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Nkomo family wades into Chingwizi saga

By Maggie Mzumara

A rift has emerged between government and the family of Joshua Nkomo over the chaotic Chingwizi resettlements and the politicisation of the exercise which the surviving children of the late vice president (VP) feel is disrespectful of the legacy and vision of the veteran nationalist whose remains were interred at the National Heroes Acre.

Nkomo family wades into Chingwizi saga
Nkomo family wades into Chingwizi saga

Following the floods at Tokwe Murkosi late last year the 3000 displaced families were resettled at Chingwizi, which is part of the Nuanetsi Ranch, owned and run by the Development Trust of Zimbabwe (DTZ), founded by the late vice president.

While DTZ sought to develop the surrounding communities of Mwenezi in line with Nkomo’s vision, the family of the late Father Zimbabwe along with DTZ oppose the manner the resettlements were handled.

DTZ had for years planned for an ethanol project which Nkomo wanted set up at the ranch. But for years, the project had not been able to take off for lack of funding.

After securing funding, following year-long negotiations, and through a partnership with Zimbabwe Bio-Energy, a company affiliated to business mogul, Billy Rautenbach of Green Fuels, in 2008, DTZ started working towards the establishment of the ethanol plant.

As per those plans, 60 000 hectares of the ranch was cleared and set aside specifically for the ethanol project. And it is that specific land on which the project was due to start any minute where the Tokwe Murkosi survivors were settled. It is not only the ethanol project that has been derailed.

The resettlements have also encroached into DTZ’s cattle ranching activities. The Nuanetsi Ranch, acquired by DTZ from Imperial Cold Storage of South Africa in 1989 has seven sections, namely Bubye, Nuanetsi, Mbizi, Chingwizi, Mutilikwe, Lundi and Matibi.

The section earmarked and prepared for resettlement by DTZ is the Masangula and Block 16 portions of the Nuanetsi section, measuring 30 000-40 000 hectares.

But the portion earmarked for the ethanol project was part of the Chingwizi section.  This is not the first time that the ranch has encountered problems. In 2000, the Mutilikwi section of the ranch was invaded by people who had no documentation or State permission to do so.

Sibangilizwe Nkomo, son of the late VP, said the confusion going on at the ranch only served to disrespect his father’s vision and memory.

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“I have never been personally involved in the running of the ranch but from time to time I hear stories about what is going on there. People have been doing what they want at the ranch for far too long. So I am not surprised that there is confusion there right now,” Sibangilizwe said.

“The problem is that my father’s vision and teaching have not been followed. Had the old man’s vision and teaching been followed all this would not have happened. My father’s legacy is being compromised because there is recklessness and no consideration for consequences.”

Charles Madonko, resident DTZ director at Nuanetsi, said the ethanol project was due to start anytime, waiting for a water source to be ready. Now that the water source is ready, and DTZ should start their project, the programme can no longer take off.

Madonko said, even after pointing out to the management of the resettling efforts led by Masvingo Provincial Minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, that there was other land which DTZ had specifically earmarked and prepared for the resettlements so that both the resettlements and the ethanol project could concurrently take place and co-exist, it was to no avail.

“Bhasikiti did not pay any attention to that. He has since argued that the land belongs to government, yet we have since produced out title deeds for the ranch,” Madonko said.

“For us the problem is why did they target that specific section which they knew we had plans for. We don’t understand where they get the power to disrupt the project?” Madonko said.

“He (Nkomo) wanted the ethanol project to take off so that it would benefit the community. He had a clear vision of all of this. I have never worked with anyone with foresight like him,” said Madonko, who says he worked with the late VP for more than 15 years and was also food production manager for ZAPU when it was in Zambia.

“We are being treated as if we are not people. What one concludes is that this is a based on tribalism. They want to derail the projects because they are run by Mhlanga from Chipinge and me from Matabeleland. They would have wanted someone from Masvingo to run projects in Masvingo,” Madonko said.

“We were never consulted of the date and time of resettlement. All we just saw were lorries driving in and bringing people and cattle,” added Madonko. “There was no warning, no consultation.”

While DTZ management was aware of the floods and knew land would be required from them, what they did not know was when the actual resettlements would take place.

But more than being caught unawares what has further irked DTZ is the fact that the section of the 350 000 hectare-ranch which they had cleared in preparation for any resettlement that would, at a claimed cost of US$50 000 for pegging the land, was not where the villagers were settled.

DTZ chairman, Liberty Mhlanga, claimed this week that when government started the resettlements, “the patron of DTZ, President Robert Mugabe warned them to be careful with how they dealt with the land because it belonged to DTZ.”

In fact, Mhlanga said, where they resettled them is smaller than they had allocated for them. That is why the people are squashed up and overcrowded, he said.

“They just wanted to deliberately take that section because they knew that we wanted that section for our programme,” Madonko said.

Bhasikiti told the Financial Gazette that he knew nothing of any land wrangles and that if DTZ had any and issues they should approach the Lands Ministry. “Handizivi nezvekupokana kwe land (I don’t know anything about any land issues). I was just told to give people land. If they (DTZ) have issues about the land, they should talk to the Lands Ministry,” Bhasikiti said. Financial Gazette