Is Mugabe trying another cover-up?

President Robert Mugabe's call on his lieutenants to surrender some of their farms if they have more than one is being viewed with a lot of skepticism, coming as it does, just before the Land Review Commission which he appointed in May is about to present its report. The commission was given two months to submit its report but is said to be behind schedule.

Observers say the call could be another cover-up. The government appointed a land audit team led by Minister of State in charge of Land Reform Flora Buka last year but has declined to publish its findings. Part of the Buka report was, however, leaked to the local and international media. It is not clear, therefore, whether the document that has been circulating is the genuine report or not because the government has denied its existence.

President Mugabe's call comes amid speculation that the government is not likely to release the findings of the Land Review Commission chaired by his former top lieutenant, Charles Utete, either. Other members of the powerful committee were Robie Mupawose, Liberty Mhlanga, Tobias Takavarasha, Boniface Ndimande, Rudo Gaidzanwa, Mavis Chidzonga and Misheck Sibanda. Whispers say should the government decide to publish the findings, it is likely to produce two reports, one for government consumption and the other for the public.

The findings are said to be too embarrassing for the government to risk the forthcoming general elections. The Buka team named prominent people and they in turn could have spilled the beans so that they do not go down alone. The Utete Commission is reported to have opened a can of worms that sent shivers among the party's top lieutenants who had ignored requests for information from Buka because she was a political lightweight. Utete, the man once regarded as the de facto Prime Minister of the country when that post was scrapped, is no easy pushover.

Buka's report was quite revealing. It covered all the country's provinces except Masvingo. It found that some people had been allocated land on which people had already been settled. Barclays Bank managing director, Alex Jongwe, allegedly bought nine such farms in Bindura, Mazowe and Makonde districts. Sunday Mirror publisher Ibbo Mandaza bought five such farms in Bubi district

Senior government and party officials had also been allocated farms that had originally been planned for A1 settlement (for peasant production) but had been redesignated A2, commercial farming. War veterans Chris Pasipamire and Mike Moyo were allegedly violently evicting 36 settlers from Mayfield farm in Mazowe. James Makamba had removed settlers from Maryvale farm while Mines Minister Edward Chindori-Chininga had moved into Calgary farm, both in Mazowe.

Member of Parliament Servius Kasukuwere, Air Force chief Perrence Shiri and Defence Minister Sidney Sekeramayi were also involved with Kasukuwere moving in onto Harmony farm in Mazowe, Shiri displacing 96 families at Eirin farm in Marondera and Sekeramayi moving 21 families from Ulva farm in Marondera.

Mashonaland West faced a peculiar problem. Disagreement between governor Peter Chanetsa, party chairman Philip Chiyangwa and Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo on prospective beneficiaries had resulted in 90 farms acquired for resettlement in the prime farming area lying idle for two years.

Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises Development Sithembiso Nyoni was playing havoc at Fountain farm in Insiza. The Insiza District land committee had recommended that the farm, which is highly developed and produces poultry, citrus and livestock should be allocated to youths for skills training, but Nyoni had allegedly been offered the farm. Though Lands and Agriculture Minister Joseph Made had promised to withdraw Nyoni's offer letter, Nyoni was allegedly hiring thugs to beat up people at the farm including members of the Insiza District land committee.

The report also names at least 30 senior government and party officials who it says have more than one farm. They include Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, Masvingo governor Josiah Hungwe, Deputy Minister Joram Gumbo, MP Servius Kasukuwere, deputy speaker of Parliament Edna Madzongwe, Deputy Minister Shuvai Mahofa, Minister Elliott Manyika, businessman Mutumwa Mawere, Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, Matebeleland North governor Obert Mpofu, Sabina Mugabe, Perrence Shiri, Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena, and Mashonaland West governor Peter Chanetsa.

But the report states that the list is not exhaustive. "People interviewed were scared to reveal any information lest they might be victimised by the multiple farm owners who seem to have their loyalists within the various land committees," it says.

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