THE growing incidence of illegal farm invasions by greedy well-connected individuals is yet another indication that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s so-called “New Dispensation” remains utterly clueless on the intricacies of investor confidence, property rights and the rule of law.
Mnangagwa must be told in no uncertain terms that the lawlessness is spooking investors, tarnishing the image of the country and harming the economy. We have been down this road before.
In one week alone, Zimbabweans have witnessed shocking incidents.
In Mvurwi, the chief executive of the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe, Pious Manamike, was ordered by the High Court to immediately vacate a farm belonging to 70-year-old widow Rose Chinyanda.
She has been on the farm since 2001 and has a summer crop, as well as 100 cattle on the land. The widow was obviously viewed as a soft target by the Cottco boss, who invaded last month and set up makeshift structures and a borehole. Cottco is majority-owned by the government and Manamike is a man who enjoys considerable clout. What kind of society have we become? Widows and orphans need protection, not victimisation.
In Nyamandlovu, near Bulawayo, the Esidakeni Farm invasion saga continues, despite court orders directing the unauthorised settlers to vacate the property.
Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu is mired in the ugly fight. It beggars belief how a politician of his stature can involve himself in such despicable undertakings.
Mpofu, clearly emboldened by his credentials as a political heavyweight, has vowed to grab the land. He needs to come clean and tell the nation how many farms he holds. Mpofu is one of the most prominent business operators in Matabeleland North province, owning vast property in Victoria Falls, Hwange and Bulawayo. What message is he sending to the investor community when he spearheads land invasions?
Mpofu’s misadventure is not the only example of outrageous behaviour actively supported by Zanu PF.
Just this week, Garry Hobbs, a leading farmer in Karoi, was evicted from his farm by ruling party officials. Hobbs wrongly assumed he was safe, having surrendered a large section of his farm in 2000. But sure enough, the greedy lot returned to boot him off the rest of the land.
All these farms that are being targeted for invasion by Zanu PF are productive business entities. Nobody can argue that this is under-utilised land.
It is clear why they are targeting productive farms; they are intent on harvesting where they did not sow — literally. In some instances, the orchestrators are driven by political vendettas.
We have seen how some of these rapacious invaders have conveniently used land reform as a vehicle for primitive accumulation.
After grabbing the land, they quickly register for state-funded equipment and farming inputs worth millions of dollars. They then default on the repayments; in fact, there is never an attempt to pay back a cent in the first place.
What happens next is the stuff of a mafia state: the defaulting farmer’s debt is offloaded onto the shoulders of taxpayers. Through diabolical “debt assumption” law — itself a euphemism for naked looting — the politically connected elements amass ill-gotten riches at the expense of the poverty-stricken masses.
The government already faces a hefty compensation bill for allowing the invasion of farmland under the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements. There is a price to pay for institutionalised lawlessness.