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    Thursday, 24 November 2016

    Mombeshora withdraws Chiredzi offer letters


    MASVINGO – The Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Dr Douglas Mombeshora has issued notices to withdraw offer letters given to individuals allocated sugarcane plots in estates owned by Tongaat Hulett at Hippo Valley and Triangle in Chiredzi.
    The move comes barely a week after Mirror lawyer, Martin Mureri of Matutu and Mureri Legal Practitioners gave Dr Mombeshora seven days to release the names of the 213 individuals who benefitted from the scheme or face legal action.
    Mureri's letter to Mombeshora was copied to Shuvai Ben Mahofa who is the Minister of State for Masvingo and Grace Tsitsi Mutandiri the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands. The names of those who got the plots and the ready-to harvest sugarcane on the plots have never been made public despite an outcry for transparency and a fair allocation system.
    Mombeshora confirmed the withdrawal of the offer letters but did not indicate the number of beneficiaries affected.
    "Yes I can confirm that a notice to withdraw some of the offer letters was issued and the affected parties were given seven days to defend themselves if there is need to because there was a mistake during the allocation and that is what we are correcting," said Mombeshora.
    He referred The Mirror to the Masvingo office to get the actual number of farmers affected by the withdrawal of offer letters.
    The scheme where 4 000 hectares of land was compulsorily acquired from Tongaat and given to the new farmers has been fraught with controversy and people from both inside and outside Zanu PF  complained against alleged favouritism and corruption in the way the 20 hectare plots were allocated.
    MPs', workers' unions and churches were agitated by the fact that 2 000 Tongaat workers would lose their jobs once the 2 000 hectares of sugar fields in Triangle and another 2 000 hectares in Hippo Valley were compulsorily acquired.
    The Mirror persistently tried to get the names of the beneficiaries in order to verify claims of favouritism, nepotism and corruption without success as  the permanent secretary declared that the list is confidential.
    On October 28 2016, Mureri then wrote a letter to Mombeshora demanding that the list of the beneficiaries be released within seven days or face legal action.
    "We have instructions from our client to the effect that he called you on the 26th day of February 2016 requesting that your office give them the full details of all those who benefitted sugarcane plots in the lowveld in 2016. You referred them to the permanent secretary in your Ministry who told them that she could not release them since they are confidential.
    "It is in the interest of the public to know who actually benefitted from this land allocation. There is nothing confidential about the names. It is clear that from the beginning of the land reform the names of the beneficiaries were published.
    "They further instructed us to demand as we hereby do that you release the names to them within seven days, failure of which legal action be taken against you," said Mureri.
    The scheme, particularly because of the inevitable loss of jobs triggered high profile meetings between President Mugabe and several MPs from Masvingo who expressed disgust at the implosion. Massive demonstrations over the issue were also organised in Chiredzi but were thwarted by the Police.
    "As for the full list of the people affected, you can get that from the provincial lands officer, my duty is to sign the papers from the province because we rely on what they tell us so I don't have the actual information," said Mombeshora on the phone.
    The Mirror called the provincial lands officer, Tendai Mumera for names of those whose offer letters had been withdrawn but she expressed ignorance over the issue.
    "I don't know what you are talking about, I have never heard about withdrawal of offer letters," said Mumera.
    Although Mombeshora said only part of the beneficiaries were affected The Mirror understands that all the 213 farmers who received offer letters in June have been withdrawn  and were handed their notice letters on Monday this week.
    The following day the affected farmers were seen jostling from one Government office to the other and arranging transport to go to Harare to seek an audience with President Mugabe for him to rescind the Minister's decision.
    Although efforts to get a comment from Tongaat were fruitless some of the people who talked to The Mirror said the development was a positive one.
    "Although the President had ordered long back that the offer letters should be reversed these guys were just delaying the impossible.
    "We knew that one day the offer letters will be withdrawn as they would have rendered 2000 people jobless only for 200 people to benefit," said Chiredzi West MP Darlington Chiwa one of the people who have been fighting from the workers' corner.
    When contacted for a comment Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Shuvai Mahofa who was also fingered in the improper allocation of the plots denied knowledge of the matter before quickly hanging up.
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