Zimbabwe police, war veterans share farm spoils

MASVINGO - Senior police officers and war veterans in the southern Masvingo district have shared among themselves farm equipment worth billions of dollars seized from white farmers, disregarding High Court orders to return the property to owners.
Police commander in the district, about 250km south of Harare, Assistant Commissioner Loveness Ndanga told ZimOnline on Monday that they took the farm equipment because they were following "political orders and not court orders".

Ndanga, who claimed the farm equipment was only loaned to the war veterans and other senior police officers, also accused the former white farmers of wanting to sabotage the country.

She said: "We do not act according to court orders but according to political orders . . . the position is that the property has since been loaned to other farmers most of them police officers and war veterans who want to grow crops for the country.

"Those white farmers you seem to represent were sabotaging our country and we took the property."

The Masvingo chairman of veterans of the 1970's independence war, Isaiah Muzenda, also confirmed that his followers were given some of the farm equipment but complained that the police had kept most of the equipment for themselves.

Muzenda said: "Some of our members were given the property you are talking about but we are still unhappy with the criteria used to give those people the equipment.

"Last week, as war veterans, we had a meeting with the police about the issue because it appears senior police officers got the biggest share of the cake".

Both Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri could not be immediately reached to establish whether police officers were under instructions to disobey court orders and only follow political instructions as claimed by Ndanga.

But the government has in the past ignored several court orders which went against it with President Robert Mugabe publicly declaring on several occasions that his government would not be bound by orders from the courts it felt were not correct or just.

The farm equipment including combine harvesters, tractors, irrigation systems and various other pieces of farm machinery was forcibly seized by police officers and war veterans from three former white farmers during a fresh wave of farm evictions that hit Masvingo province late last year.

The farmers whose equipment was taken are Gerald Whitehead, Albetus Jacobus Peppler and a Mr Henning.

The three farmers successfully applied to the High Court in November last year seeking the court to order the police to return the equipment. The order was granted by Justice Baret Patel.

But the police ignored the order forcing Patel to issue a second order for the return of the equipment earlier this year, which order the police have apparently also disregarded.

The government has since 2000 seized more than 90 percent of the about 4 000 white-owned farms across Zimbabwe for redistribution to landless blacks under a controversial land reform programme blamed for plunging the southern African nation into severe food shortages.

Although the Harare administration has refused to pay for land taken from whites, it has promised to pay for all improvements on farms as well as equipment.