in less than a week that officers had questioned the man.

David Mwanaka, 42, told yesterday how he was reported to the police by people 'who are not used to seeing a black man working in a farmer's field', after he was repeatedly quizzed at the farm where he rents land.

Mr Mwanaka, who is originally from Zimbabwe, was quizzed for half an hour and searched, while officers also checked his van. 

He also had to call the white farmer, from whom he rents his field in Rothley, Leicestershire, before police were finally satisfied that he wasn't stealing food. 

On the third occasion, four patrol cars arrived to quiz the farmer as he was picking maize from his crop. 

The father-of-three was with wife Brenda and another worker when police first approached him on the land on a Saturday morning as he picked maize.

'They asked me what I was doing and I told them I was cropping my maize', he said. 'They said they couldn't believe me so they asked me for my ID and they did some checks on my vehicle.

'Then I had to call the local farmer, from whom I rent the field, to come and help me with the situation. He was able to tell them who I was and explain that I was renting the field from him.

'Then on Monday morning the same thing happened again. Some officers came over again and said, "We've got a report that you are stealing maize". 

'I had to go over the whole thing all over again, proving my ID and convincing them that I was genuine.

Police interest: Mr Mwanaka was visited by police three times in a week after 'ignorant' neighbours thought he was stealing crops

'Then on Wednesday I was in the field when I heard a lady police officer saying, "Hello, hello", so I went over to her and she said she was looking for a thief.

'There were four police cars there, I couldn't believe it. I explained to the officer that I wasn't stealing maize, that I was a farmer but I had to go over the same process again all over again to prove that I was telling them the truth.

'It was a waste of time on my side and for the police. They should have shared the information about this and communicated better.'

Mr Mwanaka, who has a contract to supply white sweetcorn to Sainsbury's stores in the London area, added: 'They (the police) said the people who reported me had said there was a black man stealing food from a farmer's field.' 

He believes he is one of just two black farmers in the country.

The incidents earlier this month are the first time in the five years he has rented the land that he has been bothered by the police. 

He also rents several fields in Enfield, North London,and commutes to his crops from his home in Basildon, Essex. 

Smallholder: The farmer rents his fields near Rothley, Leicestershire, from a white farmer. He also grows crops in north London

He said once someone driving past one of his fields in London shouted to him, 'What are you doing to that farmer's crop - leave our food alone.'  

Mr Mwanaka was a journalist in his home country but moved to Britain legally in 1991, initially to study. He insisted he was not offended by the incidents, which he put down to 'ignorance'.

He added: 'If it was the same person calling the police each time, that would be racist. The police haven't told me who has been making the reports, but I suspect people have just become concerned because they are not used to seeing a black man in this area.'

He farms mainly white maize - the crop he grew in Zimbabwe. But he also grows pumpkins, sweet potatoes and sweetcorn.

A spokesman for Leicestershire Police said they had 'a duty' to respond to every call made by the public reporting a suspected crime.

He 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 on the land were received at 8.32am on Monday September 15 and 8.30am on Wednesday September 17.

'On all occasions, officers attended the scene and, after initial investigations they were satisfied there were no suspicious circumstances.'
The National Farmers Union said they did not keep any statistics on black farmers.

A spokeswoman said: 'Farming is traditionally a very white male-dominated industry but we have seen more women coming into it over recent years, and there is no reason why that won't happen with people from ethnic minorities.'

The best known black farmer in Britain - thought to be the only other one than David Mwanaka - is Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones,50, who is the Conservative Party candidate for Chippenham, Wiltshire.

He has his own branded lines of food such as sausages marketed under the name The Black Farmer.

The father-of-three was born in the West Indies, brought up in the Midlands after coming to England with his family when he was three years old and now farms in Devon.

The government ministry responsible for farming, Defra, said they did not keep statistics on black farmers either.


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