Tuesday, 16 February 2021


CHIEF Zephania Sigola is accusing the Umzingwane District Lands Committee in Matabeleland South of deliberately sidelining him in the allocation of land at Springvale Estate and “corruptly allocating land in my jurisdiction”.

Chief Sigola (94) was only allocated the farmhouse at the 1 600 hectare Springvale Estate. However, the arable land at the farm was allocated to senior civil servants in the district, raising suspicion of corruption on the part of the district lands committee.

Chief Sigola, whose health is now failing, has got a small portion of land around the farmhouse where he grows maize.

A Chronicle news crew visited Chief Sigola’s homestead in Esihlengeni Village in Umzingwane District and observed that there is no source of water and electricity after copper cables were stolen several years ago.

Chief Sigola said despite holding several meetings with district and provincial Government officials nothing has been done to address the issue in the last five years.

He said he was initially given an offer letter to occupy 70 hectares of land before it was “clandestinely” revoked without any explanation.

“The lands committee is full of corrupt people and their failure to allocate me land in an area adjacent my homestead is a clear testimony that something is amiss. I am surrounded by senior Government officials from Umzingwane District and my immediate neighbour is a former officer-in-charge of Esigodini Police Station involved in horticulture farming.” he said.

“I raised this issue with relevant authorities when I relocated to this place in 2014 and up to now nothing has been done. As a local traditional leader, how do I contribute to Command Agriculture with inadequate land?”

The chief said when he was given the farm house, he was also promised land near the farmhouse for commercial farming.

“They told me in 2015 when I asked for a piece of land that they were going to send prisoners to clear an open space for me so that I could be able to farm,” he said.

“I tried to talk to the lands committee, but they could not listen to me. As a local chief, I should be having a piece of land where I can do proper farming. How do we create Isiphala Senkosi when land is being parcelled out to people we do not even know?”

Chief Sigola stays with his only surviving daughter, Ms Nomalanga Sigola, who is taking care of his daily basic needs. Ms Sigola travels a distance of about 5km everyday to fetch water from the nearest source.

Prior to the land reform programme, the former farm owner used to pump water from his nearby dairy farm. The property was, however, allocated to a local councillor.

Ms Sigola said her father has been living in abject poverty since relocating from Ntshamathe Village in Sigola to Springvale Estate in 2014.

“As you can see for yourself, the chief is living like a squatter in his own area of jurisdiction. In fact, we have graves of our ancestors here, which shows that this is our land of birth. When the lands committee distributed land, they sidelined him,” she said. 

The farm house occupied by Chief Sigola that has no electricity and water. “We are now forced to do our farming activities on this small portion of land inside our fenced homestead yet the area adjacent this property was supposed to be his.”

Ms Sigola said there is no electricity at the homestead after cables were stolen several years ago and efforts have been made to contact the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) to address the issue to no avail.

“Everyday, I have to walk a distance to fetch water. What is more worrying is that the arable land surrounding the homestead was supposed to be allocated to the chief, but it was given to senior civil servants,” she said.

Other local traditional leaders including Umzingwane MP, Brigadier-General (Retired) Levy Mayihlome weighed in.

“There are a lot of corrupt activities going on within the local lands committee, which has resulted in some local chiefs being sidelined in the allocation of land in their areas of jurisdiction.

“As a local MP, I have raised this issue in Parliament including with relevant authorities, but nothing is being done to address Chief Sigola’s plight,” he said.

Brig-Gen (Rtd) Mayihlome said land was given to “outsiders” as the expense of the local community. Part of the land that was supposed to belong to Chief Sigola but has allegedly been sold to another person

“The owners of the land don’t have the land. Chief Sigola was allocated a small portion of land to farm and outsiders have ample pieces of land. I have been battling with the local lands committee including the Lands Ministry to give the chief proper land and I am still fighting for that,” he said.

Local headman, Mr Elmon Dlodlo echoed the same sentiments. “Our chief is like a stranger in his own area. We are really concerned about this scenario where you have an owner of the land without that land.

“The lands committee has been promising us that that issue would be resolved and we are still waiting,” he said.

Ms Otilia Sibanda, a local village head said: “Ideally, our chief should have been allocated the land adjacent to his homestead, but we were shocked when that land was given to someone else. The lands committee must be held accountable for these misdeeds.”

Ms Sibanda said Chief Sigola has been reduced to a spectator watching other people carrying out farming activities in vast tracts of land overlooking his homestead.

The acting provincial development coordinator for Matabeleland South, Mr Peter Mahlathini, who also chairs the Umzingwane lands committee, said they were seized with the matter.

“I am aware of Chief Sigola’s issue and something is being done by the lands committee to address it. However, the Departments of Lands is the one handling the matter and it would be best to approach them for explanation as they are the ones responsible for this matter,” he said.

Contacted for comment, Umzingwane district lands officer, Ms Margaret Ngwenya said the matter is being handled by the district lands committee. Chronicle


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