THE invasion of Benfer Estate, a citrus farm in Beitbridge, has scuttled a US$2,5 million investment deal as a local business consortium that was interested in acquiring a significant stake in the estate has withdrawn its interest.
Senior army officer Darlington Muleya invaded the citrus farm owned by Ian Arthur Ferguson, which was one of the major providers of oranges used in the production of Mazoe Orange Crush.
A member of the business consortium who preferred anonymity told the Zimbabwe Independent they had agreed on an investment proposal with Ferguson.
“I was part of a consortium that had been approached by the Fergusons to invest. We went down to the farm looking at existing orchards and infrastructure which we found in a state of deterioration,” the member of the consortium revealed. “We agreed on an investment proposal that was subject to approval by the authorities.”
However, he said that during the due diligence of Benfer Estates by the consortium they were told that the farm had new owners who had received offer letters.
“The confusion over ownership was the deal breaker because some of the orchards were already burnt and it takes up six to eight years before you actually start getting returns on such investment. So it is not something you can get into lightly,” said the businessman.
In an e-mail to the business consortium dated October 8, Ferguson highlighted serious problems emanating as a result of the offer letters.
“The lands officers, Mthulisi Moyo from Beitbridge and Mthimkhulu from Gwanda are very active in handing out offer letters and taking more land,” Ferguson wrote.
“Just yesterday my foreman was instructed to report to the police station to respond to a charge from Darlington Muleya. Darlington is one of three people who were given offer letters for Benfer by Mthulisi Moyo.
“Darlington wants to charge us for not removing cattle off his farm. We have tried on numerous occasions to get sight of these offer letters but both lands officers, lawyers and war veterans have said they can’t show us.
“The situation as it stands is that, no investors will proceed without the minister’s approval. Zesa has cut all power to the farm due to non-payment, hence the trees are in a serious state of wilt.
“ZB Bank will soon repossess my only home in Bulawayo which I used as security for a loan on Benfer. We had assured ZB Bank that we had investors who were prepared to take over all my liabilities, but it seems that Muthilisa Moyo has finally had the last laugh.”