STATE security agent Rodney Mashingaidze has reportedly relaunched his bid to grab Maleme Ranch in Matabeleland South province, two years after he was blocked by chiefs, civil society and villagers before then Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko ordered him to vacate the property.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Mashingaidze in 2015 attempted to grab Maleme Ranch from Peter Cunningham, sparking protests from the local community, chiefs, civic groups and opposition political parties, forcing him to back off after Mphoko intervened in the wrangle.
Mphoko then directed the Lands ministry to identify a farm for him elsewhere, saying Maleme Ranch should be preserved as it houses key State institutions, Big Cave Camp and Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre.
Villagers in the area recently wrote to new Lands minister Perrance Shiri, seeking his intervention to stop Mashingaidze’s renewed interests in the property.
“It has come to our attention that Mashingaidze has been telling people that he is planning to come and retake operations of Maleme and Ebenezer,” the villagers’ letter read in part.
“This has been reported over the last two weeks with recent reports that he has been trying to mobilise village heads from the homestead area where he has been paying them monies to support him in his move to grab the farm.”
The villagers claimed the farm was benefiting at least 800 families, with Cunningham being credited for assisting villagers with various projects, including raising chickens and teaching them modern farming methods.
Maleme Ranch offers grazing pastures to the villagers, who were also given pieces of land by Cunningham to do their small-scale agricultural projects, like poultry.
Villagers, chiefs, political parties and civic groups in Matabeleland argue Mashingaidze should go and grab a farm in his home province, saying that they were fed up with situations where people from outside the region were coming to “grab everything” from jobs to farms from them.