Great betrayal: When Command Agric proceeds went up in smoke

By Freedom Mupanedemo

On a wintry Wednesday morning, Pesani Mombe tries hard to shake off the lethargy of sleep following the previous day’s hard work in his fields.

After finally limping out of the bedroom yawning in utter exhaustion, he opens his dozy eyes to greet the aura of a new day only to be greeted by thick dark clouds of something up in smoke at a distant.

Worryingly, the slithering smoke is coming from the direction of his maize fields where he was harvesting, pilling the brittle maize crop in starks in preparation for a proper harvest.

With a sudden rejuvenated energy and suspicion, he darts towards his fields to find lo and behold, all his maize stacks are up in smoke!

“I got weak and collapsed at the sight of my maize burning down. Later I gathered strength and visited the nearby Tank Mine Police base to make a police report. Even the police could not believe me at first when I told them that someone had torched all my maize crop on my fields and there was nothing left,” narrated the dejected Mombe.

It was a case of great betrayal!

When the government of Zimbabwe introduced command agriculture scheme which provided famers with farming inputs last year Mombe, of Defe in Gokwe South, was one of the early birds who upon benefiting, quickly put his maize seed in the soil.

Under the command agriculture programme, everything was provided for including seed and fertilizer with his only input being manpower.

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and like any expectant farmer, Mombe (54) and his family busied themselves in the fields, tending their crop which sat on a five hectare piece of land with the thriving maize crop promising to be one of the best within Defe Village and its environs.

“Agritex officials operating in Defe approached me when my crop was at tasseling stage and told me that I had one of the best crop under command agriculture in Defe. My crop had huge maize cobs and the Agritex guys came for the second time and asked if I was comfortable to have a field day held at my homestead. I told them I was one of the engineers working on developing Defe Area under the Zion Church so I would not find time. This was my excuse otherwise the field day in Defe was supposed to be done at my fields,” explained Mombe.

A senior civil engineer contracted by Zion Church to spearhead massive development at Defe Dopota Shrine, Mombe, says he is also a passionate farmer.

He said he benefited under command agriculture and expected to realise a bumper harvest after putting maize on a five hectare piece of land in Defe.

But all his dreams and efforts were blown away recently when he woke up to find out all his maize had been reduced into ashes in a suspected case of arson.

He said after harvesting his maize crop and before putting it into stacks, some unknown arsonists went on to burn all the stacks during the dead of the night leaving him to count the losses.

“It’s a very painful experience, imagine a maize crop on a five hectare piece to be blown in a raging fire just like that,” rued Mombe.

He said he suspected the surrounding community was not happy with the work being done at the Zion Church shrine and as one of the leaders of engineers on the ground, he might be the target.

“You know when there is some development in an area, some people are bound to be affected.  The Zion Church is turning Defe into more of a town, we are grading roads, putting tarred roads and constructing dams so obviously there are people who are displaced and are affected and I suspect these might be the same people who decided to burn my crop right at the last hurdle. It was so painful.

Mombe said an Agritex officer who came to assess the residue following the suspected arson case estimated the lost harvest to be over 20 tonnes.

He said even the Zion Church’s Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi was baffled by the incident and expressed shock.

“Everyone was shocked by the incident including the Bishop (Nehemiah Mutendi) himself. It was one of the best crop in the area but you know there are some who think the opposite and this was the result. I think police should do the job and bring the offenders to book,” he said.

Police said they were still investigating the matter with no arrests yet.

“We are investing, we are still to make any arrests but we have the leads,” said a police officer at Gokwe Police Station.

The area’s village head, Naison Gapara, condemned the arson attack saying such people who were against government’s progressive initiatives like command agriculture should be prosecuted.

“It’s a very bad behaviour. These are people with retrogressive minds. After toiling tilling the land and working hard on his fields then comes someone with a grudge to burn the maize. It is evilness at its worst. Such people must be arrested and prosecuted,” charged Gapara.

Theories have been suggested as to the reason behind the arson case.

Some suggested the incident was not targeting Mombe as an individual but a protest against the displacements that are being caused by Zion Church itself.

Some believe Mombe or the church itself could have encroached onto a miffed neighbour’s territory.

But whichever theory one would like to take, Mombe remains the biggest looser who toiled for nothing.   Zimpapers Syndication.

June 2017
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