Lupane—The Zanu PF Matabeleland North chairperson and provincial government minister, Richard Moyo, has been accused of dispossessing land from at least 35 A1 farmers who were resettled on the Emmergron Estate—rich in timber and wildlife—during the land reform programme.
The government in 2001 allocated the A1 farmers who include war veterans, communal wildlife conservancies in the estate which is located along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway in the Gwayi area.
The farmers were also allocated communal land for pastures and smallholder crop farming.
An acrimonious land dispute has now arisen in the estate after Moyo, who is also the State minister for Provincial Affairs and Devolution as well the provincial lands committee chairperson, allegedly sanctioned the allocation of 140 plots to Zanu PF youths in the estate.
Officials from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture Fisheries , Water and Rural Development reportedly pegged the 10 hectare plots, paving the way for the controversial allocation of the plots to the Zanu PF youths a month ago.
Following complaints by the resettled famers, the new Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) leadership led by its chairperson, Andrease Mathibela, visited the farm on a fact finding mission recently.
Mathibela, who was accompanied by the ZNLWVA Matabeleland North provincial chairperson, Jonathan Nkanyezi Sibanda, heard first hand testimonies from the farmers on how the takeover of their land had affected their lives.
“At first, we were all made to believe that the beneficiaries of the plots were going to be our children in this area. The children even assisted the ministry of Lands officials in the pegging process but only to learn later on that these plots are meant for other people.
“We only saw these youths recently, coming here claiming that they have been allocated the plots. We have stayed here for more than 20 years and our children have grown up and they also need land. Someone cannot just wake up and dislodge us like this. This is very unfair,” said a 63-year old war veteran Fanny Tshuma , one of the affected farmers.
Another irate farmer and war veteran, Francisca Ncube (58), said they had lost most of their grazing land resulting in their cattle struggling to access pastures.
“We fought for this country and not to be harassed and abused like this. Hunting and cattle farming are the core of our livelihoods here. If land meant for our cattle is taken from us, how are we going to survive? There is no youth who is more Zanu PF than others. Our children also deserve this land,” said Ncube.
The area councillor, Senzeni Sibanda who is also a farmer in the area, said the local political and traditional leaderships were not consulted when the youths were allocated the plots.
Some of the beneficiaries have already reportedly started harvesting teak timber in the area.
“When these people first invaded our land, we thought maybe the headman was secretly selling land to people. We only realised that this project had the blessings of big chefs after myself, the headman and war veterans approached the lands officer in Lupane, one Mhlanga who also professed ignorance about the issue,” said Sibanda.
The councillor said the lands officer referred them to the provincial office.
The headman, Doctor Ncube, said he only received a phone call from the ruling party’s Lupane district chairperson informing him about the new development in the estate.
Ncube said he was also told that all the beneficiaries of the new plots possessed agricultural extension services (Agritex) farming certificates.
“If the so called Agritex certificates are the criteria for one to benefit from the plots, why are our children not being trained as well so that they can benefit? We are tired of being used by politicians. When we voted during the (2023) elections, no certificate was ever asked for but now that the elections are over, they want to ask for one ‘s qualifications,” fumed another farmer.
Addressing the resettled farmers, Mathibela urged them to resist the take-over of their land by the Zanu PF youths.
“No-one should be allowed to take over the land which you fought for. I am very hurt by what is being done to you. You should invoke your war heroism and defend your land. The problem is that you don’t want to speak what is on your minds concerning your welfare,” said the new ZNLWVA chairperson.
When reached for a comment, Moyo argued that the allocation of the plots to Zanu PF youths was above board and sanctioned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“All the beneficiaries of the plots in Emmergron Estate were handed their offer letters by President Emmerson Mnangagwa during the National Youth Day celebrations in Lupane in February (2023). All land belongs to the State and nobody owns State land,” said the Minister.
He did not see any problem with the exclusion of the local youths in the allocation of the new stands.
“The youths who benefitted from the plots are Zimbabweans and they also deserve a piece of land like everybody else. If anyone has complaints, they should come to my office rather than speak through the media,” said Moyo.