Army takes over sugar plantations

Augustine Mukaro



GOVERNMENT has extended Operation Maguta to sugarcane plantations to revive collapsing sugar production in the eastern Lowveld.



ustify>Farmers from Chiredzi said Jano Labat had become the latest victim to be forcibly evicted by the army.


“On November 20, the army with the assistance of the Chiredzi police, forcibly evicted Labat, a French Mauritian cane farmer from his homestead, even though he was protected by a Bilateral Investment Promotion & Protection Agreement (Bippa),” one farmer from the area said.


Farmers said the army last month took over more than seven sugarcane plots in the Mkwasine Estate and was currently harvesting and transporting the cane on behalf of new farmers.


“The army is now in charge of the transportation of the cane to the mills and is being paid for that,” the farmer said. “Previously Mkwasine Estate would transport the cane to the mills for the farmers and deduct their expenses before paying the farmer the proceeds.”


Labat’s eviction leaves only about 18 white cane growers from more than 50 farmers before 2000, and those remaining are only subsisting on about 20 hectares each.


“The evictions have left the cane industry in turmoil due to the low yields produced by the new growers who in fact did not put any capital to purchase the farms. Several of these properties are now derelict and produce no cane at all and employ only a few people,” the farmer said.


In December last year government launched Operation Maguta targeting to produce 2,3 million tonnes of maize, 90 000 tonnes of tobacco, 49 500 tonnes of maize seed, 210 000 tonnes of cotton, 750 000 tonnes of horticultural crops, and 8 250 tonnes of tea.


Over the past six years the south-eastern Lowveld has been rocked by invasions with land officers taking over five plots with a ready-to-harvest sugarcane crop.


The farmers, most of them South African nationals, appealed to the South African embassy to intervene, alleging that Chiredzi land officers Mukonyora and Guruvheti and an A2 farmer Jambaya had a long history of plot-hopping.


Farmers in the area said harassment of sugarcane growers had been prevalent in Chiredzi, particularly towards the harvesting period, as some unscrupulous elements want to benefit from a crop they did not grow.