Two Chiredzi farmers are on the verge of losing their thriving intensive crocodile farming venture in a fresh land grab spree in the Lowveld, even after they reportedly incorporated locals.
BY TATENDA CHITAGU
The disturbances at the farm, with an annual export value of $1 million, are threatening the future of more than 62 workers and the 23 500 reptiles.
Brothers Jeffrey and Henry Sommer are on the verge of losing their 71-hectare farm after one Gilbert Nyasha invaded the farm last Sunday, while armed with an offer letter he received in 2012.
A worker at the farm said Nyasha and one Mahoya forced themselves into a garage at the farm, where they have been staying for two weeks now. The worker said this is despite the fact that 100 hectares of their farm had already been gazetted by the government and the two were only left with 71 hectares.
The Sommers incorporated Ethan Dube and Stanford Gwanzura into their crocodile farming venture trading as Chiredzi Wildlife Investments.
The company reportedly exports almost 15 000 crocodile skins per year to Singapore and sells others locally.
Nyasha confirmed the development yesterday, saying they were yet to see Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora over the issue.
“It is true that we went to the farm to advise them to wind up their operations. They are trying to use locals to block me from getting into the farm, something which is long overdue. It is not a double allocation of the land,” he said.
Nyasha said the current owners were trying to hide behind a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa), yet their farm is not covered.
“They tried to say they are covered under Bippa, yet part of their land has been gazetted and as we speak, there are other farmers, who have occupied part of that farm, which was subdivided. So I have a right to get into that property. We are going to Harare to see the Minister of Lands over the impasse,” he said.
Efforts to get comment from Mombeshora were fruitless.
Crocodile farming is a capital-intensive venture given that the 23 000 reptiles need meals that cost around $60 000 per month, according to one farm worker at the property, who said they import the meals from South Africa.