Monday, July 09, 2007

(HERALD) ‘Disgruntled’ farmer ploughs under 30ha of wheat

‘Disgruntled’ farmer ploughs under 30ha of wheat
By Tatenda Chipungudzanye

A WHITE ccommercial farmer in Chinhoyi recently ploughed under 30 hectares of 30 centimetre-high wheat soon after the Mashonaland West land committee listed his farm for resettlement. Doug Taylor-Freeme of R/E Romsey Farm near Chinhoyi ploughed under the wheat after he was officially told that his farm had been listed for the purposes of resettling Chief Nemakonde.

On June 29 Taylor-Freeme instructed his tractor driver to plough under the wheat as "revenge to the land committee that had acquired his farm". Acting chief lands officer for Mashonaland West, Mr Farukai Chikomba, said his committee had listed Taylor-Freeme’s farm to resettle Chief Nemakonde and that the committee had given the farmer a grace period to wind up his farming activities.

"Taylor-Freeme was angered that the farm was being acquired to resettle Chief Nemakonde and ended up ploughing under the wheat that he had planted in early May. All is now set and Chief Nemakonde is only waiting for his offer letter. Our technical land team went to assess production at the farm and come up with a cut-off date.

"The cut-off date is the last date by which a farmer must vacate the premises and our technical team wanted to give him time until he harvested his wheat.

"This did not go down well with him and we were only told by whistle blowers that Taylor-Freeme was ploughing down the wheat he had planted in May," Mr Chikomba said.

Had the land technical team not moved swiftly, said Mr Chikomba, the farmer would have ploughed down the entire crop.

"He only stopped when our team and the police rushed to the farm claiming he could not water the whole of his wheat fields because of continuous power cuts. By that time he had already destroyed 30 hectares.

"He said it made economic sense for him to plough down some of the wheat as that would leave him with a small manageable field," Mr Chikomba added.

Mr Chikomba said he had already submitted a report to the RBZ describing what happened, since the farmer had received funding from the central bank.

"It is up to the RBZ to take the issue from there or not because they are the ones who funded him and we also understand that he also benefited from the RBZ tractors scheme," Mr Chikomba said.

Zimbabwe has been embroiled in a diplomatic row with the United Kingdom for taking land from former white commercial farmers and giving it to the black majority.

At least 4 000 whites occupied about 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s arable land before the land reform programme, while the majority occupied the remainder, which was hilly or sandy and unfit for human settlement.

The Government managed to resettle some 72 000 families from farms acquired under the "willing buyer-willing seller" basis much earlier.

The "willing buyer-willing seller" scheme was problematic in that very few farmers were willing to sell part of their land holdings and in the few cases when they obliged, they charged exorbitant prices.

In 2001, the Government amended the Land Acquisition Act to allow land allocation without giving owners the right to contest seizures.

Britain has since internationalised its bilateral dispute with Zimbabwe over land and many countries, among them the United States of America and members of the European Union by imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.

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