Harare - The Zimbabwean government has continued to exert pressure on Tongaat Hulett’s operations in the country, amid reports that Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has urged Lands and Resettlement Minister Herbert Murerwa to revisit the company’s land leases since it is operating on state land.
According to a report in state newspaper The Sunday Mail, Kasukuwere allegedly wrote a letter to Murerwa saying that Tongaat Hulett through its Zimbabwe-based subsidiaries Triangle Sugar and Hippo Valley has continued to “show disdain and flagrant disregard” of national laws.
He added that his ministry has been unable to make any headway in ensuring compliance by the two companies, and therefore has to turn to legal provisions.
“We are aware that these companies are currently operating on large tracts of land that our government, through your ministry, has gazetted in terms of the Land Acquisition Act and is therefore state land,” read part of Kasukuwere’s letter.
Triangle Sugar and Hippo Valley are currently operating on land that was gazetted in terms of the Land Acquisition Act. The act is one of the laws used by the Zimbabwean government for the land reform programme that saw close to 4 000 commercial farmers losing their land.
If Murerwa heeds his colleague’s pleas, Tongaat risks having its farms invaded by “indigenous”people.
The minister’s calls come after the expiry of the 14-day ultimatum Tongaat was given by the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board to comply with the Empowerment Act.
The move on Tongaat is however baffling as the company has done so much for local sugarcane farmers.
Only this year the company embarked on a cane fields replanting programme that will see about 1 000 resettled sugarcane farmers in the Lowveld raking in at least US$100m from their crops on completion of the programme.
Tongaat Hullet last year launched the Sustainable Rural Communities project that seeks to rehabilitate and replant about 16 000 hectares of sugar cane plots. The project would see an increase in the number of people employed by the private farmers.