Minister grilled over coffee farm

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PARLIAMENT yesterday heard how Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba, single-handedly allocated a farm to her son, before misleading the late former Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri that the decision was above board, the Daily News reports.

Gwaradzimba allocated the farmland in question to her son, Remembrance Mbudzana.

  This comes as the government is embarking on restoring order on farms — having signed a US$3,5 billion Global Compensation Agreement with white former commercial farmers, while also announcing that all farmers who lost their land protected by Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs) would either be compensated or have their land titles restored.

 Appearing before the Agriculture, Water, Climate, Lands and Rural Resettlement committee yesterday, Gwaradzimba admitted that she drafted a letter on behalf of the provincial lands committee recommending that Mbudzana be allocated FarFell Coffee Estate, owned by Richard Le Leviex, without the knowledge of other officials.

However, Gwaradzimba told the committee — which is chaired by Gokwe-Nembudziya MP, Justice Mayor Wadyajena — that  she later regularised it after consulting Shiri.

 “The provincial lands committee must sit to make such a decision and recommend to the minister of Agriculture then regularise afterwards.

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“I was advised by the then minister (Shiri) after consulting him to regularise by having the other committee members to sign,” Gwaradzimba said.

Pressed by the committee to admit that in essence she had misled Shiri into believing that the provincial lands committee had met to make the recommendations, Gwaradzimba insisted that she had not done anything wrong.

“The fact is that the minister is the issuing authority and he approved the recommendations so I think what I did was above board.

“If there was anything wrong, the minister would not have approved. The other thing is that I was still new in the office and not familiar with the procedure,” Gwaradzimba said.

“But when I made a decision on behalf of the committee, I then regularised it. If the minister was not agreeable to the letter which did not have the signatures of other committee members, he would have turned it down,” she added.

However, Wadyajena insisted that the approval by Shiri was based on the misleading information Gwardzimba had given him.

“What you are saying and what we have from this document is inconsistent. The document that you now say was prepared by Remembrance, although you gave it to us as yours, shows that he never applied for land in 2014 like you indicated.

“I think I have to recuse myself because this committee must charge you for misleading us and I don’t want to be doing it myself…it must come from the committee,” Wadyajena said.

But Gwaradzimba felt that the committee was not being fair to her as she sought to explain herself further by making reference to newspaper articles
and Google.

“Can I submit my evidence without making reference to Remembrance’s document because there is no invasion that ever happened.

“Even the farm owner admitted … that his farm was not invaded,” she despairingly said while trying to calm down other members of the committee.

“Minister you are making our lives difficult. We want evidence that the provincial lands committee met to offer the land to Mbudzana, not media reports.

“I am adjourning this committee out of respect to allow you to go back to Manicaland and come back with evidence,” Wadyajena said before adjourning the meeting.

Cabinet has since resolved that the minister’s son must be evicted from a portion of the coffee estate.

All this comes as Zimbabwe is bidding to have a US$8,5 billion agriculture economy by 2025 — as part of restoring the country to its former bread basket of Africa status.

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