Former Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha is reportedly engaged in a land row with resettled villagers from Chivhu Ward 8, Newsday reports.
The villagers are reportedly accusing Bimha of grabbing land which the government gazetted for community-based projects. The land row reportedly started in 2006. Bimha is said to have claimed ownership of the land in question which is in Kaalplaats Farm and barred villagers from utilising it.
Aa a meeting that tried to address the dispute organised by the Lands ministry in Mashonaland East province, Bimha reportedly told angry villagers that he bought the land from the government:
I fully paid for the land to the government and obtained a 99-year lease for Tangenhamo Estates and the land which is in dispute. When the farms were repossessed by the government through land reform, the land I bought could not be subdivided to avoid hindering smooth business operations at the farm. When the villagers first disputed my ownership of this land, I had a senior government post and did not bother arguing with them.
However, villagers are claiming they were resettled at Belverspin and Kaalplaats farms and they only learnt of Bimha’s ownership claims after they started their plantation project. A community leader in the ward said:
The government should provide a clear explanation on why it allocated the land to Bimha, which was formerly set aside for construction of a school, a clinic and shopping centre, which would benefit more than a thousand villagers.
The councillor for the ward, Learnmore Mufamba also said:
This community has an overwhelming number of school dropouts and cases of child marriages because children cannot afford to travel for 20km to the nearest secondary school. Plans to construct a secondary school were halted after it emerged that Bimha was claiming ownership of the land set aside for community development
Tempers reportedly flared at the meeting as villagers accused the lands officers of taking the former Minister’s side.