MWENEZI farmer Shelton Lucas, who is facing eviction from Battlefields Farm which he acquired under the land reform programme, has written a letter to senior government officials complaining about the behaviour of district lands officer Boas Vurayayi and accusing him of corruption.
On 18 June 2021, Vurayayi visited the farm in the company of Nyika businessman Leornard Mutema and instructed workers at the farm to leave the 714-hectare property within two weeks. He told them that Mutema bought the property from the government.
Lucas, who is the Zimbabwean partner of German investment company Deutsch Connect, is undertaking agricultural activities at Battlefields Farm through his local process of setting up a US$70 million farming and training project which is projected to benefit 30 000 people within five years.
A letter dated 28 June 2021 seen by The NewsHawks addressed to Masvingo provincial lands officer Tendai Mumera and copied to the minister of State for Masvingo Ezra Chadzamira, secretary for Lands John Bhasera and the President’s Office, Lucas accused Vurayayi of misrepresenting facts to the surrounding communities and forging signatures on a petition aimed at forcing him to vacate the farm.
He also alleged Vurayayi, who was once arrested for selling land, is being paid by Mutema, adding that government procedure on land withdrawal is not being followed in his case.
“This letter serves to inform you that Mr Vurayayi and Mr Mutema went to Battlefields Farm on 18 June and proceeded to give my workers a 14-day ultimatum. This was done after they had made some local community members to sign a petition after they bribed them with beer and it was after Vurayayi’s misrepresentation of the facts to the community that Mutema had bought the property.
“…He was once arrested for selling land but was however rescued by politicians during the (former president Robert) Mugabe era. His intended move to withdraw my lease is part of his ploy since he is intending to benefit from Mutema. “When there is a withdrawal according to the Act there should be an intention first and the beneficiary is given some ample time to respond. Vurayayi is being blinded by incentives which he is getting from Mutema,” reads part of the letter.
Minister of State for Masvingo Chadzamira was not answering phone calls. Provincial lands officer Mumera said she was was not privileged to comment over the matter.
However, a senior government official in Masvingo told The NewsHawks that the developments at Battlefields Farm are similar to other land issues in the country where greedy senior government officials are abusing their power for personal benefit. He said there are politicians in the province who are behind Mutema’s intended acquisition of the farm.
“Greed is behind the developments around Battlefields. You can call them, but they will not give you details. There are many incidents of that nature in the country where locals are being evicted from the farms which they legally acquired during the land reform. If you look at this case, Mutema owns a farm which is near Battlefields and ironically the farm is lying idle,” said the government official.
Lucas told The NewsHawks that he is yet to get a response from the government more than 10 days after delivering the letter in Masvingo. He also said Vurayayi is still silent after the two-week ultimatum he issued his workers to vacate the farm.
“I am yet to get a response after l submitted the letter here in Masvingo. The Mwenezi lands officer is still silent after the lapse of the deadline which he gave to my workers who are still at the farm,” said Lucas.
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