10 000 Settlers evicted in favour of Billy Rutenbech

Masvingo,- Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice-President John Nkomo have ordered army and police to evict over 10 000 settlers in Nuanetsi ranch to pave way for controversial Zanu PF sanctions buster and diamond geeza, Billy Rutenbech's project.\r\n

Meanwhile in Beitbridge over 300 000 orange trees have been destroyed by farmers who invaded citrus farms in the area in 2 000.

Vice-President John Nkomo has come out guns blazzing urging the immediate removal of the settlers who include thousands of war veterans of the liberation struggle.

Speaking at a Zanu PF meeting here, Nkomo said:"We are not going to sit back and watch enemies of development in the country.Those who are refusing to be resettled elsewhere are against development so we will deal with them, any way that is why we have soldiers and police we will order them to go and remove them."

He said Rutenbech’s venture is set to assemble a $5 billion ethanol plant and venture into massive sugar cane plantations. Presently he is into crocodile farming with over 70 000 crocodiles and 40 000 eggs set to hatch. The crocodile project when it reaches its full potential will have 600 000 crocodiles and will become the biggest in the world.

The settlers, most of them war veterans, invaded the spacious ranch during the height of the chaotic land reform programme and had been refusing to vacate the land afterRutenbech clinched a deal with Zanu PF and Zimbabwe Development Trust(ZDT), a trust that was formed by the late vice president Joshua Nkomo and his Zapu party in the 80s.

The war veterans have been blaming Zanu PF for bringing back the white man in the farms at a time when they are evicting other white commercial farmers. Nkomo is the chairman of ZDT.

Nkomo’s orders to evict the war vets clash with his party here who have been influencing the settlers to decline to move out.

Meanwhile orange trees in citrus estates which used to produce the bulk of the country’s orange juice concentrate in Beitbridge have been uprooted by new black farmers who occupied the estates during the land invasions in 2000.

Since the beginning of the land invasions, 300 000  orange trees were uprooted at Totter Citrus Estates, eight years earlier than the lapse of their life span. In most cases the orange plantations have been replaced by crops such as maize and sorghum.

“My Estate used to  produce orange juice concentrate for both local and foreign markets. When the estate was taken over from me in July 2003 it hadover 500 000 trees of newly planted orange trees but right now the trees have either been burnt or uprooted, said Morris Hebert , the former owner of the range who since relocated to Bulawayo.

More than 200 000 orange trees were also destroyed at Manyula  Estates, which used to be also one of the leading orange juice concentrate  producers in the country before the chaotic land reform. The newly resettled farmers are failing to maintain the few remaining trees, adevelopment which has resulted in the trees drying up.

“ It takes more than five years for a farmer to  reap the fruits of citrus farming. Citrus farming is also an expensive venture which needs huge capital for irrigation and chemicals .The quality of oranges which is now coming from the newly resettled farmers is poor and is not good for making cordial drinks and orange squashes.

Irrigation facilities have beenvandalized and there is no water to irrigate the crop,” said Lameck  Smith , the former owner of Manyula Citrus Estate who now runs a Orange Juice Concentrate company in Beitbridge.

He is now importing the concentrate from South Africa. The former information Deputy Minister Bright Matonga ‘s citrus farm which he grabbed from a Chegutu citrus farmer has also dried up. Matonga ‘s workers are now selling the oranges to motorists along the Bulawayo/ Harare road.