PEOPLE power prevailed yesterday as Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko announced the reversal of the takeover of Maleme Ranch after months of protestations by the local community, which insisted the farm was an integral part of their livelihoods.
The farm had been allocated to government spy Rodney Mashingaidze, but villagers protested, culminating in a dozen of them being arraigned before the courts.
Mphoko and his entourage that included Provincial Affairs minister Abednico Ncube and the provincial administrator Midard Khumalo yesterday visited the ranch in the company of chiefs Nyangazonke, Masuku and Mathema, after which they pleaded with him to reverse the farm takeover.
Mphoko, who said he had been sent by President Robert Mugabe, however, did not address villagers who were gathered at Chief Masuku’s kraal.
“Mphoko told the chiefs that the president had sent him to come and see the projects at Maleme and that the ranch has been given back to the people of Matobo,” Chief Nyangazonke told the villagers.
Local businessman Tidila Dube said: “VP Mphoko came with a high-powered delegation which included Ncube, Khumalo and others I do not know.
“They, together with chiefs, visited Maleme Ranch where they talked and concluded that the chiefs tell the villagers that the farm has been returned to them.
“It was Chief Nyangazonke who announced the news to the villagers, although we wanted the VP to announce the news, as some people don’t know him”.
Chief Masuku told Southern Eye that the problem of Maleme had been resolved.
“The problem of Maleme is over, Mphoko said he was sent by the president to come and see the projects by the people of Maleme,” he said.
“He said people must continue with their projects at the ranch.
“We realised that there were so many people gathered and this would turn into a rally and advised the VP to talk to us as chiefs representing the people.”
Zipra Trust chairman Lwazi Tsheza, in a separate interview, said Maleme had been returned to villagers before the situation turned nasty.
Maleme, which belongs to David Cunningham, was allocated to Mashingaidze, triggering mass resistance from the local community.
In a similar situation, Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa blocked her Tourism counterpart Walter Mzembi from acquiring a farm in the province, saying it was important to the community and should not be acquired.