ZANU PF bigwigs Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, Mashonaland Central governor Martin Dinha and Lands and Resettlement minister Hebert Murerwa, are embroiled in a nasty fight over lucrative citrus farms in Guruve Rural District Council and other local authorities.
Report by Brian Chitemba
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent Dinha wrestled eight citrus farms and allegedly parcelled them out to his close associates under the guise of repossessing under-utilised farms.
The farms were allocated to the local authorities in the province at the height of the controversial land reform programme, but a decade later Dinha unilaterally re-allocated the vast plantations to his business cronies.
At the centre of a storm is Marimambada Citrus Farm which was owned by Guruve Rural District Council which Dinha allocated a close colleague, Sydney Gwaze, through the Mashonaland Provincial Lands Committee. Dinha chairs the lands committee in his capacity as provincial governor.
Dinha issued an offer letter to Gwaze to immediately takeover the vast Marimambada farm on April 12.
The Guruve District Council has launched a fierce battle to regain control of the citrus farm which was the local authority’s cash-cow as it was used as collateral to access credit facilities to finance capital projects.
The council approached Chombo and also filed papers in the High Court to reverse the reallocation of the property. Chombo opposed the seizure and confronted Dinha seeking return of all grabbed assets. He also engaged Murerwa who signed the offer letters at the instigation of Dinha, who indicated that the farms were under-utilised.
Although Chombo could not be reached for comment, Dinha defended his stance and vowed never to reverse the citrus farm grabs, saying the Mashonaland Provincial Lands Committee was in agreement that the plantations were under-utilised by councils.
“The lands committee decided to re-allocate the farms because councils were running down the properties,” said Dinha. “We directed that eight farms be repossessed and allocated to serious farmers because we can’t sit and watch councils failing to produce,” he said.
He said the lands committee was due to meet to deliberate on the raging dispute over the repossession of the properties.
Sources said the citrus fruit farms were major sources of cash for the broke councils and the move by Dinha to re-allocate them has left the local authorities penniless.
The seizure of the citrus farms is seen as part of an asset grab by senior Zanu PF officials, some of whom are currently wreaking havoc in the Save Conservancy.