Storm over OSISA director land takeover

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By Fani Mapfumo

Human rights activists have accused the Emmerson Mnangagwa led Government of failing to respect property rights after Government repossessed a farm that was being occupied by Siphosami Malunga – the son of late national hero, Sydney Malunga.

Authorities maintain that the farm repossessed in Matabeleland North does not belong to OSISA director Siphosami Malunga and his two partners, but was compulsorily acquired under the Land Reform programme in 2004 from a white farmer.

Malunga’s surviving son, Siphosami Malunga, who is an international human rights lawyer and the director of Open Society of Southern Africa (OSISA), said he was being victimised. 

“Today we received a call from (one) Dodzi at the Lands Office in Bulawayo to tell us that the Zimbabwe of Government had acquired our privately owned farm and tomorrow (June 15) they are coming to peg it & give it to people they have allocated it to. This isn’t about land reform & we will fight it in every way,” Malunga said.

“The farm is wholly privately owned by three black individuals, and we only got to see the Gazette and acquisition notice issued on December 18 for the first time today after the lands officer gave us the number and told us to go to government printers. Acquisition must be challenged pronto. Was there not a statutory instrument a few years back in terms of which acquired farms previously owned by black Zimbabweans were to be returned,” he added.

Human Rights Activist Tamuka Kagoro said the move was political persecution disguised as land reform.

He further criticised the government for choosing to compensate former white commercial farmers who lost their land during the fast track land reform programme while sacrificing the black farmers who were productive.

“African Lives Matter, Political Persecution under the guise of land reform. Compensate former white commercial farmers and take land from black farmers that bought farms and are actually farming. This is surely incomprehensive, pettiness and vindictiveness,” Kagoro said. 

Speaking to Zim Morning Post, MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere said the move was meant to derail the fundamentals that initiated the land reform process of empowering black people and shows how unreasonable the government is. 

“We condemn the arbitrary, grossly unreasonable & unlawful attempt by the State to compulsorily acquire the Malunga farm. It flies in the face of the stated agenda of the land reform process – namely, to empower black people,” Mahere said.

“What possible justification exists for this immoral deprivation? The disrespect to the late hero, Sidney Malunga and the abuse to property rights must be roundly condemned by all progressive forces. This does not bode well for enterprise or investment,” she added.

Mahere said the move was meant to silence the OSISA director who has been vocal in criticising bad governance and human rights abuses by the government.

“It is very blatant retribution against Sipho Malunga for his vocal criticism of bad governance by the regime. It is a most regrettable state of affairs that must be fought using all tools available under the Constitution. What a sad day?” she concluded.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information Nick Mangwana, however, said government was acting within the confines of the law.

“In 2004 government acquired a farm that belonged to a Mr Swindells who left for New Zealand then. The title deeds remain in his name. One Eddie Warambwa leased the farm from Swindells until 2010 when he died. In 2017, Sipho Malunga bought a Swindells company for US$33 000,” he said.

“Clearly, the 500 hacter farm had already been acquired by government in 2004 and was not part of this transaction. A stand, and not a farm, is bought for US$33 000. To say government is taking a Malunga farm is incorrect,” Mangwana continued.

Matabeleland North Province Minister of State Richard Moyo said Government is not in the business of removing people from farms without due cause.

“…there is no victimisation here. Maybe Mr Malunga and his partners bought assets on the farm, but certainly not the land as it belongs to Government. We are in the process of allocating the land and those who were on the farm will benefit just as any other Zimbabwean if they do not have another piece of land elsewhere,” he said.

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