Zanu PF bigwigs cry foul as govt withdraws land offer letters

Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora

SEVERAL Masvingo-based Zanu PF bigwigs allocated large swathes of sugarcane plots seized from South African conglomerate, Tongaat Hullett, as part of government’s land reform programme early this year are crying foul after Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora recently withdrew their offer letters.

By Tatenda Chitagu

NewsDay is in possession of a withdrawal letter, dated December 12, 2016 and signed by Mombeshora himself.

Douglas Mombeshora, Lands and Rural Settlement.
Douglas Mombeshora, Lands and Rural Settlement.

Part of the letter reads: ‘RE: Withdrawal of land offer under the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme (Model A2, Phase ii): Following the notice to withdraw your offer letter and the representations which you made to that effect, please be advised that the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement is withdrawing the offer of land made to you.

The acquiring authority has concluded that the purpose for withdrawal overweighs the representations which you made. You are, therefore, notified of the immediate withdrawal of the offer.

You are required to cease all or any operations that you may have commenced on the said piece of land immediately.”

About 213 Zanu PF bigwigs benefited from the scheme launched in April last year, and it could not be established yesterday how many had had their offer letters withdrawn.

Both Mombeshora and Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa could not be reached for comment yesterday as their mobile phones went unanswered.

Farmers who spoke to NewsDay on condition of anonymity said the latest development had left them in a quandary as some of them had borrowed heavily from banks and offered their immovable properties as collateral to fund their farming operations.

The dramatic reversal of the land allocations followed a recent visit by South African President Jacob Zuma, who sources said raised the issue of the seizure of the sugar plantations which are protected under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) between the two countries.

Government sources, who requested to remain anonymous, said the move also came after the Pretoria government piled pressure on President Robert Mugabe to intervene and reverse the land seizure.

Some of the beneficiaries include widows of war veterans, sons of the late Zanla commander and national hero Josiah Magama Tongogara, youths and civil servants.The land ranged from 17 to 50 hectares.

“The government did not take into consideration the investment we made. How are we going to recover that money which we have literally sunk into a bottomless pit? At least they should have waited for us to wind up and harvest so that we can recover our money.

“It is unfair that when it comes to Masvingo, we are not allowed to benefit from the land reform programme yet in all other provinces people benefit from the resources they are endowed with. For example, when we took over conservancies, we were ordered out yet some in Matabeleland were left.

“Even in Chimanimani, some benefited from macadamia nuts yet when it comes to Masvingo, we are told that there is no policy for the takeover of plantations. It smacks of tribalism,” one of the beneficiaries said.

Said another source: “The Zanu PF government only withdrew offer letters from widows, orphans and poor civil servants, but it did not withdraw letters for members of the Zanu PF women and youth leagues and chiefs. They were spared and they continue to farm in peace.”