BULAWAYO – Documents proving the family of the late Sydney Malunga owns a farm that’s being controversially seized by government have gone missing from the deeds office, Malunga’s son Siphosami claimed on Monday.
The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) executive director made the shock revelation in a tweet, vowing “we will be conducting a full search at both offices tomorrow.”
“The levels of sordidness and underhandedness related to our farm issue are shocking,” Malunga said. “We gather someone removed the documents proving ownership from the files at the deeds and companies’ office. We have copies that we shared with authorities. We will reveal who we believe could have and why.”
Malunga says he and two acquaintances bought the 553-hectare farm in Nyamandlovu, Matabeleland North, some four years ago, and that the seizure is revenge by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime for his human rights advocacy.
Government, however, argues it acquired the land from a white farmer years ago “for purposes of agriculture resettlement” and that Malunga doesn’t own it.
“The farm in question belonged to white farmers by the name of Swindells. When government compulsorily acquired land in the 2000s we did not immediately resettle people because there was a black man by the name Eddie Warambwa who claimed to have bought the farm from the white man,” Matabeleland North provincial minister Richard Moyo told the Herald newspaper.
“It was only after his death that we realised that he was a front of the white man and measures were taken to repossess the land, there is no victimisation here. Maybe Mr. Malunga and his partners bought assets on the farm, but certainly not the land as it belongs to government.”
Malunga says while the acquisition was published in the Government Gazette in December 2020, they only became aware of it last week when they received a call from a lands officer.
Human rights campaigners have condemned the seizure, calling it an unconstitutional aberration that infringes on property rights.
“The farm is wholly owned by black indigenous Zimbabwean professionals. This land was legally procured in accordance with the Deeds Registries Act. This clearly militates against the government’s thrust of black economic empowerment,” said the Matabeleland Forum civic group in a statement, adding the move is a “vengeful, unabashed and deliberate assault on the private property of a national hero.”
It added: “The Forum sees this as an assault on the legacy of late National hero Sidney Malunga. The action by the State violates the founding values and principles of the constitution, which recognizes the gains of the liberation struggle.”