THREE hundred Banket families are set to lose their sources of livelihood after their state-allocated small-holder plots were grabbed from them by suspected government officials.
The disenfranchised families, mainly residents of the tiny Mashonaland West town, were using the peri-urban land for subsistence farming.
The disputed land is at Wigtown farm whose previous owner Tim Henwood was kicked out of the property at the height of the country’s chaotic land reform programme.
Following Henwood’s removal, hundreds of Zanu PF supporters were allocated plots averaging six hectares each for farming but were told not to build any structures.
However, recently the plot-holders were surprised to find new occupants had invaded the land, with others already ploughing in readiness for the summer season.
The invaders are believed to be civil servants, with some linked to the President’s department.
Speaking to NewZimbabwe, the affected people said they had tilled the land since 1999 and losing it would throw them deeper into poverty.
A widowed plot-holder, Chipo Phiri (68), said farming was her only source of income from which she managed to buy food, pay her rentals and other utilities.
“I have been on this plot since 1999 and yearly l deliver maize to the Grain Marketing Board.
“This allowed me to have food, pay my rent and council rates and also send children to school,” said Phiri, while brandishing her peri-urban offer letter.
Another disappointed plot-holder, Charles Maremo of Plot 247, said government must intervene as a matter of urgency.
“This is unacceptable, government must come and address this because we suspect whoever was given the land and the giver acted corruptly,” said Maremo.
Christopher Jamu said President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF risked losing voters in the 2023 harmonised elections if the land dispute was not resolved expeditiously.
Ward 23 councillor, Richard Muganhiri, said the plots were demarcated following an agreement between Banket Town Board and the Lands ministry, but the land remains council’s property and is reserved for town expansion.
Efforts to get comment from Minister of State for Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, who is also chairperson of the provincial lands committee, were fruitless.