Family flees country as Mujuru invades farms

December 25, 2001 at 10:24 am Leave a comment

Daily News
Family flees country as Mujuru invades farms
12/25/01 12:36:47 PM (GMT +2)

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By Lloyd Mudiwa

GUY Watson-Smith and his family on Friday fled to South Africa after their two Beatrice farms were seized by Retired General Solomon Mujuru. Watson-Smith, 51, is a director and shareholder of Hanagwe (Pvt) Ltd which owns Alamein and Elim farms about 70km south of Harare.

The farmer fled the country hours before his lawyer filed an urgent application in the High Court. Watson-Smith is the Commercial Farmers’ Union ’s provincial chairman for Mashonaland East. “We were worried about our safety knowing Mujuru would be named in court papers which are in the public
domain,” he said from Pretoria, where he is staying with relatives. “We will stay in South Africa for as long as this takes.” Mujuru, 54, is a former commander of the army. This is the first case brought before the courts by a commercial farmer against a member of President Mugabe’s inner circle as a
result of seizure of land and assets.

Mujuru once sued the now-defunct Horizon magazine over a story he claimed was defamatory. On discovering that Andrew Moyse, then the magazine’s editor, was white, he reportedly told the court:

“If I had known white people had defamed me, I would have shot them.”

Watson-Smith claimed in the court papers Mujuru evicted him from his farm in September and seized assets worth about R160 million (about Z$1 920million). He alleged Mujuru in November forced him to grow at his own expense 140 hectares of tobacco on the farms, which he said were interdependent. The
tobacco production amounts to 500 000kg , which translates to about US$1,5 million (about Z$82,5 million).

The assets seized, including tractors, vehicles and irrigation equipment, are worth $120 million. Part of Watson-Smith’s affidavit reads: “When I asked Mujuru if I would be allowed to remove moveable assets, Mujuru said he had paid for them and they were his as much as ‘the shirt on your back’ and that I would be paid for the crop in the ground.”

The farmer is also suing Dr Joseph Made, the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Dr Ignatius Chombo, the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, and the war veterans’ commander for Beatrice district known only as Zhou. Zhou also sits on the district’s land committee.

Watson-Smith said Zhou threatened to kill him. He says he was unlawfully evicted from the farms, on which he also grows paprika, groundnuts, maize, pastures and katambora seed for export. In addition, he breeds 430 head of cattle and keeps a 490-herd of commercial game.

Watson-Smith employed 120 permanent and about 40 seasonal workers from adjacent communal lands. He is seeking an order for the immediate return and recovery of all movable property on the farm. He said Zhou had, on behalf of Made, Chombo and Mujuru, detained the property on his farms.

Elim Farm was gazetted for compulsory acquisition on 2 June 2000 but he objected, in a letter to the Acquiring Authority. Watson-Smith again challenged an acquisition order he received on 8 December 2000 and the hearing is pending before the Supreme Court. Alamein Farm was gazetted for compulsory acquisition on 25 August 2000 and although an acquisition order was served on him on 5 December 2001, the 90-day notice period has not yet expired and neither has he been served with an eviction order from a
competent court.

Watson-Smith said the district administrator randomly pegged his farms in September without warning. His neighbour and his elderly mother on Silver Oaks Farm were barricaded in their home for five days by war veterans after he removed some of the pegs. Watson-Smith said he offered up to 417 hectares
of his farms, leaving him with 862 hectares. He said he promised to assist resettled farmers with tillage, seed, fertiliser, transport and dipping facilities, but the provincial administrator rejected the offer. He suspects the farm was supposed to be kept in pristine condition for Mujuru.

On 18 September, Zhou, accompanied by two war veterans known only as Joe and Chris, ordered Watson-Smith and his wife, Vicky, 44, to leave the property immediately. Mujuru, travelling in a Pajero vehicle registration number 742-223N, visited the farm with Zhou six days later demanding farm records.
Watson-Smith was ordered to move his father and mother, both in their 80s and ailing, off the farm on 8 December.

They were only allowed to carry their household goods. But before the family had left, the farm was looted at Zhou’s instigation, Watson-Smith said.

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Entry filed under: Past, The "3rd" Chimurenga, Zimbabwe Politics.

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