24. August 2012

Land reform chaos continues in

The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) have reported that a group of about 200 ZANU PF activists invaded a farm on Wednesday which belongs to the principal director in the Prime Minister's Office, Norman Sachikonye. ZPP officials who witnessed the incident said the invaders were singing and dancing to ZANU PF liberation war songs and wearing party regalia.
Sachikonye is also an aspiring parliamentary candidate for Makoni Central in the MDC-T. The invaders were allegedly under the leadership of Darlington Museka, acting secretary at the Rusape Town Council and a ZANU PF cadre.

A monitor for the ZPP reported that police officers at the scene did not interfere or do anything to stop the invaders, who proceeded to peg Zimati Kop Farm "haphazardly" and allocated stands to themselves.

The chaos on Zimbabwe's commercial farms has intensified in recent weeks, with ZANU PF officials fighting for control of the last remaining farms in the country.

Some observers believe the rush to claim land ownership is directly linked to provisions in the new draft constitution.

Chiredzi farmer Gerry whitehead agreed. He told SW Radio Africa that there is chaos in the Chiredzi conservancies and the coalition government has lost complete control of the farms in his area, the lowveld.

"The ZANU PF chefs know there is no law and order so they can do whatever they like. We are disappointed because we thought things would get better under the coalition. But the MDC-T have also lost the plot and conceded to ZANU PF over land," Whitehead said, referring to clauses in the draft charter.

Section 16.4 of the draft, relating to the "rights of occupiers of agricultural land", says any person who was occupying land or was entitled to use it "by virtue of a lease or other agreement" with the State, continues to be entitled to use or occupy that land after the effective date of the new Constitution.

Experts say this essentially protects invaders who are taking land from its rightful owners now, using fake "offer letters" that are signed by district land officials who have no authority to make such decisions. Whitehead said this is one of the reasons people are shocked that the MDC-T signed the draft.

Meanwhile other rows over land are being played out around the country. In one case, nine families are reported to be homeless and sleeping in the open after an officer from the Airforce of Zimbabwe destroyed their homesteads with a tractor.

The incident followed claims by the officer, Dananai Chikanya, that he was allocated the property at Edinburgh Farm near Chitungwiza in 2008, as part of the land reform exercise. Chikanya told Newsday newspaper that he evicted the families because they were settled on the farm by a rival from the MDC 99.

The families have denied Chikanya's claims, saying the Chitungwiza Area Board resettled them at the farm in 2002. According to Newsday, some of the villagers said Chikanya pointed a gun at them when he came to bulldoze their homes with his wife.

In another row over land, Chief Zvimba is reportedly trying to evict 31 farmers from land they occupy at Lion Kopje Farm in Mashonaland Central, saying they were allocated land elsewhere and have refused to move there.

But the resettled farmers filed papers at the High court last week seeking to block the Chief from evicting them. They claim that the land was allocated to them in 2004 under the A1 land resettlement scheme.

The farmers were notified of their pending eviction on August 6th and were given just ten days to pack their belongings and move. Chief Zvimba, through his lawyer, is asking the High Court to dismiss the application by the farmers, arguing that their continued stay is illegal since they were officially granted land elsewhere.

It was hoped the creation of the coalition government would bring a sense of law and order to the so-called land reform exercise. But officials from the MDC formations have found themselves powerless to change anything, with some even getting embroiled in the chaos, as the Sachikonye case has revealed. (SW Radio Africa/UK)


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