The 35 families have blamed CMED Managing Director Davison Mhaka for the loss of property worth thousands of dollars at the farm he occupies – saying he wants to force them off the land.
The staunch Zanu (PF) supporters say they feel betrayed by their party’s leadership, accusing it of romping to victory in 2013 thanks to their votes but now turning a blind eye to their misery and leaving them to fight alone.
Mhaka hit the headlines earlier this year after having been fingered in a $3 million fuel scandal at CMED.
After destruction of their homes, the families are now squatting in the huts of villagers in the neighbourhood. Some of them live in the open as winter temperatures in and around Gweru can reach a record low of 2 degrees Celsius. Their livestock are battling for grazing, and ablution facilities are a major problem. Hunger is imminent as all their crops were destroyed.
A tearful Gibson Nyere, who was a collaborator during the liberation war, said the already impoverished families were spending their little resources to push for the police to bring Mhaka, his employees and his brother Emmerson to account for the destruction of their property and to ensure that they go back to the farm.
“The events leading to the current position date back to 2011. Then we were part of a group of about 500 Zanu (PF) supporters who were promised land. Our prayers were rewarded when Farm 21 West Block, located 19 kilometres from Gweru along Bulawayo road, was gazetted for compulsory acquisition.
“Its previous owner, B.J Lorrie, left. We were given offer letters to occupy it – and we happily did. However, during one of the party meetings in the area ahead of last elections, Davison Mhaka stood up and pleaded with us that we move into his own farm next door, to allow him to take the farm we had occupied on the basis that he wanted to take advantage of the resources that had been left by Lorrie to carry out his projects like piggery. We agreed to swap,” said Nyere.
After last year’s elections, Nyere added, the families were shocked when Mhaka made a u-turn and came to the families with documents showing that he had secured permission from the Ministry of Lands to join the two farms and place them under his personal ownership.
After a disagreement with him over vacating the farm, the villagers said one night they were shocked when their huts started burning. Nobody was injured because they had been tipped to stay outdoors that night.
Close to high people
“We had already run away on the night the huts were torched because we had received tips that some thugs hired by Mhaka wanted to come and beat everyone who was refusing to vacate,” said Sindiso Nyoni, another affected victim.
Paul Mahlaba, another victim who later teamed up with Nyere to engage lawyers, said some youths sent to take note of who exactly was destroying their huts that fateful night identified Emmerson Mhaka and some of the farm workers.
“The decision we took to engage lawyers instead of police was because each time we had gone to report something against Mhaka, the police arrested us instead. It seemed he had some influence over the cops as he always boasted that nothing could be done to him because he is close to high people including ministers and top Zanu (PF) officials,” he said.
Documents in possession of The Zimbabwean show the families want justice to prevail in the matter in light of the background that led to their occupation of the land.
In a letter dated 20 June written to police Officer Commanding Midlands province, Musarashana Mabunda, through their lawyer Hillary Tawanda Garikayi, the families challenged him to intervene and bring to book all who were involved in destroying their properties. They also complained that an earlier letter written to him on March 31 over the same issue had received no response.
Part of the letter reads: “We write this letter to make a follow up on the progress made thus far in your investigations of our property that was burnt and destroyed by employees of Davison Mhaka. We truly believe that no one is above the law. However, up to now, no arrests have been made and our clients are still in the dark regarding the investigations being made.”
The lawyer also confirmed that he has since put an appeal before the High Court seeking an order that will allow the families to stay on the farm without further hindrance.
Contacted for comment, Emmerson Mhaka, who doubles as manager of the farm, distanced himself, his brother and anyone he knows from the reports of destroying the people’s huts and crops in a bid to force them out.
“I do not know what they are talking about. On the day those huts were torched, our security guard was actually harassed by the people who destroyed the properties. It was at night and I was home asleep while my brother was in Harare. We could never have done that,” he said.
The local MP, Kizito Chivamba, contacted for comment on what he is doing to help his party’s supporters, said: “Get away from me. You have a problem yourself. Go to the District Administrator’s office for comments. I do not deal in matters of land,” before hanging up his phone.Post published in: News