SPIRITED manoeuvres by state security agents to illegally seize Elephant Trust farm owned by former minister Jonathan Moyo have frustrated a deal with an investor, which could have potentially transformed the property into a viable enterprise, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.
By Tinashe Kairiza
As reported by this newspaper last week, state security agents comprised of the millitary, police and central intelligence officers have descended on Elephant Trust farm, in Mazowe, disrupting farming activities at the property which the former higher and tertiary education minister and Zanu PF MP bought in 2001. Moyo, who is in self-imposed exile in the aftermath of the millitary coup that dramatically ousted former president Robert Mugabe from power in 2017, bought the 623-hectare farm in 2001 forZW$6 billion, translating to
According to confidential documents seen by the Independent, Moyo’s farm manager, had, in principle agreed to a joint venture partnership with farmer Alan York in 2018, which could have turned the property into a viable business entity.
In the aftermath of the coup, and Moyo’s dramatic escape from Zimbabwe, production at the farm ground to a halt.
According to documents, the parties, though expressing fears about the political situation obtaining in the country in the aftermath of the coup, agreed to enter into a joint venture partnership spanning for 10 years in 2018.
Under the proposed joint venture, York promised to revamp infrastructure at the farm such as irrigation equipment, while committing to create employment. As shown by the documents shared between September 16, 2018 to October 24, 2018, the farm manager had written to York extending an offer to him to lease the farm, following glowing reports of his farming exploits.
“Thanks for your email, whose content I have noted. (I) am happy to meet you next week when I will be back in Harare. I also would want to get the farm back into productivity and would want to benefit from your expertise,” the manager wrote.
“I got very encouraging reviews about you from Mr Black and am happy to hear your proposal. For the sake of time — you can share it with me on this platform so that I can prepare myself adequately for our meeting.”
In his reply to the manager through an email dated September 20, 2018, York spelt out an ambitious plan which could have revived the moribund farm.
York, who has also occupied part of Komani Estates for the last four years also proposed to pay “a guaranteed annual amount regardless of production level, droughts etc . . . or a percentage of crop revenue generated” for a period spanning 10 years”. Both parties would have right to terminate the proposed agreement after lodging a 12 month notice.
However, on October 24, 2018, York wrote to the manager, casting doubt on the feasibility of the proposed arrangement owing to the worsening economic situation obtaining in Zimbabwe. Ironically, as revealed by the Independent last week, York’s email to the manager coincided with reports of visits by security agents at the farm threatening to take over the property.
“I have tried phoning a few times, but have been unable to reach you. Anyway, a brief update as follows. Sadly, the situation in Zimbabwe of late has rendered impossible for me to expand beyond existing agricultural commitments,” York wrote.
“Cost of inputs have risen beyond reach and are largely only available for US dollar payments. . . which I don’t have! Diesel and bank finance have also dried up.”
Contacted for a comment by the Independent to corroborate the proposed business proposal with Moyo, York said: “What I do not want is to be pulled into any controversial issue with politicians. I am confirming nothing to you.”
Following schemes by state security agents to grab Elephant Trust farm, Atherstone and Cook Legal Practioners, on behalf of Moyo, wrote to minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement minister Perrance Shiri, dated May, 28 2019 registering their grievances.
After the ouster of Mugabe in 2017, Moyo has become a fierce critic of Mnangagwa’s administration, which he regularly derides as illegitimate on various social media platforms, particularly micro blogging site Twitter.
Moyo fled the country as the coup ensued after surviving a night raid by the army with his family and friends in Harare in 2017.