BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
THE Zanu PF leadership in Mashonaland East province has blocked the planned eviction of scores of families from Mlanje Estates which is at the centre of an ownership wrangle between Godfrey Gonese and former farm workers.
Mlanje Estates, also known as Lowveld Leather, is home to hundreds of families, mainly former workers of Eagle Tanning.
Eagle Tanning produces leather products and suppliers boots to both the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Zimbabwe National Army.
The farm wrangle started after the return of Gonese who claims to be the owner of the estate.
Gonese had ordered the families to leave the farm and demanded rentals from teachers occupying houses at both Eagle Tanning primary and secondary schools. He is also reportedly demanding rentals from workers who use company houses.
The victims had to appeal for assistance from the Zanu PF leadership after people reportedly sent by Gonese slashed their maize crop in a bid to force them out.
At the weekend, a high-powered delegation led by provincial chairperson Daniel Garwe descended on the farm and told victims to stay put.
Addressing scores of people at Eagle Tanning Primary School, Garwe said the party would look into how Gonese got the estate.
“We are here to tell you that you are not going anywhere. Your leaders told us that you are being harassed, having your maize fields slashed as well as teachers made to pay rentals. This must stop immediately. This farm is your home and no one will chase you from here.
“The school belongs to the government and no teacher should pay rent. We are going to look into this issue thoroughly and scrutinise how Gonese got to own the land,” Garwe, who is also National Housing and Social Amenities minister, said.
Efforts to get a comment from Gonese were fruitless yesterday as he was not picking calls or responding to messages sent to him.
The meeting was, however, attended by Gonese’s two children and workers.
Eagle Tanning primary and secondary schools were established in 1979 by Belmont Leather to cater for employees’ children as well as those from nearby communities.
The schools were handed over to the government in 1981 through the Marondera Rural District Council.
The farm and factory were taken over by indigenous businesspeople in 1987, who leased the shoe-making factory to an Italian investor.
Garwe was accompanied by Zanu PF provincial secretary for security Lawrence Katsiru, provincial secretary for business liaison Godwin Tavaziva, provincial youth league boss Isaac Tasikani and war veterans, among others.
Zanu PF is also eyeing to retain the seat in the area in the March 26 by-elections. The seat fell vacant following the death of Patrick Chidhakwa (Zanu PF).