The widow of national hero Vitalis Zvinavashe has lost a huge chunk of her Norton farm to a Chinese company that was allegedly given the land to set up a ceramic tiles factory under controversial circumstances.
By Everson Mushava
Sunny Yi Feng Tiles (Zimbabwe) (Pvt) (Ltd) is already on the ground clearing land to set up a workshop and warehouses after it was allocated part of the farm by Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Perrance Shiri.
The company has reportedly ordered Margaret Zvinavashe and her family to remove their wheat crop to pave way for developments on the property.
In a letter dated September 6 to the Chinese company, Shiri awarded 100 hectares of Knockmallock (subdivision 2) under Chegutu district to the Chinese company, whose address is listed as 143 Borrowdale Road, Gunhill, Harare.
According to the letter, the Chinese company should: “Starting by early September 2018, in the first three months, flat the land, make cement road and the base establishment of the workshop and warehouse before the rainy season.
“In six months, finish the surface construction of the office tower, steel structure workshop and warehouse.”
The company should also in 10 months set the production line and a 60 000-square metre workshop.
Shiri yesterday admitted parcelling the land to the Chinese company, saying the move was done after consultations with Zvinavashe’s widow.
“She was adequately consulted and everything is being done in agreement,” he said.
“The Chinese hold an offer letter on the piece of land after there was an agreement to withdraw it from her.”
Shiri said the offer letter given to the Chinese company would be changed into a lease with a life span of about 25 years.
However, a senior government official said the property was not suitable for manufacturing purposes as used chemicals would contaminate the nearby Darwendale dam.
The official said Shiri had no authority to allocate urban land.
“The farm is in a developmental zone. It is the preserve of the Local Government ministry together with Norton Town Council to parcel the land for industrial purposes,” the official said.
“Setting up a factory needs certain permission done by a town council of some sort because it will collect rates.
“The land should be parcelled by the planning authority through the land commission chaired by Tendai Bare.
“The Ministry of Lands cannot make such a decision.”
But Shiri defended himself saying the land was still under his ministry.
“Yes, there will be change of land use and the construction of the company will be done in compliance with many government departments such as the Environmental management Agency (EMA),” he said.
“We have given them the land and whatever they do should be in compliance with the demands of other government agencies.”
Shiri said he was not aware that the land was under a wheat crop, and was also not aware that the Chinese had asked the Zvinavashe family to clear the land.
He said there was nothing that could stop government from reducing farm sizes.
Zvinavashe’s farm is reportedly far less than the maximum farm size of 450 hectares for the region.
The Zvinavashe family is also keeping cattle on the farm, apart from crop production.
EMA spokesperson Steady Kangata said he was out of the office and was not able to confirm if the Chinese company had been cleared to set up the factory. – The Standard