THE future of a thriving macadamia estate in Chipinge, Manicaland, hangs in the balance after Government issued a vacation notice to a company running the plantation.
Information gathered by The Herald Business shows that the farm, known as Chihosa Estates, has been allocated to Mr Edwin Chinotimba under the land reform programme. Chihosa Estates, registered as CAG Estates Private Ltd, is owned by Mr Collen Gura, former Metallon Corporation chief executive. But Mr Chinotimba said yesterday he was “now the rightful owner of the farm” after he was given an offer letter by the Government. CAG had invested in the macadamia plantation covering 60 hectares. The trees are ripe for harvest. Investment had also been made in avocado pears plantation covering 10ha. In addition, CAG has planted an additional 31 000 macadamia nuts trees on 100 hectares. In issuing the offer letter, the Government said CAG was not lawfully permitted to use the farm. However, information at hand shows that Mr Gura entered into an agreement with H De Foiard (Pvt Ltd) to buy the farm in 2006. Mr Gura paid Z$1,6 billion as deposit, which was equivalent to 36 percent of the shares and fully paid for the land last year. Mr Gura and H De Foiard had agreed that upon payment of the deposit, the former would start using 60ha of the land on which he has already planted macadamia trees. On the other hand, the Deed of Sale required Mr Vince Cugnet, the owner of H De Foiard, to utilise the other part of the land until 2011 until the total land was totally paid for. However, the payment of installments was hampered when the country adopted the multi-currency system in 2009 leading to renegotiations on the value of the balance. The involved parties then settled at $350 000, which was fully paid on September 28 last year, resulting in the transfer of the title deeds from Mr Cugnet to Mr Gura. “This is where the contention is,” said a source familiar with the developments.
“Gura bought the farm and he fully paid for it. I don’t understand the technicality which the Ministry (of Lands and Rural Resettlement) used to designate the farm for resettlement considering it was bought and is owned by an indigenous Zimbabwean.” The Government once applied for the compulsory acquisition of Chihosa farm in 2003, but the notice was withdrawn by the Administrative Court of Zimbabwe in 2005. “Unless the authorities produce evidence showing another notice of Government’s intention to take over the farm, the offer letter will be invalid,” another source said. Mr Chinotimba said he had already moved onto the farm measuring 163 hectares. He also accused Mr Gura of “fronting” the whites by using “fake papers” to support that he genuinely bought the farm. “I applied for a farm three years ago and I was allocated one in Manicaland at Chihosa where I am now the rightful owner,” he said. “If the Government knew that the farm belonged to someone else, it should not have given it to me. I have already started utilising the farm and I have planted 20 hactares. “I never said I (especially) wanted Chihosa farm. Even if I had been allocated a farm in Gwanda, I still would have accepted.” Mr Chinotimba, son to Buhera South legislator Joseph Chinotimba said he was taking the entire land, including where Mr Gura planted. In an interview, the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora said that his ministry only proceeds to issue offer letters to prospective farm owners on basis of recommendations from districts and provinces.
“We issue offer letters on the trust that our district and provincial officers would have properly done due diligence,” he said. “But if there are some problems, we only get to know about them if they have failed to be resolved at district or provincial level.” Dr Mombeshora said Government may allow aggrieved parties such as CAG to retain land ownership provided it was furnished with all relevant documents in support of ownership claim. Mr Gura said that the matter was now “before the ministry.” The disturbances at the farm have resulted in some financial institutions cutting credit facilities to CAG. By 2018, the company was projecting processed nuts would reach 400 tonnes, annual revenues of $6 million and creation of 260 jobs.By 2018, the company was projecting processed nuts would reach 400 tonnes, annual revenues of $6 million and creation of 260 jobs.
Unless everything is done transparently there will always be problems on land issue. There are 2 major problems that I see here. Firstly is the current black owner genuine and not fronting whites? Secondly is the offer letter receipient also not the type of people who only want to reap where they did not sow after reaping the farm will no longer be productive as happened to Kondowi and other formely productive farms. We need to be productive on the farms and must respect efforts put by others to make farms productives. I do not expect this by a black brother another another black brother.