IN a move which underlines a further deterioration in the rule of law and property rights under President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, Esidakeni Farm manager Makhabane Nkomo was on Thursday evening hounded out of the land in Nyamandlovu with his family — and forced to sleep in the bush — by a group of thugs who claimed they had taken over the hotly-contested property.
The farm is legally co-owned by Siphosami Malunga, director of Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, businessman Charles Moyo and National University of Science and Technology (Nust) scientist Zephaniah Dhlamini.
While Malunga and his colleagues are heavily invested in the farm and production is thriving — in a country where farms lie derelict due to lack of production — Zanu PF provincial political leaders Obert Mpofu and Richard Moyo, who have their owns farms, have been wreaking havoc on that land through proxies.
Central Intelligence Organisation co-deputy Director-General Gatsha Mazithulela (pictured) has also been deeply involved in the nasty wrangle.
Mpofu, who is Zanu PF secretary for administration, Richard Moyo, Matabeleland North provincial affairs minister, and Mazithulela have been identified as the architects of the illegal bid to seize the farm from its legal indigenous black owners, which is unlawful.
Mpofu has been quoted on media as saying he is not involved, although he purported to know the history of the farm and claimed to know it was not owned by Malunga and others.
Malunga and his business partners actually have the title deeds to the farm.
In a government gazette last December, Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka said the farm known as Esidakeni measuring 553 hectares and situated in Nyamandlovu, Matabeleland North province, was being compulsory acquired under section 72(2) of the country’s constitution.
This has attracted scrutiny and widespread condemnation.
Masuka has distanced himself from the saga, saying its Matabeleland North political leaders behind the move.
On Friday, Malunga posted on his Facebook page that a group of men had invaded their farm and barred Dhlamini from accessing the property.
When a CITE news crew visited the farm on Friday afternoon, visibly shaken farm workers said they had been ordered to stop all operations until further notice.
They said Nkomo had spent the night in the bush in hiding with his wife after a group of men besieged his compound around 11pm on Thursday night, accusing him of assaulting Dumisani Madzivanyati.
Madzivanyati, a lecturer at Nust, is one of the invaders claiming to have been given an offer letter by government.
“Some men arrived around 11pm last night. They asked to see Makhabane, one of them identified himself as Gumbo.
They told Makhabane that they were pursuing him for what he had done two weeks back,” Nkomo’s wife identified as Ndlovu said.
“Makhabane told them that he didn’t do anything wrong then they alleged that he was part of people accused of assaulting one Madzivanyati. They gave him 30 minutes to vacate the house or they would come back for him.”
Ndlovu said initially they ignored the instruction to leave, but then the group of men returned for the second time that was when they fled their home.
“They came back a few minutes later and ordered that we should be gone in 30 minutes. We fled and spent the night in the bush. I returned home around 1pm and started removing all our property from the house. My husband said he will send a truck to ferry our property to Tsholotsho, our home. We have been here since 2017 and we have been working peacefully until last month,” she said.
A farmworker who identified herself as MaKhumalo said they were summoned on Thursday night by seven men who told them to stop all operations at the farm.
“We were summoned last night by about seven people who were in a car. We have never seen them before. They told us not to report for duty today (Friday). They threatened us that whoever would report for duty would deal with them. However, they explained that whatever is happening has nothing to do with us. They said it was between them and the farm owners,” MaKhumalo said.
Contacted for comment Dhlamini told CITE that the ring-leader identified as Davison Gumbo had been arrested and was in police custody.
“The police have cleared us to continue with our work at the office. Gumbo has been arrested and is being charged with several charges, including trespassing and breach of peace. According to the evidence, we gathered he was sent by Madzivanyati,” said Dlamini.
“Initially Gumbo was claiming that he was part of the beneficiaries at the farm but when the police asked him to produce documentation to that effect he couldn’t. However, for now, all has returned to normal and workers will be resuming their duties.”
Madzivanyati denied the allegations saying he was not aware of the developments at the farm and was away in Harare on a work assignment.
Malunga and his business partners have applied for a court interdict against invaders. They are also challenging the farm seizure.— Cite/The NewsHawks