|26 Oct 2020|
|Passing of friends|
James McLure Sinclair (1956W) | 1938 – 2020
Jim Sinclair was born in Capetown where his mother had travelled from the family farm in Melsetter. He was the eldest of four children and was raised along with them on Albany farm. He attended Melsetter Junior school before completing his education at Bishops College in Capetown. He worked on a forestry estate before attending Gewbi Course 9 along with the likes of Richard Brooker, Richard Winkfield, Ant Swire Thompson and Robin Hawbin. After that, he worked for his father before spending a year working and touring overseas. He returned in 1961 when he went to work at Chibero College. He later moved to work for Tim Riley as a farm assistant in Norton and subsequently to Umboe where he managed a farm for 5 years. In 1965 he married Anne Everett who had recently been widowed and left with a young son David, and he moved to Seuri Source farm in Norton which had been in Ann’s family since 1933. There, son Doug and daughter Jeanie were born.
Jim had a brief and uneventful stint in politics as a candidate for the Rhodesia Party and later began his involvement in agricultural representation when he joined the Cattle Producers’ Association as the Salisbury and District Rep in 1976. In 1978 he became CPA Vice Chairman and Chair the following year. In 1980, with the appointment of then CFU President Dennis Norman, to the Cabinet as the Minister of Agriculture, CFU Vice President David Spain assumed the helm at CFU and Jim was elected CFU Vice President. He assumed the Union Leadership when David Spain was tragically killed in 1981. Jim served as CFU President until his term ended in 1983.
During his time as CFU President, he made it his mission to revive those farmers’ associations that had gone into decline or closed during the war. Whilst in office, he actually managed to visit every single farmers’ association at least once and several others twice or more. Given there were over seventy associations across the country, that was a remarkable commitment to his constituency and he made numerous friends and earned widespread respect as a humorous, listening and accomplished speaker.
It was in 1982 that Jim was awarded the prestigious Rothmans Communicator of the year Award. Also, in 1982 he received the accolade of FARMING OSCAR, something that at that time had never been received by a sitting president. Further, in 1982, he was nominated to the board of the IFAP (International Federation of Agricultural Producers) at their 25th Anniversary.
At a national public level, Jim was appointed to the board of the National Railways, the Forestry Commission and later to the Beef and Livestock Committee of the AMA. Subsequently, he joined the board of the Cold Storage Commission where he was a key player in getting the valuable EU LOME beef contract on the table, he served several years as CSC Chairman until he left in 1991. Lesser known is that he served as a Trustee on the FARM ORPHAN SUPPORT TRUST from its inception in 1993 until around 2010, contributing significantly to the programme that made a positive impact on the lives of many farm children orphaned in the early years of the AIDS pandemic. For the last several years he has been a trustee of the Farm Families Trust which has rendered and continues to assist farm families with medical challenges.
He served on several business boards, amongst them Blackwood Hodge, Casalee Tobacco and International Holdings eventually becoming the Chairman of Murray and Roberts, for which he was rewarded with a box ticket at the memorable 1995 Rugby World Cup in Ellis Park. Clearly a highlight of his business career!
He retired from public life in around 1998 and went back to assist in the family farms where he ran the financial side for David and Doug and assisted with the set up of a pig enterprise with his daughter-in-law, Fiona. Ann was always by his side. Their planned retirement on the farm came to an abrupt end shortly after the start of the land reform around February 2000, when a group of bussed in farm invaders were resisted by spear-wielding neighbours from Mhondoro, who along with his farm employees were determined to ensure their valued neighbour and highly regarded employer on Serui Source was not evicted. Unable to comprehend that the local people did not want Jim and family moved, the State laid a charge against Jim for incitement and he spent a cold night in Norton Police Station. The case dragged on for over a year until Jim was eventually acquitted, though he never got home to the farm. In the early stages of the FTLRP Jim was approached by a well-connected person with whom he had served on state boards, offering his family and farm protection from the process. In a testament to his solidarity with other farmers facing “Jambanja”, Jim turned this down, preferring no special treatment from the rest of his commercial farming colleagues.
Once settled in Harare, Jim assisted Doug in the set up of a furniture factory and later he and Ann spent several happy years in the landscaping partnership with their great friends, Bruce and Patsy Keevil.
Throughout his life, Jim was a man who gave his all, in public service for the farming community at large and for his district, neighbours, farm employees and their people and most especially his family and friends. He was always happy to listen and share his counsel and insightful perspectives with the many who sought it. To the end, he was anxious to see the resolution of the many challenges facing Zimbabwe and its agricultural sector. In conclusion, I can only say go well Jim to a well-earned rest, your dedication to family and friends and country and your enduring integrity stand out and leave us the poorer for your passing.
RIP Jim and sincere condolences to Ann and all the family and many friends, your loss is shared.