Review of All for Nothing?
April 23, 2015 Columnists
News Day 23 April 2015
I HAVE just finished reading CG Tracey's book — All for Nothing — and I am quite impressed at how men and women like him gave all they had to build Zimbabwe.
Review of All for Nothing? My Life Remembered - Oskar Wermter SJ
No 57 August 2011
THE RISE AND FALL OF A FARMING GENIUS
ALL FOR NOTHING? My life remembered, by C.G. Tracey
Weaver Press, Harare, 2009, 326 pp.
By Oskar Wermter SJ
The late C.G., ‘farmer, entrepreneur, businessman, plant-breeder, racehorse owner and
breeder, sanctions-buster, chairman and director of many companies, husband, father and
gentleman’ finally wrote it all down, relentlessly recording facts and figures. He is not a very
exciting writer. The reader will sometimes nod off, unless he happens to be a passionate
farmer as the author was, interested in cows and crops, in breeding animals and plants,
managing farms and factories.
But this record of what Rhodesian farming was like is valuable. It does show us what a
highly skilled occupation farming was, how much ingenuity, imagination, intelligence, highly
specialized knowledge in many fields, enormous guts and courage as well as sheer hard work
was needed to be a productive farmer and entrepreneur.
It shows very clearly that the post-Independence ‘cell-phone’ farmer is a ludicrous creature
that cannot possibly succeed (nor did his pre-Independence counterpart – not all Rhodesian
farmers were as clever and hard-working as C.G. Tracey – large numbers failed and went
This sober record shows also the blind spots of this remarkably versatile and resourceful man.
We do learn something about the living and working conditions of his farm workers. Like the
better type of Rhodesian farmer he does feel responsible for him, in a traditional, patriarchal
fashion – he defends the old system of giving farm workers ‘rations’ – food rather than cash
wages. Too much money is considered dangerous in the hands of irresponsible natives who
will drink it all away, to the detriment of their families. There may have been some truth in
this. Still, did it never occur to him that an adult worker simply has a right to his wages in
whatever form he wants? That he must be allowed to look after his family in a responsible
fashion. On the long run acquiring this sense of responsibility would have benefited the
family more than control by the employer. I am afraid such thoughts, or any human rights
thinking, would not have been understood by Tracey, though an active member of a Christian
It is also remarkable that this leader of the farming community, so well connected in
Rhodesian society, never met any nationalist leader before Independence. He met Tom
Mboya of Kenya earlier than any Zimbabwean leader. He makes the point that he was not a
racist; he employed graduates of Chibero College as managers on his farm and worked well
with them. But there is no indication that he understood the aspirations of the local majority.
Even though a well-known figure in public life, he followed his father’s advice not to go
into party politics. He distrusted party ideologies. As a very pragmatic person, he believed
in economic success, without getting involved in political power games. He was useful to
politicians because he was remarkably successful as ‘sanctions-buster’, but he had no time for
the political class as such.
Perhaps most surprisingly, there is a chapter on the Unilateral Declaration of Independence
(UDI, 1965), but none on the War of Liberation. He was not involved in the military effort
himself. His contribution to the Rhodesian war was finding loopholes so as to evade trade
What he reports on trade sanctions, by the way, should teach all contemporary Zimbabweans
a lesson who believe that the current restrictions against the ruling class deserve to be
called ‘sanctions’. They don’t. The isolation of Rhodesia in those years, banning all members
of the United Nations from trade with Rhodesia, simply cannot be compared to the little
inconvenience suffered by the ‘elite’ of today.
The last chapters tell the story of the vicious onslaught on farmers, their families and farming
livelihood by war veterans in the years of ‘land redistribution’. Even then the old pragmatist
tried to strike deals. Though on the whole unemotional and sober in his style of recording
events, a certain bitterness and sadness does characterize the last pages.
‘Zimbabwe is in danger of joining the ranks of derelict African countries – its agriculture,
and particularly its tobacco and food sectors, have been mortally wounded. An atmosphere of
mistrust and corruption is widespread’. On a more hopeful note he concludes that those ‘eight
decades cannot be taken away, although the developments of which we were proud have been
The book seems to show that there was much good in Rhodesia, but also much blindness, and
it all ended in tragedy. The question, which the title of C.G. Tracey’s life story poses, remains
unanswered: ‘All for nothing?’
