Govt moves to grab church land

Augustine Mukaro

GOVERNMENT has expanded its bid to nationalise all private land by acquiring church run farms in violation of its earlier promises that it would not take over farms run by religious organisa

tions.


Driefontein Farm in Masvingo has become the latest victim, after it was issued with a Section 8 order last Friday. Under the government’s Land Acquisition Act, the order is a formal notice on the church to wind up operations and vacate the property within 90 days from the date of issue.


The farm, where one of the country’s biggest infectious disease hospitals, Driefontein Mission Hospital is built, is owned by the Catholic Church. The hospital is the main referral centre for tuberculosis patients in Masvingo, parts of Midlands and Mashonaland East provinces.


An official at the Catholic Diocese of Gweru under which Driefontein falls said the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops had already started making representations to the highest office so that the farm could be delisted.

Other churches whose properties were listed for compulsory acquisition include the Methodist Church and the Anglican Church.


Sources said government has however allocated the churches other undeveloped properties. Before Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, churches built schools and hospitals on the farms they owned across the country to provide education and health care services to the marginalised black population.


Out of Zimbabwe’s 124 mission hospitals, 47 are run by the Catholic Church, making it the country’s second largest health care services provider after the government.


In the past two months government has been on a rampage listing all properties owned by conglomerates in a move which analysts said greatly undermines investor confidence.


Also listed for seizure last Friday were two of the country’s biggest tea and coffee estates, Aberfoyle Estate and Eastern Highlands Plantations. The two properties, both owned by London Stock Exchange-listed Plantation & General plc measure 2 363 hectares. They produce tea and washed Arabica coffee mainly for export.


Other big companies on the verge of losing land include Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed plantation firm, Border Timbers, which was ordered to surrender five timber estates measuring more than 34, 154 hectares. The country’s sole ammonium nitrate manufacturing company Sable Chemicals is also set to lose its farm in Kwekwe.