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Ministers defy Mugabe on farms

Dumisani Muleya/Loughty Dube

TOP government and Zanu PF officials have defied President Robert Mugabe’s ultimatum to surrender farms grabbed at the height of the land seizures.

face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>A report by the Presidential Land Resettlement Committee compiled in April confirms that ministers and Zanu PF officials are clinging to their ill-gotten farms in defiance of Mugabe’s order to give up surplus properties.

The report, compiled by a committee chaired by Special Affairs minister for Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, John Nkomo, says the VIP multiple farm-owners are resisting a presidential directive issued last year to surrender their extra land holdings.

“There are cases of senior party and government officials who grabbed more than one farm using their positions of influence,” the report says. “In most cases these officials would have received only one offer letter (for a farm). They have clandestinely held on to numerous other farms through their relatives.”

Mugabe ordered people with more than one farm to surrender the other properties in July last year. However, his directive was largely ignored.

Mugabe then set up Nkomo’s committee which started work on October 23 to deal with the issue and to clean up the chaotic land reform exercise. The committee includes Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Higher Education minister Herbert Murerwa, Labour minister Paul Mangwana, and Minister in the Vice-President’s Office, Flora Buka.

It is backed up by the National Inspectorate team which comprises army, intelligence and police officers and a national coordinating centre headed by Willard Chiwewe. The technical advisory team is led by Charles Utete.

Nkomo’s detailed report says 329 officials – including ministers and Zanu PF bigwigs – were holding on to numerous farms.

“A total of 329 people have multiple farms measuring 55 513, 668 hectares,” it says. The report indicates that as a result of the resistance there are still a number of farms to be recovered.

“In excess of 45 000 hectares of land were recovered during this exercise, but there continues to be some resistance from high-ranking members of the ruling party and senior government officials to surrender the land,” it notes.

“This resistance and the clandestine manoeuvres have a combined effect of maintaining the status quo on the ground as regards the issue of multiple farm ownership.”

The latest land report, seen by the Zimbabwe Independent this week, reveals that influential people in Zanu PF were allocated farms in prime farming areas with some individuals getting farms measuring up to 2 000 hectares each.

According to the report senior officials and businesspeople grabbed multiple farms during the land reform exercise.

The majority of the Zanu PF chefs, the report says, got land in the prime commercial farming Region One, displacing mainly tobacco and cotton-growing commercial farmers.

After defying Mugabe’s order of last July, officials further resisted the crack National Inspectorate team assigned to “investigate and recover land from multiple farm owners”.

The team includes Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena, deputy CIO director Menard Muzariri, deputy police commissioner Godwin Matanga, Brigadier General S Khumalo, retired colonel R Dube, retired colonel Z Moyo, and senior assistant prisons commissioner S Matunhira.

The report said it was worrying that there were people accumulating farms in violation of government’s “one household, one farm” policy, while there were hundreds of thousands of people on the official waiting list.

It says there are 249 473 people on the Model A1 waiting list and 99 971 on the A2 waiting list. Under A2 people were allocated more than one farm by the Agriculture ministry which did not have clear records of land parcelled out or beneficiaries. Double allocations of farms riddled both A1 and A2.

Past investigations by the Buka team, Utete committee and a parliamentary committee also revealed that senior officials had grabbed farms for self-enrichment.

The Nkomo report said there were altogether 126 843 A1 beneficiaries made up of 22 976 self-contained, 102 786 villagised and 1 081 three-tier plots. Under A2 there were 12 888 beneficiaries, which gives a total of 137 995 (their figure) people resettled. This figure is similar to that of the Utete report and is a further indictment of repeated official claims that there were 300 000 beneficiaries under A1 and 54 000 under A2 resettlement models.

Last year media reports named several senior government officials as having grabbed more than one farm against government policy.

The report also says apart from politicians, senior civil servants, business people and high ranking government officials who bulldozed their way into getting more than one farm, a sizeable number gatecrashed the lucrative wildlife conservancies and safari areas.

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