President Robert Mugabe’s land grab threat seem to be playing out as Zimbabweans are reported to have begun to take up lands from White farmers.
Weeks back, the 96-year-old president threatened to remove all the remaining 73 white commercial farmers and give lands to young Zimbabweans.
While addressing thousands of Zanu PF supporters at Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera at a youth rally, Mugabe said his government discovered that the former Mashonaland East minister, Ray Kaukonde, had during his term, protected white farmers from eviction under the controversial land reform programme.
“These white-owned farms are the ones we are taking for the people who want land, but they will get few hectares as the population has grown. We want to decongest the rural areas,” he said
Following these Mugabe’s land grab threat, there are reports of some black Zimbabweans forcefully taking lands from the white commercial farmers.
According to reports from local Zimbabwean news, a top cleric, Trevor Manhanga is linked to the ruling Zanu-PF party, allegedly grab land in Manicaland, ahead of Mugabe’s visit to the province on Friday.
The villagers said that Manhanga, an Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe bishop, was on Tuesday dragged to the High Court by villagers from the Makoni district of Manicaland, about 30km west of Rusape town.
The clergyman allegedly grabbed Lesbury Farm, owned by Robert Smart, in order to erect a church on shrines that the villagers said were sacred, court papers showed.
Worst still, the paper showed that following Mugabe’s land grab threat, Land Minister Douglas Mombeshora gave Manhanga permission to occupy the land, despite reports showing that the Machinya Hills, located on the property, had archaeological sites that could attract tourists.
The archaeological sites were protected in terms of the country’s laws that protect cultural rights and the Manicaland villagers performed their cultural rituals at the Machinya Hills on a yearly basis, with financial support from Smart.
The villagers were now seeking an interdict against the land minister – as well as Manhanga, David Nyakonda and William Samhungu (the incumbent chief) – who were given official letters to occupy the disputed property.
Peter Tandi who led the villagers, said he had approached Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, with a view to stopping Manhanga from grabbing the farm, but to no avail.
“Manhanga also has the support of [Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister] Mandi Chimene to grab the property,” said Tandi.
Mugabe’s land grab threat are meant to pacify Zanu PF youths who have demanded urban and agricultural land ahead of the 2018 elections but the veteran leader wondered how the youths who are demanding land would farm the land when they lacked resources.
“Our challenge is that if we give a youth 100ha, he won’t manage that with only a young wife, one hoe and no money and inputs,” said Mugabe.
“We have discovered that those allocated land earlier are now selling it to the former white farmers. The whites are coming back as they have discovered that in South Africa where they had resettled to is hot.
“They pretend to be staying in cities, but at night they talk to the farmers and convince them to farm on their behalf and they share the profits.
Meanwhile, some workers at the farm accused Manhanga of roping in Rusape police officers to “terrorise” Smart, resulting in the police firing gunshots to disperse angry villagers who had gathered at the property in support of the white commercial farmer.
“The police forced open a safe that contained Smart’s money and went away with $75 000 meant for the payment of workers’ salaries,” claimed a source at the farm.