THE military and several Zanu PF bigwigs have invaded one of the best agricultural training institutes in Southern Africa, Blackfordby College of Agriculture, amid concerns that equipment worth thousands of dollars could be seized from the tertiary institution, the Zimbabwe Independent has reported.
The farm, on which the agricultural college is situated in Concession, Mashonaland Central province, is owned by Tetrad Investment Bank which is under provisional judicial management. The college occupies 1 350 hectares.
Blackfordby College is well-known in the region for training agricultural experts.
Zimbabwe embarked on the chaotic land reform exercise at the turn of the millennium which resulted in mainly white commercial farmers losing large tracts of land to indigenous people.
The land grabs have continued unabated, disrupting agricultural activity and spooking foreign investors.
This newspaper is reliably informed that in December last year, officers from the Ministry of Lands approached Blackfordby College to inform its directors that the farm was now going to be subdivided into 13 plots of which the Air Force of Zimbabwe and some Zanu PF members were going to be beneficiaries.
Sources said the Ministry of Lands officers told the college that it was going to subdivide the farm and leave the college with only 400 hectares.
Tetrad Bank, the Independent understands, contracted a white farmer, Pip Madison, by allocating him part of the land where he grew tobacco, maize, coconut and wheat, among other crops.
Most of the land at the college was used by the students for their practical subjects.
“The college was simply told that the farm was going to be subdivided because it was too big for the school. They said the fact that a white farmer occupied part of the land showed that the land was too big for the school’s business,” a source said.
It is understood that the money paid by Madison for rentals was wired directly to the college and not to Tetrad Bank as the funds were meant to help with the upkeep and running of the college.
Sources told this paper that although most of the plots have been parcelled out to the Zanu PF members with some beneficiaries already on the farm, there has been no official communication to Tetrad except for the information given by Lands ministry officers who visited the college last year.
When the Independent visited the farm this week, students and some workers who refused to be named for fear of victimisation, said the military has since occupied part of the land where Madison previously farmed.
“As we speak, the soldiers are here in uniform guarding part of Madison’s equipment such as the irrigation centre pivot which they do not want him to take with him as he prepares to leave the area,” said one of the workers.
“What is sad is that this white man used to employ more than 300 workers and therefore the fact that he is leaving means all those people have also lost their jobs.”
One of the beneficiaries of the invasion, Mazowe West MP Kazembe Kazembe, told this paper that he was not the only beneficiary as the land that was taken was subdivided into 13 plots.
“I received my offer letter from the Ministry of Lands last year whereby I was allocated 100 hectares of land. However, I am not the only beneficiary of this programme, because there are others who are also occupying these 13 plots which were subdivided from the college,” Kazembe said.
Kazembe, who said he had already planted maize on the piece of land, refused to reveal the other beneficiaries of the farm grab although this paper is reliably informed that other Zanu PF bigwigs benefitted as well.-ZimInd