WHILE most resettled farmers struggle to access tillage equipment, Agriculture minister Joseph Made is keeping a fleet of tractors and an array of farming equipment stashed at his farm in Headlands, Manicaland.
Made, who has been fingere
d as one of the five ministers who looted equipment from Kondozi Estate, has at least five state-of-the-art glass cab tractors and an assortment of implements kept at Tara Farm in Headlands near Rusape.
The tractors and equipment at Made’s farm have raised suspicion that ministers could be using their political clout to secure equipment from farms acquired by government under the land reform programme.
Ministers and other top civil servants have been accused of seizing trillions of dollars worth of equipment and cherry-picking exquisite farmhouses for themselves at the height of the land grab. Even the First Lady Grace Mugabe in 2002 acquired a massive 27-roomed, two-storey mansion built on a hill at Iron Mask Farm in Mazowe, ostensibly as a refuge for homeless kids.
Last year dispossessed commercial farmers said equipment worth $36 trillion had been looted or vandalised in the chaos that gripped the farming sector. Ministers and other officials have been at the forefront of pillaging expropriated farms.
The Independent crew visited Made’s Tara Farm on Tuesday and saw an assortment of equipment stored at the workshop, inviting questions on the source of the equipment.
Billions of dollars worth of farming equipment ranging from tractors, a combine harvester, planters, disc harrows and a variety of machinery used on highly mechanised farms were kept at the farm’s workshop area.
Several of the tractors that are still new and unused occupied an area of roughly 500-square metres of the workshop ringed by an electric fence and resembling an auction yard.
The most conspicuous pieces of farm machinery were the several brand new state-of the art glass-cab tractors and a new combine harvester amongst other pristine but idle equipment.
Overlooking this display is the ultra-modern and imposing two-storey mansion built against a hill. The brick-under-tile home overlooks the workshop area. Although security guards manning the main gate leading into the workshop and the homestead denied the Independent crew entrance, arguing that the farm manager was away, the equipment could be seen as you drive along the perimeter fence.
The discovery of the equipment comes amid mounting pressure on five ministers, named during a visit by Vice-President Joice Mujuru to Kondozi Estate, to return equipment looted from Kondozi following its expropriation in 2004.
There are also reports that the Attorney General’s office has given the ministers up to next week to return the farming equipment expropriated from the once thriving horticultural concern or face arrest.
Equipment expropriated includes 48 tractors, four Scania trucks, five UD trucks, several T35 trucks and 26 motorbikes. Several tonnes of fertilisers and chemicals were also looted from the estate. Highly placed sources in Manicaland said Transport and Communications minister Chris Mushohwe had returned some of the equipment he took from Kondozi.
Sources at the estate said the army told a government committee tasked with assessing the winter crop in Manicaland province and the utilisation of institutional land under Operation Maguta that Mushohwe returned a water pump and irrigation pipes to Kondozi last week but was still illegally drawing water from the farm.
“Minister Mushohwe returned the irrigation pumps on Saturday,” Colonel Ronnie Mutizhe is said to have told Industry and Trade minister Obert Mpofu, leader of the committee which toured Manicaland.