IN a move which flies in the face of government’s claims of a new dispensation, Vice-President and former army commander retired General Constantino Chiwenga’s wife Mary recently grabbed the 300-hectare Arda Seeds farm along the Domboshava Road, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
By Tinashe Kairiza
Arda Seeds was established in 2002 by the Agriculture Rural Development Authority (Arda) to help meet the country’s growing demand for crop seeds.
Situated near Mverechena business centre, the farm produces and markets a number of seed crops which include maize, potatoes, wheat, sorghum, millets, soyabeans, sunflower, cowpeas, dry beans, groundnuts and bambaranuts.
Chiwenga was catapulted to the vice-presidency in December following a military coup which ousted former president Robert Mugabe last November.
The farm takeover has occurred despite consistent pronouncements by President Emmerson Mnangagwa that his administration would break with the past and uphold the rule of law and property rights. A gold mine in the Midlands was recently invaded by Zanu PF activists.
Sources at the farm said the Chiwengas seized the farm in February after attempting a similar manoeuvre in 2013.
“On 15 February, they took over Arda Seeds,” said a former worker. “Mary said to workers ‘this is our farm.’ It was not the first time that Chiwengas came to the farm. In 2013, they came and said they wanted to build a school.”
When the Zimbabwe Independent news crew visited the farm last week, a group of about 10 men, clad in blue overalls was erecting a new perimeter fence around the property. The farm was deserted, without any other activity taking place.
Enquiries at the farm’s boom gate — manned by five men wielding assault rifles — were met with hostility. The guards, however, confirmed Chiwenga had taken over the property.
“Arda Seeds is no longer here; this is now the vice-president’s property,” said one of the armed men, before ordering the Independent crew to drive away.
Contacted for comment last week, Mary could neither deny nor confirm taking over the farm.
“The best I can do is to direct you to the ministry,” she said. “They know everything about this matter. You can speak to the director of lands.”
The Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Settlements Perrence Shiri yesterday asked the reporter to bring the questions to him in writing and in person at his offices Ngungunyana Building at 2pm.
Despite promising to respond within an hour, Shiri was not in the office when the reporter arrived. He was said to be attending President Emmeson Mnangagwa’s field day event at his farm in Kwekwe. As a result questions had not been responded to by the time of going to press.
Arda chief executive officer Basil Nyabadza on Wednesday claimed the farm was still being run by the authority. He promised to call to further clarify the issue, but did not.
Sources, however, said some of Arda Seeds workers had been relocated to the authority’s head office in Harare, while the company’s management was “looking for a new farm to rent.”
Arda Seeds farm manager Amon Mwashaireni is also now working from the authority’s head offices in Harare.
Mwashaireni this week confirmed he was now working from the head office, but said he could not comment. He asked to be called at 9am yesterday, but was not picking up his phone.
Chiwenga already owns a number of farms, businesses and other properties. His vast wealth, ranging from prime real estate to expansive tracts of land, was exposed when he filed for divorce with his former wife Jocelyn in 2014.
Most of the couples’ properties were registered in the name of companies. The couple controlled Blue Chip Stamp Company (Pvt) Ltd which owned a property at 5 Rosary Close, Quinnington, Borrowdale measuring 5 701 square metres.
They also owned Lighthouse Investments (Pvt) Ltd that owned four industrial units in Willowvale, with each unit measuring 3 850 square metres and Liversay Investments (Pvt) Ltd which owns a property at 614 Prince Drive in Borrowdale Brook measuring 4 817 square metres.
In addition, the Chiwengas ran Hidcote Investment (Pvt) Ltd which owns a property at 79 Follyjon Crescent measuring 4 955 square metres and Grandi Lodge Sixty One (Pvt) that has a house on a 1 692 square metres stand in Borrowdale Brooke.
They also owned Ouacker Investments, which has stand 103 Shawasha Hills residential estate; Yolsac Safaris (Pvt) ltd that trades as Kazungula Wildlife Safaris; an apartment in Malaysia and a house at 9 Msasa Drive in Msasa Park; Dokson Investments which spearheaded operations at their farm in Goromonzi; stand 539 Borrowdale Brooke measuring 1 456 square metres; Dominicus Investments (Pvt); number 34 Lythan Drive in Glen Lorne and a vacant piece of land at Mermaids Pool about 42 kilometres from Harare.
They also had many luxury vehicles, jewellery and other expensive properties. – ZimInd