By Gift Phiri
Youths, Sports, Arts and Recreation minister Kazembe Kazembe has taken control of a 1 350-hectare farm belonging to Blackfordby College of Agriculture, situated approximately 60 kilometres north west of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, the Daily News has learnt.
The chartered engineer’s alleged “farm grab” comes amid President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s vow to stop illegal land seizures and restore property rights.
Sources at the college who spoke strictly on condition of anonymity said Kazembe, a former secretary-general of football club Dynamos, who has been eyeing the farm since 2016, completed the take-over after being made minister.
Kazembe was catapulted to the ministry in December following a military coup which ousted former president Robert Mugabe last November.
“The minister and soldiers have taken the farm. We were left with only 400ha from 1 350ha, and this is extremely difficult for us, and it has impacted on the training programmes for farmers. It’s mainly affecting our practicals,” said a senior college official who declined to be named fearing victimisation.
The college offers a Diploma in General Agriculture, which is the main course on offer at Blackfordby.
Reached for comment, Kazembe claimed there was a sinister plot by his rivals in the Zanu PF primary election race to sully his reputation, saying he got the farm way back, adding it had been subdivided into 14 plots, one which he owns and the rest by the Air Force of Zimbabwe and some Zanu PF members.
“In fact it’s ridiculous that such an allegation is coming on the eve of primary elections when I have been on the farm for more than a year if not two,” Kazembe told the Daily News yesterday.
Kazembe is standing in primary elections for the Mazowe West National Assembly seat on Sunday.
He denied grabbing the farm, and furnished the Daily News with an offer letter given to him by the Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora on November 30, 2016.
“I was officially and legally allocated a piece of land together with others who are also on the same farm. I had been on the waiting list for a very long time and I couldn’t believe myself when I learnt that I had finally been allocated one.
“The farm was reduced to maximum farm size and the rest was divided into smaller plots and I’m one of the many beneficiaries. Airforce is another beneficiary and they are next to my plot. There are 14 other beneficiaries. Blackfordby college was left with 400 ha which is the maximum farm size. The rest of us were allocated smaller plots. I hold an offer letter for the farm and so do all the other 14 beneficiaries,” he said.
Across the Mashonaland Central Province, once a commercial farming hub, farms seized from commercial farmers and given to poor blacks, lie derelict, now a wasteland.
Government destroyed agriculture, the mainstay of the Zimbabwean economy, by seizing farms owned by whites and giving most of them to Zanu PF cronies.
Now the country’s industrial base relying largely on agricultural raw materials is collapsing for lack of investment: it imports twice as much as it exports.
Blackfordby College was founded in 1974, then as the Tobacco Training Institute, at the direct request of members of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association to help train agricultural experts.
Situated on Klein Kopjes Farm in Concession in Mazowe district, the college — one of the leading agricultural training institutes in southern Africa — is owned by Tetrad Investment Bank, which is part of the Tetrad Group, a Zimbabwean-based organisation with interest in the financial services sector, insurance, property and other areas of commerce.
Tetrad Investment Bank is currently under liquidation and the Deposit Protection Corporation (DPC) is looking for new investors to acquire the financial institution for $25 million after creditors agreed to accept shares and cash, leaving the troubled bank with a clean balance sheet. DailyNews