Esidakeni farm wrangle turns nasty: Farm manager forced to flee, spends night in the bush

Esidakeni Farm manager, Makhabani Nkomo, was on Thursday evening hounded out of the farm with his family and forced to sleep in the bush by a group of men who claimed they had taken over the farm.

The farm is co-owned by Siphosami Malunga, director of Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), businessman Charles Moyo and scientist at National University of Science and Technology (NUST) Zephania Dlamini.

The farm has been at the centre of a wrangle with senior government officials and central intelligence organisation officials trying to wrestle the land from the three businessmen.

In a state gazette, Lands minister Anxious Masuka said the farm known as Esidakeni measuring 553 hectares and situated in Nyamandlovu, Matabeleland North province is being compulsory acquired under section 72(2) of the country’s constitution, attracting widespread condemnation.

On Friday, Malunga posted on his Facebook page that a group of men had invaded their farm and barred Dhlamini from accessing the farm.

When a CITE news crew visited the farm on Friday afternoon, the visibly shaken farm workers said they had been instructed to stop all operations until further notice.

The farm manager, Makhabane Nkomo, allegedly spent the night in the bush in hiding with his wife after a group of men besieged his compound around 11 PM on Thursday night accusing him of assaulting Dumisani Madzivanyati.

Madzivanyati, a lecturer at NUST is one of the people claiming to have been given an offer letter.

“Some men arrived around 11 PM last night. They asked to see Makhabane, one of them identified themselves as Gumbo. They told Makhabane that they were pursuing him for what he had done two weeks back,” narrated Ndlovu.

“Makhabane told them that he didn’t do anything wrong then they alleged that he was part of people accused of assaulting one Madzivanyati. They gave him 30 minutes to vacate the house or they would come back for him.”

Ndlovu said initially they ignored the instruction to leave but then the group of men returned for the second time that was when they fled their home.

“They came back a few minutes later and ordered that we should be gone in 30 minutes. We fled and spent the night in the bush. I returned home around 1 PM and started removing all our property from the house. My husband said he will send a truck to ferry our property to Tsholotsho, our home. We have been here since 2017 and we have been working peacefully until last month,” she said.

A farmworker who identified herself as MaKhumalo said they were summoned on Thursday night by seven men who told them to stop all operations at the farm.

“We were summoned last night by about seven people who were in a car. We have never seen them before. They told us not to report for duty today (Friday). They threatened us that whoever would report for duty would deal with them. However, they explained that whatever is happening has nothing to do with us. They said it was between them and the farm owners,” MaKhumalo said.

Contacted for a Dlamini later told CITE that the ring-leader identified as Davison Gumbo had been arrested and was in police custody.

“The police have cleared us to continue with our work at the office. Gumbo has been arrested and is being charged with several charges including trespassing and breach of peace. According to the evidence, we gathered he was sent by Madzivanyati,” said Dlamini.

“Initially Gumbo was claiming that he was part of the beneficiaries at the farm but when the police asked him to produce documentation to that effect he couldn’t. However, for now, all has returned to normal and workers will be resuming their duties.”

Madzivanyati denied the allegations saying he was not aware of the developments at the farm and was away in Harare on a work assignment.

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