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Tongaat Hulett operates without lease

By Zvamaida Murwira

The country’s sole sugar manufacturing company Tongaat Hulett has been operating without any lease agreement with Government for the past 17 years, legislators heard on Friday.It also emerged that the firm does not have any documentation to show title of the vast tract of land that it is operating on since the Government acquired the 29 000 hectares at the height of the fast track land reform programme.

This came out during a tour by Parliamentary portfolio committee on Lands, Agriculture and Resettlement chaired by Gokwe Nembudziya MP Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena (Zanu-PF).

Tongaat Hulett managing director, Mr Sydney Mutsambiwa, said they remained hopeful that they would get a lease agreement.

He told legislators that they would continue to invest in the project while negotiating with Government.

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He said prior to the fast track land reform programme in 2000, the firm held some title deeds before the land was acquired by Government under the land reform programme.

Tongaat Hulett was not removed from the land.Members of Parliament asked how the firm was making long term investment and what was its basis of confidence to continue pouring in money in a firm where they had no security of tenure.

Mkoba MP Mr Amos Chibaya (MDC-T) asked if it meant that they were operating outside the law.

“Our confidence of business is derived from its performance.

“It does not require anything for us to continue working because a piece of paper will remain a piece of paper.

“However we agree that it would be ideal for us to have documents,” said Mr Mutsambiwa.

He said they were encouraged by Government’s plans to issue farmers with 99-year leases to ensure security of tenure.

“One would require the document for sustainability,” said Mr Mutsambiwa.

He said they were keen on the finalisation of a court case between the Government and 813 sugar cane farmers who were initially given offer letters covering 4 000 hactares giving them right to occupy some of the land that Tongaat Hullet was farming.

The Government eventually withdrew the offer letters triggering a legal battle between the two sides.

“We are still keen to have the case finalised. We are not part to the dispute in court but mere spectators.

“We still wait to be advised on the way forward,” said Mr Mutsambiwa. The Chronicle