Suspected CIO Agent Takes Farm From White Farmer, 150 People Lose Jobs

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A SUSPECTED Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) official has allegedly invaded a horticulture farm near Goromonzi, threatening jobs of more than 150 workers.

By Everson Mushava

Thimoty Muyambo allegedly turned up at Little Flower Farm on Sunday and told workers that he had taken over the property from the white commercial farmer.

Muyambo’s intrusion brought business at the farm to a halt, with flowers and peas destined for export now beginning to go bad.
Little Flower Farm managing director Mathew Hopgood confirmed the development, but refused to shed more light.

However, sources said the farm was invaded despite assurance from Provincial Affairs minister Biggie Matiza that it would not happen.

According to the sources, a group of 12 men in four vehicles along with the police escorted Muyambo who claimed ownership of the property.

The group immediately changed locks on the gate and ordered employees to stop working before occupying the office block.

“The gang blockaded the private residence of Hopgood. This residence is not part of the farm. It’s a separate residential dwelling,” one of the sources said.

“Hopgood has not been at the farm since then for fear of his life. Export of flowers and peas has stopped and Muyambo has employed guards to man the farm.”

The farm exports 180 boxes of flowers weekly and close to two tonnes of peas.

Muyambo, who was in the company of one Mbano, who invaded a nearby farm around 2002, allegedly told the farm workers that anyone who did not want to work for him should leave.

The farm, originally 526,81 hectares in size, has been divided several times following a consent order from the courts.

About 35,31 hectares are now occupied by James Chiyangwa, 31,89 hectares by one R Kituli, while Tendai Bonga took over 39,87ha.

Part of the farm is also believed to now belong to the local MP Petronella Kagonye’s father, and production at the plots held by the indigenous farmers has been very low.

Hopgood said he was given a letter from the Ministry of Lands advising him to wind up farming operations by April 26.

However, he was told to continue with his operations after Matiza’s intervention.

Hopgood was told an offer letter in his name would be processed and he should continue producing export crops. He said the farm employed 97 people on a permanent basis, 50 seasonal employees and about 225 people depend on it.

“We have not seen any official offer letters issued by Ministry of Lands, nor have we had a letter of acquisition from the ministry,” Hopgood said yesterday.

“The business was left with 35 hectares of land prior to notification to wind up farming. The forceful occupation places the entire business in jeopardy.”

Some workers who spoke to NewsDay on condition of anonymity said they were now unsure of their future.

Muyambo could not be reached for comment yesterday.