Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
Police are investigating a syndicate masquerading as Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives in Mashonaland Central and West provinces that is reportedly extorting money from remaining white commercial farmers of thousands of dollars as protection fees. Those who decline to pay are allegedly threatened with eviction from their properties. Members of the syndicate are said to be using the names of senior Zanu-PF officials and police officers to intimidate their victims.
In the Beatrice area, a report was made against Zimbabwe Horticulture Agro Industries General Agriculture Workers’ Union secretary-general Raymond Sixpence, who was accused by the chairman of the Beatrice Farmers Association, Mr Stoff Hawgood of Tavistock Farm, of coming to his farm in Zanu-PF regalia and intimidating workers.
In a letter written to Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and leaked to The Herald, Mr Hawgood – who is also the Chivhu District crime consultative committee chairperson – alleged that Sixpence, who was once arrested for threatening him, extorted money from white farmers while posing as a CIO operative. He is alleged to have demanded money from Canterbury Farm owner Mr Conal Lucas, Plumstead Farm owner Mr Steven Mumford, Tavistock Farm, Lynne Farm and Innesfree Farm.
“This man has been to the following farming districts Bindura, Centenary, Guruve, Norton, Darwendale, Trelawney, Chinhoyi and Lion’s Den and now has come to Beatrice. Everywhere he goes he caused absolute chaos through using lies and intimidation. “He has extorted thousands of dollars from farmers and caused job losses. The payments being demanded are between $3 000 and $5 000 and he takes 35 percent from any payout that he bullies out of affected white farmers,” he said.
He also accused Sixpence of forcing workers at white-owned farmers to pay $2 subscription fees every month to his organisation even though it does not offer any services to the workers. In another complaint addressed to the member-in-charge of Beatrice Police Station, Mr Hawgood cited a letter written to him by Sixpence which he said was “offensive, political and threatening”.
He also accused him of coming to his farm clad in Zanu-PF regalia and threatening him and his workers. Sixpence was once arrested by Chivhu Criminal Investigation Department under CR83/05/15 and was fined $20 for contravening Section 41(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) following a report made by Mr Hawgood.
The section prohibits threatening or using abusive or insulting words.
“It is obvious that he intends to continue harassing me and my workers. I am further concerned with the threats of mass action, picketing, illegal strike action and politically motivated statements about colonialism, human rights violations, officials and party members who he perceives to be interfering with his illegal activities.
“I have made formal complaints to the National Employment Council responsible for Agriculture about the letter and threats, as well as informing the district and provincial political leadership of the renewed politically motivated activities of Raymond Sixpence,” read part of the letter.
Although police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba could not comment on the matter yesterday, two senior police officers implicated in the matter, but cannot be named for fear of jeopardising investigations, confirmed that their names were being used to commit crime.
Sixpence, however, dismissed the claims saying any farmer who was subjected to extortion should report the matter to the police. He conceded that he was arrested at one time following an altercation with Mr Hawgood.
“We are a registered and professional union. When we visit these farms we will be addressing the plight of our members. We challenge them to bring evidence of their claims not just writing to the Commissioner-General because we also wrote to him complaining about Mr Hawgood’s con- duct.
“We are a labour organisation and we do not distribute or acquire any land. Mr Hawgood should just concentrate on the labour issues we are involved in an not to file baseless allegations,” he said.