10 000-hectare land grab splits Zanu PF

ZANU PF’s proposal to grab 10 000 hectares of land from sugar producer Tongaat Hulett for resettlement purposes has split the party amid reports some senior party officials are protecting the interests of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed company.

Elias Mambo/Herbert Moyo

Masvingo’s political leadership recently wrote to government seeking the nod to acquire more land for resettlement purposes but insiders say the proposal is facing stiff resistance from some politburo members.

“Chaos is brewing because we know our (Masvingo) provincial minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti wrote to government requesting more land but up to now nothing has happened,” one war veteran said.

The party insiders in Masvingo said this week war veterans in the province confronted Bhasikiti over the weekend demanding an update on the land request.

“We demanded an explanation because we hear Tongaat is being protected by some senior party officials (names supplied),” the war veteran said.

Bhasikiti, who chairs the provincial land committee in Masvingo, confirmed he had applied for the 10 000 ha of land on behalf of the province.

“Let me correct the distortion that the land belongs to Tongaat and that it’s only war veterans who want the land,” said Bhasikiti adding that “it is actually state land, which Tongaat is leasing and we wrote to the Ministry of Lands in December to request 10 000 hectares out of the 35 000 that Tongaat is using so that we redistribute to new indigenous farmers — not just the war veterans, but also women and youth groups.”

Bhasikiti, together with Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, have been singled out by the war veterans as being among top party officials who are allegedly trying to block them.

“As you know, the President is on leave so we are still waiting for the response,” said Bhasikiti, adding that “government processes take time hence those who are desperate may end up misconstruing the delays to mean that we are protecting the company (Tongaat).”

Mavhaire distanced himself from the saga, saying he has nothing to do with land redistribution.

“It should be known that Zimbabwe has clearly stipulated guidelines on how land is re-allocated,” Mavhaire said. “I am not involved at all but people have a penchant for drawing other innocent people into their struggles. Those complaining should approach the relevant authorities and not speculate that I am stopping the process.”

Tongaat has clashed with government over its indigenisation plan, which culminated in the state threatening the company with cancellation of its licence if it continued to resist the empowerment policy.

Tongaat is still to comply with government’s controversial Indigenisation and Empowerment Act, which compels all foreign owned companies to cede 51 % of their shares to indigenous Zimbabweans.

Tongaat Hulett corporate affairs and communications manager Adelaide Chikunguru said her company is law abiding and operated within the country’s regulations.

“All matters relating to land issues are best dealt with by the responsible authority. Triangle and Hippo Valley Estates are law abiding entities that are fully registered to operate within the regulations of the country,” Chikunguru said.

Tongaat is presently embroiled in a dispute with local cane growers over prices and under attack from outgrowers over alleged non-payment of cane deliveries (772 000 tonnes) worth US$50 million. However, Tongaat has dismissed the farmers’ claims, insisting they have been fully paid.

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