PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has ordered Lands minister Didymus Mutasa to suspend the issuance of new land offer letters until contested land acquisitio
n cases are concluded.
According to a report of a meeting on December 4 between Mutasa and Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial leadership, Mutasa said Mugabe instructed him to stop the issuance of offer letters and not invalidate those he had already signed.
The meeting was called to discuss grievances concerning the continued farm acquisitions in the province and was attended by Zanu PF secretary for information and publicity Nathan Shamuyarira, politburo member Webster Shamu and President of the Senate Edna Madzongwe, among others.
“His Excellency, President Mugabe had only instructed him (Mutasa) to stop the signing of new offer letters and not to invalidate old offer letters,” read the report.
The continued issuance of offer letters had created confusion in the farming community with white farmers defying eviction notices and contesting them in courts, delaying the processing of the cases.
There are more than 5 700 land acquisition court challenges throughout the country still to be finalised.
The confusion had also sparked friction between Vice-President Joseph Msika and Mutasa.
Msika was against the continued invasion of productive white-owned commercial farms while Mutasa wanted a further removal of the remaining farmers.
The Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial leadership last month recommended the nullification of Mutasa’s recent offer letters and eviction of all new beneficiaries allocated farms unprocedurally because they were disrupting production.
It also recommended that over 70 white farmers remaining in the province should be allowed to continue farming since they had good working relations with the local communities.
However, Mutasa is said to have told the meeting that state organs vetted the white farmers.
“The vetting of white farmers to remain on land was done by relevant authorities and Ministry of lands in consultation with local leadership and that a consolidated list was then used to consider which white farmers to remain,” the report read. “He (Mutasa) showed the meeting signatures of those who had recommended these offer letters.” They were Mashonaland West chief lands officer Farukai Chikomba, provincial war veterans chairman Mashava Mugwagwa, Zanu PF provincial chairman John Mafa, and Governor Nelson Samkange.”
Mutasa’s vetting exercise ruled that only six farmers should remain on land, while the provincial leadership had recommended 73. Shamuyarira had told the meeting that as provincial leaders and politburo members they were not being consulted when land allocations were being implemented, hence their decision to approach Msika to address the anomaly.
“He (Shamuyarira) disclosed that as a province they are not there to derail the land reform, but to further enhance it through an all-inclusive systems that recognise the inputs of those at provincial level,” the report read.
Shamuyarira conceded that as a province they had carried out their own vetting exercise of white farmers to remain on the land outside the mandate of Mutasa’s ministry.
He said it was their belief that they were assisting Mutasa’s ministry and not derailing the land reform.
Turning to the acquisition of Rydings Farm, upon which a private primary school was built, acquired by the government and allocated to Mutasa’s personal lawyer Gerald Mlotshwa, the Lands minister said everything was done above board.
“Furthermore it was revealed during the meeting that Rydings Farm was a haven of hostile displaced anti-Zimbabwe political elements of the white community and that its allocation to Mlotshwa was not a unilateral act by minister Mutasa, but was done after thorough consultation with the same provincial leadership which has gone to town condemning it,” the report added.
The acquisition of the farm affected almost 200 pupils, but the school’s board of trustees applied for an urgent relief order from the High Court barring Mlotshwa from interfering with the school’s operations.
At the end of the meeting, there was agreement that offer letters issued by Mutasa were the only legal documents that authenticated land ownership and should be respected.