CHIPINGE – For Sarah Jaricha (50), life now looks bleak as Subdivision 2, Stilfontein of Umzila Farm, a workplace that had provided her a decent living, is about to be grabbed by a senior government official, Terrence Machocho, a director in the office of Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister, Ellen Gwaradzimba.
Machocho is embroiled in a fierce court battle with Chipinge farmer, Lameck Bvurere.
Armed with summons, Machocho is reportedly using his influence as a top goverment official to grab the productive farm, which currently hosts the lucrative macadamia nuts and other horticulture products ready for sale.
The farm is also into large scale potato and maize production.
A Chipinge magistrate recently stopped Machocho from evicting Bvurere, seeking more time to deliberate on the matter.
Zim Morning Post recently visited the 150-hectare farm in Chipinge and met Jaricha who has been employed at the farm since 2011.
The farm has been her sole source of livelihood, as she has managed to provide for her grandchildren, including paying school fees and buying uniforms for them.
“The farm has been vital. I have a decent living through the monthly earnings that I am paid.
“We have been working peacefully here and have also managed to sustain our lives through this farm,” Jaricha said.
“We started having problems in 2018 when people send by Machocho ordered us out of the farm.
“We are now not happy at all because we will definitely die of hunger if things are allowed to turn in Machocho’s favour” she said.
A distressed tractor driver, Boniface Sigauke (24), among other tens of workers, is also extremely unhappy.
“If this farm is taken away, we are going to lose our jobs. l have managed to pay school fees for my young brothers through earnings I get from this farm.
“I do not know what will become of us if we lose this farm,” he said.
Tendai Sithole, also one of the workers at the farm, said they had greatly benefitted from the farm.
“We get cheap farm produce for our consumption. Others from this farming community engage in part time jobs and also get some earnings.
“There is no reason whatsoever to have this farm taken away from its owner,” Sithole said.
Farm manager Timothy Musango (62) is now calling for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to intervene and save the situation.
“I am a former soldier, and I am worried about what is happening here.
“l am calling on the President to come and see our contribution to the economic growth of the country through the farming activities happening here,” he said.
Bvurere, who has brought in essential foreign currency through macadamia nuts exports, said he had spent thousands of dollars to develop the farm.
“I have built a 10-roomed farm house that is powered by both solar and electricity.
“I pay all the 30 workers on a monthly basis, and they have funeral policy cover too,” he said.
“l have drilled several boreholes and the farm has 60 cattle and several goats,” Bvurere said.
Former President Robert Mugabe embarked on a controversial Land Reform Programme in 2000 that saw him seize white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks.
But the programme triggered severe food shortages in Zimbabwe, with the majority of the country’s 15 million people requiring food handouts from international relief agencies.
The agriculture sector is not showing any signs of recovery 20 years after the reforms began, as most Zimbabweans are still battling to grow enough to feed themselves.
With the continuous disturbances from people like Machocho, the workers at Umzila Farm have become hopeless and disgruntled.