Lloyd Gumbo Herald Reporter—
SEVERAL officials from MDC formations have gone behind their parties’ backs and applied for land for resettlement, despite vilifying the empowerment programme in public, which was the raison d’être behind the launch of the opposition on September 11, 1999. This comes at a time when studies the world over are hailing the success of the programme, with the all-white Commercial Farmers Union — one of the MDCs’ chief sponsors — announcing it cannot continue swimming against the tide and also wants its members to benefit from land reform .
The union has since expressed willingness to work with black farmers’ unions in a federation.
Investigations by The Herald showed that officials from the two MDC formations have been applying for farms, with some of them benefiting while others are on the waiting list.
MDC-T Gweru Urban legislator Mr Sessel Zvidzai has expressed his intention to apply for a farm in Cool Maurine in Gweru, while former Gweru Urban MP Mr Roderick Rutsvara applied for land to build a school.
“In Mashonaland East, former Goromonzi South MP, Mr Greenbert Dongo and Chitungwiza provincial member Mr Archiford Marongwe, applied for A2 farms in Goromonzi district.
“But they were told that there are no vacant farms. They were asked to look around for farms that are still under white farmers and advise the ministry. They have not yet briefed the ministry on their findings,” said a source in Mashonaland East Province.
“There is also another MDC-T official from Mashonaland West Province who got a farm in Beatrice. As you may be aware, Tracey Mutinhiri (MDC-T losing candidate for Marondera East) still has her farm that she got when she was still in Zanu-PF.
“Elton Mangoma has a farm along Marondera-Murehwa Road, but he bought it just before the land reform.”
There were indications that MDC-T provincial chairperson for Harare and Glen View South Mr Paul Madzore benefited from the programme.
In Matabeleland North, another source said several MDC-T officials benefited.
“Joel Gabbuza (Deputy MDC-T spokesperson and Binga South MP) has a farm, but I am not sure if he got it through land reform, but what I know is that he benefited from the mechanisation programme. He got a tractor. The party tried to make noise about it, but he didn’t bother.”
Another source from the same province added: “Provincial organising secretary Mr Thembinkosi Sibindi has a farm in Nyamandlovu, provincial secretary for Economic Affairs Mr Agrippa Sithole has a farm in Bubi.
Mr Mark Ncube, the MDC-T Bubi district treasurer, also has one in Bubi.
“Some MDC-T activists who benefited include Esinath Zhou who is wife to Chris Gande of Studio 7. There is also Mr Ernest Ngwenya who benefited in Bubi as well,” said the source.
It is understood some MDC-T legislators in Bulawayo whose identities could not be ascertained also applied, but are on the waiting list.
Among MDC beneficiaries is party leader Professor Welshman Ncube.
“He is into cattle ranching in Somabhula area in Midlands. He is doing well at his farm and has been seen with hundreds of cattle at some auctions conducted in Bulawayo (ZITF Grounds). In fact, he is one of the most successful farmers in the province.
“Former MDC legislator for Insiza South Mr Siyabonga Malandu Ncube also benefited. Another official from the party who joined is Mr Xaba Sibanda who is the Nkayi South district secretary for Transport and Welfare,” said a source.
Mr Gabbuza insisted that his party was against the way land reform was conducted.
“Our party has never been against land reform, but we raised concern about how it was conducted. The exercise was chaotic and violent.
“We know there are no more farms available, but we insist that those who want them should follow proper procedures in applying.
“We have told them that they should make sure they do not get involved in bloody farms where former owners lost blood.
“Our party has also called for title of some sort so that people cannot be evicted willy-nilly,” said Mr Gabbuza.
Mr Madzore said he did not own a farm because his party did not allow them to apply.
“It is not first time stories have been written about me owning a farm. I do not own any farm because my party’s policy is that the land reform was chaotic. We did not have to kill to repossess the land. Our policy as MDC-T, which I respect, restricted me from applying for a farm even
though I wanted it.
“I respect that policy because we agreed to it as a party that we should not take the farms,” said Mr Madzore.
Mr Sibindi confirmed he benefited from the land reform but declined to comment on his party position on the exercise.
MDC spokesperson Mr Kurauone Chihwayi, confirmed a number officials in his party applied for land.
“I applied two times and I am yet to receive a response. There are so many people who have applied for land, but I have forgotten their names,” he said.
According to the Zanu-PF manifesto ahead of the July 31 harmonised elections, the historic fast-track land reform programme created employment opportunities and support for the livelihood of over 1,7 mi,lion.
A total of 976 500 (A1) and 113 802 (A2) individuals have benefited from the land reform programme.
Prior to the land reform programme only 348 000 people were employed or had their livelihoods supported by land.
Beneficiaries of the land reform programme also ventured into tobacco farming that had hitherto been the preserve of only 1 547 white commercial farmers.
Farmers resettled under the A1 scheme have benefited from 4 million hectares of land while A2 farmers have received a total of 3,5 million hectares.
The land reform programme has also been cross cutting with 36 343 war veterans, 14 537 women, 727 youths and 130 109 others benefiting from the programme.
About 276 000 indigenous Zimbabweans are now proud owners of 12 117 000 hectares of arable land that was owned by 3500 white farmers. Every year the farmers are pocketing over half a billion in US dollars after selling tobacco.