White farmers in Masvingo continue to face eviction despite moves by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to return some of their land, as part of efforts to revive the ailing agricultural sector which used to be the backbone of the economy.
Recently, four out of 17 farmers resettled in 1989 in Mpapa in Mwenezi under a Triangle Ltd (now Tongaat Hulett) programme, received letters of eviction. They were ordered to wind off business at their 50-hectare farms by the end of this month.
The four had already written to the former Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora, contesting their evictions before change of government last month.
According to eviction letters gleaned by NewsDay Weekender dated October 16 and signed by Boaz Vurayayi the district lands officer for Mwenezi, Shane Warth is being ordered to wind off farming activities on Lot 12 of Lot 15 of NRA by December 31 to make way for Solicitor Mutendi.
The letters stated that the farms were gazetted in 2017 for compulsory acquisition by the Lands and Rural Resettlement ministry on behalf of the government of Zimbabwe and were now State land.
Contacted for comment, Vurayayi referred questions to the provincial lands officer. “You can contact the provincial office, my friend. I am not allowed to talk to the Press,” he said.
Lands and Rural Resettlement deputy minister Davis Marapira said if it was done by the previous government, there was nothing they could do.
“I think it was done by the previous government, but we will need time to get into the details. If it was done by the former minister, there isn’t much we can do. The farmers have to abide by the decision taken by the government at that time,” he said.
When quizzed if this was not in contradiction with the policies of the new government, Marapira said the decision was final.
“Land already allocated will not be reversed unless the current government feels it was wrongly done. If it was done properly, following all the necessary procedures then we call it a done deal,” he added.
The late Carl Bradfield’s widow Ann, of Lot 19 of lot 16 NRA also got her letter of eviction on July 4. Bradfield, who was a cattle rancher and a professional hunter was trampled to death by an elephant, leaving his wife running the farm with the assistance of her farm manager Aldoph Willem Botha.
Unfortunately, Botha was later struck and killed by a farm worker, who is believed to have stolen a substantial amount of money from him and skipped the country to neighbouring South Africa, forcing Ann to lease the farm to Matabeleland Beef.
Dave Doig, a South African national, also benefitted from the programme and was leasing the farm to Josh Munyonga, an employee at Triangle Limited.
Mike Horsley, who is married to a German national, also received eviction letters, but they are said to be covered by the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) so the eviction has been put on hold.
Agreements under Bippa require the government to pay fair compensation in the currency of the farm owner’s choice for both land and improvements.
Countries that signed the agreement with Zimbabwe include Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Malaysia, Switzerland, and South Africa.
However, in 2014 in a similar case to that of Doig and Horsley; Lovemore Makunun’unu approached the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) contesting a High Court judgment ordering his eviction from Frogmore Farm in Mvurwi by a German national, despite having an offer letter under the land reform programme, and Chief Justice Luke Malaba, sitting with Justice Paddington Garwe and Justice Antonio Guvava confirmed the acquisition without any compensation.
According to Warth, who worked for Triangle as an artisan specialising in refrigeration for 17 years, the scheme was meant for Triangle employees who worked for the company for more than 10 years and were below the age of 50.
“We were made to pay an initial down payment of $8 000 and the rest was supposed to be paid in 15 years. We paid a total of $350 000 for the farms which have between 40 and 50 hectares. The programme, which was officially launched by the former President Robert Mugabe was carried out in two phases and the first had only nine farmers. The second one had eight other farmers, and out of the seventeen resettled farmers, only four were white,” Warth said.
“What is mind-boggling is that others are being protected by BIPPA, but I was born at Masvingo General Hospital in 1957 and I have a Zimbabwean citizenship. I feel I should enjoy the benefits of the country like any other Zimbabwean, but I am treated as an outcast with no protection. I mean I am being persecuted like the Jews during the Second World War. “
Warth added: “We resettled like any other Zimbabwean and Robert Mugabe the former President officiated at the ceremony, but now I am told to move out of the farm. Where do I go now? This is where I call my home and I invested everything in it. So recently I bought a transformer in South Africa for $10 000 before I installed a centre pivot at a cost of $140 000.”
Warth is going to lose all his farming equipment, vehicles, a three-bed-roomed house including the newly acquired centre pivot and a one hectare banana plantation, while Bradfield is also set to lose his farming equipment and an 11-roomed house. NewsDay