MATOBO villagers from the Mutotobi area in Matabeleland South are locked in a dispute with the Cold Storage Company (CSC), which is accused of taking away communal farmers’ grazing land.
BY PRIVILEGE SHOKO/NQOBANI NDLOVU
The villagers living along CSC’s Maphaneni Ranch say the government enterprise is leasing the farm to a commercial farmer only identified as Butt who has since fenced off most of their pastures.
Mutotobi grazing committee chairperson Square Mlala said their livestock were facing starvation and CSC management in the area was hostile.
“The farmer called Butt was given land by CSC six months ago and he has eventually turned our land into his own, extending the CSC farm to our grazing lands just by the banks of Shashane River,” Mlala said in an interview yesterday.
“Our cattle have been left with no grazing land and this really hurts us as cattle are our only source of livelihood in Matabeleland. We will do anything for their survival.”
Mlala said they were not against the commercial farmer or the CSC, adding that all they wanted was access to grazing lands to save their livestock.
“We are not chasing this white farmer away, but all we want is for him not to be greedy and use the land which he was given (Maphaneni Ranch) not expanding to our grazing lands.
“We have tried to engage the local authorities and the Matobo land committee, but up to now nothing has been done.
“We have even sent a letter to Butt so that he can move to the area where there is CSC land.
Repeated efforts to obtain a comment from the CSC, Butt and the village head were unsuccessful yesterday.
However, Mlala appealed to the relevant authorities to intervene so that their cattle could have enough grazing land.
“We are asking for proper engagement and a permanent solution to this issue, and we are even prepared to rent the farm ourselves,” he said.
“Some people are now taking this issue as political just because it involves a white farmer, but we are just saying we do not want our source of livelihood to perish because of lack of pasture while we have grazing lands.”
Matabeleland South has been rocked by a number of land disputes this year with the fight over Maleme Ranch in Matobo being the most prominent incident.
The government was last month forced to reverse the allocation of the ranch to a Central Intelligence Organisation oparative Rodney Mashingaidze after sustained protests by villagers.