Mugabe's Minister Accused Of "Protecting White Farmer"

Herbert Murerwa, who is now Minister of Farm Invasions in Zimbabwe, seen here when he was still Minister of Finance, has been dragged to court by a black farmer allocated a farm under the Land Reform Programme. Murerwa has withdrawn the Offer Letter to the black farmer, Joseph Banda, who says the move was motivated by the Minister's business interests with the former owner, Michael Baxter.

Harare, Zimbabwe, 16 January 2010

Herbert Murerwa, the Land Reform and Land Resettlement Minister who is a member of Mugabe's party, ZANU PF, has been taken to court by a "New Farmer", a black farmer occupying a seized farm who is accusing him of protecting the white who originally owned the farm next to the Minister's in the Goromonzi District of Zimbabwe.

Joseph Banda, the black farmer given the farm originally owned by Michael Baxter, has had his offer letter withdrawn by the Minister and he says this is out of malice. He also accuses the Minister of acting in order to protect his business interests, since it is being alleged in court that Murerwa was in partnership with Baxter before his farm was forcibly acquired and handed to Banda.

Banda, through his lawyers, is arguing in court that Minister Murerwa's actions were motivated by a dispute Banda had with the Minister over his "interference" in the dispute that now exists between Baxter, the original owner, and Banda, the new occupant of the farm. Minister Murerwa owns the farm next door to the disputed farm and is said to have harassed Banda continually, to the extent that Banda was taken and detained at the Criminal Investigation Department in Marondera.

In his application for relief, Banda says:

"It is clear to me that the events immediately prior to the withdrawal of my offer letter shows that decision (to withdraw his offer letter by the Minister) was ased on some other considerations and that it was not a decision that was objectively arrived at.

I have been victimised by the Minister in his endeavour to protect his business colleague (Michael Baxter, the original owner of the farm)."

The farm was allocated to Banda only in September 2008, long after Mugabe and his government had announced publicly that the Land Reform programme was finished and that there would be no more farms seized for redistribution to black farmers.

Banda had apparently nearly come to blows with Minister Murerwa a few days prior to getting his offer letter withdrawn and he insists that this exchange was what led the Minister to withdraw his offer letter.

Offer letters are what a "New Farmer" gets in Zimbabwe instead of Title Deeds. The Offer Letter entitles the new farmer to move on to the farm and start operating and it is enough basis for getting police assistance in evicting the original white owner of a farm taken by government in this way.

Herbert Murerwa was Mugabe's Minister of Finance after Simba Makoni's tenure in that post. He clashed with Gideon Gono, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, over the same issues that are now causing bad blood between Gono and new Finance Minister Tendai Biti.

Murerwa had mistakenly believed that, as Minister, and in accordance with the laws of Zimbabwe, he was the Reserve Bank Governor's boss. He told Mugabe at a face to face meeting at State House that the president had to choose between him and the Governor because it was proving impossible to work with Gono, who went over his head to make policy pronouncements that should have been the preserve of the Minister of Finance.

Mugabe told him that he would choose Gono and subsequently fired Murerwa.

After the formation of the Inclusive Government between Mugabe and the MDCs, Murerwa bounced back as Minister in Charge of Seized Farms and Farm Invasions.

As an interesting side note, I must point out to you that Murerwa only bounced back because he let Mugabe fire him the first time round.

It is a peculiar quirk of Mugabe's, he does not take kindly to any Minister or Deputy Minister resigning on him. Any Minister who has any hope of ever bouncing back into Mugabe's cabinet must allow himself to be fired. If he resigns, he is ostracised by the President and never walks the corridors of power ever again.

Simba Makoni and Enos Chikowore, two Ministers who resigned their Cabinet posts, were aware at the time that, by doing this, they were basically ensuring that they never got back into cabinet again. Ever. Mugabe is unforgiving on that score.

Chikowore ended up such a bitter man that it is widely acknowledged that his death was a result of suicide brought on by the depression of being treated like a leper by his former comrades, who did not want to associate with him lest they also be victimised by Mugabe.

Mugabe insists on a literal interpretation of the legal government language that "Ministers serve at the President's pleasure." Therefore, no one has a right to resign from his government, they can only be fired.

We will keep you posted on how this case against the Minister goes. Banda is taking a politically charged angle by accusing the Minister of sabotaging Land Reform in order to protect a white farmer and he is gambling that this route will see him get his Offer Letter (and farm) back.



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