FORMER Zipra fighters yesterday waded into the Figtree farm dispute pitting commercial farmer David Connolly and deputy chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Ray Ndhlukula after staging a demonstration against the top civil servant.
Ndhlukula early this month reportedly moved his property and workers to Connolly’s Centenary Farm, about 30km from Bulawayo, despite a High Court order barring him from interfering with operations at the property.
He went on to evict 75 families from the farm compound and now workers, some of them who had been staying at the farm since the 1960s, say they have nowhere to go.
The Zipra Veterans’ Trust said Connolly was one of the farmers who contributed to the liberation struggle and vowed to stand by him.
War veterans numbering about 40 descended on the farm and led Connolly’s workers in the peaceful protest.
Some of the posters the protesters waved read: “Zipra fought for land to ensure its fair distribution irrespective of the colour of one’s race, tribe or political affiliation.”
Another placard read: “Ray Ndhlukula has a 2 000-hectare farm — Vlakfontein in Marula — and a second one, Wilfried Hope’s Farm, in the same district.
“Stop these illegal farm invasions; they only serve to retard our development”.
Zipra Veterans’ Trust security chief Patrick Msongelwa Dube said the fresh farm invasions, particularly in Matabeleland, could brew conflict that would be difficult to contain.
“This is extreme provocation. It’s like we are still in a war situation,” he said after the demonstration.
“The Connolly family together with several white farmers here contributed immensely in the liberation struggle.
“As Zipra Veterans’ Trust, we were alarmed to hear that Ndhlukula is causing havoc here. It’s part of a grand plan to re-launch land grabs.
“We strongly suspect that the intention is to kick out everyone who got land 14 years ago and parcel it out to new people.
“But as Zipra Veterans’ Trust, we are calling for finality on the land issue.”
Dube said the invasion of Conolly’s farm was a litmus test to surviving PF Zapu leaders as it came soon after the short-lived occupation of former Home Affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa’s Rudy Farm in Nyamandlovu by Zanu PF activists.
“It’s a challenge to Zapu leaders. We are watching what they would do with the invasion,” he said.
“You might recall our commander Dabengwa’s farm was recently invaded and there was swift reaction.”
Some of Connolly’s workers said their lives had been turned upside down following Ndhlukula’s arrival at the farm.
Davidzo Mandara said she had worked at the farm for 19 years and had nowhere to go following the evictions.
“I have been at this farm all my life. I call this home. I have no parents to go to,” she said.
“I have a child doing Form 6 and am paying her school fees from my income working here. How will I pay fees for her if kicked out?”
The workers, who are staying at a crowded carport within the farm, said they would stay put because they had no alternative accommodation.
According to a petition to Southern African Development Community leaders that were in Victoria Falls yesterday, one of Connolly’s workers Tymon Sibanda was a target of the Rhodesian forces who accused him of hiding Zipra fighters during the war.
He was also hunted down by the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade during the Gukurahundi atrocities.