By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
29 May 2014
The promise of land that ZANU PF has used to gain political support since independence appears to be backfiring, with Ministers contradicting each other as to which land offer letters are real and which ones are fake.
The latest scam, reported by the state run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) news site, involves fake offer letters that were “uncovered” by government after many victims approached the Ministry of Lands hoping to see their plots.
ZBC said instead of light green paper, the fake letters were printed on white paper and feature a scanned signature and photocopied text.
The report comes barely a week after an angry crowd of over 600 villagers occupied sugar cane plantations at Hippo Valley and Triangle Estates, demanding that government allocate them plots that they were promised in offer letters they received back in December 2012.
The current batch is causing headaches for the Lands and Agriculture Minister, Douglas Mombeshora. They are reportedly dated October 2012 and signed by the then Agriculture Minister, Herbert Murerwa.
But according to Abednico Bhebhe, MP for Nkayi South, some “big fish” within ZANU PF have been aware of the corruption within land distribution from the beginning and have made huge profits from it. The legislator said the current rows over offer letters may simply be due to someone not happy with their share.
“The chickens are coming home to roost. We are now confirming that the whole exercise is scandalous. It is corrupt. It is cronyism. It is political. It is the most dangerous exercise any country ever embarked on the world over,” Bhebhe said.
He added: “These people are very much aware that some people were duped into paying for fake letters so they can acquire land. Someone in an office realized a quicker way to make bucks within the system of patronage of ZANU PF. And in the process some big fish are actually benefiting.”
“A lot of looting was taking place within government, but now that government is broke and there is nothing left to steal, offer letters have become the next target. This means they have decided to loot from the citizens of Zimbabwe who are struggling to make a buck,” Bhebhe explained.
Land that was seized by government from white commercial farmers was divided into plots and chaotically distributed under the Fast Track Land Distribution Programme, without paying compensation to the original owners who kept the title deeds.
The new so-called A1 and A2 farmers were therefore unable to secure bank loans and much of the land has remained unused, destroying Zimbabwe’s once vibrant agricultural economy.
Last week the Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe (CFU) warned that there are escalating incidents of violence, intimidation and farm takeovers countrywide. The statement followed the recent violent deaths of a Guruve farmer and his daughter, which added to rising fears about the safety of the remaining farming community. The CFU called for an immediate moratorium on any land grabs.