RAFFINGORA – A liberation war veteran who acquired land during Zimbabwe’s chaotic agrarian reform programme has been evicted and left in the open 13 years after occupying the property, The NewsHawks has established.
Benedict Owen Ben Magadza (66), who has been staying for more than a decade at Mupangure plot number one in the Raffingora area of Zvimba North constituency, has become one of the latest black Zimbabweans to lose land to a compatriot as debate on the emotive agrarian issue rages on.
He was evicted from the farm by a messenger of court on 7 May following a legal battle with a Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operative who won the court order to evict him.
The operative, Joyce Kamhedzera, is based in Harare.
Dejected and desperate without shelter, Mugadza said he was “allocated” the plot in 2008 by senior war veterans and has the paperwork. His woes expose weaknesses in the government’s fast-track land redistribution programme which gained momentum in 2000.
‘‘I was offered the plot after we identified it as a vacant farm. The war veterans’ leadership gave me authority to be at the farm. I did not pay anything to the leadership after I got the farm. I utilised the farm productively that saw me getting a herd of cattle and goats as part of my farming around here,’’ he said.
However, he revealed that he does not have an offer letter for the property.
‘‘I have been living on the farm since 2008. I have been to the ministry of Lands so that I get the documentation, but to avail,’’ he said, looking dejected.
He is currently sleeping in a makeshift plastic shelter.
Magadza fought a legal battle with Kamhedzera for nearly three months, but lost, culminating in his eviction. The farm at the centre of controversy is situated about 153 kilometres north-west of Harare and measures 118.75 hectares.
Calamity befell Magadza, his wife and child early this month when they were forced out of a four-roomed house he had built for his family.
He had also constructed a big round kitchen under modern thatching, grass-thatched gazebo, thatched bathroom with four compartments, toilet with two compartments, water tank and dug a well in the yard.
He had also built a two-roomed flat-roofed house for his workers that was recently turned into a pigsty by the new owner. Magadza is struggling to come to terms not only with the loss of property, but is also agonising over abandoning the grave of his eldest daughter who was buried at the homestead in 2019.
“Traditionally and culturally it’s a taboo to leave my daughter’s remains to a stranger. My wish was for an amicable solution with her so that I take care of my daughter’s grave. I am appealing for leniency so that she can let the farm be subdivided and help me with a few hectares, including where my daughter’s grave is. I have livestock and wish I could be part of the farm that had become my own home for 13 years,’’ he said.
Magadza said he is now living in the open after he was barred from entering the premises following eviction by the messenger of court.
“We are staying about 900 metres from the farm properties that I built. This was my hope and future for emancipation through farming, but all the hope has been lost. We have been staying in the open together with my wife and one of our children as the other two are currently in Harare. It is painful that the messenger of court threw our belongings out and forced us into the open on 7 May. We have nowhere to go to and have been living in the open space since then,’’ he revealed.
Magadza was evicted with two workers. The employees no longer have a roof over their heads and are in the same predicament with their dejected boss.
Magadza recalled that tension with Kamhedzera has been raging on since 2018.
‘‘She used to come and destroy my fields since 2018. She went on with this act in 2019, 2020 and this year as well. We had no chance to do anything on the plot as she harassed us with impunity annually,” a distraught Magadza claimed.
Since then, Magadza has been renting a plot at a nearby farm for his family’s upkeep.
‘‘Due to the controversies at the farm, I have been renting four hectares at a nearby farm where I had maize, beans, sorghum and groundnuts for my family this season.”
However, Magadza revealed that he only spoke to the CIO operative on two occasions since 2018.
‘‘I was even surprised that she sent an emissary last week suggesting that she wanted to offer me money for the houses that I built as compensation. I told her off as I have no shelter but she is offering to pay me while I am living in the open. On Saturday, she wanted to negotiate with me on how she can pay me for the houses. She had no courage to confront me personally. It was improper and I told the so-called agent off the farm houses that I built,’’ he said.
Magadza has 30 head of cattle, 40 goats and chickens that are being kept in the farm paddocks.
“We left the livestock at the farm and we did not resist eviction, but we are not happy over the move to evict my family from the plot that I have living on for several years,’’ he said.
He appealed for help so that he can get a fair hearing on the matter.
‘‘I have proved that I am capable of doing better in farming and had built a good homestead and all has been wasted. It could have been better if the farm was sub-divided so that my family can live in peace under a roof, not in the bush, but the way we are used to,’’ he added.
Kamhedzera’s lawyer, Walter Bherebende, confirmed the eviction, saying his client has a valid offer letter for the land in question.
“He has nothing to show that he is entitled to that land. Nothing. An eviction order was given at the magistrate’s court and he appealed to the High Court, but his application was also dismissed. He is an illegal settler. A squatter,” Bherebende said.
Bherebende said Magadza’s livestock was still on the farm, but insisted he was not living in the open as he had been taken in by a neighbouring farmer.
The lawyer said he was unaware of the compensation offer, but said his client did not want any of the buildings constructed by Magadza and, in fact, wanted to destroy them. Zimbabwe’s land reform programme has been chaotic since 2000.
Some senior Zanu PF officials have been accused of looting and destroying farms, which has seen the country struggling to regain the status of southern Africa’s bread basket.
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