Friday, July 9, 2010

A Chicken Comes Home to Roost?

It’s worth extracting a verbatim report from Zimbabwe’s Herald on the recent fate of Temba Mliswa. I remember well Temba Mliswa all those years ago now when he was full of hate speech for the whites in Zimbabwe and how he effectively destroyed national rugby in the late nineties. Now his former political friends have turned against him and his future is uncertain:

“Police have charged a ZANU PF politician with defrauding two white farmers of more than US$20 million worth of property including tractors, vehicles, cows and bulls in a case that gives a rare glimpse into how members of President Robert Mugabe’s party looted white farms.

The government has never prosecuted ZANU PF politicians for pillaging white-owned farms and the charges against Temba Mliswa – a member of the party’s Mashonaland provincial executive until his recent suspension – appear a result of his public clash with powerful Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri.

Mliswa, a close relative of ZANU PF politburo member and Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa, last week attacked Chihuri in newspapers, labelling the police chief one of the most corrupt men as the two wrangled over shares in a white-owned car firm that the police say Mliswa attempted to acquire fraudulently.

Mliswa was last week arrested over the car firm shares said to be worth around US$1 million. He was released on Monday only to be arrested the same day on fresh charges of fraud allegedly committed between 2004 and 2006, the height of Mugabe’s chaotic farm redistribution programme that saw white farmers losing land, equipment and nearly everything else they owned to ZANU PF politicians and members of the security forces.

And the latest charge sheet prepared by the police against Mliswa is the clearest example yet of how Mugabe’s allies helped themselves to farms and property without paying a single cent all in the name of restoring land to poor blacks from whom it was allegedly stolen by white settlers.

According to the police, Mliswa, who returns to court today for his continuing bail application, sometime in 2004 approached Jacobs Van De Merwe, whose Orib Park Farm in Karoi had been listed for compulsory acquisition by the government, and told the farmer that he could help sell his movable property and equipment on a 10 percent commission.

Mliswa – a former fitness trainer but now a wealthy businessman and farmer – went on to sell the property that included 104 cows, four bulls, three heavy vehicles, a cold-room, three tractors, one hammer mill, an assortment of irrigation equipment and generators.

He allegedly raised ZW$19 488 500 and a further US$3 644 058 from the sale and converted the cash to his personal use. In the second case said to have been committed in 2006, the politician is alleged to have approached Nick Van Ransburg, a former manager at Dunlop Range Farm near Kwekwe town, and promised to help protect his equipment from seizure but on condition that the two entered an agreement of sale.

But according to the police as soon as the agreement of sale was signed Mliswa went on to grab 300 head of cattle worth US$900 000 and farm equipment which included bulldozers, tractors, lorries, graders, pick-up tracks all valued at US$20 000 million.

He sold the property and kept the proceeds, the police charge. Mliswa’s lawyer, Charles Chinyama was not immediately available for comment on the matter but in a letter to Chihuri shown to ZimOnline, the lawyer accused the police of bringing charges against his client in instalments. “We notice that the police are bringing all allegations by way of instalments against our client,” said the letter dated July 6, and addressed to Chihuri. “In the interest of finality of litigation, please can we kindly request through your good offices to have the outstanding charges brought to court at once this week.”

Mliswa faces a long jail term if convicted of fraud. But it remains unclear whether a bench staffed by several judges who received former white farms and other property from the government would want to imprison the politician and in the process set what clearly amounts to a very dangerous precedent for all people who benefited from land seizures.

In addition critics say the veteran leader’s cronies in ZANU PF and the security establishment – and not ordinary peasants – benefited the most from farm seizures with some of them ending up with as many as six farms each against the government’s stated one-man-one-farm policy.”

That was all yesterday’s news. Today, Friday the 9th July there is more to report. Mliswa’s was yesterday released on $400.00 bail – a paltry sum in view of the loot he has apparently acquired. But believe it or not he was yesterday immediately re-arrested a third time and charged with a further 30 counts of fraud!

So now he is facing 70+ counts of fraud, all involving the theft of farm implements, stock and probably crops.

Interesting also to note that Tom Beattie, friend and farmer from Chegutu is today reported to be using the courts to try and regain $850,000 worth of farm implements stolen from him by ZANU PF Deputy Minister Bright Matonga with the Minister of Land Reform and resettlement being the second respondent.

Hmmmmmmm. All very interesting.