RACKETEERING and extortion have become rampant in the agricultural sector as Zanu PF bigwigs and other beneficiaries of the land reform make billions of dollars from unauthorised leases to the few remaining white commercial farmers.
e for Agriculture chairman John Worswick said the majority of farmers still on the land and producing had managed to do so by entering partnership deals with powerful politicians in the Zanu PF leadership.
The new farmers with offer letters allow the commercial farmer to continue production on condition they share the proceeds.
“We understand that partnerships with influential people have become rampant in the agricultural sector as farmers become desperate to hang on to their properties,” Worswick said in an interview this week.
“The deals are a closely guarded secret making it difficult to expose the culprits. We condemn such illicit deals because they undermine efforts to rebuild agriculture on a comprehensible tenure system and prejudice the original farmer of his compensation.”
Worswick said conservancies were the worst affected although the practice had since spread to cropping, cattle ranching and dairy ventures. A Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) executive who refused to be named for fear of reprisals said partnership deals, ceding farms to influential people and paying protection fees, were a countrywide phenomenon.
“Most of the operating farms have entered private arrangements with the local leadership to remain operating,” the executive said.
“The arrangements range from paying settlers for grazing pastures or entering partnerships with the land beneficiary. If it wasn’t for such arrangements no white commercial farmers would still be farming.”
He said the CFU leadership was also involved, resulting in some of them expanding their business operations.
In a report after a recent tour of the eastern Lowveld, Lands, Agriculture, Resettlement and Water Development parliamentary portfolio committee chairman Walter Mzembi said some newly resettled farmers had ceded their plots to former white owners.
“The Lowveld scenario was a microcosm of the wider national picture in which senior ruling party and government officials seized farms only to rent them out,” the report said.
One such set-up was at Wajere Farm in Kwekwe where the owner was initially allocated 20 hectares of the acquired farm, but proceeded to develop a working relationship with the new beneficiaries and managed to get back 120 hectares. He was however booted out later.
In the Selous area, settlers are understood to have made fortunes, charging farmers for harvesting hay from their pieces of land.
At Chikore farm in Masvingo, provincial war veterans leader Isaiah Muzenda and his colleagues struck a deal with the Buchan family to block Higher Education minister Stan Mudenge from taking over the property.
Mudenge has since been given an offer letter and occupied the farm, forcing the Buchan family to leave the country. As part of the original agreement, the war veterans were to block Mudenge from moving on to Chikore and in return they would benefit from the Buchans’ expertise in horticulture.
The sub-leasing of farms directly violates the goals of the land reform programme.
The farm leasing racket first emerged in 2003 with Zanu PF heavyweights and more than 600 A2 farm beneficiaries renting out seized farms to FSI Agricom, an agro-processor that was owned by South Africa-based mogul Mutumwa Mawere.
Some of the high profile people who ceded their farms then included former Zanu PF Mashonaland West chairman Philip Chiyangwa and Zesa boss Sydney Gata.