Tuesday, 31 August 2021


Criminal gangs are taking advantage of those who still believe corruption is rife in Government circles, despite the evidence that it is not tolerated, to sell fake offer letters of farms for bribes ranging from US$350 to US$3 000.

The price depends on the size of the farm and its location. Under land reform, allocations are free, although farmers granted land rights are expected to pay local authority taxes and other charges. But some think they can oil the wheels with cash, or even beasts, and these are the people the criminals prey on.

The criminals forge signatures of lands allocation officers while some have even gone to the extent of forging the signature of the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement.

In some cases, a genuine offer letter is the basis of a scam, being carefully scanned and altered to produce a large batch of offer letters for the same farm for a lot of people at the lands offices.

Mashonaland Central’s Mazowe district is the most affected area with a number of criminals taking advantage of the ongoing land audit and the intended downsizing of underused farms. Criminals are already on the ground, faking the downsizing, creating fake A1 farms and then demanding bribes for allocating these fake farms.

Recently two suspects, Dzingai Chipara (47) and Nyembesi Tirivayi (59) were arrested for processing fake offer letters in respect of 26 land seekers, mainly civil servants, and charging them between US$350 and US$2 000.

They allegedly pretended to allocate them A1 plots at Three Sisters Farm in Mvurwi. But some farmers in the community grew suspicious and questioned the settling of the group and demanded to see their offer letters.

The offer letters turned out to be fake and the 26 are now State witnesses in a criminal case pending at Guruve Magistrates’ Court.

Police recovered the fake offer letters, which are now held as exhibits in the criminal case in which the two are now being charged with fraud.

A further check with records at Guruve Court shows that Chipara has another case in which he allegedly fraudulently pretended to allocate an A1 plot to Tendai Chiketero for a bribe of US$1 700.

Recently, The Herald visited a number of farms in Mazowe district where farmers were breathing fire over the influx of people coming to settle on their farms with questionable offer letters. These farmers are the genuine land holders who are pushing ahead with the need to ramp up production, something impossible to do when people just turn up and build shacks.

When The Herald arrived at Villa Franker Farm in Glendale, farmers had just demolished a wooden cabin erected by a Borrowdale-based woman, only identified as Chihera after it turned out that she had a fake offer letter.

The woman reportedly paid an unknown amount to bribe people claiming to be officials from the Ministry of Lands Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement before being allocated 6ha of land on Cde Tendai Kuzvidza’s A2 farm.

Zanu-PF secretary for Lands in Mazowe district Cde James Bonde said the woman had no legal right to settle on someone’s farm without official communication from the relevant ministry.

There are two people in this area who are allocating people plots, claiming to be Government officials. They collect money from land seekers before allocating them plots without the involvement of the Government.

At Cde Kuzvidza’s farm, the woman had put up a wooden cabin and hired a young man from this community as a caretaker. Upon realising she had no valid documents, members of the community demolished the structure and took the wooden boards and roofing sheets for safekeeping at Glendale Police Station.

If she wants her things, she will get them there. She also has to explain how she came to settle on someone’s land and if she has a genuine offer letter, she must produce it to the police, he said.

Cde Bonde said eight other settlers, some three weeks ago, produced a fake offer letter while resisting eviction from another farmer’s A2 farm in the same area.

The eight illegally settled on part of a farm legally occupied by a woman only identified as Mrs Nyikayaramba.

When we asked the eight to produce their offer letters. Only one showed us a fake letter with a forged signature of a chief lands officer, who is now based in Mutare.

The holder of the offer letter later admitted it is fake saying he had been given it by an individual from this community. However, he did not state how much he had paid. They all co-operated and left Mrs Nyikayaramba’s farm, said Cde Bonde.

Village Development Committee chairman Cde Needmore Katiyo said most questionable letters in his community bear the signature of a former Masholand Central provincial chief lands officer who has since been transferred to Manicaland.

We are having problems with illegal settlers who are flocking here with forged offer letters. Some just settle without any documents. We understand there some individuals receiving bribes to illegally allocate farms to the landseekers.

They are taking advantage of Government’s downsizing programme and rush to illegally reduce some farms and allocate plots to desperate individuals using forged documents and at a fee.

Zanu-PF’s district committee is also seized with the matter and a number of suspected masterminds have since been arrested, with some appearing in court in the past three months, he said.

In Harare South, Government recently found another batch of fake offer letters allegedly produced by members of Takunda Freedom Fighters Housing Cooperative in a legal battle to control ARDA’s Nyarungu Training Centre measuring 40 hactares.

The cooperative, armed with fake documents, sought to grab the ARDA farm in Harare South but the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement said the land belonged to ARDA. Herald


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