The Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Chief Air Marshal (Retired) Perence Shiri, has moved in to stop land fights in Manicaland and warned that the final authority to change ownership or status solely rests with his ministry.
Chief Air Marshal (Rtd) Shiri’s comments follow a push by Member of National Assembly for Headlands Cde Christopher Chingosho to have several offer letters issued during the era of self-exiled ex-Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Mandi Chimene revoked.
Chingosho is targeting Lesbury Farm (allocated to Bishop Trevor Manhanga, Mr David Nyakonda and Chief Tandi (William Samhungu), Wenselydale Training Centre, allocated to one Nyamuswa who stays in the United States of America; Mhandara Farm owned by Cde Dakarai Mapuranga, Wakefield Farm owned by Mr Kudzi Chipanga; Kelvin Farm owned by Professor Francis Gudyanga and Mr Booker Chinamasa, and Fairfield Farm, allocated to Chief Makoni Cogen Gwasira, among other properties in Headlands constituency. Chief Marshal Shiri (Rtd) said the manoeuvres do not depict policy shift.
“He only can recommend, and not effect change ownership or status. We will wait for their recommendations and take it from there. I cannot say much since the recommendations have not been submitted. We are waiting for the submissions,” said Chief Air Marshal Shiri.
Chingosho attacked Chimene for allocating Wenselydale Training Centre and Wakefield farms to individuals, yet they were originally set aside for agriculture training institutions.
“Topping the list of our grievances is Lesbury Farm, and my argument was that preference should be given to the local people of Tandi because it is the only farm adjacent to the Tandi Communal Lands. It should be used to decongest the adjacent communal area. During my campaign and takeover of Headlands constituency from (Mr) Didymus Mutasa in 2014, people were promised the acquisition of Kelvin and Mhandara farms. I was shocked when Mandi Chimene allocated the whole Kelvin Farm to Professor Gudyanga and Booker Chinamasa from nowhere. I was not consulted.
“Mhandara Farm was initially invaded by youths during the land reform programme and they were removed on the promise of orderly plots allocation. Again, the whole farm was given to one person, (Cde) Dakarai Mapuranga,” he said.
He bemoaned vandalism of learning structures at Wenselydale Training Centre and their conversion into livestock kraals and fowl runs.
“Mandi Chimene allocated it to somebody called Nyamuswa, who is based in America. The buildings have been converted into cattle kraals. You find cattle, goats and chickens in classrooms. Can you imagine? The centre must be revived, not the current nonsense,” said Chingosho.
He also queried why Wakefield Farm was re-allocated when it was among three farms set aside for the Manicaland State University of Applied Sciences.
“These are the most contentious farms, and our recommendation is that the offer letters should be withdrawn. This was the work of Chimene. She was doing this to fix me because during my campaign we promised people all these farms. We almost exchanged blows in her office after I queried why she was treating my constituency this way.”
Cde Mapuranga said Cde Chingosho should not use other people’s farms as campaign tools.
“Who is not a beneficiary of the land reform among his team? They are just politicking. The agenda is political. He should not campaign using farms allocated to fellow black farmers,” said Cde Mapuranga.
Acting Manicaland State University Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Albert Chahwanda said there was no progress on the establishment of the Faculty of Agriculture due to land wrangles. Prof Chahwanda revealed that initially that varsity’s agriculture faculty had been allocated 8 000 hectares, but most of it was given to resettled farmers, leaving about 1 600 hectares at Hawick and Springs farms, which the institution is also failing to access.
“Originally, our offer letter had 8 000ha, but the bulky of it has been resettled by farmers. We had a new offer letter in August 2017 giving us authority to occupy Hawick and Springs farms, but the farmer, Mr F. C. Muller, whom we served with the 90-day notice, asked for an extension up to May 2018 to wind up his farming operations,” said Prof Chahwanda.
Prof Chahwanda said the agriculture faculty was five years behind.
“We should have moved on site in 2012, but there were these disputes which we want resolved. The setting up of the faculty is five years behind, and money to start agricultural operations is available, and proceeds from what we produce will be invested in infrastructure,” he said.