..Land grabs from locals unlawful
…Political corruption looms large
HOLDERS of Kershelmar Farms (Pvt) Limited – which legally owns Kershelmar Farm currently at the centre of a fierce row between politicians in Matabeleland North province and its lawful property owners – have written to Lands and Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka (pictured) to assert their title, while exposing a political plot to illegally confiscate the land for corrupt and personal interests.
Masuka has distanced himself from the land grab, exposing the regional leaders responsible.
The property, known as Esidakeni Farm in Hilda’s Kraal, Nyamandlovu, has sparked a heated clash between the farm owners and Zanu PF leaders in the province trying to grab the land and resettle their cronies, including supporters, friends and relatives.
Matabeleland North resident provincial minister Richard Moyo, Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu, who is a former cabinet minister, and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) co-deputy director-general Gatsha Mazithulela are said to be behind the farm seizure.
Although they have farms elsewhere, they want to grab this one for their associates – suggesting abuse of office and corruption. Mazithulela has a personal vested interest in the farm as he wants to muscle in for self-aggrandisement, it emerged this week.
Kershelmar has three directors: Siphosami Malunga, Zephaniah Dhlamini and Charles Moyo each owning a third of all the allotted shares.
The directors and shareholders are black Zimbabweans. They have the title deed to the farm.
In terms of the law, the government cannot expropriate land from indigenous Zimbabweans.
There is a court order and precedent to that effect.
Advocate Thabani Mpofu has obtained a relevant court order.
Malunga and his colleagues purchased the company and, more importantly, the farm – directly from its previous owner Jeffrey Swindells in 2017, as it was never designated or acquired by the state.
“We came to know about the farm as its sale by public action was gazetted in 2015. At the public auction the farm was not sold as the highest bid fell short of the creditor’s demands. It was then sold by private treaty, administered by Bulawayo Real Estate, we dully placed our bid that was acceptable to the auctioneers. Before we signed the sale agreement with the Deputy Sheriff, we did due diligence and discovered that the farm was not owned by the defendant late Eddias Warambwa,” the letter, dated 14 June, says.
“As such the farm could not be sold for the debts of the defendant. Having invested a lot of time and energy in trying to purchase the farm we searched for and identified the owner. We then approached the lands office in Bulawayo and the then Minister of State for Matabeleland North, Hon. Cain Mathema for guidance. We were told the farm was indeed private property it had never been gazetted nor designated for acquisition.
“The lands officer then, Nkiwane told us that if there are indigenous Zimbabweans in among the shareholders of the company owning the farm it couldn’t be gazetted. On the strength of guidance from the honourable minister (who was the chairman of the lands committee) and the chief lands officer we went ahead and purchased the company, Kershelmar Farms Pvt. Ltd, and thus gained access to the farm.”
Contrary to what Moyo has been publicly saying – misleading Masuka to secure gazetting of the land – the farm was never designated. Checks have shown there was no such acquisition.
“Since October 2020, we have faced severe harassment from your officials at the lands office, including unsolicited and unlawful visits to our farm, illegal assessments, interviews of our workers, threats and phone calls and invitations to attend at the lands office to be informed different things,” the letter says.
“First, we were informed that our farm would be designated and acquired by the state. We found this declaration unfounded and baseless as we are three black Zimbabweans who jointly legally own the company and the farm. We were not provided with the reasons. We were invited to the lands office in Harare by Mr. Denhere and were informed that our farm was actually designated in 2002. We know this is of course untrue and requested a copy of the Government Notice to this effect. None has been furnished to date.
“On Monday 21 December 2020, we received another telephone from MS Graham at the lands office in Matabeleland North to inform us that our farm was acquired and designated via Government Gazette on 18 December 2020. We were not furnished with the Government Gazette then.”
The letter says since then they have been harassed by intruders coming to the farm, claiming to be beneficiaries of the land.
A Bulawayo lands officer identified as Dodzi has said he would send a team to peg and parcel out plots on the farm. Moyo and his allies have apparently issued offer letters to their supporters and relatives.
“There is absolutely no legal or other justification for the conduct by officials at the lands office,” the letter adds.
“It is, however, our belief and we have information and evidence to this effect, that there is interest in our farm by a very senior government official (the Deputy Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation – Dr Gatsha Mazithulela) who is well-known to all of us, in acquiring a stake or the whole farm.”
The letter says Mazithulela wanted to squeeze himself into the farm ownership structure and displace Malunga whom he said was a government critic, while promising political protection.
“He offered to save and protect the farm by substituting Malunga which we rejected,” it says.
The letter further says that politicians behind the move have no right to displace indigenous farmers who are actually utilising the farm,” the letter says.
“As three indigenous black Zimbabweans, we have a constitutional right and are entitled to own the farm. We are entitled to work on the farm, which is private property, without any hindrance and disturbance. We are utilising our farm and produce high grade horticultural and field crops.
“We have even received offers of support from Agritex. We are in the process of recapitalising the dairy farm and have had discussions with potential investors. We believe this acquisition flies in the face of government policy in that it is taking land from blacks.
“We are constitutionally and legally entitled to the protection of the state in this regard. We do not know why the government officials from the lands office are harassing three indigenous black farmers in contravention of its own land policy as pronounced by yourself, your predecessors and the state president. There is no legal cause or justification for the harassment we are facing and we respectfully seek your intervention to direct officials at the lands office in your ministry (Dodzi) and all those acting under and through them to cease and desist their unlawful conduct. We request that you take cognisance of the hidden hands, illicit interests and motives behind this acquisition.”
The three farmers said they may lose US$100 000 this year due to illegal land disruptions.
“We risk suffering irreparable loss from all this. We have invested over US$100 000 this year alone and have crops at different stages of maturity including 8 hectares of onion, six hectares of butternut and six hectares of tomatoes (150 000 plants ) currently being planted,” the letter says.
“There are allegations that we are under-utilising the farm which is 530ha. We would like to bring to your attention that only 85ha of this land is arable and irrigable. We have invested ZW$10 million of borrowed funds from local banks (using our urban residential properties as collateral) to implement an intensive winter/summer horticultural programme which involves utilisation of 55ha of the arable land (see attached cropping programme). This is supposed to yield gross returns of over ZW$60 million between now and April 2022. We cannot be said to be under-utilising the land.”
The letter says the minister was clearly being misled by provincial officials lying to him and pushing the government to justify seizing the farm.