A countrywide blitz against land barons has divided President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu PF as some of the targeted individuals believe that the clampdown against the illegal parcelling out of peri-urban land is being used to settle personal scores.
In an unprecedented move, Zanu PF recently issued a statement disowning some of its officials that were behind invasion of farms, especially in urban areas where they sold housing stands to homeseekers.
Police have been arresting the suspected land barons after the government in November last year denounced the new wave of farm invasions.
Some of the land barons who spoke to The Standard yesterday said it was unfortunate that they were being targeted after helping Mnangagwa and Zanu PF win last year’s elections.
Zanu PF dangled land to its supporters ahead of the 2023 elections as Mnangagwa faced stiff challenge from Citizens Coalitions for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa.
However, the mood in the party is said to have changed following the spate of arrests targeting war veterans and some Zanu PF officials.
Suspended Zanu PF Mutare district coordinating committee chairman Binali Yard and some members of his committee spent the Christmas holidays behind bars for selling land in Mutare’s Gimboki area.
Yard and his colleagues are out on bail.
More than 33 villagers in Chivhu are also resisting an eviction order claiming that Zanu PF officials were planning to resettle some officials on the land after the completion of the Chivhu Dam.
A group of war veterans are also expected to appear at the Chinhoyi magistrates’ courts for grabbing a farm in Nyabira and parcelling out residential stands.
“There are some individuals who are being targeted and there is a list of members who are being targeted for the arrests,” said a Harare land developer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Surprisingly, this is also being done on factional lines.
“If you know that you don’t support President Emmerson Mnangagwa while backing Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, you are in trouble.”
Mnangagwa and Chiwenga are allegedly leading different factions in Zanu PF that are tussling for power.
A senior Zanu PF official said some of the land barons were supported by the party’s bigwigs.
“Many reports have been made against the land barons even at the party, but there are some who are untouchable since they represent some powerful individuals,” the official said.
“To become a land baron you will have to be in possession of some paperwork.
“You cannot be a land baron without paperwork. They have some form of documentation.
“The papers might not be in order, but they will have something that equips them with powers to distribute land.”
The official also revealed that most land barons had the backing of powerful individuals in Zanu PF structures.
“Even if they are arrested most of the cases usually die with the perpetrators rarely facing any consequences,” the official added.
“That is the reason most of them remain in the structures so that they protect their interests.
“Most people in leadership positions from provinces to districts are also involved in land deals, but they target agricultural land in conjunction with land officials.”
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya said it was not surprising that the land barons were being arrested.
“Zanu PF has been like that,” Ngwenya said. “They use the land to campaign and after elections they backtrack.
“The land barons might be in trouble, but very soon Zanu PF will use them again.’
Zanu PF director of information and publicity Farai Marapira scoffed at reports of factionalism caused by the blitz against land barons.
“Zanu PF is never divided, especially with reference to issues of illegality,” Marapira said.
“Zanu PF is united over the issue of addressing land barons and will leave no stone unturned to ensure this scourge is dealt with.”
Zanu PF has been accused of using the land reform programme that began in the year 2000 as a power retention programme much to the detriment of the country’s once vibrant agriculture- based economy.