Takeover of Maleme defies logic

OVER two decades ago I attended my first camp at Shalom Campsite which is situated at Maleme Ranch in Kezi, my district of origin.

I have since then attended over 200 camps organised by Scripture Union and various churches.

Camps have been attended by thousands of young people. The lives of thousands of youth have been changed at Shalom.

Speaking from a religious or Christian point of view thousands of young people have received Christ at Shalom Campsite while thousands more have had transformative personal and social experiences which have changed their self esteem and turbo-charged them with a sense of purpose.

The leadership skills I gained at Shalom camps organised by Scripture Union have been invaluable and I cannot even begin to describe or catalogue the thousands of young people that have benefited from the campsite.

Tragically Maleme Ranch which houses Shalom Campsite has been earmarked for a top government official in a clear case of greed and unmitigated covetousness.

I would like to make it abundantly clear that land reform was and is essential, but the manner in which it has been conducted has resulted in the creation of a new class of poor black people such as former farm workers, while a cabal of connected black elites have benefited at the expense of the majority.

It is sad that the type of land reform envisaged in “the new Zimbabwe” land blueprint penned by Zapu just before independence has been ignored and instead a one-size-fits all model has been put in place resulting in a racialised land redistribution process which in the process has seen even progressive Zimbabwean-born whites who have worked for community transformation for generations being deprived of land and vast amounts invested in community projects.

It would be a blatant lie to claim that the Cunningham family which owns Shalom is racist given the incredible investment they have made in communities in Matabeleland through the Ebenezer College (which focuses on agriculture and theology) out grower schemes for communal farmers in poultry and ostriches.

They also built Shalom Campsite which has facilities for youths and adults. In effect they have done more for and with the black community than many of our politicians.

The local community led by Chief Masuku, Chief Nyangazonke and local councillors and church leader are unanimous that Maleme Ranch should not be taken, but alas it has been decided that it is better to kill the cow that gives milk in order to have a feast for one day.

The takeover of Maleme Ranch will have severe socioeconomic consequences as it has become virtually a community project with the locals being partners.

Evidence of this is that already over 1 000 hectares has been given to the local community by the Cunninghams.

The takeover of Maleme is to sabotage the hopes and dreams of thousands of young people who have been trained at the agricultural college who would have been worthy farmers of note in keeping with a proper, planned and phased land reform project.

Tragically Maleme Ranch is the heartbeat of the multi-million dollar Turn Matabeleland Green Project which has the potential of unlocking the agricultural potential of Matabeleland.

Is this an attempt at sabotaging the economic growth of the region at the expense of thousands of young people, women, men and children who have benefited from this project?

The projects which have been started at Maleme Ranch are actually a microcosm of the government’s ZimAsset policy blueprint which among other things seeks to increase food security, boost value addition and promote self sufficiency.

The outgrower schemes for farmers, the agricultural college, the campsite and the Turn Matabeleland Green Project are all in line with these policy imperatives and indeed with the Constitution on the land which clearly states that Zimbabweans of all races are entitled to land.

A central Intelligence Operative has taken over the farm and hundreds of innocent church goers who had gone to worship at the Shalom Chapel were brutally beaten by riot police.

This is a violation of freedom of religion and an affront to the armed struggle. In 1980 Robert Mugabe the then Prime Minister said “yesterday you hated me but today you have no choice but to work with me for a better Zimbabwe”.

Joshua Nkomo eloquently declared that we were not fighting against the whites, but against the system that oppressed blacks.

Josiah Magama Tongogara repeated this time and again and yet now we see few individuals wanting to promote reverse racism and in the process impoverishing thousands of our people.

Mayibuye!

Dumisani Nkomo is an activist, social entrepreneur and chief executive officer of Habakkuk Trust. He writes in his personal capacity.

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