Home » Governance » ’Mahofa Defies Mugabe’

TOURISM and Hospitality Industry Minister, Walter Mzembi, has accused new Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister, Shuvai Mahofa, of undermining President Robert Mugabe’s policy against the continued occupation of farmlands by whites, after she barred him from taking over a farm allocated to him by government under the land reform programme.Mzembi obtained an offer letter from the Ministry of Lands and Land Resettlement early last month, allowing him to take over part of Barquest Farm in Masvingo.

He has, however, faced resistance from Mahofa, who is blocking his occupation of 367,51 hectares of the about 900 hectare farm.

The farm, located near Lake Mutirikwi, is Masvingo’s sole commercial chicken producer and supplies the province with over 100 000 chickens per week.

Mahofa last week instructed Mzembi to wash his hands off the farm despite him being in possession of a government offer letter, effectively blocking him from settling on the property.

On February 20 last month, Lands Minister Douglas Mombeshora wrote to Mzembi aising him that he had been allocated Barquest Farm.

“The Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement has the pleasure in informing you that your application for land under Model A2 Scheme has been successful. Your are offered subdivision of Barquest Extension in Masvingo, district of Masvingo province for agricultural purposes. The farm is approximately 367,51 hectares in extent,” reads the letter to Mzembi.

Disregarding the offer, Mahofa last week said Mzembi should look elsewhere if he needed a farm. “We are not saying Minister Mzembi should not get a farm but the farm he was allocated (Barquest) is strategic to the province (Masvingo) because it supplies day-old chicks that sustain lives of many ordinary people,” she was quoted saying this week.

“I think there was a mistake on the part of Kudakwashe Bhasikiti when he allowed Minister Mzembi to be allocated that farm,” said Mahofa.

In 2004, Mzembi was allocated a section of a range in Bubi called Alko range together with the late former deputy mines and environment minister Tinos Rusere and Colonel Enias Hungwe.

He then moved his head of 300 cattle he had bought from former Zimbabwe Farmers Union president, the late Wilfanos Mashingaidze.

For six years he was on the range until he was appointed Minister of Tourism.

Due to the demands of his government work, Mzembi is said to have expressed his desire to be transferred to Masvingo. He then wrote to Masvingo provincial administrator Felix Chikovo in 2010 expressing his desire to leave the ranch.

Mzembi was in the process of de-stocking and surrendered his farm the same year after Chikovo promised to get him a farm in Masvingo. He had not been allocated a new farm until now.

While Mahofa’s move appears to be aimed at saving the project, an inquiry by the Financial Gazette points to the fact that the issue was a manifestation of an intensifying political turf war obtaining in the province, with Mahofa said to have vowed to frustrate Mzembi, whom she reportedly considers a political foe.

Insiders close to the conflicts said Mzembi and Mahofa are not seeing eye-to-eye since the eruption of internecine ZANU-PF factional battles in the run-up to the ruling party’s contentious congress last December.

Mzembi is widely believed to belong to a faction in ZANU-PF fronted by former vice-president, Joice Mujuru, while Mahofa, touted as the Iron Lady of Masvingo, is aligned to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s camp. Mahofa was one of Mujuru’s fiercest critics.

Her predecessor, Bhasikiti, was fired by President Mugabe last month over allegations he was part of Mujuru’s inner circle which plotted to unseat him.

Bhasikiti was accused of raising money to fund the alleged putsch.

For his perceived links to Mujuru, Mzembi lost Central Committee elections for Masvingo District but was saved by President Mugabe who used his constitutional prerogative to appoint him into ZANU-PF’s supreme organ.

The party’s charter empowers President Mugabe to unilaterally appoint people to the Central Committee.

The fights are also said to have emanated from Save Conservancy, which is now being run by the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority after it was declared part of the vast Gonarezhou National Park.

Predominantly white-owned at independence in the late 1990s to 2000s, influential ZANU-PF chefs wriggled their way into the conservancy about two years ago.

In September last year, government intervened by kicking out numerous ZANU-PF bigwigs who were plundering the conservancy in Chiredzi after they had been controversially awarded 25-year leases.

This was on the aice of the party’s top decision-making body, the Politburo, following findings and recommendations from a report by a committee which had been set up by President Mugabe in 2013. Mzembi was said to be very influential in that committee.

Among those booted out of the conservancy were ZANU-PF heavyweights in Masvingo province, Mahofa, Titus Maluleke, Nelson Mawema, Ailess Baloyi and Ronald Ndaba.

Information at hand suggests that the farm in question (Barquest) had also attracted interest from President of the Chief’s Council Fortune Charumbira and Agriculture Deputy Minister (Cropping) Davison Marapira.

Mzembi appears to have beaten the duo as he was issued an offer letter giving him permission to possess it. Other documents seen by the Financial Gazette indicate that on December 5, 2014, Mzembi wrote a letter of complaint to the then provincial minister Bhasikiti, expressing displeasure at not being given a farm after he was promised one and had surrendered his previous farm two years ago on the basis of that promise.

“I write in connection with the above and the merry go rounds I have been subjected to in the last two years vis allocation of land in Masvingo district after I had surrendered my allocated section of Alko Range in 2011,” reads the letter in part.

“Subsequent to the resolutions of your committee, I was shown a piece of land that later turned out to be allocated to a black indigenous farmer and on the aice of the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Dr D Mombeshora, I let go waiting to be reallocated,” Mzembi wrote.

In the letter, Mzembi says he had identified a business joint venture partner for the project who will inject 580 000 euros over a two-year period.

“I am positive this project will employ extensively and add onto the Gross Domestic Product of Masvingo in a very significant way,” reads the letter.

Mzembi last week told the Financial Gazette that the fundamental question in the ensuing dispute was whether or not the decision to settle him on the farm was arrived at logically.

He said the land redistribution, which was the cornerstone of the liberation struggle, should transcend beyond party politics and petty factional interests.

“We should not look at the signature on the paper but on the merit of the process, of how the process was done. If it was not Mzembi on this farm it was going to be someone else. It is a government programme,” he said.

Mzembi said Helen Mitchell (the owner of the farm) could continue with her poultry business. Mitchell is understood not to want Mzembi to embark on a poultry project on the farm, creating direct competition.

“I am not being unreasonable by ordering me off the farm, they are attacking President Mugabe. It is like they are defying him. If I wanted a farm so fast I could have done so a long time ago, but I followed procedure,” Mzembi said.

Source : Financial Gazette

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