By A Correspondent- Government is continuing its retributive land seizures targeting political opponents, real or imagined, this time cancelling former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo’s 99-year lease for Allan Grange Farm in Zvimba.
Chombo, who was arrested, tortured and detained by the military during the 2017 military coup which toppled former president Robert Mugabe and catapulted President Emmerson Mnangagwa into power, was seen as a key member of the G40 faction.
The G40 faction had coalesced around Mugabe and his wife Grace, and was pushing for former Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi to succede the former president, instead of Mnangagwa.
The Mnangagwa administration has also targeted farms owned by other G40 members, among them former ministers Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere and Patrick Zhuwao.
Some perceived critics such as Osisa boss Siphosami Malunga and Fred Mutanda have also been targeted under the farm-grabbing blitz. Malunga, the son of national hero Sydney, and his business associates Charles Moyo and Zephania Dlamini are battling for their farm in court.
The farm has been allocated to Zanu-PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu and National University for Science and Technology (Nust) lecturer Dumisani Madzivanyati, among other people.
Part of Chombo’s farm has been allocated to his estranged former wife Marian, and some unnamed individuals who invaded the land.
In a letter dated 21 September 2021 and delivered to Chombo’s lawyers on 10 January 2022, Lands minister Anxious Masuka cited government’s one man one farm policy, government policy on spousal rights to land upon divorce, and a court order in favour of Marian Chombo as some of the reasons for the lease withdrawal.
Earlier, in 2021, Masuka had written to Chombo, giving a lease cancellation notice, with the intention to allocate part of the farm to Marian Chombo and other settlers.
In response to the minister’s proposal, Chombo made reference to a valid 10-year joint venture which had invested more than US$2 million which the ministry had authorised as one of the reasons why it would be difficult to withdraw the lease.
The joint venture, which started in 2018 and will run until 2028, had resulted in investment in farming equipment such as centre pivots and a new farm manager’s house, among other improvements, resulting in increased production.
Chombo argued that the distribution of assets between him and his former spouse was a prerogative of the courts, and not the ministry.
He later invited the minister and his officials to the farm, to appreciate the huge investment before making decisions. Chombo also informed the minister that although Allan Grange Farm was 3 000 hectares in extent, only 505 hectares is arable, hence the proposed subdivision would not be of much benefit to the new beneficiaries because the bigger part is covered by a range of mountains.
He also argued that the farm was highly productive and should not be considered for repossession, given that there are many idle farms.
Despite the submissions, the minister withdrew the lease. He told Chombo that he entered the joint venture without the consent of his ex-wife. Masuka said although the farm was productive, Marian had a right to claim a share.
“The rights of beneficiaries trump the production levels. Productivity ought to be weighed up against other factors like enjoyment of rights by other parties to an agreement,” he said.
The minister said he did not need to visit the farm since a team from the ministry had done so prior to the lease cancellation.
He said Chombo will be allocated a portion of the land after the replanning exercise. Commenting on the issue, a female lawyer and women’s rights activist said other former spouses of Zanu-PF bigwigs should benefit from land in a similar manner.
“The controversial policy regarding spousal access to land upon divorce has been laid bare, thanks to Dr Masuka. Ironically, the same policy has only applied to a sacked Zanu-PF bigwig,” she said.
“Our government has never seriously considered women as direct beneficiaries of agricultural land, as such, women are now getting land through the back door. This means that all former wives of bigwigs, the likes of Tambudzani Mohadi, Tracy Mutinhiri, Mary Chiwenga, Jocelyn Chiwenga, Florence Ziyambi and many more can smile all the way the the minister’s office for redress.”