Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Mliswa case shakes ZanuPF to the core

Mliswa case shakes Zanu PF to the core

Saturday, 10 July 2010 20:32

THE arrest of controversial businessman Temba Mliswa on allegations of fraud and extortion has opened a can of worms amid reports that everal white commercial farmers are waiting for police to follow up on their cases against Zanu PF big wigs who dispossessed them of their properties using the same tactics.

Mliswa is a protégé of Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa who was at one time in charge of the chaotic land redistribution programme.

He was arrested a fortnight ago after The Standard broke the story  that he fraudulently seized a motor spares company from a Harare businessman together with the minister’s son, Martin.

Fresh cases of alleged extortion of under siege commercial farmers have been piling up each time Mliswa has been granted bail by the courts.

The intriguing case is now being watched closely as it is likely to have far-reaching implications for the land reform programme that has made many people connected to Zanu PF rich overnight.

A conviction for Mliswa could set a precedent that would have a bearing on the new farmers who used their political connections to illegally seize property belonging to the fleeing white commercial farmers.

Chief police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said they would investigate the fraud and extortion cases as and when they were reported.

Commercial farmers last week spoke of how they were made to pay “protection fees” to senior Zanu PF officials hoping that their farms, equipment or livestock would be spared from marauding war veterans who were acting on behalf of senior party chefs.

But this was not to be.
Most of the farmers went on to lose their land and properties, at times, to the same people who pretended to offer them protection.

Andrew Paul Stidolph of Grand Parade farm in Karoi said he is one of the victims and has been battling to recover property illegally seized allegedly by a senior army official, Major General Nicholas Dube from his farm in 2007.

“He took away our crops and equipment worth US$900 000 and I have been to the High Court three times but he disregarded the court orders,” said Stidolph.

Dube could not be reached for comment last week.
The Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU), an organisation that represents the interests of mainly white commercial farmers, confirmed receiving numerous complaints from farmers countrywide.

CFU director Hendrik Olivier said extortion was most pronounced in provinces with good agricultural soils such as Mashonaland West, Central and East, as well as parts of Manicaland, Midlands and Masvingo.
“I am surprised they are arresting this one (Mliswa) alone,” said Olivier.

“The majority of those that grabbed land, especially Zanu PF officials, in one way or the other extorted white commercial farmers.”

Some Zanu PF officials, he said, requested to farm a portion of land and use a farmer’s equipment in return for protection but after sometime they took over the land, equipment and harvested the crops.
“Most of these cases were reported to the police but no action was taken,” said Olivier.

“The individual farmers are afraid of speaking to the press because they fear the consequences later because some are still into farming.”

Justice for Agriculture (JAG) also confirmed reports of widespread extortion involving Zanu Pf officials.
John Worsley-Worswick, the spokesperson for the group said some of the senior Zanu PF officials (names supplied) were members of the unity government.

“The majority of the farmers had their crops and equipment taken by senior Zanu PF officials,” said Worsley-Worswick.
“In some cases it was both extortion and fraud.”

JAG said the fact that the farmers were not fairly compensated and laws were not followed during acquisition speaks volumes about the integrity of the land reform programme.

The issue of alleged extortion of white commercial farmers came to the fore following the arrest of Mliswa, a former Zanu PF secretary for lands in Mashonaland West province.

Last week Mliswa was re-arrested soon after he was granted a US$400 bail for allegedly swindling commercial farmers of cattle and equipment worth US$24 million.

Reports say that Mliswa is likely to face 30 more charges excluding the 40 cases that the police said they intend to bring to the court.

Most of the cases, which range from fraud, extortion to assault, are linked to the alleged terror against white commercial farmers during the land reform programme.

Former deputy minister of information Bright Matonga has also been sucked into the controversy of grabbing equipment that belonged to Chegutu commercial farmer, Thomas Irvin Beatie.

The value of the equipment which Beatie claims to have been stolen by Matonga is estimated at US$845 000.

In court papers lodged with the High Court, Beatie said Matonga was allegedly allocated a certain piece of land that used to be owned by him but he took equipment that was covered in terms of the law.

Early this year, Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa had to fight embarrassing allegations that he was demanding “protection fees” from beleaguered white commercial farmers in the Midlands province.

Senior Zanu PF officials were reportedly demanding money from farmers so that Mnangagwa could “protect” them from eviction.

Mnangagwa denied involvement saying that some Zanu PF officials were going around using his name to defraud farmers.

Investigations by The Standard then revealed that about six dairy farmers were earlier this year made to pay the “protection fees” to a senior government official.

But analysts last week said it had become a trend in independent Zimbabwe that only those that would have fallen from favour in Zanu PF or those that step on the toes of the powerful are prosecuted while those that continue to sing praises are let free.

They believe that had Mliswa not insinuated that Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri was corrupt and vowed to oust him, the allegations preferred against the former physical trainer might never have surfaced.

But Bvudzijena said the police arrested anyone who committed a crime regardless of political affiliation and rank.

He dismissed the notion that Mliswa was arrested because he had threatened to lead a crusade against Chihuri.

“That is beside the point,” said Bvudzijena. “The charges against Mliswa are not being fabricated, they are real and there are complainants so to say he was arrested because he said something against the Commissioner General is just malicious.”


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