By A Correspondent- Kershelmar Farm, commonly known as Esidakeni, should be teeming with ready-to-harvest tomatoes at this time of the year as it is every farmer’s wish to take a good crop to market.
A gaze through the farm in Nyamandlovu, northwest of Bulawayo, which is at the centre of a politically-driven ownership wrangle, paints a different picture. The crops are stunted, there are barren fields of parched browns and pallid yellows – clear signs of a wilting crop.
The situation on the farm, known for producing export-grade tomatoes, is now on a slippery slope, thanks to manoeuvres by state and government officials such as Central Intelligence Organisation deputy director Gatsha Mazithulela, says Esidakeni co-owner Siphosami Malunga, son of the late nationalist Sydney.
“It’s completely destroyed,” Malunga bemoaned on Monday.
Malunga co-owns the highly contested farm with businessman Charles Moyo and Zephania Dlamini, a scientist working at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust).
The farm has been the subject of a court wrangle between Moyo, Dlamini and Malunga on one side and Lands minister Anxious Masuka, Mazithulela, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo on the other hand.
It all began in December 2020 when Masuka issued a notice saying the 553-hectare farm is being compulsorily acquired under section 72(2) of the country’s constitution for redistribution.
Nust lecturer and businessman Dumisani Madzivanyati and senior CIO officer Reason Mpofu later emerged waving offer letters to occupy 50 hectares apiece at Esidakeni Farm.
On 11 October, High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese issued an order evicting Madzivanyati from the farm after the trio approached the courts seeking a spoliation order directing the latter and others to stop interfering with their farm operations.
“The respondent and all persons claiming ownership through him shall remove or cause the removal of themselves and all such persons within 24 hours from the date of this order from the farm situated in the district of Nyamandlovu, being subdivision A of sub-division B of Umguza, measuring 195 8095ha, and collectively known as Esidakeni Farm,” Makonese ruled.
Madzivanyati was also ordered to restore all farm equipment, including irrigation pipes, to the applicants within 24 hours, failure of which the Sheriff would be ordered to evict him.
However, a day later, Madzivanyati approached the Supreme Court, challenging the outcome of the lower court. The matter has not been set down for a hearing.
For Malunga, it is a little too late as the planted tomato crop wilted due to a lack of water as the ownership wrangle and disruptions continue.
“The plan to sabotage and cause maximum damage worked. This is our erstwhile beautiful tomato crop at Esidakeni following sustained water interruptions, diversions and disruptions by Dumisani Madzivanyati (a holder of an offer letter for our farm). This person is not a farmer,” Malunga posted on Facebook.
“He was clearly sent by his comrades whom we have named in court to sabotage and financially cripple us. We will sue him for everything he owns. Meanwhile, we await the court decision on our application for leave to evict him pending his frivolous appeal. Zimbabwe is going nowhere with these kinds of people. Nowhere! We will fight to the bitter end.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Malunga said the matter is subjudice, adding “perhaps you can speak to Madzivanyati himself.”
Madzivanyati denied charges of destroying the tomato crops.
“Their tomatoes are not at my farm but at top lands. I have no interest in their tomatoes. Their crops are affected by heavy weeds, poor crop management and neglect. They have been harvesting tomatoes for the past seven weeks and could have reached their lifespan,” Madzivanyati said on Wednesday.
On Monday, during the launch of a Gukurahundi documentary titled: One Night In 1985, at the Asakhe Film Festival in Bulawayo, Malunga said the government was intent on sabotaging their farm venture because of his outspoken stance on Gukurahundi.
“And, I say always, some of us for our loud mouths, we have lost our farms. We will lose more, but it’s okay,” Malunga said.
The festival was hosted by the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE).
“I will never keep quiet on Gukurahundi. Who is going to talk for those people who disappeared? Who is going to talk for them? For me, I continue and I use this opportunity to say we should work towards resolving Gukurahundi.”
The festival, which ran from October 25 ending on Saturday, is part of CITE’s three-year project: Confronting the Past: National Healing, Reconciliation and Transitional Justice in Zimbabwe, supported by the Netherlands Embassy.
An estimated 20 000 people lost their lives, with researchers arguing that the killings were deliberate to create a one-party state as most victims were supporters of the opposition Zapu and of Ndebele identity.
In a letter to Masuka dated June 14 contesting the farm seizure, Malunga, Dlamini and Moyo warned that they stand to lose more than ZW$60 million in potential revenue from their horticultural project if they are evicted.
“We have invested ZW$10million of borrowed funds from local banks (using our urban residential properties as collateral) to implement an intensive winter/summer horticultural programme which involves utilisation of 55ha of the arable land,” the letter reads in part.
“This is supposed to yield gross returns of over ZW$60 million between now and April 2022. We cannot be said to be under-utilising the land.”
Masuka, chief Lands officer for Matabeleland North province, Registrar of Deeds, Mazithulela, Madzivanyati, Mpofu and the Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Richard Moyo have been listed as first to seventh respondents respectively by the trio.