Farm workers jobless as Mpofu defies High Court

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Obert Mpofu

BY MOSES MATENGA
DOZENS of workers at Esidakeni Farm, located about 67km from Bulawayo, are said to have lost their jobs after Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu defied a court order to vacate the farm.

Mpofu has allegedly deployed armed guards to block the owners from accessing the farm.

He has also allegedly locked out workers at the farm owned by scientist Zephaniah Dhlamini, miner Charles Moyo and human rights defender Siphosami Malunga, who is the executive director for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.

Over 150 workers, permanent and casual, have reportedly lost their jobs and have become homeless since Mpofu’s takeover.

“When he (Mpofu) moved onto the farm in early December, he found us actively farming. We were harvesting onion which we had grown on 4ha. We managed to harvest about 50 tonnes of saleable onions and 30 tonnes small onions that we intended to replant as sets on 2ha this January. About 1,5ha of onion could not be removed from the fields to the sheds. I am sure it’s all rotten from the heavy rains in the past weeks,” Dhlamini told NewsDay yesterday.

“We were also in the process of harvesting butternut. About 20 tonnes could not be harvested and have been stolen by people or damaged by wild pigs. We had also transplanted over 60 000 cabbages which we intended to sell in December and January when the prices are at their highest. As we speak, these cabbages are rotting in the fields.

“Obert found us with a workforce of 45 permanent workers.”

Mpofu has reportedly chased away the workers, including the foreman and women supervisors from the 554-hectare farm.

Yesterday, Mpofu refused to comment on the matter.

“Have you been sent? Don’t be silly. I’m not going to talk about that issue,” Mpofu said.

But Dhlamini insisted that Mpofu had evicted workers from their quarters, adding that the employees had lost their sources of income.

“We paid our casual workers US$5 per day. All these people are now unemployed. We have about 100 beef cattle on the farm and 20 goats, they have not been dipped or received scheduled vaccinations and dosing as we are denied access to the farm,” he said.

“We also had over 200 free range chickens, we don’t know their status. We left our belongings and 20 tonnes of maize in the main farm house. We had locked the farm house and its gates.”

In December, the Bulawayo High Court granted an application by farm owners for the eviction of Mpofu and Dumisani Madzivanyati, pending a decision of the same court on the main application in which they are challenging a government decision to list the farm for compulsory acquisition.

Madzivanyati is a lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology.

Mpofu then appealed against the ruling, but Malunga and his partners went back to the High Court to seek his eviction pending the outcome of his appeal.

The application is yet to be set down for hearing.

  • Follow Moses on Twitter @mmatenga