The
Zimbabwe
Letters

     
  SEIZURE OF EQUIPMENT UPDATE: MASVINGO - 15 NOVEMBER 2005  
     
 
In May 2005 the Masvingo Equipment and Material Committee led by Assistant Commissioner Loveness Ndanga visited farms and homes to write up equipment.
They unfortunately ignored procedures and also used signed, blank forms, which they completed before issuing to the farmers, which was outdated because it bore the signature of the previous minister, J L Nkomo.

The attitude of the committee was aggressive and uncompromising. They merely wrote down what they saw, regardless of whether it was being used for agricultural purposes; or belonging to a third party; or being held in trust; or being repaired for a third party.

A letter was sent to the Masvingo Provincial Administrator Chikovo, in May, as the senior civil servant responsible for the administration of land reform, but this has never been answered. A copy of the Acquisition of Equipment and Material Act was attached.

Several meetings were held with the Governor W Chiwewe and individual members of the Masvingo Equipment and Materials Committee, firstly to appeal for the correct procedure to be followed with regard to the lawful acquisition process; objections; confirmation through the Administrative Court; valuation and compensation.

Secondly it was suggested that the equipment should rather be bought through Amtec, which would be financed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, under a scheme where new farmers would be offered a facility for easy payment over several years. The interest charge would be very low and the other advantage was that Amtec would throw in a service agreement to ensure
that the second hand equipment would remain in good working order. The willing sellers would receive a fair cash price as well.

Unfortunately, in response to this the common answer was that the equipment would be too expensive by using that method and they preferred just to take it. Even the Governor was of the mistaken impression that the equipment belonged to the Government immediately a farm was acquired.

The most startling facts were revealed during further lobbying with committee members, whilst discussing the process as defined in the Act as well as the legality and constitutionality of the exercise. It was admitted that the law was not being followed, "Because we are at war and during war the law does not apply."

Several attempts were made by farmers for the release of their equipment from the impoundment on their properties. They wanted to use some of it for agricultural purposes whilst others wanted to sell it to new farmers. In all cases this was emphatically denied.

This led the beleaguered farmers with little other option but to apply for a spoliation order through the courts, but unfortunately they could not raise the then quoted $30 - $40 million for the legal costs. With the impoundment of their equipment they no longer had an income from their various ploughing and harvesting contracts with new farmers.

It is firmly believed that the committee were following high-level orders and were just 'testing the waters' with 'soft targets', which they took the gamble that they could not adequately defend themselves.

In November, when the Ndanga-led committee started removing equipment in Masvingo a letter was immediately submitted to the Officer Commanding Masvingo Province Emanuel Shiku, which requested an internal investigation, and if necessary, a prosecution, of the suspicious actions of the committee. Attached were copies of the Act and the unanswered letter to the Provincial Administrator. There has been no response to or acknowledgement of this letter, which was hand delivered and faxed. Copies were also sent to the Ombudsman in Harare, which were followed up with a formal written complaint.

The Ndanga-led team moved to the Mwenezi district where they seized more farm equipment from 3 ranching properties, completely disregarding the warning and appeal.

It was pointed out once again that the committee was acting outside the law therefore it is the opinion that the committee, knowing full well that their action was illegal, was vicariously liable for their actions.

Furthermore, the letters act as evidence in aggravation as they informed the group of their wrongdoings.

When a reporter friend spoke to Minister J Made about the confiscation of the equipment he said that it was illegal but that it was not his department, or ministry. He therefore offered to discuss the matter with Minister D Mutasa, "Who I will be seeing in the next 10 minutes as I am on my way there."

A fairly high-level 'political' delegation from Masvingo was able to seek audience with Minister D Mutasa, on 2 occasions. He is reported as being horrified at the seizure of the equipment saying it was illegal and not Government policy and immediately spoke to Governor W Chiwewe to castigate the actions of the committee. This was late evening. He suggested that if the equipment had not been returned that the group should return to either him or Minister F Bhuka.

After nothing positive had happened the next day the group again met with the minister and he promised to take the matter further. No equipment was returned and no further action was taken by the minister.

The following day the same reporter telephoned Minister D Mutasa. The minister expressed horror at what was reported to be happening in Masvingo and commented, "I know nothing about this. Why do those people who are affected not come and see me and it is embarrassing that I have to hear this from you."

Another group was referred to Assistant Commissioner Masoja, by Deputy Commissioner Matanga to discuss the matter of the Masvingo equipment seizure. He is reported to have expressed deep concern and asked many pertinent questions appertaining to the application of the Act. As a result of his questioning he could clearly see that the law was not being followed and then promised to speak to Mrs Ndanga.

The day after this meeting the Ndanga-led committee started seizing equipment in Chiredzi, using the same unlawful action which they had used Masvingo and Mwenezi.

When approached by a Chiredzi lawyer at Whitro engineering, Mrs Ndanga is reported to have immediately surrounded herself with armed militia, refusing to discuss the matter in private.

What we are seeing here is the 'good cop - bad cop' scenario, where politicians and policemen merely talk sympathetically to appease the complainant. This leads to the very strong suspicion that the exercise has been sanctioned at high-level, with a very real possibility that orders
came directly from Minister D Mutasa himself.

There have already been very clear statements made by Minister D Mutasa, as reported in the media, indicating that he is unsympathetic towards Euro-African participation in the land reform programme.

Furthermore, is this an indication that Operation Taguta has commenced and that the National Army who are intended to take the place of commercial farmers to feed the nation will use the equipment?

Or is the equipment to be distributed as 'Christmas bonuses' to partisan groups and civil servants, which the fiscus can no longer afford?

General

It has been suggested that recent jambanja and looting of farms in Chipinge was merely a method of accessing ASPEF from the Reserve Bank. The beneficiaries could then show that they were eligible to the loans as they were now (coffee) exporters.

At Mkwasine Estate many of the A2 beneficiaries are mysteriously being assaulted at night by unknown attackers. One theory is that it is by workers on the estate who are in fear of losing their permanent jobs because the estate is being taken over by the A2s.

Some of the actions and attitude of the A2s is blatant and unremorseful. One walked into the Accountant's office at Mkwasine and physically assaulted him demanding the keys to the company house in which the accountant was living.

In another incident an Mkwasine A2 was so badly beaten up that he had to spend a few days in hospital. When he was released from hospital he took a taxi to drop him at his farm. When he got out of the vehicle he was asked for the payment. He replied, "No I do not have to pay. Don't you know who I am?" He was thereupon set upon and assaulted by the taxi operator and he is
now back in hospital, but this time in intensive care, as his situation is critical.

The (previous) owner of Bangala Ranch, Chiredzi, has had a final demand served on him for non-payment of $1.3 Billion loan taken out by the beneficiaries of the farm. The owner vacated the property in 2000!

The Governor of Masvingo apparently told a political rally that nobody should plant crops on the 'Buffalo Range Conservancy' [Chiredzi Conservancy?]

Don't Mistake Activity for Progress
Keith Battye