THE Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) has admitted its involvement in the seizure of Charleswood Estate in Chimanimani, but said it did so on behalf of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), th
e Zimbabwe Independent established this week.
In an interview on Monday, ZDI general manager, retired Colonel Tshinga Dube confirmed ZDI’s involvement, but said a defence forces lands board had tasked his company to manage the farm for the ZDF.
“Yes, the ZDF approached us sometime in April and gave us the farm to manage on their behalf,” he said.
Dube said Air Marshal Perence Shiri was the chairman of the obscure defence forces board that formulates and implements ZDF’s land policy.
Dube however said the ZDI’s role only went as far as implementing defence forces’ policies on Charleswood.
“That farm does not belong to ZDI,” he said. “ZDF owns the farm. All they told us was, here is a farm, manage it for us,” he said.
The state-owned arms manufacturing company has a farm in Domboshawa called Elphida where it manufactures, among other things, arms, ammunition, ordnance and military gear.
Quizzed on why ZDI was managing ZDF lands, Dube said it was part of his company’s “diversification”.
“We are not involved in any land controversies,” he said. “It is just a matter of diversification.”
Dube admitted that the ZDI sent its personnel to Charleswood Estate despite it being legally owned by MDC MP for Chimanimani, Roy Bennett.
He refuted allegations by the farm’s manager, Sunface Bhaudhi, that ZDI forcibly occupied the farm.
“We did not use force on anybody on the farm,” Dube said. “ZDI sent only two people who told the workers that those who wanted to continue working on the farm should register as ZDI workers.”
The farm employs over 1 000 workers whose future is now uncertain.
Dube said some of the farm’s work force was now under ZDI.
“We are not forcing anyone to work on the farm,” he said. “We are already paying about 100 workers.”
Bennett has five High Court orders barring the government from acquiring his farm, a major exporter of coffee.
Asked by the Independent why ZDI ignored High Court orders not to occupy Charleswood Estate, Dube pleaded ignorance of the existence of such papers.
“When we went to Charleswood, we were not aware of such court matters,” he said. “I am only hearing it from you (the media) that there was a court order.”
Dube confirmed Independent investigations that ZDF owns about 15 farms dotted all over the country. Valhalla, a banana farm in Manicaland, is one of ZDF’s farms under ZDI’s management.
He revealed that some of the farms were lying idle.
“On some of the farms, we have not done much farming,” he said.
Dube refuted Bennett’s assertion that his company was fighting with Arda over control of Charleswood.
Efforts to interview the commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, Constantine Chiwenga, were fruitless. Air Marshal Perence Shiri could also not be reached.