The wife of Zimbabwe’s vice president Constantino Chiwenga has taken over a farm run by a state agricultural agency, a newspaper claimed on Friday.
The Zimbabwe Independent reports that the 300-hectare seed farm run by the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (ARDA) is being guarded by men with automatic weapons and that workers are erecting a new fence around the property.
"ARDA Seeds is no longer here; this is now the vice president's property," one of the armed men was quoted as telling the paper.
Former president Robert Mugabe’s controversial land reform programme, which was launched in 2000, sparked a long-running economic and political crisis. This takeover, if confirmed, will bring back memories of that, though this is not a white-owned farm.
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The farm is on the north-eastern outskirts of Harare. It is understood to have produced seed for crops like potatoes, sunflowers, wheat and sorghum.
The vice president’s wife Mary made no comment on the alleged takeover, referring the paper to the agriculture ministry.
In December Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri, the former air force chief who was promoted into cabinet after Mugabe’s ouster last year, ordered an end to farm takeovers in the country, according to the state-run Chronicle newspaper.
"We need total stability on the farms and to that effect we shall ensure that farm occupations will not be tolerated anymore," he said then.