Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Ex-governor Masuku denies protecting evicted farmer

FORMER Matabeleland South Governor Cde Angeline Masuku yesterday denied allegations that she protected white farmer George Watson from being evicted from Double O Ranch that had been gazetted for redistribution.Watson who survived initial attempts to evict him in 2003 was this week ordered out of the 10,000 hectare property in Beitbridge district.

Matabeleland South provincial affairs Minister Cde Abedinico Ncube said the provincial lands committee resolved that the whole farm be given to the community and the Watsons be evicted.
Senator Angeline Masuku
Ex-governor Masuku denies protecting evicted farmer
Double O Ranch was allocated to the community in Beitbridge’s Ward 12 for relief grazing during the land reform programme.

A long-standing dispute has been raging on between Watson and villagers from the Siyoka area, who accuse him of “unrepentant colonial behaviour”.

The farm was previously divided into two sections with Watson and his mother identified as JT Watson remaining with 2,000ha while 8,000ha were allocated to Siyoka villagers.

Former Zanu-PF Matabeleland South chairman Llyod Siyoka last month told Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko that Watson and his mother were holding on to the land illegally since they were told to vacate the area in 2003.

VP Mphoko had visited the farm to learn about banana farming. Watson has a 25-hectare banana plantation on the property.

Cde Siyoka said the Watsons temporarily left the farm for three years but returned in 2006 through the assistance of former Matabeleland South governor, Cde Angeline Masuku.

However, Cde Masuku yesterday said she did not handle land issues but chaired the Provincial Lands Committee that included a number of departments.

“To begin with Cde Siyoka was deputy chairperson of the lands committee. The governor did not give farms. The governor did not work alone but with the Provincial Lands Committee,” she said.

“I’m no longer holding that office, there is a new bearer but the secretariat is still there. If you contact the provincial chief lands officer, he will give you the information.”

The provincial chief lands officer only identified as Mthimkhulu declined to talk to this paper saying he was not authorised to do so.

“I’m not authorised to talk to the media. My duty is to work, the only person who can comment is either the permanent secretary or Minister of Lands,” said Mthimkhulu.

Watson said he was still at the farm claiming that that he had not received any communication to vacate the property.

“I’m hearing it for the first time from you, now you are causing me panic. I’m not aware of anything of that sort,” he said.

Watson denied allegations raised by Cde Siyoka during VP Mphoko’s visit that he was abusive to locals in the area.

“I live harmoniously with the locals, I think what Siyoka was saying was a campaign to serve himself,” he said.

Cde Siyoka said they were happy about Watson’s ejection

“I said it before, even the Minister of Provincial Affairs has seen the things I was raising during the VPs visit. We follow the law and that farm was gazetted for distribution to the people,” he said.

Cde Siyoka said there were many white farmers in the province still holding to vast tracts of land while the black majority remained landless.

He said President Mugabe’s vision was to see the indigenous people benefitting from their land.

In August 2011, Watson and his wife, Elaine de Plooy, were fined for setting dogs on two herdboys they found looking for stray donkeys on the farm.

In June of the same year, Watson drove through seven shacks at the farm belonging to his workers using his Toyota Land Cruiser while they slept, saying it was punishment for failing to drive away stray cattle from the nearby villages. Six people were injured.

The Watsons are accused of fencing off a dam built by the District Development Fund (DDF) and refusing neighbouring villages access.

It is also claimed he keeps two lions in an enclosure at the farm which he feeds with meat from the villagers’ donkeys. Chronicles
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