GOVERNMENT has, through the Agricultural Rural Development Authority (Arda), set its sights on the highly productive Triangle Sugar Estates as it moves to expropriate virtually all private farm
land, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.
This became clear after Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa last weekend announced government plans to acquire Triangle Sugar Estates in Chiredzi.
Mnangagwa made the revelation when he addressed about 8 000 employees at a Workers Day rally organised by the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions in Gibbo Stadium on Saturday in the agricultural town.
Our reporter who attended the rally said Mnangagwa was constantly heckled and jeered by the crowd – mainly plantation workers – who disapproved of government’s intention to take over the estate.
The Independent understands that Triangle Ltd and Hippo Valley Estates have been designated for compulsory acquisition. Anglo American Corporation and Tongaat Hullet, who own the two estates, have lodged objections with John Nkomo, the Minister of Special Affairs responsible for Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement.
“We have engaged the land committee there to find ways of resolving this issue amicably,” an Anglo American spokeswoman told the Independent from Johannesburg, on condition of anonymity.
“You should understand that Triangle and Hippo Valley are large industrial developments. As for the workers’ reaction, you may attribute that to a host of welfare programmes we introduced recently, including the provision of free ARVs (antiretroviral drugs),” she said.
Mnangagwa brushed aside the workers’ muted protests, telling them government had put in place legislation to acquire the huge estate.
“This (the land seizures) has started and it is going to continue,” said Mnangagwa amid jeers from shocked employees of the two estates.
The government has already repealed the Hippo Valley Act to enable it to acquire Hippo Valley Estate, also in the southeast Lowveld. The acquisition of the properties threatens the local sugar industry built around the estates, which have very advanced irrigation systems in the very hot low-rainfall region.
Last month government forcibly ejected the owners of Kondozi Farm in Odzi, Manicaland from their farm and installed Arda to run the horticultural concern. Prior to the Arda invasion, Kondozi Farm earned about US$15 million annually in horticultural exports. Arda and the Zimbabwe National Army have also moved into Charleswood Estate in Chimanimani, legally owned by MDC MP for the area, Roy Bennett.
The Independent has also established that Arda will soon be taking over Surrey Estate in Bromely, along the Harare-Marondera highway. The farm is registered as Le Sur Dale Farms (Pvt) Ltd.
The estate runs arguably the country’s biggest abattoir, Surrey Abattoir, which government wants to take over.
Arda is also moving into Foyle Farm, which has state-of-the-art dairy production facilities and irrigation equipment in the Mazowe area.
In stark contrast to the efficiently run firms it is acquiring, Arda’s debt runs into billions of dollars due to inefficiency and poor capitalisation.