A group of villagers living on a farm near Chegutu say Zimbabwe government spokesman Ndavaningi Mangwana has ordered them off the land after six years, ZimLive reported.
Some 70 families settled on parts of the 2,000-hectare Thorndike Farm after its late owner Gilford Rukawo signed up for a voluntary farm downsizing scheme which saw him retain about 800 hectares.
The families say they applied to the lands ministry between 2014 and 2016 to be officially settled on the farm, but despite promises, they heard nothing back – until January this year when Mangwana arrived with an offer letter for 102 hectares of the land ceded by Rukawo.
Several of the families live on that section where they have built their homes and grown crops for over five years.
Ebenia Shava, one of the leaders of the affected villagers, told ZimLive: “Mangwana proposed that we sign agreements that we will vacate the farm after we had harvested our crops, and we refused.
“It’s on record that we applied for offer letters between 2014 and 2016. In March 2020, forms were completed and submitted to Chinhoyi provincial offices (lands ministry).
“In 2017, I had a meeting with Mrs Kunonga, the Chegutu district lands officer, who assured me she was aware of our situation at Thorndike farm and that after downsizing the farm we would be the first people to be considered for offer letters.
“But to our amazement, Mangwana and some other connected people were awarded offer letters for land we had applied for.”
Shava, who was flanked by two other representatives of the villagers Charles Mutami and Tendai Dehwa, said they had no doubt Mangwana – the permanent secretary in the ministry of information – had been favoured over them.
Mangwana, who says he was offered the farm in November 2020, insisted that he had no role in the decision to allocate him that particular piece of land. At least three other connected individuals have also been allocated land measuring about 100 hectares each.
“I made my application for a farm in 2013 when I was still in the United Kingdom, but allocation was only done after the land audit,” Mangwana said.
“The allegations that I invaded a farm are false. I was allocated the farm and have the proper documentation to prove that. I’m actually taking a humane approach to evict these illegal occupants on my farm.
“As a matter of fact, they actually grew maize crop on my land and I’m waiting for them to harvest their crops then I evict them.”
Shava rubbished Mangwana’s sentiments, insisting that he only got allocated the farm “because of his office and the power he wields.”
“He’s a mafikizolo to the farm, yet he’s now lording it over us. When Nick was in London writing columns for the Sunday Mail, we were reading the publication whilst farming on the same land he is now talking about,” added Shava.
Mutami claimed that the local farmers were victims of a “corrupt, abusive and manipulative system” being perpetrated by individuals “abusing their proximity to power.”
“What’s happening is a typical case of local political blindness. We’ve four families which are meant to come in to replace over 70 families. The land reform programme was meant to benefit the general populace of Zimbabwe, regardless of the power that beneficiaries wield in both the political, social and economic spaces,” Mutami said.
“We have escalated our issue with a number of political and governance administrative structures with the hope that the principles of equality are applied. We wish to retain our pieces of land because of the investment we have done.”
Another farmer who preferred anonymity fearing victimisation said he relocated to the farm in 2003, but was shocked when Mangwana and other connected individuals pegged portions of land on the farm.
“My fence was destroyed by a bulldozer. Mangwana and his associates put new fences to mark the land portions they have made claim to. I have since pursued the legal route over the matter, but some families are frightened to take action fearing the repercussions of doing so,” said the farmer.
Shava, Mutami and Dehwa allege that on January 19 they contacted the provincial lands officer in Chinhoyi, Joyce Sifile, who failed to explain why Mangwana and others had been given offer letters on the same land they had applied to be settled on.
Sifile, according to the farmer, referred them back to the Chegutu district lands officer Kunonga who stated that the matter was “beyond her.”
Sifile complained of poor network when this reporter called her, and had not responded to questions left on WhatsApp.
Kunonga, meanwhile, hung up when asked to comment. She did not respond to a message left on her WhatsApp.
Norton MP Temba Mliswa, speaking in parliament, previously accused Kunonga of corrupt land allocations.