Review of All For Nothing? My Life Remembered - Heritage
C. G. Tracey
All For Nothing? My Life Remembered
Reviewed by M. J. Kimberley¨
for Heritage of Zimbabwe (27) December, 2009.
This book records the recollections of C. G. Tracey (known to all nowadays as CG) who was born in Gutu on the 31st December of 1923 and died on 20th July, 2009. He was educated at Ruzawi an Anglican private school in Marondera and then at Blundells, a well-known English public school founded in about 1570.
All his life CG has been a farmer initially at Handley Cross near Chakari and subsequently at Mount Lothian opposite Ewanrigg National Park in the Arcturus District.
As a practical farmer, CG was very successful, and his farming activities became very diverse embracing animal husbandry involving pigs, cattle (Jersey, Charalois, Limousins), and sheep where he was involved in developing Wiltipers, a new breed. He also grew crops of various kinds including maize, especially hybrid seed maize, cotton (300 acres) and soya beans. He also produced flower seed (zinnias, calendulas, petunias and marigolds) for export to international seed houses in America as well as vegetable seed including tomato and lettuce.
CG was very enterprising in his farming work and there are a number of examples of this. Soya beans were widely grown in the USA and Brazil in maize areas but in this country the low yields made the crop unpopular with farmers. CG approached research complexes in the USA and imported varieties from there as well as from Colombia, Brazil and West Africa which he grew on Handley Cross and this provided the impetus for our government plant breeders to develop new varieties and, today, soya beans are the most important oil-seed crop in this country.
With the advent of sanctions following UDI in 1965 and the resulting currency restrictions canned tomato products could no longer be imported. CG carried out research in England and South Africa, had tomato cutters, pulpers and screening units made in Rhodesia, and after some experimentation began to produce very popular canned tomato juice with a twelve-month shelf-life from his own tomato crop.
It was not surprising that a successful farmer like CG was drawn into service in organised agriculture in this country. He was Chairman of the Pig Breeders Association and represented that Association on the Council of the RNFU and served that Council as one of its two Vice Presidents. He served as President of the Commercial Cotton Growers Association and as a board member of the Pig Industry Board and the Agricultural Marketing Authority. Way back in 1975, CG became Chairman of Tobacco Sales Limited, a public company listed on the Stock Exchange, which operated the tobacco sales auction floor, and became a conglomerate involved in many activities.
CG was extremely keen on horses and participated successfully in jumping and horse-riding arena events at the Salisbury and Bulawayo Shows. His love of horses led to playing polo and he and his brother Martin were members of the Chakari Polo team. CG started a commercial Stud and he describes an amusing tale of how during sanctions he purchased at Tattersalls’ brood-mare sales at Newmarket a filly bred at the Royal Stud at Sandringham and sold to him by Queen Elizabeth.
He was a keen competitor at agricultural shows and won prizes for cattle, pigs and sheep regularly at the Salisbury and Bulawayo shows and even competed with success at the Rand Easter Show. In 1996 he and his wife were presented with a silver rose bowl for exhibiting their livestock at the Salisbury/Harare Show for 50 consecutive years.
CG was a director of many companies not only agricultural but also commercial and industrial and he was chairman of the Zimbabwe Banking Corporation for a number of years and of the Zimbabwe promotion Council which made such a major contribution towards putting Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe on the map.
His story ends with a chapter on compulsory land acquisition and land invasions throughout Zimbabwe and, finally a very sad chapter on the loss of his own farm and his continuing fight for it through the courts.
CG lived an interesting and exciting life and he has told his story well. The book of 327 pages was beautifully printed in Mauritius and is a credit to CG, to his publishers Weaver Press of Harare, and to the many people who helped and advised him.
I have no hesitation in recommending that all our members purchase the book. It is available at bookshops or if necessary direct from Weaver Press.
There are still others in Zimbabwe who have made major contributions to what used to be a wonderful country and who have a tale to tell about their lives. Hopefully, the publication of this book will encourage them to put pen to paper as CG has done. CG captures the importance of this in his prologue with the words ‘the recollections of many of my generation will be lost forever unless they are recorded now’.