14 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Indicates Left, Turns Right on Land

Takunda Maodza — MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, who has largely opposed Government's land reforms, is renting a farm near Kwekwe where he is running a cattle ranching project, The Herald can reveal. While Mr Tsvangirai is into serious farming, he has discouraged his supporters from benefiting from land reforms since 2000.

He is renting part of Gabbari Farm, 33km outside Kwekwe towards Nkayi. Located between Kwekwe and Cross Roads in Sessombe, it is a former Arda farm that was subdivided and allocated to indigenous farmers by the Government. The farm belongs to Mr Farai Mwazha.

Mr Mwazha reportedly has plots in Gweru where he is active and left the farm in the hands of his younger brother who is now leasing a section of it to Mr Tsvangirai.

The younger brother was identified as "Bishop Mwazha" - not the Bishop Mwazha of the Africa Apostolic sect.

The Herald visited the farm on Tuesday and Wednesday this week and it was confirmed by workers that Mr Tsvangirai rents the land farm which he Nicodemously visits to monitor progress.

He was last seen there last month.

Mr Tsvangirai has been on the farm for more than three years now.

He had 400 beasts when he started renting the farm in 2012, but the number has dropped significantly now.

"When I got employed by him three years ago, he had 121 beasts and the number rose to 184. What is worrying us now is that he has, all of a sudden, started selling cattle in large numbers and retrenching workers," said former farm hand Mr Elliot Siwela

The workers said Mr Tsvangirai sold 100 cattle in the last two months and now remains with 84.

The remaining 84 are mainly calves.

"Lorries came and took away the cattle. We understand they were sold in Harare. It was never explained to us why they were being sold in large numbers like that. Things started changing at the farm after the elections. Before the polls, he was very much interested in the project," said a man who was sacked by Mr Tsvangirai last month.

Of the eight workers, six have been recently released, including farm manager Mr Brighton Maphuza, who said: "I am no longer working for Save (Mr Tsvangirai's totem)."

The farm manager was reportedly given four beasts as his package.

Remaining on the farm are two workers, Mr Willard Siwela and one Mr Makuvire.

They were both evasive when The Herald approached them on who owns the farm.

"We work for Mr Mwazha and he is not around at the moment. He went to South Africa and we do not know when he is coming back," said Mr Makuvire.

Mr Makuvire did confirm that Mr Tsvangirai had been selling off cattle, adding that "boss sold 100 in a short period of time".

Former workers are desperately seeking employment in farms around Kwekwe and are unhappy they were axed without notice or packages.

They were earning US$130 each a month.

Mr Tsvangirai's spokesperson Mr Luke Tamborinyoka denied that the MDC-T leader was renting a farm.

"I am tired speaking about that issue. The people from the Zimbabwe Independent phoned me asking the same thing. It is not true," he said.

When pressed further, he said: "I am telling you the truth, but if you want to be his spokesperson then you may write whatever you want. I will call you later."

Mr Tsvangirai is an ardent critic of land reforms embarked on by the Zanu-PF Government in 2000 to address colonial land ownership imbalances, and was thrust to the leadership of the MDC to lead the fight against the land reform programme.

At the same time, he was very close to white commercial farmers and was recorded getting cash donations from them ahead of the 2002 Presidential elections.

On November 15, 2012 while launching a drip irrigation system at his rural home in Buhera, Mr Tsvangirai denounced the reforms in strong terms, essentially saying people could do with small pieces of land.

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