‘Land hoppers’ strip farms

LOWVELD - The situation on the sugar cane farms is unstable and chaotic with new beneficiaries coming in all the time with new demands and threats. The fact that the Ministry of Lands officials are continuing to interview candidates for the cane farms does indeed show their intent of removing every

single experienced farmer off the land. When one examines the declining sugar production figures over the last few years perhaps this needs to be more closely looked into. At the beginning of the land reform programme the original cane farmers came up with a splendid plan to assist the new entrants into the industry, called “The Zimbabwe Indigenous Settlement Proposal” (3rd June 2002) which would have significantly increased national sugar production. Since this was declined by the government, absentee and relatively inexperienced farmers replaced many of the resident farmers the production has steadily dropped to dangerous levels. If the local demand can no longer be satisfied then we would have to import yet another commodity which we used to export. Of concern is the number of cases of ‘farm-hopping’ involving local Ministry of Lands officials. This has been where the officers have been allocated a property but once they have stripped the assets, reaped the crop and pocketed the money, they move onto another property, which they allocate themselves. Because of this, the remaining farmers have not fertilized their cane crops knowing full well that the “farm hoppers” are watching for this. The land Audit Committee, who were supposed to reveal this land hopping to the government, were made up of the Land Hoppers themselves. Another scam, which has so far gone un-investigated despite frequent reports being made to the authorities, including the Police, has been the sale of vacant homesteads on the small cane farms to unsuspecting buyers. The original owners were frightened out of their homes by Police and Lands officials delivering suspicious ‘caretaker letters’. None of the requisite official eviction notices from the courts were ever used. Farmers who are still in their houses are getting “jambandjaed” in the lowveld, organized by these lands officers who are making a fortune out of this scam. – Lowveld News

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