FOLLOWING a story carried by The NewsHawks in January exposing the corrupt distribution of sugarcane plots by senior government officials in Chiredzi, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has despatched a team to investigate the issue.
The minister of state for Masvingo, Ezra Chadzamira, reportedly disbanded the Chiredzi district lands committee last year in January.
As a result, land distribution in the lowveld district continued without the input of locals who later raised a red flag, accusing the minister and provincial lands officials of collecting bribes from land beneficiaries.
The team arrived in Chiredzi on Friday and held several interviews with members of the district lands committee, war veterans and government officials to establish if procedure was being followed in the distribution of land for the past three years.
Zacc spokesperson John Makamure told The NewsHawks that he is not aware that there is currently a team from the corruption watchdog in Chiredzi. He said he is aware of a team in Gweru but will check if there are investigations taking place in Chiredzi.
“I am not aware of any team from the commission which is currently in Chiredzi. I will however check with all our officers if there is anyone in Chiredzi,” said Makamure.
Chiredzi district development coordinator Lovemore Chisema, who chairs the district lands committee, confirmed the presence of Zacc officials in Chiredzi. He said he was not aware of their itinerary since he was in Harare where he will separately meet the investigators.
“Currently l am in Harare but I can confirm that l received a call from a Zacc official early this week informing me about their presence in Chiredzi. I told them that l was in Harare and they said they will meet me in Harare for interviews. I am yet to know their mission but from what l heard they had interviews with quite a number of people in Chiredzi district,” said Chisema.
Chiredzi district lands officer Honest Mapfumo told The NewsHawks he was interviewed by Zacc investigators on Monday regarding land distribution in Chiredzi. However, he said he was not priviledged to divulge more details about the investigations.
“I can only tell you that a team from Zacc interviewed me on Monday. They first came on Friday but l was not around but they informed me to appear before them on Monday, which l did. The issue is about land but unfortunately l am not priviledged to give you more details about the interview,” said Mapfumo.
A government official who was also interviewed by Zacc investigators said it seems the investigations are targeting individuals, especially Chadzamira and provincial lands officer Tendai Mumera.
He said the investigators wanted to know if procedure was followed in allocating land to different individuals within the district. He said they also wanted to know about the disregarding of local input in relation to the disbandment of the lands committee.
The secret distribution of land, mainly sugarcane plots in Chiredzi, created a conflict between local Zanu PF structures particularly war veterans and youths and the provincial government leadership.
Locals occupied Lot 10 of Triangle popularly know as Chihungume in a bid to stop Chadzamira and his team from subdividing into plots the more than 10 000 hectares of land.
The occupation of the disputed land by the locals is still ongoing. Eyebrows were also recently raised when over 30 people were allocated 70-hectare plots of dry land at an area extending from Chitsanga Hill to Chiredzi River where only a few local businessmen who allegedly paid bribes benefitted, with the rest being outsiders.
Investigations revealed that other beneficiaries are Mangena C, Bonface N, Mavhusa MK, Nature E, Matuke V, believed to be related to Gutu senator Lovemore Matuke, Moyo OM, Tinago I and others.
The NewsHawks is also informed that since the appointment of Chadzamira as minister of state after the 2018 elections, more than 30 sugarcane plots in Hippo Valley and Triangle Estates which were left vacant after some beneficiaries of a scheme spearheaded by the late minister of state for Masvingo, Shuvai Mahofa, failed to take up their offers due to various reasons were allocated to new people without the input of the local leadership.
Chivi Rural District Council chairperson Godfrey Mukungunugwa, who is responsible in handing out offer letters to beneficiaries, would neither confirm nor deny the ongoing allegations when The NewsHawks called him for a comment.
He said discussing the issue could tarnish his image and pleaded for mercy.“I am not in a position to answer your question. l am out of words, can you leave that issue since it can tarnish my image and remember we are brothers,” said Mukungunugwa.