5 ministers under pressure to return loot

Augustine Mukaro


FIVE cabinet ministers and other Zanu PF Manicaland provincial leaders came under pressure this week to return farm equipment taken from Kondozi Estate since 2004 as government launches a probe into the affair.

The ministers implicated in

the removal are Agriculture minister Joseph Made, State Security and Land Reform minister Didymus Mutasa, Energy minister Mike Nyambuya, Transport minister Chris Mushohwe, Water Development minister Munacho Mutezo and Manicaland provincial governor Tinaye Chigudu.

The ministers were implicated by military personnel running Kondozi during a recent visit to the Manicaland province by Vice-President Joice Mujuru. Colonel Ronnie Mutizhe told Mujuru that full utilisation of the estate was impossible because of the rampant looting of equipment by powerful politicians in the province.

Kondozi, a once-thriving horticultural concern in Manicaland, now lies in ruins after most of the equipment was removed, paralysing operations. The farm was occupied in late 2003 in the name of state agency, the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda).

The looted equipment includes 48 tractors, four Scania trucks, five UD trucks, several T35 trucks and 26 motorbikes. Several tonnes of fertilisers and chemicals were also lost.

The High Court in May 2004 granted Barclays an order to repossess all movable farming equipment at Kondozi Estate. This week Mutare North MP, Giles Mutsekwa told parliament he was ready to provide the names of those involved in the looting to an investigating team.

Movable assets listed in the court order included an ERF 30-tonne truck, two-tonne forklifts, 30 motorised knapsacks, 10 Jialings, 15 Same tractors, six Nissan Diesel UD 90 chassis & cab trucks, three Nissan Cabstar 4-tonne trucks, two Nissan 2,7 S/cab trucks and two Nissan 2,7 Hardbody D/cabs.

Barclays-Fincor, together with Zimbank-Syfrets and the African Banking Corporation were the chief sponsors of Kondozi which had established lucrative export markets in South Africa and Europe.

Even equipped with a High Court order, Barclays failed to repossess the equipment.

Government wants the looted equipment surrendered to kick-start its fresh initiative to resuscitate the estate.

The state has assigned the horticultural concern to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) amid speculation that the former owners had spurned the state’s poisoned chalice.

Information to hand shows that the revival of Kondozi Estate has been placed as one of the priority areas for government under its National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP).

“The Industrial Development Corporation has been granted authority to implement the revival of Kondozi Estate,” reads the NEDPP implementation matrix.

“The foreign exchange mobilisation and utilisation taskforce will monitor the revival programme.”

Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono chairs the taskforce.

Highly placed sources said government opted to cede Kondozi to the IDC after former owners set stringent conditions before they could be tempted to return. 

“A delegation from the President’s Office met former owners and majority shareholder, Edwin Moyo, last month. Moyo demanded the return of looted equipment and a written undertaking ensuring non-interference with operations, before they could take up the offer,” sources said. “Government was proposing that Moyo would team up with other indigenous horticultural players to rehabilitate the project.”

The government wanted to use Moyo’s business contacts in the export markets to rekindle relations that are pivotal to the sustained survival of Kondozi.

Sources said some government quarters, particularly those who benefited from the looted equipment, opposed Moyo’s return, forcing government to consider other options.

They said Moyo had cast doubts on his willingness to return to Kondozi saying it would be a costly exercise, which would require at least three years before realising any returns.

“For a project of that magnitude to be viable, the involved markets would have to physically audit the place before a certificate can be granted,” a source said.

Moyo referred all questions to government, saying: “Kondozi is now state land.”