War Veterans clash with Manyame Rural District Council over Beatrice expansion

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A resettled farmer opens a furrow in his field with an ox-drawn plough on Eden farm on November 27, 2017 in Beatrice, Zimbabwe. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

War veterans who were resettled during the land reform program have accused the Manyame Rural District Council (MRDC) of trying to take their farms and hand them over to land barons under the pretext of Beatrice Township expansion.

The debacle between MRDC and the farmers has been ongoing since 2004 and escalated after the council’s Chief Executive Officer Farirai Guta wrote a letter on 21 January to the Minister of Lands seeking the resuscitation of the expansion.

The war veterans accuse her of working with land barons in the area and trying to hoodwink the minister into taking their farms.

“It is evident that whenever a new provincial minister/ governor, provincial administrator and lands minister assume office, the council working in cahoots with dark shadowy figures push through boundaries application in pursuit of black disposition agenda,” read a letter sent to the minister of Lands.

MRDC is seeking for the transfer of ownership of land from the Ministry of Lands to the Ministry of Local Government for the expansion of Beatrice Township.

The application seeks to remove 10 farmers who were resettled in the area between 2003 and 2007 to pave way for residential houses in Beatrice Township.

“We are now faced with a plethora of challenges due to shortage of land to implement housing and other spatial development projects at Beatrice centre. Applicants on our various waiting lists have now lost confidence in the Council’s ability to meet their demand for stands,” said Guta in an application to the District administrator.

She said the matter needed a sense of urgency as the number of housing applicants had surpassed 30 000 and council was now failing to fulfil its objectives.

The Beatrice farmers, however, said the Council was targeting four black owned farms and leaving out two white owned farms.

“The council has since 2003, persistently tried to push out War veterans and fellow black farmers away from Beatrice prime land. Only Black owned farms are targeted for boundary expansion yet the white owned farms closer to the township are always excluded from the proposed master plans,” said the affected farmers.

Speaking to Zim Morning Post one of the farmers Martin Matsa said the move by council will destroy agricultural production in the area and destabilise its status as an agro based community.

“Land Barons in the area are working with the council to move the district from the agro based community to a dormitory suburb of Harare. There is a lot of land for Beatrice Township but it’s not being used, rather they want to take our farms and give them to supposedly land developers who will sell stands to Harare residents at a higher price while the council has nothing to gain,” Matsa told Zim Morning Post.

“MRDC has no intention of turning Beatrice into an Agro Processing Zone. It is only fixated and obsessed with revenue from stand sales,” he added.

The farmers alleged that the council had failed to consult them despite that they were stakeholders in the Beatrice township expansion.

The expansion would affect agricultural production to which the council heavily depends on, the farmers reported. 

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