Zanu PF Mashonaland East stalwart Lawrence Katsiru last week lost thousands of dollars’ worth of agricultural equipment and other properties after they went down the hammer at Little Zimbabwe farm in Marondera to settle a substantial debt he owes a Chinese company.
BY OUR STAFF
The deputy sheriff auctioned off the Zanu PF leader’s property as bigwigs continue to fall on hard times as the economic crisis is not sparing prominent personalities among them politicians, farmers and business people.
A number of farms owned by party bigwigs have been the subject of auctioning activity lately, as the new owners have failed to repay outstanding debts.
The deputy sheriff’s office is currently inundated with a litany of cases that require auctioning of property in order to settle debts.
Katsiru’s properties, most of which were seized from a white commercial farmer six years ago, were auctioned off in a bid to pay off a debt to Tian Ze tobacco company.
People who attended the auction told The Standard on condition of anonymity that Katsiru owed Tian Ze close to US$100 000 and he was desperate to settle the debt.
“There hasn’t been much if any production on this farm as you can see ever since it was taken from the white farmer,” said an old man, as he pointed to a line of tobacco curing containers known as modros.
He said out of all the properties that were auctioned, only the small herd of goats classified as livestock originally belonged to him.
The deputy sheriff had advertised the auction as case number HC 2100/14 with a dilapidated ERF truck going down the hammer for US$2 300.
Buyers were required to deposit US$200 for all items while US$500 was required for the truck and tractors.
The 3-inch irrigation pipes were sold for US$7 while 6-inch pipes went under the hammer for US$15.
“These 5-inch pipes you see here were taken straight from the field as they watered the plants, so they are good to go, give me an offer,” hollered the deputy sheriff to the expectant buyers.
The 5-inch pipes were eventually sold off at just above US$7.
However, the biggest bargain made was the selling off of a German made 60 horse power diesel driven Kohler generator.
As the buyers made their bids, people could be seen whispering to each other that the generator was worth US$10 000 at the least.
A young woman ululated after she won the bid and got the machine at US$2 200.
The highest sale recorded was that of the 10 tobacco curing containers which were sold off for a total of US$6 700.
Legal expert Rodger Matsikidze said if the property was auctioned off, then the land had title deeds and it was private property.
“The question is how the change of ownership came about and whether there was payment for the title deeds,” he said.
“Only after establishing these facts can a proper assessment be made,” he said.
Despite the lengthy auctioning procedure, it was clear that Katsiru still has a long way to go before clearing his debt with the Chinese company as the properties sold did not exceed even US$15 000.
Katsiru’s son ardently followed the proceedings and recorded every transaction while the politician was reportedly holed up in the farm house.
A lawyer, Norman Mugiya, was of the view that the move was not legal in the strict legal sense.
“The land policy is very clear on whether the farm was acquired by government; the government does not acquire the assets or property developments made on the land. Government has an obligation to pay for these assets or developments,” he said.
Technically, the assets could not and should not have been auctioned in any way whatsoever, as they belong to the previous owner.”
Katsiru could not be reached for comment last week.
Several other farmers were also set to lose their properties after failing to settle undisclosed debts.
In a notice on Friday, the deputy sheriff’s office said it would on October 11 auction a four-wheel drive tractor in Chinhoyi belonging to suspended Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) boss Happiness Muchechetere in a case brought by the Zimbabwe Farmers Development Corporation (ZFDC).