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Agriculture

Zim farm invasions continue amid government posturing

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MORE than 20 years after the chaotic fast-track land redistribution programme began, Zimbabwe is still grappling with agrarian disruption as farm invasions and evictions continue unabated under the “new dispensation”, raising questions about the government’s sincerity in empowering indigenous farmers.

NYASHA CHINGONO
Several farmers, including indigenous farmers and those who benefitted from the land reform programme, have been left out in the cold after their farms were invaded by politically connected persons.

In the past two weeks, The NewsHawks has reported on two farm invasions involving war veterans.

Rafingora-based farmer and war veteran Benedict Owen Ben Magadza (66), who had been staying for more than a decade at Mupangure plot number one, became one of the latest black Zimbabweans to lose land to a compatriot.

Magadza was evicted after his plot was allocated to Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) officer Joyce Kamhedzera. Magadza, who had stayed at the farm since 2008, 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.

In early May, Magadza, his wife and child were forced out of a four-roomed house he had built for his family, leaving several farming projects on the sprawling farm.

Amid the agonising evictions, Magadza is also grappling with grief as he is now forced to abandon the land on which he buried his daughter in 2019.

“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 told The NewsHawks.

While Magadza is licking his wounds, another war veteran and businessman, Frederick Mutanda, frantically tried to engage the minister of Lands, Anxious Masuka, but to no avail, after dozens of Zanu PF youths invaded his farm with motorbikes on Tuesday last week.

In a well-calculated ploy to whip him for supporting a bid to challenge the extension of Luke Malaba’s term as Zimbabwe’s chief justice, Mutanda believes the invasion is a political message for his purported “misdemeanours”.

The marauding Zanu PF youths, riding motorcycles, invaded and camped at Mutanda’s farm in Mutorashanga, Mashonaland West province. The party youths accused Mutanda, who was the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s bodyguard, of being anti-government when he supported Malaba’s ouster.

Although Mutanda frantically tried to engage Masuka, the minister lent him a deaf ear.

Mutanda said he had been hounded by Zanu PF elements over the years, a worrying situation for “well meaning” farmers.

“It’s not surprising that these youths were sent to intimidate me and my family. My biggest concern is that the youths get drunk and start sexually assaulting my family. It was done before. Rape is their number one weapon against perceived enemies. I am concerned about my family because they have done it before,” Mutanda said.

Farm invasions have been more pronounced under the “new dispensation”, despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s promises of a new start.

By failing to respect property rights, a critical element of Mnangagwa’s international re-engagement plan, the Zanu PF government is effectively showing the world what it really thinks about the rule of law.

Under the glare of international media, commercial farmer Martin Grobler was evicted from his Ruwa farm last September.

Months after the eviction, Grobler and his wife Derby are surviving at the benevolence of a relative, with their cattle currently on a rented plot.

Ironically, the Groblers were evicted from their Ruwa farm by Ivy Rupindi, a civil servant in the ministry of Agriculture.

Mnangagwa’s regime has also used land grabs to persecute Mugabe’s family. Gold panners, with the acquiesce of the authorities, have invaded Mugabe’s sprawling farmland in Mazowe and installed a gold milling plant.

Pictures of the estate show massive destruction and unregulated mining on the farm, situated in the heart of Mazowe, with sources saying powerful Zanu PF officials oversee the disruptive activities.

Gold mining activities have gone on for months, while attempts to evict the panners from the estate are proving futile.

This also follows revelations that villagers in Mazowe went on a rampage, slaughtering more than 1 400 cattle belonging to Mugabe’s family. Sources told The NewsHawks that the villagers slaughtering the cattle could be heard chanting pro-Mnangagwa slogans.

Stocktheft has dealt a major blow to the dairy business which, as earlier reported by this publication, has crumbled since Mugabe was removed in a military coup in November 2017.

Some of Mugabe’s closest relatives have also been hounded off their farms, with the latest being Walter Chidhakwa’s wife, who lost her farm to Zanu PF officials.

Chidhakwa is Mugabe’s relative and was vocal against Mnangagwa’s bid to bury the late former leader at the Heroes’ Acre.

Chidhakwa’s wife has lost 250 hectares and is left with 181 hectares of less fertile land.

Patrick Zhuwawo, Mugabe’s nephew, last year lost his farm to Sports minister Kirsty Coventry. Coventry snatched Zhuwawo’s Cockington Farm in Zvimba.

Grace’s sister Shuvai Gumbochuma also lost her Kachere Farm in Concession to a top Zanu PF official in 2018, as Mugabe’s family continues to be hounded by Mnangagwa’s regime.

This is above the land grabs for several ministers who fled Zimbabwe following the 2017 coup.

The hounding of Mugabe’s family is at the heart of a fierce battle for the veteran leader’s body that ensued following his death on 6 September in 2019.

Zimbabwe is already an international pariah that needs more friends than enemies.

The farm grabs fly in the face of the government’s pledge to ensure properties under Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (Bippas) are protected.

The government, in a land compensation deal signed last year, agreed to bring back foreign landowners who were evicted from their property held under Bippas during the chaotic post-2000 land redistribution exercise.

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