Zimbabwe: nuns take part in farm seizure

 Three nuns, working with Zanu PF youths, have occupied a farm in Zimbabwe, Munyaradzi Wasosa from the Zimbabwe Independent reported on Saturday. He wrote that Sister Helen Maminimini, superior-general of the Little Children of the Blessed Lady (LCBL), regional superior Sr Electa Mubaiwa, and a 'farmer nun' Sr Notvurgo, accompanied by district lands officer Stanford Katonha, took over Malabar Farm in Darwendale two weeks ago. The 874 hectare farm, which produces tobacco and seed maize, is owned by Les Harvey who was leasing it to Sagar Farming Ltd, whose directors are Arthur and Ansy Swales. Arthur Swales told the Independent: "On May 3, Katonha and the nuns visited us and said we had 24 hours to vacate the farm to make way for them. " He said Katonha and the nuns had not complied with the necessary legal procedures and the takeover was illegal. However most of the 80 workers on the farm were forced to leave by a group of 30 Zanu PF youths around midnight on May 15. The youths rounded up the workers and made them chant Zanu PF slogans. The national flag has now been raised over the farmhouse. Five employees of the nuns, illegally living in the farm compound have started fencing off the invaded land. Sagar has managed to save some of the farm equipment but the youths have been instructed not to allow him to remove any more. The paper says the nuns began expressing an interest in the farm in 2002. In November that year, it reports that Swales was accosted by a group of six nuns led by Maminimini, asking for land alongside the Manyame River. Swales gave them 10 hectares "in the interests of co-existence". In March 2003, "under extreme duress" Swales give them another 20 hectares. The Independent said that it has in its possession a copy of a letter signed by Maminimini to Swales declaring the nuns' intention to occupy the farm. In the letter, dated February 9 2003, Maminimini admitted she lacked farming skills despite their intentions to diversify into commercial agriculture. "Since we lack farming expertise, and Sister Electa and myself are already too busy with administration in the congregation, we have decided to form a board of directors to help us run the farm efficiently," Maminimini said. She asked Swales to join the directors, because "you are a very experienced farmer on the spot". According to the letter, Maminimini sought to keep the new farming venture secret from her board. "The three of us, Sr Electa, yourself and me will continue to deal with matters regarding ownership or handing over of more land (because) the (LCBL) board does not discuss that," Maminimini wrote. Swales said: "We do not want to interfere with the government's land reform programme. It's just that it is not being done in a regular and legal manner." The youths camped on the farm are now demanding a share of the farm's spoils "for our projects". In an interview, Maminimini admitted the nuns' involvement and pleaded with the Independent not to reveal their complicity. "We do not want this story to be mentioned or published because it will tarnish our good image," she said. Asked whether their invasion had church approval, Maminimini declined to comment and refused to answer further questions. In an interview on Friday, Bulawayo Archbishop Pius Ncube expressed shock at the nuns' actions. "This is news to me, and it definitely was not with the blessing of the church," Ncube said. "If a nun, a priest or even a bishop steals, it's definitely wrong because it's against God's law," Ncube said. Source: ZW News/Zimbabwe Independent

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