Zanu PF youths aid nuns in farm seizure

Munyaradzi Wasosa

IN a new dimension to land reform, three nuns, working with Zanu PF youths, have occupied Malabar Farm in Darwendale, the Zimbabwe Independent has been told.



face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Spearheading the invasion are the Little Children of the Blessed Lady (LCBL) Order superior-general Sister Helen Maminimini, regional superior Sr Electa Mubaiwa, a “farmer nun” only identified as Sr Notvurgo, and Zvimba district lands officer Stanford Katonha.


Malabar Farm is a sub-division of the original Hunyani Estates and is now owned by Les Harvey who is leasing it to Sagar Farming (Pvt) Ltd whose directors are Arthur and Ansy Swales.


In an interview this week, Arthur Swales said: “On May 3, Katonha and the nuns visited us and said we had 24 hours to vacate the farm to make way for them. We explained to Katonha and the nuns that Minister Joseph Made did not register the Section 8 order (of the Land Acquisition Act) timeously with the (administrative) court and therefore it was ineffective.”


A Section 8 notice is an acquisition order that government serves on the owner of a farm being acquired subject to the service of a Section 5 preliminary notice (of intention to acquire the farm).


In terms of Section 7 of the Act, the Agriculture minister has to apply to the Administrative Court for confirmation of the acquisition within 30 days after service of a Section 8 order.


Failure to do so renders the acquisition defective and invalid.


Made served the Section 8 acquisition order on December 1 last year but did not file an application in the Administrative Court within the 30-day period.


Sagar is thus still the legal lessee of the farm despite it having been listed for compulsory acquisition in August last year.


The new owners of an acquired farm are required by law to present a Letter of Offer with a ministerial approval to occupy the farm.


The nuns failed on several occasions to produce it.


Swales said Katonha issued a threat to the farm workers to leave.

“Katonha addressed our 80 workers and demanded that they leave immediately as the nuns were prepared to retain only four workers,” Swales said.


Five LCBL employees illegally living in the farm compound have been fencing off the invaded land using wire allegedly stolen from the main perimeter fence. The 874ha farm produces tobacco on contract for Tobacco Sales Ltd and seed maize for Seed Co.


Swales said Katonha, working closely with the nuns, allegedly invited about 30 Zanu PF youths to invade the farm around midnight on May 15.


The youths are said to have rounded up the farm workers and made them chant Zanu PF slogans.


Sr Notvurgo, who expressed an interest in Sagar’s farm equipment, demanded two tractors, irrigation equipment and other farm implements, Swale said.


The equipment is bonded to Barclays Bank under a notarial bond drawn up by legal practitioners Scanlen & Holderness as security for seasonal financing to the company.


According to the Land Acquisition Act, Sagar is entitled to remove any or all of its moveable assets.


The company has managed to relocate most of its irrigation equipment to a safer place for security reasons.


The youths told the Independent that Katonha instructed them not to allow Sagar to remove any more equipment.


The Independent visited the farm this week and saw the youths who have raised the national flag close to the farmhouse.


The paper heard that the nuns have targeted the farm since 2002. In November 2002, Swales was accosted by a group of six LCBL nuns led by Maminimini, asking for land alongside the Manyame River.


Swales prepared 10 hectares for them in the interests of co-existence.

They subsequently demanded more land.


The Independent has in its possession a copy of a letter signed by Maminimini to Swales declaring the nuns’ intention to occupy the farm.


In the letter, dated February 9 2003, Maminimini admitted she lacked farming skills despite their intentions to diversify into commercial agriculture.


“Since we lack farming expertise, and Sister Electa and myself are already too busy with administration in the congregation, we have decided to form a board of directors to help us run the farm efficiently,” Maminimini said.


She even asked Swales to join the board, because “you are a very experienced farmer on the spot”.


According to the letter, Maminimini sought to keep the new farming venture secret from her board.


“The three of us, Sr Electa, yourself and me will continue to deal with matters regarding ownership or handing over of more land (because) the (LCBL) board does not discuss that,” Maminimini said in the letter.


Swales said the nuns’ action was irregular.


“We do not want to interfere with the government’s land reform programme,” Swales said.


“It’s just that it is not being done in a regular and legal manner.”


He said the nuns forced him to give them more land last year.


“In March 2003 Maminimini declared the nuns’ commercial farming interests and demanded title deeds to the farm,” Swales said. “Under extreme duress, we agreed to let them use a further 20 hectares of arable land.


“The nuns clapped their hands and thanked the Lord for ‘their farm’ and assured us that they would never allow Malabar to be issued with a Section 8 order.”


Meanwhile the youths camped on the farm are now demanding a share of the farm’s spoils “for our projects”.


In an interview, Maminimini admitted LCBL’s involvement and pleaded with this paper not to reveal their complicity.


“We do not want this story to be mentioned or published because it will tarnish our good image,” Maminimini said.


She claimed that the nuns were solving the issue with Sagar.


“We are sorting out the issue by ourselves,” she said. “If you respect us just leave us alone.”


Quizzed if their invasion had the church’s approval, Maminimini declined to comment and refused to answer further questions.


In an interview yesterday, Bulawayo Archbishop Pius Ncube expressed shock at the nuns’ actions.


“This is news to me, and it definitely was not with the blessing of the church,” Ncube said.


“If a nun, a priest or even a bishop steals, it’s definitely wrong because it’s against God’s law,” Ncube said.


Sagar wrote to the Minister of Special Affairs in the President’s office Responsible for Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, John Nkomo, in February asking to stay on the farm until the expiry of Sagar’s contract with TSL on October 31.


This would facilitate the grading and marketing of the current tobacco and seed maize crop to best advantage.


Nkomo is yet to respond.


About 80 000 kg of tobacco valued at over US$160 000 is expected to be realised from sales to TSL, while 120 tonnes of strategically essential seed maize is expected to be harvested.


Katonha, who did not deny his involvement in the invasion, declined to comment.


“I will not discuss that issue with you because it’s not possible for me to do that,” he said.

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