VICE-PRESIDENT Joice Mujuru has been sucked into an acrimonious land ownership wrangle pitting the Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ) against senior Zanu PF Masvingo provincial members amid allegations that the politicians were grabbing land owned by a non-profit making organisation founded by the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo.
DTZ was formed with President Robert Mugabe and the late Vice-President Simon Muzenda’s consent. Mugabe is the patron of the organisation.
Part of the land in Chingwizi, in Mavingo, has been temporarily allocated to victims of the Tokwe-Murkosi floods of the just-ended rainy season, but DTZ says politicians are ominously encroaching deeper into Nuanetsi Ranch which is owned by DTZ.
The politicians are also allegedly planning to parcel out part of the land to Triangle Sugar Limited, with whom they aim to have a joint venture, without the blessings of DTZ, where controversial tycoon Billy Rautenbach has a massive crocodile farming project and wants to establish an ethanol plant.
Sources close to the development said influential political leaders led by provincial affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, claim to have blessings of Mujuru in the land grab.
“We are deeply disturbed by the events in Chingwizi where in broad daylight we are witnessing the invasion of our property by politicians claiming to have the blessings of the Office of the Vice-President Joice Mujuru in their activities,” said a source close to the developments.
“We have tried to raise alarm with the President but we are being blocked by the authorities. We keep being told that the Vice President (Mujuru) has met Triangle and authorised the land invasion.”
Chingwizi forms part of the seven sections of Nuanetsi Ranch. The ranch was bought from the Imperial Cold Storage Company of South Africa through funds sourced from Old Mutual in 1989.
The vision was for the ranch to be the nerve centre of development projects by DTZ. Sources said in the wake of the Tokwe Murkosi flood disaster DTZ agreed to have people temporarily settled in the northern part of Chingwizi.
The Masvingo Zanu PF leadership is however said to have engaged Triangle Sugar Limited to form a joint venture company to grow cane on the land meant for the displaced.
“The people are just being given half a hectare of dry land plots to pacify them. We are concerned that lack of consultation with DTZ could be evidence that the current developments constitute land invasions disguised as land compensation for people from Tokwe Murkosi,” said a senior DTZ official.
The official added: “We were recently shocked to hear Masvingo’s Provincial minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti declaring that Triangle Sugar Limited has been awarded a tender to grow cane in Chingwizi.
Chingwizi is DTZ property, how a whole company with the profile of Triangle can get access to our land without any dialogue or official documents to us suggests the highest level of corruption.”
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday, DTZ Nuanetsi resident director, Charles Madonko, said his organisation was still shocked and worried by the invasions taking place on DTZ property.
“We are an organisation that has been working with government and we are surprised that invasions are taking place without formal communication with owners of the land,” Madonko said.
“We offered the Tokwe Murkosi victims land temporarily, but Zanu PF officials have gone further and allocate them land rights inside the farm where there is a 5 000 head of cattle,” he said adding that “a map revealed by Ministry of Lands officials clearly showed that government was confining itself to the northern peripherals of Chingwizi, but the officials working on the ground were nicodemously deployed into the wrong sections of the ranch, clearly deviating from the map that had been approved in cabinet.”
Madonko also said DTZ had negotiated with Rautenbach who is willing to invest in an ethanol plant.
“We have had a series of meeting with Rautenbach who wants to invest in the area and construct an ethanol plant similar to the one in Chisumbanje,” he said.
Bhasikiti recently told the Mwenezi community at a Zanu PF meeting that all development plans by DTZ on Nuanetsi had been cancelled and Triangle has become the official investor there.
He said anyone opposing the deal would face the wrath of the government.
However, in an interview yesterday Bhasikiti said DTZ does not own Nuanetsi ranch.
“We will not allow state land to be parcelled out to Billy Rautenbach. DTZ has no proper documents to show they own that land. What they are trying to do is to lobby for support to get land which does not belong to them,” Bhasikiti said.
“We will go ahead with our development plans for the people of Masvingo and DTZ can bring their proposal on how they want to invest in that land like any other potential investor.”
Bhasikiti also dismissed allegations senior Zanu PF officials pushing for the Nuanetsi ranch invasion are doing so with the blessing of Mujuru.
“That is cheap politics and these people are trying to sway you into factional politics. Where does the vice president come in?” asked Bhasikiti, adding: “It is only the president who has authority to give and take land not the vice president. Don’t ever be drawn into such stupid politics.”