ANGLO American Corporation’s attempt to save its sugar plantations in the South-Eastern Lowveld has suffered a setback following government’s refusal to reverse the compulsory acquisition of the
Parliament recently passed the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill which empowered the government to acquire for resettlement plantations, forests and land protected under government-to-government agreements.
Last week the Independent learnt that the government which has been in talks with Anglo had refused to back down on its decision.
“It looks like the government has already made up its mind on the two estates because people have already started to be resettled there,” said an agronomist in the area.
In written responses to the Independent last week Anglo-Zimbabwe spokesman Ezra Kanganga confirmed the designation of Hippo Valley and Mkwasine.
“Hippo Valley and Mkwasine estates have been designated and formal and legal objections have been lodged with the appropriate authorities,” said Kanganga. “Hippo management is in discussion with local land committee officials. As we await clarity on the issue from the government of Zimbabwe, we have no further comment to make.”
The government threatened to seize the plantation in 2000 but the company won a reprieve. The amendment of the Land Act and the subsequent repealing of the Hippo Valley Act has put paid to any chances of salvaging the billion-dollar properties from ruin.
It is understood that demarcation of the estates into small 20/26 hectare plots has already started and new landowners, mainly members of the army, have already moved in.
In some instances the new settlers have taken over mature sugarcane which has been delivered to mills at Hippo Valley and Triangle.
Experts have said the estates with sophisticated gravity irrigation systems were designed to operate as large-scale irrigation systems.
“The simple fact is that the estates were designed to be operated as large-scale units and require a vast array of agricultural, engineering and administrative expertise to work at all, let alone efficiently,” said a former manager at one of the estates.