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Lands minister distances self from Malunga farm seizure

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LANDS and Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka has distanced himself from the seizure of a farm belonging to prominent human rights lawyer Siphosami Malunga and his business partners, with his juniors saying the Matabeleland North provincial leadership is behind the move to grab the property.

LIZWE SEBATA

This comes at a time when Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister of state Richard Moyo has practically confirmed he spearheading the seizure, telling The NewsHawks that there is no going back on the farm confiscation.

The NewsHawks has already established that Central Intelligence Organisation  co-deputy director-general Gatsha Mazithulela, Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu and Moyo are behind the move to seize the property.

Mazithulela, a distinguished scientist, is a former Nust pro-vice-chancellor (innovation and business development), and has reportedly been vigorously pushing for the farm seizure for political reasons.

Moyo is the one spearheading the seizure and claims the farm owners have no proof of ownership.

Siphosami, the executive  director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and son of the late nationalist Sydney Malunga, co-owns Kershelmar Farms (Pvt) Ltd with businessman Charles Moyo and Zephaniah Dhlamini, a scientist working at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust). The company, which they bought, owns the farm.

The farm was initially owned by Jeffrey Swindells, a white farmer, who then sold Kershelmar – with the farm – to Malunga, Dhlamini and Charles Moyo.

However, in a notice in the Government Gazette, Masuka said the farm, known as Esidakeni, measuring 553 hectares and situated in Nyamandlovu, Matabeleland North province, is being compulsory acquired under section 72(2) of the country’s constitution.

The move has sparked widespread condemnation as it comes against a backdrop of growing land seizures from black people, especially its critics. The farm is also highly productive. Besides, the move violates property rights, the rule of law and spooks investors. It also further damages government’s reputation.

But yesterday Masuka said he was not the initiator and mover of the land grab. The lands ministry says Richard Moyo is.

“I am not aware of any farm seizure of Malunga’s farm,” Masuka said, referring the reporter to his juniors before cutting his mobile phone.

Lands and Agriculture ministry spokesperson Barbara Machekano said the Matabeleland North leadership led by Richard Moyo is responsible for the farm grab.

“Moyo is the one responsible for that province. At head office level, Masuka is just there to sign offer letters; because of devolution, provincial ministers are the ones responsible for the issuance of offer letters, and they are the best to comment on any land offer issues in their respective provinces,” Machekano said.

Practically confirming this, Richard Moyo said Malunga and his business associates did not own the farm. He said the property should have been grabbed by the government a time long ago.

“That land does not belong to the Malunga family. It was acquired by the government and belongs to the government. They are claiming to have bought shares to the property, but you cannot buy shares to a land that has been acquired by government,” Moyo said.

“There is no going back on that farm seizure. We should have taken the farm a long time ago. Besides, they do not have any documentation showing that they own the property.

“Dhlamini and (Charles) Moyo came to my offices to explain themselves, but failed to provide any papers. “We have given beneficiaries, 14 of them, offer letters to occupy that farm. They also claim that their documents were stolen. Documents of the property stay with the owner of that property, they cannot be kept at the offices. It is clear that they want to raise dust to tarnish the image of the government.”

Investigations by The NewsHawks show that Richard Moyo’s story is misleading and untrue. The facts are clear: the farm was not designated by the government in the first place, let alone acquired. By its own admission, the government believed it was owned by the late Eddie Warambwa, a black farmer, hence it was not taken.

Information gathered shows the farm was owned by Swindells through Kershelmar (Pvt) Ltd. Swindells then leased it out to Warambwa as a going dairy concern, but retained land ownership.

Warambwa ran the dairy project, which he had acquired from Swindells, without buying the farm itself. Besides thinking that it was owned by Warambwa, the other reason the government did not take over the farm is that it was a dairy project.

Dairy farms were spared from compulsory acquisition.

In its 18 December 2020 notice to acquire the farm, the government unwittingly admits it is owned by Kershelmar which, in turn, is now controlled by Malunga, Dhlamini and Moyo.

This is contrary to the authorities’ claim that the three investors bought Keshelmar without the farm, yet in fact the property is even officially referred to in the government gazette as Kershelmar Farms (Private) Limited.

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