via Kondozi Farm 10 years on | The Zimbabwean 22.04.14 by Clayton Masekesa
Where 5,000 Zimbabwean once made a good living off the productive land, there is now severe hunger. Where healthy crops once sprouted, there weeds now cover the once industrious land.
Good Friday in April 2004 was not a good day for Edwin Moyo, the owner of Kondozi Farm and his 5,000 workers. Dozens of armed police arrived at the farm in Odzi, about 40km west of Mutare, armed with water cannons and submachine guns and ordered everyone to vacate the farm.
The partisan police and overzealous war veterans blocked off the road leading to the farm, looted the offices and beat anyone who sought to resist their orders.
It is alleged that five Zanu (PF) ministers — Didymus Mutasa, Joseph Made, Christopher Mushohwe, Munacho Mutezo and Mike Nyambuya – together with other senior party officials, went on a looting spree.
Zimbabwe’s Attorney General gave the five cabinet ministers up to June 19, 2004 to return farming equipment looted from the key horticultural producer or face arrest. But, the order fell on deaf ears as the ministers defied the call.
The looted equipment included 48 tractors, four Scania trucks, five UD trucks, several T35 trucks and 26 motorbikes. Several tonnes of fertilisers and chemicals also disappeared.
The High Court in May 2004 granted Barclays Bank an order to repossess all movable farming equipment at Kondozi Farm. Movable assets listed in the court order included an ERF 30-tonne truck, two-tonne forklifts, 30 motorised knapsacks, 10 Jialings, 15 Same tractors, six Nissan Diesel UD 90 chassis & cab trucks, three Nissan Cabstar 4-tonne trucks, two Nissan 2,7 S/cab trucks and two Nissan 2,7 Hardbody D/cabs.
Barclays-Fincor, together with Zimbank-Syfrets and the African Banking Corporation, were the chief investors in Kondozi, which had established lucrative export markets in South Africa and Europe.
But the takeover of the farm provoked a reaction different from those regarding earlier farm seizures. Many Zimbabweans were puzzled over how the Zanu (PF) government could grab a business that was owned by a black man, employed so many people and generated so much precious foreign currency.
In defending the takeover, despite the High Court’s ruling, Zanu (PF) officials pointed out that although Moyo was majority owner of the business, a white family – the De Klerks – owned the land.
The seizure provoked outrage so intense that it caused a rare public fracture. The late Vice President Joseph Msika, who oversaw land redistribution in Mugabe’s cabient, sought to block the takeover, but all was in vain.
Even Vice President Joice Mujuru, who chaired the National Economic Recovery Council, tried to push for the revival of Kondozi as one of the major objectives of the National Economic Development Programme, but was unsuccessful.
Shocked workers and villagers in the vicinity were left with nothing. Most villagers within the Kondozi area benefited from buying vegetables at cheap prices from the farm.
Moyo owned 52 per cent of Kondozi running a horticultural company that stocked vegetable bins throughout Britain and brought in $15 million a year to Zimbabwe’s coffers. Mushowe took over the farm and some of the land was sub-divided among war veterans.
A former supervisor at the farm who is now living in poverty said: “Life was good at Kondozi. We were paid handsomely and everything flowed smoothly. We never complained of anything. But when the farm was invaded we were left jobless. It is now ten years now and I am still jobless.”
“I will never forgive them (Zanu PF) for invading the farm. We were living a comfortable life,” said a former employee from the accounts department who is now surviving on cross border trading.
“The administration of the farm was good. It was a very big company as there were three buses that carried the workers from Mutare daily to and from work. It was a prestigious company to work for and everyone cherished it,” he added.
Jessica Marange a former senior employee said Kondozi was now history what only left were permanent scars of sad memories. “Look at Kondozi today, it is like a desert. We used to live a good life but since Zanu (PF) took away the farm the workers were left suffering and up to now some are still leaving in abject poverty,” she said.
Many of the former workers are still unemployed and their life has been difficult. They have accused Mugabe and Zanu (PF) of being insensitive to their plight.
“People are angry with what Mushowe and other Zanu (PF) officials did by closing and invading Kondozi Farm. Most villagers who used to work at the farm are still angry and unemployed,” said a traditional leader who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.
“Since 2006 some of our children have not been going to school, as the former Kondozi workers did not have any income at all. This is a very grave mistake that Zanu (PF) made,” added the traditional leader.
Amos Mutunhu another former worker a supervisor at the mechanic section said: “As workers we can easily identify the ministers who had disposed the company’s assets in underhand dealings. A lot of spare parts were sold and machinery and other vehicles were looted and we ended up recovering scrap metal for our day-today operations.”
“Our girl children have ventured into prostitution. There have been family breakdowns, as some wives have deserted their homes and have been married by illegal diamond dealers at nearby Chiadzwa diamond field,” said Aleck Jangano another former employee.
Twenty-two farmers, most of whom are black and who sold beans, corn, melons and other crops under contract to Kondozi, also lost their livelihoods. Hundreds of other workers were employed by these smaller farms, many of which have stopped producing and are now living in poverty.
A recent visit to Kondozi Farm today showed only a few fields with crops, most of them stunted and immature – grown by war veterans who do not have technical farming expertise.