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    Sunday, 12 November 2017

    Tongaat starts cane harvests on evicted farmers’ plots

    MORRIS BISHI
    CHIREDZI BUREAU

    CHIREDZI – Sugar giant Tongaat Hullet has started harvesting sugarcane on plots of the 200 indigenous farmers whose offer letters were withdrawn after Government realized that the land they were allocated was covered under the  Bippa Agreement.
    Harvesting started last month and is still going on.
    The farmers were allocated plots on an estate belonging to Tongaaat Hullets. However, South African President Jacob Zuma appealed to President Mugabe to have the allocation reversed as Tongaat, a South African company was covered under the Bippa agreement.
    The farmers got the land when the late Shuvai Ben Mahofa was the Minister of State for Masvingo and the allocations were made when Tongaat had already grown cane in the fields.
    The Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Douglas Mombeshora then withdrew the offer letters but the farmers have not only refused to move out of the land but they are fighting the case in the Supreme Court.
    Sources said Mombeshora instructed that the cane be harvested despite the pending Supreme Court ruling in order to minimize losses as the plant had exceeded its harvest time date.
    Efforts to get a comment from Tongaat Hullet`s Corporate Affairs and Communication Executive Adelaide Chikunguru were fruitless. However a senior company field employee in Hippo Valley told The Mirror that the process is now underway with many fields cleared so far. He said the company is not harvesting cane on fields of those who are still to sign certain forms but most of the farmers have signed.
    One of the farmers Ailes Baloyi said harvesting is at its peak now and the process was going to be much better if there was proper engagement between farmers and Tongaat Hullet. He said most of the farmers have chosen to remain on the plots after the harvest.
    "Harvesting is at its peak now. The process could have been better if there was proper engagement between farmers' representatives and Tongaat. However, we grudgingly appreciate the work being done by the company on our behalf as agreed with the Ministry of Lands. Each farmer was made to make a choice to remain or vacate while awaiting Supreme Court decision but from our statistics the majority chose to remain on plots" said Baloyi.
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