via Mugabe, Chombo, Murerwa fingered in election land saga | The Zimbabwean by Nelson Sibanda 09.10.13
President Robert Mugabe and several Zanu (PF) bigwigs have been sucked into the Norton land saga in which 1,500 families face eviction after the High Court recently ruled their occupation of a private farm was illegal.
Occupants of the farm and Zanu (PF) supporters told The Zimbabwean that Mugabe knew about the illegal occupation of Kingsdale Farm and had given them the green light to stay on the farm to boost support for the party in that constituency ahead of the July 31 elections.
They say Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo, instructed members of Kingsdale Housing Cooperative, formed in 2010 when the farm was occupied, to speedily occupy the farm owned by Pieter Nicholas Nel – even though he was aware that this was illegal.
Sources said the cooperative was formed in a bid to wrestle the Norton constituency from MDC-T, with each of the 13 Norton urban wards contributing 100 families, while 200 came from surrounding farms.
Chombo was reportedly behind the formation of the cooperative and colluded with some Zanu (PF) Central Committee members, among them Bybit Tsomondo, who was also the Zanu (PF) councillor for Norton’s Ward 2.
The affected farm occupants claimed Chombo had briefed President Mugabe about the strategy to increase Zanu (PF) votes in Norton and the party leader had given it the nod.
This followed an earlier donation of 10 percent of the 161-hectare farm to council by Nel for the government’s Garikai/Hlalani-kuhle housing project.
Zanu (PF) and Housing Cooperative members interviewed by The Zimbabwean said when Nel started making noise, Mugabe summoned Chombo and Murerwa for clarification regarding the land occupation.
“Chombo and Murerwa admitted that the land was wrongly acquired for resettlement purposes, forcing Mugabe to instruct them to leave the ‘innocent’ occupiers alone while government put its house in order,” said a source, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Chombo were fruitless as he did not pick up his phone, and George Charamba, the presidential spokesperson, was also unreachable.
Things came to a head following power struggles within Zanu (PF) which spilled onto the cooperative, as Tsomondo and allies allegedly advised Nel to evict the 1,500 families, believed to be supporters of Chris Mutsvangwa, who went on to win the party primary elections and then the Norton parliamentary seat.
“Nel and MDC should not be blamed for the evictions since it had everything to do with Zanu (PF) factionalism. The evictions are meant to humiliate and destroy Mutsvangwa’s power base,” said another source.
The courts recently ruled that acquisition of the farm was not proper and ordered the occupants to vacate within 30 days. Mutsvangwa told The Zimbabwean that allocation of Nel’s land was a mistake.
“Kingsdale Cooperative was allocated the land erroneously by the Ministry of Lands and other relevant authorities. The land was not supposed to be affected by the resettlement programme (that started in 2000),” he said.
Affected families and Zanu (PF) officials in Norton said it was unfortunate that the party continued to use poor people to win elections with false promises such as land ownership, only to dump them after the polls.
Some of the affected families sold off assets such as furniture and livestock to construct structures at the allocated stands, only to be ordered to vacate the land after Mutsvangwa had won. In a suspected ploy to kick the families off the land, a meeting was held at the property last Saturday, where it was suggested that Nel should d sell the stands to cooperative home seekers.
The meeting was reportedly attended by the Mashonaland West Provincial Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, Faber Chidarikire, provincial administrator Christopher Shumba, the district administrator Makanzweyi Jecheche, Lawyers representing Nel and members of Kingsdale Cooperative. According to sources, it was proposed that a 200 square metre stand would go for $7,000.
Each family would pay the cost price in monthly instalments of not less than $152 starting this week. Failure to do so would result in immediate eviction.
“The majority of people occupying the stands are vendors or unemployed who have no means of raising the proposed monthly instalments. In other words Zanu (PF) is indirectly ordering us off the land,” said a beneficiary who only identified himself as Timothy.
Government employees such as soldiers, police officers, CIO agents and others will have their monthly contributions deducted through salary-based stop orders.
When reached for comment, Tsomondo denied ever influencing the evictions as a result of her rivalry with Mutsvangwa, saying he was her junior, fellow war veteran and colleague in Zanu (PF) and they enjoyed good relations.
“What is special about Mutsvangwa of all the people? It is my democratic right to contest him at primaries and I will continue to do so,” Tsomondo said, adding that she had nothing to gain out of the evictions and wanted the families to be legally allocated residential stands.
She said there were suspicions that cooperative leaders had misappropriated cash contributions made by members, which led to piecemeal servicing of the land.
The latest development comes amid reports that top Zanu (PF) officials are compiling names of new prospective buyers of the stands, as they regard the current occupiers as too poor to meet the payments.