via RIGHT OF REPLY – Barquest Farm: My hands are clean | The Herald April 9, 2015
ON April 1 The Herald ran a story under the title “Mahofa blocks Mzembi farm bid”. The story, which had a banner headline on the paper’s front page, exposed our media’s unethical and unprofessional conduct, as well as Provincial Minister Shuvai Mahofa’s vindictive attitude towards me.
Ordinarily she passes for my mother, notwithstanding her Government deployment, both of which I hold in high esteem. That being so I have been greatly bothered by her failure to engage me directly on this matter.
The facts are that the responsible Lands Minister has given me an offer letter to take over 367 hectares of Barquest Farm Extension, which offer I have since accepted. It is also a fact that Barquest Farm was gazetted and subdivided several years ago. So the Mitchells actually owned two farms at the time the Minister of Lands and Resettlement decided to offer me one of the two.
In addition, and as per Minister Mahofa’s own submission, “. . . a letter recommending the withdrawal of his (my) offer letter for the land in question is being prepared and will be sent to Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Dr D Mombeshora”.
While it may be the prerogative of the Provincial Lands Committee to recommend to the Lands Minister that an offer letter be withdrawn, they need to convince the Minister to act as they recommend. However, theirs remains a recommendation until the Minister decides to act on it.
Indeed, should the Lands Minister be so convinced, and withdraws the offer letter, I will not have reason to contest the matter further, unless my own conscience strongly urges me to do so. But until the Lands Minister adopts their recommendation and withdraws the offer letter, the offer still stands.
So, if The Herald was as professional and as ethical as is expected of a public-owned newspaper, the story title should have read, “Mahofa in bid to have Mzembi farm offer withdrawn”.
I never bade for that particular farm, I applied for land, which is my right to do, as a citizen, was subsequently offered the gazetted part of Barquest Farm.
However, what also boggles the mind regarding this matter is the reporter’s, or his handlers’, eagerness to avoid standard journalistic ethics of seeking to hear both sides of a story, or to at least include key aspects of my side of the story, which side is already fully accessible to him in the public domain.
The writer does not bother to seek the position of the Lands Minister on this matter, because it is the responsible Minister who made the offer to me as per the applicable Government Act. It is therefore the Lands Minister who should defend his decision to offer me that particular piece of land, and not for me to defend my decision to accept the offer.
Instead, the reporter goes on to load his article with falsehoods, like, “Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Eng Walter Mzembi has lost the battle to take over part of Barquest Farm . . .”, but then goes on to self-contradict by adding that this was . . . “after the Provincial Lands Committee recommended the withdrawal of his offer letter”. So it is The Herald that has decided, on the basis of the committee’s recommendation, that I have lost the battle, and not the relevant authority in the person of the Minister of Lands.
In fact, it becomes clear later in the story that this is not just a mere recommendation, it’s a planned mere recommendation” not yet made, let alone responded to by the responsible Minister.
Minister Mahofa’s efforts to clutch at anything that can besmirch my standing are very obvious and include lying and deliberately misleading the public.
Minister Mahofa said “investigations were underway to establish how many farms Eng Mzembi owned in Masvingo”. That matter does not need investigation, it is a matter of public record in her very own office. That is in addition to the clarification I have made on that issue in the public domain, which clarification the reporter and his handlers chose to ignore for their own reasons.
Minister Mahofa says she wants to know what happened to my Standard A1 farm, and the reporter goes on to state that I “claimed” to have bought that piece of land before the land redistribution exercise.
The facts are that I was never allocated an A1 farm, and do not have any other farm under the land reform programme, I dare anyone to prove otherwise, and I have gone public with the documents that prove that the piece of land in question is freehold land that I bought.
Minister Mahofa should let this matter take its natural course, in terms of Government policy and the relevant laws of the land, instead of rushing the matter into a direction that suits her own, and other people’s, interests.
This is a shameful way for senior members of one Government to conduct their affairs in the public domain. It is unfortunate that the new Minister is so excited about her new deployment to the extent of disregarding Government communication methods, and is prepared to cast aside sacrosanct values, like returning land to its indigenous owners, just so that she can exercise spite against her perceived political adversaries.
The President has just called for the downsizing of excessively huge farms, in addition to his clarion call on checking the iniquity of multiple farm ownership. It is, in the circumstances, inconceivable and ideologically bankrupt for a senior Government official, who should know better, to defend both iniquities, let alone when such iniquities are by old colonial settler farmers.
The ongoing narrative about some farms being too strategic to take over is a misplacement of priorities, because, basically, all land is strategic before we get into debate about successful or unsuccessful land use.
Land should never be used as a tool for political revenge, vengeance or retribution by blacks against their own kind, as seems to be the case here.
Hon Eng Walter Mzembi (MP) is Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry