By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
05 March 2014
Local government minister and ZANU PF secretary for land, Ignatius Chombo, has been exposed as an unproductive land-grabber with his ex-wife telling the court that he is a ‘cell phone and weekend’ farmer.
Marian Mhloyi made these claims before the High Court last week in a case in which she is fighting her ex-husband over the ownership of the Allan Grange Farm. Mhloyi also revealed the size of the farm which she said is 3,100 hectares, almost eight times more than the government gazetted size.
The ownership of the Rafingora-located property was not decided when the two were formally divorced two years ago. Chombo recently approached the court seeking the ejection of his ex-wife from the farm, but Mhloyi wants to keep 400 hectares, which she said is in line with the government gazetted farm sizes. She is currently engaged in livestock production on a small section of the property.
Mhloyi argued that Chombo has no time for agriculture and is also unproductive. She said if Chombo does not want to farm alongside her he stood a chance of getting another farm through his influential positions in government and in ZANU PF. She also produced utility bills for water and electricity which were all under her name to prove that she was active on the farm.
Chombo told the court that he deserved the property to enable him to repay bank loans of over one million dollars. Chombo also admitted that he did not tell Metbank and CBZ banks that he co-owned the property with his ex-wife when he applied for loans. He said he obtained the loans to buy machinery and finance farming activities through his private company, Growfin.
Mhloyi’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa argued that Growfin had no legal claim to the farm as the property was jointly owned by Chombo and his ex-wife in accordance with the offer letter and the lease agreement. She accused Chombo of deliberately incurring debts to defeat his ex-wife’s claim to the property.
Justice for Agriculture (JAG) head John Worsley-Worswick said he is not surprised to hear that Chombo is a bad farmer. He said Chombo is one of the many beneficiaries of the land-grab exercise who have neither time nor skills to farm productively. Speaking on SW Radio Africa’s Cutting Edge programme, Worsley-Worswick said Chombo is one of the many ZANU PF people who have ‘destroyed commercial agriculture and the economy.’
According to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, a 2003 cable from US envoy Joseph Sullivan said Chombo was one of the many top ZANU PF officials who had received more than one farm through the land grab exercise.