Beitbridge senator Tambudzani Mohadi, Zanu PF Matabeleland South provincial chairperson Rabelani Choeni and a few villagers last week, in defiance of presidential directives, allegedly invaded Double O Ranch in Beitbridge.
The property is the only farm in Matabeleland South with a successful banana and tomato cultivation project funded by a loan from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Owner of the farm, George Watson (Jnr) confirmed that Mohadi, who is State Security minister Kembo Mohadi’s wife, Choeni, Amon Ndou and some villagers last Friday announced their takeover of the 2 000-hectare property.
“I was away in Chiredzi with my family when they came. My 70-year-old mother and some workers were at the farm,” said Watson.
“They physically pushed my mother aside and entered our house where they made a list of all our property. They instructed that nothing should be removed since everything now belonged to them.”
Mohadi and the invaders did not present an offer letter from the government.
The group, once stopped by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko in 2014 after a similar raid, allegedly broke into the workshops before drawing a list of equipment and implements. They later declared that they were the new owners.
When contacted yesterday, Choeni said he does not speak to reporters he did not know.
“I don’t want to talk to you. What is your paper? I just don’t speak to any journalists,” he said.
Choeni has failed to develop a farm near Zhovhe Dam in Beitbridge that was allocated to him during the land reform programme.
Mohadi, who with her husband are not new to farm disputes, said she did not know anything about the invasion.
“Don’t you know that I have my own farm? I don’t know what you are talking about. Who is Watson? What are you talking about?” she asked.
The Mohadis, who own the Twin River Ranch lost a court battle to a relative Given Mbedzi from whom they tried to wrestle Zingwe Island, which is on Lot 9, Plot 1 of the Jompempi Block in Beitbridge.
Apart from a few cattle, there is no other meaningful production at Twin River Ranch, which has a failed citrus project.
Watson said Mohadi, Choeni and Ndou left some people at his farm.
“They left people who are at the farm invoicing our produce and recording who we are selling to. These people are interfering with our activities and privacy,” he said.
He said the group was expected back on the farm tomorrow morning.
The farmer reported the matter to Makhado police who attended the scene.
Efforts to get comment from the police were fruitless and telephone calls to the provincial lands office went unanswered.
Watson said after an initial invasion in 2001, he left the farm and government set it aside as a reserve grazing area for villagers in Beitbridge West.
He returned to the farm in 2003 after successfully presenting his case to the government and was allocated 2 000 hectares.
He secured a $650 000 loan from the central bank and developed the farm to start what has become a thriving banana plantation with 60 000 plants.
“Each tree was developed in a laboratory and cost $2 as a seedling. They want these trees for nothing,” said Watson.
Apart from bananas, Watson has a flourishing tomato crop and the invaders want his client base.
“I have been compliant with all government demands and I am up-to-date with my unit tax for the 2 000 hectares. I don’t know why they want to reap where someone else sowed,” he said.
The invasion spelt doom for the future of 50 workers at the farm. Scores of people from the surrounding villagers benefitted from part-time jobs.
Two years ago, Mphoko visited the farm to acquaint himself with banana farming because he wanted it replicated in Matabeleland North.
During the visit, the Vice-President told the local Zanu PF leadership to co-exist with the Watsons.-Standard