Generals fuel crisis through land grabs

Army generals are causing mayhem in a new wave of farm invasions as they try to keep their grip on power, The Zimbabwean has been told.

Sources said the generals were working within the Joint Operations Command (JOC) that brings together the heads of the army, police, intelligence and prison services, led by Constantine Chiwenga, Augustine Chihuri, Happyton Bonyongwe and Paradzai Zimondi.

The JOC was officially abandoned during the tenure of the 2009-13. Coalition government but operated underground, helping with poll strategies to ensure a Zanu (PF) victory in last year’s elections.

Rugare Gumbo, the Zanu (PF) spokesperson, recently told The Zimbabwean that he could not rule out a hidden hand in the farm invasions in Masvingo.

“All genuine war veterans and Zanu (PF) members must adhere to the party directive to stop invading farms and conservancies. However, it remains possible that there are some forces that are fuelling the occupations, but I wouldn’t know who they are,” said Gumbo.

Even though the Zanu (PF) politburo, which influences cabinet and government decisions, recently declared the invasions void and ordered the occupants off, they have vowed to remain put and insist on a comprehensive land audit first. No action has been taken against them.

In recent weeks, dramatic land invasions have spread to southern Zimbabwe. Zanu (PF) is understood to have unleashed forces on at least two private farms, one belonging to Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa.

Some beneficiaries of the new occupations in Matabeleland told this newspaper that Zanu (PF) leaders and war veterans in Bulawayo advised them to identify farms with plots of up to 15 acres per individual.

Against the one-family-one-farm principle that was supposed to guide the land redistribution programme, there is no limit to the number of family members who can separately get farmland in Matabeleland, according to sources.

Jabulani Sibanda, the Bulawayo-based leader of the Zimbabwe National

Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), last week vowed that the occupations in the region would continue until all land-hungry people had benefited.

This is despite the fact that most of the people who are being given land have work or are in business. Hardly any villagers have benefited.

Mjobisa Noko, the Zapu spokesperson, said the invasion of Dabengwa’s and other farms in Matabeleland, reportedly led by Tariro Magovanyika and Mark Mukotami, was an act of revenge against Zanu (PF) opponents and a deliberate plan to marginalise the region by members of the ruling party. “The generals have realised that creating strife is one main option they have to remain relevant. They have been unsettled by the current relative stability and realise that they have stayed in power for so long due to the crisis that the country went through,” said one source.

“There is talk that Mugabe is considering replacing the generals with individuals not associated with political controversy to placate the international community. To prevent that, they have plotted to ensure that Zimbabwe remains stuck in crisis,” added the source.

JOC, he said, had been meeting in secret.

“The generals have been unsettled by the likely improvement in relations between Zimbabwe and the EU. They are afraid that it will stabilise things in the country and render them completely irrelevant,” he said.

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