Land disputes, evictions disrupt farming operations in Mash East

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By Mashonaland East Correspondent

MARONDERA: Farm ownership disputes in several farms in Mashonaland East are disrupting farming operations with government officials accused of fueling the disturbances including evictions.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) has since moved in and opened investigations into the operations of the Ministry of Agriculture in the provincial capital, Marondera, after some farmers whose offer letters were revoked, petitioned the Commission.

The disputes fly in the face of calls by Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri for “unquestionable sanity on the farms”.

Disgruntled farmers are alleging that a cartel of Ministry of Agriculture and Land Commission officials in the province was illegally seizing their land and re-selling it.

One of the affected farmers is Richard Mandiranga whose offer letter for Dana Farm in Goromonzi was revoked without notice and the farm was allocated to Janet Choto.

According to Mandiranga, who was allocated the farm in 2012, the revocation letter was served without notice as required by law.

He also claims that Choto is the daughter of one Bernard Choto and she paid a bribe to Agriculture Ministry officials in Marondera to be allocated the farm.

Mandiranga said the illegal move had seriously hampered farming operations at the farm.

“I feel I have been treated unfairly and have not been offered satisfactory assistance from the ministry in protecting my rights.  What is shocking and mind-boggling is the manner in which the ministry has handled the matter. As opposed to bringing clarity into the situation, the ministry has brought more confusion into what started as a simple matter,” Mandiranga said.

He said he employed 20 workers at the farm and was failing to pay them due to the on-going disruptions.

Again in Goromonzi, a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) journalist, Tendai Munengwa is up in arms after he was informed by the Agriculture Ministry that his Mukwene Farm would be downsized to allocate land to another potential farmer.

Munengwa is a poultry farmer rearing some 10 000 chickens at a time and employing 30 people.

However, the secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ringson Chitsiko recently wrote to the journalist-cum-farmer informing him of the government’s decision to downsize the farm.

“This note advises you that the above-mentioned permit issued to you on 15th April 2019 is withdrawn to address issues regarding the use of fowl runs.

“The Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement has directed that fowl runs be shared.  Accordingly, you will be issued with a permit for your allocation of the fowl runs,” Chitsiko’s letter to Munengwa reads in part.

Last week, Munengwa claimed Hoga Ngoroma, who also has a farm nearby, visited his farm claiming he had been given orders by Ministry of Agriculture officials for the two to share the farm.

At Whiteside Farm in Bromley, over 100 illegal occupants are fighting with businessman, Samson Chauruka for the control of the 41 hectare farm that is reported to accommodate some of the biggest tobacco barns in Zimbabwe.

Since 2011, Chauruka, who is the rightful owner of the farm, has failed to occupy it as illegal occupants are resisting evictions.

Early this month, the Sheriff of the High Court accompanied by armed anti-riot police, tried to evict the settlers, but the settlers fought back and still remain in the farm with little agriculture production taking place.

Elsewhere in the province, hundreds of farm workers are being evicted from farms for various reasons.

A recently appointed Zacc Commissioner, Kuziva Murapa, confirmed that there were on-going investigations into the allocation of land in Mashonaland East and other parts of the country.

“We are leaving no stone unturned including land corruption that we intend to address as the new commission,” said Murapa.