Monday, 26 January 2015

Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko visit farmer kicked out

Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
A CONTROVERSIAL white farmer who was visited by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko last month seeking to learn how to grow bananas has been ordered out of the 10,000 hectare property in Gwanda district.

George Watson, who survived initial attempts to evict him in 2003, “failed to co-exist with the community”, Beitbridge West MP Cde Metrine Mudau (Zanu-PF), told The Chronicle yesterday.

Cde Mudau spoke after the provincial lands committee, chaired by Cde Abednico Ncube, decided that Watson and his mother be evicted from the Double O Ranch.

Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko visit farmer kicked out
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, which covers 10,000 hectares, 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.

During a visit to the farm on New Year’s Eve, Vice President Mphoko said he had come to learn about banana farming. Watson has a 25-hectare banana plantation on the farm.

VP Mphoko, who is planning a similar plantation in Binga, met representatives of neighbouring communities who said Watson was on the farm illegally after it was gazetted for resettlement in 2003.

The Vice President then asked Cde Ncube and his committee to find a solution to the dispute.

Cde Ncube, who is also the Matabeleland South Minister of State for Provincial Affairs, said yesterday: “The provincial lands committee resolved that the whole farm be given to the community and that the Watsons should be evicted.”

He referred further questions to the provincial Chief Lands Officer, Romeo Mthimkhulu, who said to our inquiries: “I don’t give comments to the media.”

Beitbridge West MP Cde Mudau said Watson’s eviction was long coming.

The farmer had “failed to co-exist with the community” and “had no respect for authority”, she opined.

Added Cde Mudau: “We’ve since convened a meeting with the beneficiaries whom we advised to set up a committee to oversee their operations.

“We have also agreed that they should not vandalise the infrastructure on the ground and that they should seek technical assistance from agricultural experts in implementing the existing and new projects.”

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

He 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.

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. Herald
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