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Minister’s son finally blocked from grabbing lush Coffee Estate in Chipinge

After months of local and international pressure the Zanu PF government has finally caved in and blocked a minister’s son from taking over a portion of the lucrative Farfell Coffee Estate in Chipinge that is being run by retired Swiss banker turned farmer, Richard Le Vieux.

Retired Swiss banker turned farmer Richard Le Vieux
Retired Swiss banker turned farmer Richard Le Vieux

Early this year Remembrance Gwaradzimba (Mbudzana), son of provincial minister Ellen Gwaradzimba, went to FarFell Coffee Estate accompanied by police and armed with an eviction notice issued by the ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Settlements.

The attempted eviction generated headlines given that the government had claimed farm invasions were a thing of the past. Worse was to follow when it was claimed Ellen Gwaradzimba was using her political muscle ever since assuming her ministerial position to also facilitate the eviction of more than 350 families in Mutasa district, where she reportedly has interests.

A report in the state owned media now claims;

“Government has resolved the ownership dispute of a portion of Farfell Coffee Estate in Chipinge involving Messrs Richard Le Vieux and Remembrance Mbudzana to enable continued commercial production of the crop at the farm in the hands of the former.”

Acting Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Oppah Muchinguri announced the Cabinet’s decision in a statement recently.

“Mr Mbudzana had been offered a portion of the estate (Lot 1) but after considering the investments and production currently taking place on that portion of the farm, Government decided to revoke the offer letter and find him alternative land,” the report said.

“After taking all factors into consideration, Cabinet resolved and directed as follows (a) that Mr Le Vieux be issued with an offer letter for his portion of Farfell Coffee Estates, that is Lot 2 (220 hactares) in keeping with the Government framework of maximum farm sizes (b) that if he so wishes, Mr Le Vieux be issued with an appropriate lease agreement with respect to Lot 1, so as to guarantee continuity of the very productive and strategic commercial operations currently taking place at Lot 1; (c) that the offer letter of Lot 1 (229 hectares) to Mr Mbudzana be consequently revoked; and (d) that as, any Zimbabwean, Mr Mbudzana can be considered for land allocation in other available areas in Chipinge District,” Minister Muchinguri said.

Mr Le Vieux expressed satisfaction with Government’s decision.

“The last few months there has been some confusion as to the correct title and tenure of this land by the company and I am happy to say this has been dealt with effectively by Cabinet, by the President and it sends a positive message to all who are producing and exporting in the country that we cannot have disruptions, that we cannot (promote) instability and that we cannot have opportunistic seizures of assets which is what was going on in my case.

“What you see here is a 25-year investment, it doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not easy,” Mr Le Vieux said.

The land in question (Lot 1) was initially offered to Chief Mapungwana in 2009 while Mr Le Vieux remained with the remainder (Lot 2).

“However, it later came to the notice of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement that Chief Mapungwana never took occupation of or utilised Lot 1,” Minister Muchinguri said.

“Instead, he allegedly sold that land to Mr Le Vieux who proceeded to invest heavily and is currently undertaking some productive activities on Lot 1. The ministry then duly revoked the offer letter to Chief Mapungwana in terms of Government policy.”

Minister Muchinguri added that the purported sale of the land was also illegal as ownership of all farmland was vested in the State as required by law. Apart from coffee Mr Le Vieux is also into avocado and macadamia nuts production.