Youth farming initiative facing closure after war vets’ invasion

The invasion of a farm in Matabeleland South by a group of war vets has resulted in the seizure and possible closure of a farming initiative, which provides free training to local youths.

The Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre forms part of the Maleme Ranch, which has been invaded by war vets in an ongoing attempt to remove the farm owner Peter Cunningham. Paddocks for cattle grazing that were allocated to local villagers have also been seized, resulting in scores of cows dying.

Cunningham had given the local villagers access to the paddocks in 2000 as part of a social responsibility programme. The Ebenezer Centre, which is a charitable foundation, was also formed as part of this programme, by giving free training to local youths interested in farming. It’s understood most of these youths are orphans from across Matabeleland South.

The war vets, led by Clever Dube, have reportedly targeted the villagers’ paddocks in retaliation for their support of Cunningham and for protecting him against eviction. Villages are now reporting that their cattle are dying because there is limited grazing ground for the animals.

The war vets are now believed to be renting out the same paddocks they’ve seized. Killion Sibanda, chairman of the Natisa area grazing scheme, said they had sought the assistance of Chief Masuku to drive out the war vets.

"We are just praying and hoping that the Chief will intervene urgently to evict these war veterans before we lose all our cattle," said Sibanda.

"These people are saying they are fixing us for protecting Cunningham, whom we have lived with peacefully for years. He has done a lot for us."

The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) told SW Radio Africa that they were aware of the situation and were following up on recent developments. CFU President Charles Taffs also slammed the invasion and the seizure of the training centre as more “unnecessary destruction” on farm lands. – SW Radio Africa

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