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Dumisani Muleya, Gift Phiri27 Aug 2004 13:30
Controversy surrounding Zimbabwean Information Minister Jonathan Moyo’s purchase of the Patterson farm in the Mazowe district has deepened amid disclosures that he violated government policy and set a bad precedent for land reform.
Moyo is also entangled in a row over the subdivision of a farm in Hwange where illegal poaching is reported to be rampant.
Sources said Moyo’s acquisition of the Patterson had caused ructions in government circles and fuelled current tussles over land among top ruling Zanu PF officials.
Moyo’s move was “fundamentally improper”, sources said, because it breached government policy.
The Cabinet has taken a decision to ban the sale of state land.
Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement Permanent Secretary Simon Pazvakavambwa said state land could not be sold or bought.
“As a matter of policy nobody can buy or sell state land,” he said.
However, official records show that Moyo bought the Patterson farm, described in Agriculture minister Joseph Made’s offer letter dated November 30 2001 as state land, for a mere Z$6-million.
Documents show that Moyo wrote a Jewel Bank cheque at the Westgate branch on July 22, 2002 as payment for the farm.
The payment followed a letter written by agriculture permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka on April 29 2002 to Moyo informing him about the cost of the land and improvements.
Sources said the Z$6-million which Moyo paid to Made’s ministry was still in the government’s suspense account because “it had no verifiable destination”.
The sources said it could not have been possible for Moyo to buy the farm given that he has no lease agreement and that the property’s acquisition had not, in any case, been confirmed by the administrative court.
As a result, the title deeds for the farm -— which Moyo initially wanted to buy for a paltry Z$1,8 million -— are still with the farm’s legal owner, a company run by a trust.
Meanwhile, official documents show Lot 2 of Dete -— where widespread poaching has been reported -— was offered to Moyo by Made on July 19 2002 although a company called Eternity Trading is said to be operating there now. While the firm has been linked to Moyo, he has denied any interest in the farm saying it was owned by his cousin, a Jackie Meyers. But government recently withdrew the farm from Moyo whom it said owned it.
The farm has a 32 bedroomed top-of-the-range lodge, Sikumi Tree Lodge, which is an ecotourism facility that offers upmarket accommodation and photographic safaris to tourists.
The farm, which is the subject of a legal wrangle, is owned by Lions Den Enterprises which was run by Buck de Fries and his family. The lodge was leased by the Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG), which has tried to prevent Moyo from taking it over.
RTG, in which the government has a 17% stake, wanted Lot 2 occupiers out as it claimed they were disrupting tourism activities. Moyo, who has threatened to sue the Zimbabwe Independent over his farm interests, has been linked to other farms but he has denied any connection. - Zimbabwe Independent
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