By Everson Mushava
A VISIT to Kadoma district shows that land reform in the ore rich mineral area has become a blood-letting affair as people fight for farms that are rich in gold deposits.
Several murders in connection with the gold have also been reported in the district, which has been invaded by suspected Zanu PF youths to pan gold.
The demand for plots is very high in the district leading to alleged corrupt activities, some allegedly involving the district lands committe, according to the newly resettled farmers. They claimed plots were now for sale fetching as high as $700 each.
In the same area, Richard Muranda lost his plot at Impalavane Farm to one M Mhasho according to an offer letter in this paper’s possession. Resettled farmers on the same farm say Mhasho owns other farms in that sane district.
Muranda and Mhasho, both have offer letters for the same plot from Minister Joseph Made. Muranda’s offer letter is dated November 22, 2001 while Mhasho’s letter is dated December 11, 2003.
The Daily News could not get a comment from Mhasho as he was not on the farm but his farm neighbours told the paper that he has never used the farm since 2003 when he allegedly took it from Muranda with the aid of the lands committe and the police.
Resettled farmers told the Daily News that many multiple farm owners existed in the district , with some having farms under their children’s names (some in primary schools). Showing the power of money in land ownership, some farmers claimed that a businessman from Highfields owns 11 plots on Impalavane Farm while the poor and needy struggle to keep their land.
In yet another development that exposes the rot at the ministry of lands, Archford Rubvuwe has an offer letter for Plot 11 , Impalavane Farm but an investigation with the ministry showed that the database at the offices does not recognise the allocation – it is a vacant plot – and assessment forms filled by Rubvumbe in Kadoma offices three years ago have not reached the head office. Rubvumbe is still on the plot and holds an offer letter.
In Chegutu, a wrangle over Marsden Farm has also shown that three different people, including Chief Mashayamombe, have offer letters for the same despite the fact that it was legally bought by a banker Christopher Goromonzi in 2003 after a joint venture operation on the farm with Minister of State in the Vice President Joice Mujuru’s office, Sylvester Nguni .
Investigations also show how the fight has often not been restricted to between one powerful individual seeking to evict a group of weak farmers who invaded the farms at onset of the land reform.
High Court Judge Chinembiri Bhunu and University of Zimbabwe Professor Lovemore Gwanzura have been in a long drawn battle for ownership over Desktop Farm in Marondera in a case that smacks of favoritism . Court papers seen by the Daily News reveal how Justice Bhunu was offered three farms to choose from since the inception of the land reform in 2000 before settling for the fourth offer.
He was first offered Rockland Farm but could not settle there because it was subdivided into smaller A1 plots and allocated to numerous other contenders.
He was later offered Illing Farm but could not settle there because it was doubly allocated. As a third option he was offered Aldington Farm in Seke but snubbed it because it lay among certain problematic properties subject to bilateral state jurisdiction. He later settled Desktop Subdivision 4 only after it was vacated by David Mangota, the permanent secretary in justice ministry.
The farm is the one at the centre of a legal fight between Bhunu and Gwanzura. Court papers and other documents seen by the Daily news suggest that Mangota recommended that Bhunu takes over the farm.
On May 4, 2008, Mungota wrote a letter to the then Governor and resident minister of Mashonaland East Province Ray Kaukonde recommending that the farm be allocated to Bhunu despite existing dispute over the property.
“I write to advise that the above mentioned farm (Desktop Farm) which falls within your province was formally allocated to Mr Justice Bhunu, who is your acquintance ,” wrote Mangota.
“I am satisfied that the allocation, which government has made, enjoys your full support as well and settles judge Bhunu’s long standing quest for land.”
Four months prior, on January 7, 2008, the provincial chief lands officer for Mashonaland East in the office of the President in charge of lands, Land Reform and Settlement, a certain J Munyanyi had recommended that Gwanzura be allocated Desktop Farm. Desktop Farm was first allocated to Mangota on July 25, 2002 but he moved out on February 2, 2007 to occupy the bigger Mbembezaan Farm in Mvuma.
The sequence of events leaves a sour taste. On July 25, 2002, Mangota received an offer letter for Desktop Farm by the then land allocating authority, the minister of lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Joseph Made. Then on October 30, 2006 the offer letter was withdrawn and a new offer letter for Mbembezaan Farm was handed to him.But he held on to the keys of the Desktop property, which he only handed over to Bhunu in March 2008.
“I gave him the vacant possession of the farm and the house after he had showed me the offer letter which the Land Acquiring Allocating Authority had issued to him.”
“I remained convinced of the fact that he was and is in terms of the relevant legislation, the lawful and tenant of Desktop farm,” said Mangota in a sworn statement signed on June 5, 2008.
What is evident in these land disputes is the fact that too many people call the shots that the centre of power is hardly noticeable. It is clear that the role of Zanu PF, where district and provincial chairpersons are required to approve applications for land and makes the whole programme look partisan.
Secondly, the fact that all district land committees are chaired by district administrators from Chombo Ministry also make it partisan.
And finally, the lands inspectorate, the body that has the final say in all land disputes is chaired by the home affairs ministry- the police leaving Murerwa’s ministry with the only major role of offering and administering offer letters.
caught in the cross halts of all this are farm workers who have been left jobless and over two million of their dependants poverty stricken since 2000, with the recent spate of black against black farm invasions – farm workers and the politically weak are at the receiving end of the stick yet again.
Gift Muti, general secretary of the General Agriculture and Plantations Workers Union of Zimbabwe, (Gapwuz) said most people had been turned into residents and not workers at the farms since there was no farming activity taking place on many A2 farms. The situation is even worse for workers where there is multiple ownership of the farm. The new farmers will be fighting for the farm but do not want to assume ownership of the workers because they do not want to pay them,” he said.
He said this has forced non governmental organisations such as the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) to come in and feed the former workers.
Muti said most A2 farmers did not pay workers leaving them to do task jobs only. Water infrastructure on the farms has also stopped operating, forcing residents to drink water straight from unprotected sources such as dams.
As the circus unravels, the situation on farms lays bare claims by government that land takeovers are a thing of the past as the country moves to concentrate on boosting production on resettled farms. The land reform remains a facade.