IN a rare climb down, government has reversed the acquisition of Maleme Ranch in Matopo district following fierce resistance from the villagers and traditional leaders in the area.
Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) spy, Rodney Mashingaizde, was allocated the farm last year but the move was met with stiff resistance from the villagers who argued that the farm’s white owner was bankrolling many farming and poultry projects which formed the backbone of their livelihoods.
Since Mashingaidze took over the farm, including the farmhouse, the villagers have been holding meetings and vigils, demonstrating against the resented spy.
After failing to attend a crucial meeting last weekend, Vice- President Phelekezela Mphoko on Sunday toured the disputed farm and held closed door meetings with the local chiefs and the government lands committee.
After the meetings, Mphoko delegated the deputy President of the National Chiefs Council, Chief Vuyelwa Ndiweni Nyangazonke, to tell the agitated villagers gathered at Nduna primary school that government had decided to reverse the farm seizure.
The school was also constructed by the white farmer, Peter Cunningham.
“I have come to tell you that this farm is yours. Consultations have been made and government has agreed that no one should take it from you,” said chief Nyangazonke in a brief address which was met with wild celebrations from the crowd.
Soon after the chief‘s address, the crowd dispersed.
Prince Peter Zwide Khumalo, a descendant of King Lobengula who also attended the meeting, hailed the traditional leadership in the area for leading the resistance against the unjust government decision.
“The power of the people has spoken. I would like to thank the villagers under the guidance of their chiefs for defending what belongs to them,” he said.
NewZimbabwe.com could not immediately confirm the fate of 12 villagers who were arrested and appeared in court on Tuesday last week on allegations of kidnapping Mashingaidze’s employee following this latest development.
The 12 are out of custody on bail.
For years, tension has been bubbling under the surface throughout Matabeleland where locals feel that the government is determined to perpetuate their isolation which they say started during the 1980s genocide.
The allocation of farms to CIO spies, most of whom were involved in the genocide, has not helped the situation and the Maleme incident provided an outlet for the resentment which the locals harbour against state projects and agents.
However the government climb down on the Matopo ranch is likely to have wider implications throughout the country and even beyond particularly coming at a time when the people’s patience with President Mugabe’s leadership seems to have been stretched to a limit.