<strong>HARARE - </strong>Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu has suffered the indignity of having the land which he was leasing from the government being withdrawn because of non-production and the neglect of farm equipment.</p>
In its findings on the land utilisation and management of estates investigation, the parliamentary portfolio committee on Public Accounts said there was no production on the two Umguza plots that Mpofu was leasing from the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) — embarrassing the senior Cabinet minister.
The committee further revealed that Mpofu, who also occupies the lofty position of Zanu PF secretary for administration, was also owing $36 000 in unpaid fees.
“The committee was informed that two plots, each measuring 34 hectares were being leased to … Obert Mpofu. Previously Arda had grown stockfeeds there. The committee was informed that there was no production.
“As a result of lack of production, a process to part ways with the partner (Mpofu) was under way. The process involved determining the value of improvements on the plots before settling this against a debt of $36 000 which the partner owed to Arda in unpaid fees.
“Arda intended to re-advertise the plots in order to court new partners. A visit to the plots by the committee confirmed the information submitted to the committee.
“Disused farm equipment such as tractors … a centre pivot and two sheds which were lying idle could be seen on the uncultivated field.
“The authority should expedite the process of identifying another partner for the Umguza plots. Progress on this issue should be reported to Parliament by end of August 2018,” the committee said in its findings.
Mpofu is reputed to be one of Zimbabwe’s wealthiest people, a claim that the minister himself has not denied — although he says everything that he possesses was earned through hard work.
“I have worked hard with my family to be where I am and I do not owe anybody anything and I appeal to anybody who thinks he gave me or bribed me to come forward and tell the public about it as I have never, in my whole life, received anything from anybody as an inducement.
“I am aware of the nonsense that has been peddled by political and social opponents who feel challenged by my successes.
“I am proud of what I have and no one will take away what I have sweated for because I have worked for everything I have,” Mpofu told the Daily News earlier this year.
The parliamentary findings also suggested that there could be serious rot at Arda, which stands accused of destroying once productive farms under its care dotted across the country.
“The committee is of the view that the challenges noted at the visited Arda farms, partnerships and lease agreements could be a tip of the iceberg.
“The committee notes that some of the estates were highly productive prior to the takeover by Arda,” it said in the damning report.
Meanwhile, the committee also revealed that the army refused to co-operate with them when they visited Sisi Estate, which was leased to the Defence ministry in 2011.
“The committee expresses its reservations on the involvement of the army at Sisi Estate.
“The committee was advised that since 2011, farming operations at Sisi Estate had been taken over by a partnership between the ministry of Defence on behalf of the government of Zimbabwe and the government of the People’s Republic of China.
“Management at the estate professed ignorance about the committee’s visit and as a result, the committee did not get information from the officials who were on site.
“It was apparent to the committee that at that time, Arda did not have a stake at the estate.
“The estate had arable land of about 1 000 hectares of which about 600 hectares was being utilised. The main crop in the fields was maize, tobacco and soya beans.
“This was an improvement in terms of land utilisation as the estate had been utilising only 192 hectares at the time of the audit in 2010,” the committee said in its report.