HARARE – Land seizures in Mashonaland Central are threatening the country’s agriculture sector, with invasions by supporters of President Robert Mugabe risking slashing this year’s crop.
The ongoing invasions are also likely to affect Zimbabwe-Belgium relations after a farm protected under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) was also seized.
Martin Dinha, the minister of State for Provincial Affairs, confirmed to the Daily News that there was an escalation of farm invasions in the past few weeks.
“We have received reports of disruptions on farms,” Dinha said.
“As the Provincial Lands Committee, we insist that there should be law and order at the farms. It is only legal authorities who have the right to administer land matters.”
At Tizoro Farm in Centenary, Zanu PF politburo member George Rutanhira has reportedly disrupted farming activities, putting the lives of at least 450 farm workers in jeopardy. The farm labourers have gone for three weeks without receiving their salaries while 100 children have dropped out of school, official sources said.
Tizoro Farm is divided into two with one half belonging to Guy Dollar while Rutanhira’s does his farming activities on the other.
Rutanhira denied taking over the farm saying it belongs to him.
“Who is saying that?” he queried. “There is no invasion; it’s only an allocation that is taking place. Yes I am at the farm and you need to ask whether the white person has an offer letter.”
Dollar declined to comment yesterday saying he is preparing a legal case.
But sources at the farm told the Daily News Rutanhira, who is aligned to Justice minister Emerson Mnangagwa, widely believed to lead a faction that rivals Joice Mujuru, has no offer letter.
The sources say the lands committee has given the land to three other men who have agreed to leave the farm for another.
The General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ) which was on the ground at the Tiziro Farm, said workers were going through a horrid phase.
“Workers are hungry because for the past two weeks they have not been paid and have no other source of income,” said Davison Nyowani of GAPWUZ.
“The white own says he is still in charge while the invaders are in the processing of stripping the farm.”
Dinha said the invasions should stop.
“Our policy is not about indiscriminate chasing away of the remaining white farms,” Dinha said.
“We will take land that we require for resettlement and where necessary, we have clear policies to allow the few remaining white farmers to farm on our terms.”
Critics say Dinha is receiving money from the whites, a charge he strenuously rejected.
“It is nonsensical to allege that we are under the payroll of white farmers, that is cheap factional politics,” he said.
Two other farms have been invaded in the same province, one belonging to a Belgian national and the other to a Yugoslav.
“They have also invaded Westheim Farm which has Belgium interests and which is also protected under Bippa. The Belgian ambassador has raised the matter with Zimbabwean government,” said a source close to the unfolding land invasions.
Apparently, Belgium is one of the few European countries that have steadfastly stood with Harare even at a time when the Western world had been railing against Mugabe’s government.
Operations at Magirazi, just a kilometre from Centenary Farm, have also been reportedly stopped with new farmers ploughing through planted tobacco, sources said.