President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has started withdrawing offer letters for a number of commercial farms, especially those that had horticulture and dairy projects before they were parcelled out to black farmers under the controversial land reform programme, it has been revealed.
The farms would be restored to the previous white farmers unceremoniously kicked out of their properties by former president Robert Mugabe in 2000.
According to sources, the Lands ministry is sitting on piles of letters to “new farmers” informing them about the reversal of the land allocations.
A group of 18 soldiers led by Colonel Morris Masunungure has reportedly been deployed at the Lands ministry’s offices in Harare to implement the evictions of the affected farmers.
The source said the affected farms were those whose previous owners were engaged in horticulture, potato and dairy farming.
“Several offer letters have been withdrawn while more are on notices to pave way for white farmers to reoccupy their land,” a government official who refused to be named said.
Some farmers also confirmed receiving the letters.
“Since [Agriculture] minister [Perrance] Shiri was appointed, he has not signed any offer letter for indigenous farmers, but several withdrawals and notices of withdrawals,” the official said.
“The white commercial farmers are coming back and reclaiming their land.
“Eighteen soldiers led by Colonel Masunungure have been deployed at the Lands office and more are coming.
“Last month, they were introduced to the staff by Mr Mumba, the director of human resources, who was accompanied by Marius Dzinoreva, director of acquisition and valuation.”
The official said it was the first time since independence to have soldiers deployed at the ministry’s offices.
However, Shiri said he had not signed any document withdrawing offer letters for new farmers, save for four people from Donavale Farm in Marondera.
He said the offer letters were withdrawn after the government realised the allocations were not above board.
“Those are pure lies,” he said. “In fact, we have only written to them [stating] some intention to withdraw. The president has said the land reform is irreversible.”
Shiri said soldiers had been roped in as reinforcement to protect staff when they go out to solve disputes.
“They have been beaten before while on a mission to solve land disputes and we have roped in the soldiers to protect them,” he said.
“There is a committee that oversees land disputes. In terms of the logistics, they ask for reinforcement from security institutions.
“As you know there is the land inspectorate that was headed by police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga to protect lands staff.
“I have asked the soldiers to assist in reinforcements so that my staff will not be abused.
“We have a case now where the staff from Lands were beaten up when they had gone out to resolve a dispute.”
However, insiders insisted security was always provided by the police who formed the Lands Inspectorate while the Zimbabwe Lands Commission (ZLC), made up of civilians and headed by Danisile Sibanda Hikwa, was there to resolve disputes.
The ZLC has arresting powers and relies on the police from the Lands Inspectorate.
Meanwhile, one of the farmers who has lost out his piece of land at Donavale Farm denied ever giving land to a relative as alleged by Shiri.
The farmer said he had been given offer letters, which were withdrawn nine times.
– The Standard