Citrus farms lie idle as land grabbers give up

Citrus farms that used to generate foreign currency for the country as well as providing oranges for local beverage companies are lying idle.

A survey conducted by this newspaper indicates that Zanu (PF) politicians who grabbed the most productive citrus farms in Chegutu from their commercial owners have deserted them after disposing of valuable equipment to other local farmers. Lionsvalle citrus farm (Big Orange), owned by Thomas Beattie before it was invaded by former deputy minister of Information and Publicity Bright Matonga is in a sorry state with orange trees dying from lack of attention. Most of the equipment grabbed by Matonga from Beattie is grounded, while some tractors are just heaped in a rusting workshop.

“Matonga has failed dismally – he is now producing lemons instead of oranges. The oranges he is producing are not even fit for human consumption, never mind for export because they are sour. The equipment he took over from our former boss is now a heap of scrap metal as you can see. A number of skilled workers with knowledge in citrus farming left due to non payment of wages and poor working conditions,” said Biggie Zulu, a former worker at Lionsvalle farm.

Former workers now languishing in poverty said it was a shame that such a productive farm, which used to supply fresh oranges to European and regional markets earning foreign currency had collapsed. Workers at the farm told this paper that Matonga rarely spend time on the farm and has lost interest in the citrus business.

Recently, a magistrate at Chegutu civil court ruled in favour of Beattie, ordering Matonga to return farm equipment he seized from the commercial farmer. The equipment includes ploughs, harrows and tractor grader. Matonga failed to attend court sessions for three consecutive times, forcing the courts to pass a verdict in his absence. The story is the same at Stockdale Estates, formerly owned by the Etheredge Family before it was grabbed by Senate President Edna Madzongwe`s son.

Sources said the Madzongwe abandoned the farm after selling the Equipment. He is said to have moved over 30 cattle to an unknown destination.

“The young man just destroyed the farm and rendered more people jobless. The inclusive government should conduct an audit to flush out such culprits because they are frustrating efforts by Finance minister Tendai Biti to turn around the shattered economy,” said a farm worker who declined to be named for fear of victimisation.

Hippovalle farm, which was grabbed by Zimpapers journalist Emilia Zindi, is also being underutilised. She and her two sons are accused of vandalising and selling farm equipment.

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