Augustine Mukaro/Godfrey Marawanyika
FORMER Mines minister Edward Chindori Chininga is alleged to have violated High Court orders and government directives not to interfere with Export Processing Zone (EPZ)
activities when he moved onto Bally Carney Farm in Mashonaland West.
Chindori Chininga, the MP for Guruve South, forcibly evicted farm owner, Simon Philp, violating the EPZ regulation which stipulates that the two should co-exist.
The seizure forced the multi-billion dollar horticultural concern to fold, thus losing lucrative European markets and foreign currency. Bally Exports used to enjoy a 38% market share in Europe and was the world’s largest grower of passion fruit.
In a letter to Philp in October last year, Chindori Chininga made an undertaking not to interfere with the farm’s EPZ horticulture pack house and associated infrastructure.
“The EPZ horticulture pack house and associated infrastructure at the pack house facility will not be interfered with by the new land owner,” Chindori Chininga wrote in his letter.
“The pack house manager can stay on the farm to manage the facility and we can negotiate the terms under which the manager can remain managing the EPZ pack house operations. On EPZ fixed infrastructure facilities, I am prepared to make a special arrangement through joint venture or other accepatble options to allow the facilities to operate and be accessed by other farmers.”
Chindori Chininga initially agreed that Philp’s foreman and workers would continue to maintain the passion fruit and exports after special negotiations and arrangements between the two.
On top of Chindori Chininga’s undertaking, Philp also obtained two High Court orders barring the former minister from taking over the farm but these were ignored.
A visit to the farm by the Zimbabwe Independent revealed a completely different picture to Chindori Chininga’s undertaking. The workers who spoke to the Independent said infrastructure on the farm was crumbling.
“The first indication that all is not well can be seen from the reduction of the workforce from around 660 workers to the current 120 people,” one worker said. “Exports of passion fruit have stopped, rendering over 85 permanent packaging workers jobless.”
Another worker said: “As you can see the pack house is closed. It has been closed since Chindori Chininga took over in October last year. The Balley juice processing section has also closed down.
“In the passion fruit fields it looks like everything is going on well but the truth of the matter is that we are just reaping fruits planted by the previous owner. Stubs of the old crop, which the new owner is trying to resuscitate, won’t work because the quality of the fruit will not meet export quality,” he said.
Under normal circumstances, new seedlings should be developed each year and transplanted into trellised land. The passion plant for export produce should be in the ground for 20 months with its production having commenced at month six.
Chindori Chininga defended his position saying he was fully utilising the farm. “This winter I have done 100 hectares of wheat, 12 hectares of cabbages, granadillas and avocados,” he said. The granadillas for export were removed to plant cabbages for the local market.
Other than taking over Bally Carney Farm, Chindori Chininga is also accused of grabbing two other farms. He is understood to have taken over Wilderness in Mhangura and Kodzwi in Banket.
“I do not know anything about those farms. The two farms belong to Jenita and Victor – vana vababa vangu vese (Both my father’s children). In fact, they have been on those farms since the 1980s,” Chindori Chininga said.
“I cannot be fighting in the press everyday. I am busy doing my farming and it does not help anyone to continue fighting in the press. This case has gone to the courts and decisions were made. Please, I cannot continue fighting I am now tired of this.”
The High Court ruled in Philp’s favour on two occasions, issuing eviction notices which Chindori Chininga ignored.
Philp said Chindori Chininga had barred him from taking his movables valued at around $11 billion.
These include irrigation equipment, fresh produce storage facilities, diesel tanks and tractors, fuel, chemicals, farm machinery as well as personal effects.