Update: Police stop black farmer three times in a week
This story is now getting more attention with local and national radio coverage asking the question as to if there were racist overtones in both the reporting by neighbours to the police and the way that the police came back twice more when a simple check would have shown that they had asked all relevant questions just days before. The national press are also covering the story now:
As a farmer, David Mwanaka believes he is unusual - one of only two black ones in the whole of Britain.
In fact, he is such a rare sight that three times in five days he found himself being questioned by police who accused him of stealing crops.
On one occasion, he claimed, four patrol cars turned up at the farm where he rents land to grow maize, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and sweetcorn.
He said yesterday that he had been reported by people 'who are not used to seeing a black man working in a farmer's field'.
Mr Mwanaka, 42, who is originally from Zimbabwe, was with his wife Brenda and another worker when police first approached him on the morning of Saturday, September 13, as he picked maize.
He said he was questioned for half an hour and searched. Officers also checked his van.
He 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.
Rothley A black farmer harvesting his field has spoken of his exasperation after police questioned him three times in a week over suspicions that he was stealing food.
David Mwanaka, 42, believed to be one of only two black farmers in Britain, said he was reported to the police by people “who are not used to seeing a black man working in a farmer’s field”. On one occasion four police cars turned up as he was picking maize from his crop, near Rothley, Leicestershire.
Each time Mr Mwanaka, who is originally from Zimbabwe, had to convince the police that he was a genuine farmer, being forced to prove his personal identity and ownership of his vehicle. He also had to call the white farmer, from whom he rents six acres in Leicestershire, before police were satisfied that he was not stealing food.
Mr Mwanaka told The Times: “I do not want to blame people for being racist. I think it has more to do with ignorance. The problem would be if it was the same people calling the police. Then I would think it is malicious.”
The father of three, who commutes to his fields from Basildon, Essex, was the first farmer to grow white maize in Britain. He has a contract to supply Sainsbury’s stores in London.
A spokesman for Leicestershire Police said they had a duty to respond to calls reporting a suspected crime.
ORIGINAL NP STORY
Zimbabwean David Mwanaka is one of perhaps only two black farmers in the whole of the UK and rents various plots of land across the country on which he grows maize, sweet potatoes and other crops that some said wouldn't grow well in the UK. He's been renting and farming land at Mountsorell in Leicestershire for 5 years without any problems so imagine his suprise when he was stopped and questioned on his own farm by police not once but three times in a week. The police say they were responding to neighbours reporting that a black man was stealing crops from a field. Mr. Mwanaka has taken it in his stride but others feel that it highlights racist attitudes in the farming community and amongst the local police who after the first report and visit should have known that Mwanaka was the legal farmer. That there are reportedly only two black farmers in multi-racial Britain is in itself a startling piece of information to reflect upon.
I've updated this story now with an article (after this story) from the Guardian earlier this year on Mwanaka.
A farmer has had police call at his field three times in less than a week following reports from neighbours who thought he was stealing crops.
Zimbabwean David Mwanaka, who rents a field off Mountsorrel Lane, in Rothley, believes neighbours have reported him to police because they are "not used to seeing a black man working in the fields".
The 42-year-old, thought to be one of only two black farmers in Britain, was questioned by police officers for over 30 minutes on Saturday following a call reporting a suspected theft.
Officers questioned Mr Mwanaka before checking him and his van.
After another farmer stepped in to confirm his identity, they apologised and left.
However, Mr Mwanaka, who has been renting the field to grow maize for five years, was amazed when they returned on Monday, and then again on Wednesday.
He had not previously had a visit from police.
He said: "I was just picking the maize when I went to the edge of the field and saw three or four police cars and some officers walking towards me.
"They asked me what I was doing and I told them I was cropping my maize.
"It happened on Saturday, then on Monday, then again Wednesday. It was the same story – 'Who owns the land? What are you doing here?'.
Update - background on Mwanaka:
Last month, it was announced that Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones was among the 100 candidates on David Cameron's so-called "A-list" of Tory candidates. Emmanuel-Jones was described by the press, as he has been many times before, as "Britain's only black farmer". But actually there's at least one other black farmer in Britain today - and his name is David Mwanaka.
Mwanaka was living near Tottenham football club in north London when he began growing white maize on a small plot of his landlord's back garden. It was a long way from the cool mountains of eastern Zimbabwe where he had once helped his father grow cabbages and potatoes, but somehow it felt like coming home.
Today, he is a fully fledged farmer with 20 acres in Enfield, north London, another six in Salisbury, and customers the length and breadth of the country. He has the curious distinction of not only being one of the two black farmers in Britain (so far as we know), but of being the only producer of white maize in the country.
Mwanaka, who worked as a journalist before coming to Britain, admits it has not been an easy career choice. He says it took him six years of experimentation to produce a successful crop, and even then he didn't have the customers to sell it to. "When I started I didn't know how it was going to turn out," he says, perched on the sofa of his house in Tilbury, Essex. "It's just like walking in a dark tunnel, you simply don't know what is going to be at the end. But I really love seeing plants grow, so I kept at it."