By Mashonaland East Correspondent
Marondera: Delegates attending an agriculture conference here were left stunned when Agriculture minister, Perrance Shiri declined to back claims by Agricultural and Rural Development (ARDA) chair Basil Nyabadza who had claimed earlier that government was finalising setting up cigarette and tobacco manufacturing plants in the town.
In his address at the Smart Agriculture conference held at Kushinga Phikelela Polytechnic, Nyabadza said the government, with some unidentified Chinese investors, was finalising the process of setting up multi-million dollar cigarette and tobacco manufacturing plants in the tobacco-rich town.
“I am not the right person to give you the finer details of these projects. I am just whispering to you. It is the duty of the minister (Shiri) who is also here to disclose this information to you,” Nyabadza said.
He said negotiations between the government and Chinese investors were almost complete for the two projects to start and claimed thousands of jobs would be created in Marondera where most agriculture-based companies have shut-down following the introduction of the controversial land reform programme nearly 20 years ago.
“Minister Shiri’s office has prioritised this project, which the minister has projected to be fully operational by 2023,” said Nyabadza.
However, Shiri who was present when Nyabadza was giving his speech, shocked guests when he declined to back the ARDA chairperson’s claims and comment on the proposed ambitious projects.
Instead, the minister in his speech, went on to attack resettled black farmers for causing serious land degradation at their new farms before threatening to remove all illegal settlers with no offer letters from the occupied land.
He blamed the resettled farmers for failing to peacefully co-exist with nature and the environment, a situation, which he said, had adversely affected land productivity in Zimbabwe.
“This has also negatively affected water bodies as well as grazing land. My ministry is dealing with this issue expeditiously,” Shiri said.
Last month, Shiri issued 500 eviction letters to illegal settlers in the Midlands province accusing them of disrupting production at commercial farms and causing massive land degradation.