October 13, 2008

Zimbabwe: Top ZANU-PF Member Said Evicts 50 Families From Farm

Text of report by South Africa-based ZimOnline website on 13 October

[Report by Lizwe Sebatha: "Ministers' Relative Evicts 50 Families from Farm"]

BULAWAYO - A top ZANU PF [Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front] member and relative of two senior government ministers at the weekend evicted about 50 families from a farm in Umguza district in Matabeleland North province because he wants the property for grazing land for his cattle.

Tinus Mumbengegwi, who is a cousin to brothers Finance Minister Samuel Mubengegwi and Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mubengegwi, drove the families from Lettersdert Farm with the help of police.

The families, who themselves occupied Lettersdert Farm at the height of farm invasions in 2000, have since Friday been living in the open after being evicted by Mumbengegwi who claims the farm was allocated to him four years ago.

"Police evicted us from the farm and dumped us with all our belongings by the roadside," said a man who only identified himself as Mr Moyo and one of those evicted by Mumbengegwi.

"We have been staying in the open since our eviction. Mumbengengwi said the farm was allocated to him in 2003 and the land is earmarked for grazing land for his cattle," added Moyo.

Mumbengegwi confirmed evicting the families who he said were staying on the farm illegally after the Ministry of Lands had allocated it to him.

"I was allocated the farm in 2003 by the lands resettlement ministry and as such the eviction of the families is not illegal," said Mumbengegwi, who also produced copies of letters from the government offering him the farm.

"I am transporting a number of cattle to the farm. I intend turning the farm into grazing land for my cattle and the families cannot share the farm with my cattle as they might steal my cattle," Mumbengegwi said.

It was not possible to immediately verify the authenticity of Mumbengegwi's land offer letter with the Ministry of Lands.

Top officials of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF party and their relatives have benefited the most from his controversial land redistribution programme having grabbed the most lucrative farms seized from whites, with some having as many as six farms each.

The chaotic and often violent land redistribution exercise that Mugabe says was necessary to ensure blacks also had access to arable land is blamed for destabilisng the key agricultural sector to leave Zimbabwe facing severe food shortages.

Originally published by ZimOnline, Johannesburg, in English 13 Oct 08.

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