BY VENERANDA LANGA
SECRETARY for Lands and Agriculture Ringson Chitsiko was yesterday taken to task in Parliament over a spate of fresh farm invasions, including the one in which Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Ellen Gwaradzimba’s son attempted to grab a Chipinge coffee plantation owned by a retired Swiss banker, Richard Le Vieux.
Chitsiko was grilled after he appeared before the Lands Parliamentary Portfolio Committee where MPs wanted to know why Gwaradzimba’s son Rememberance Mbudzana occupied Le Vieux’s farm, which exports coffee, avocados and macadamia nuts, bringing in the much-needed foreign currency.
Confirming that indeed Mbudzana was indeed allocated Plot 1 of Farfell Coffee Estates, Chitsiko said: “What happens is that an offer letter might be given to an individual, but in due course, it is realised that, in fact, such offer letter should not have been given. The process of reversing is that the holder of the unintended offer letter is given notice to withdraw and should respond within seven days, but in this case (of Mbudzana), it was not a case of illegal resettlement and the individual in question had an offer letter. The offer letter to Mbudzana must have been issued sometime at the beginning of this year.”
Chitsiko also added that applications were made at provincial level and then signed by the Lands minister. He said in the case of Mbudzana, he was offered the land by the Manicaland provincial lands committee.
But Mount Darwin West MP Barnwell Seremwe (Zanu PF) and Chipinge East MP Matewu Mlambo (MDC Alliance) said the manner in which Mbudzana was given the offer letter should be investigated to find out if he was the first on the waiting list or if it was because he was the son of a minister.
Chitsiko said everyone who invaded and occupied land from 2005 to date is being considered as an illegal settler and would be removed.
“Those who occupied land in the years 2000 to 2004 during the period dubbed jambanja do not hold legal permits, but we are now regularising those. But unsanctioned settlements on land from 2005 to date are considered as illegal settlers and will be removed,” he said.
According to Chitsiko some people resettled themselves in villagised models (A1) and A2 resettlements without authorisation and, in some cases, encroached into grazing land or reserved open spaces, which has resulted in a lot of pressure on natural resources causing soil erosion, loss of vegetation and siltation of rivers and dams.