In early 2019, the farm was the subject of controversy after it was apparently re-allocated to Remembrance Mbudzana, the sone of a Zanu-PF politician and Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister Ellen Gwaradzimba under unclear circumstances. Prominent journalist Hopewell Chin'ono highlighted the issue on social media leading to several news articles covering the apparent land seizure as well as the criticism against Gwaradzimba, Mbudzana and the government.
In May Le Vieux was been dragged to court for allegedly refusing to vacate part of his farm for Remembrance Mbudzana. He appeared before a Chipinge magistrate where he pleaded not guilty to contravening section 3(2) ()a) as read with section (3)(3) of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act (occupying gazetted land without lawful authority).
In June 2019, government, through permanent secretary in the information ministry Nick Mangwana, released a video of Le Vieux saying the farm had been secured following the intervention of the cabinet and President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The government later said in a statement released by Acting Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement Oppah Muchinguri
After taking all factors into consideration, Cabinet resolved and directed as follows (a) that Mr Le Vieux be issued with an offer letter for his portion of Farfell Coffee Estates, that is Lot 2 (220 hactares) in keeping with the Government framework of maximum farm sizes (b) that if he so wishes, Mr Le Vieux be issued with an appropriate lease agreement with respect to Lot 1, so as to guarantee continuity of the very productive and strategic commercial operations currently taking place at Lot 1; (c) that the offer letter of Lot 1 (229 hectares) to Mr Mbudzana be consequently revoked; and (d) that as, any Zimbabwean, Mr Mbudzana can be considered for land allocation in other available areas in Chipinge District.
The news report provided som background on the issue:
The land in question (Lot 1) was initially offered to Chief Mapungwana in 2009 while Mr Le Vieux remained with the remainder (Lot 2).
“However, it later came to the notice of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement that Chief Mapungwana never took occupation of or utilised Lot 1,” Minister Muchinguri said.
“Instead, he allegedly sold that land to Mr Le Vieux who proceeded to invest heavily and is currently undertaking some productive activities on Lot 1. The ministry then duly revoked the offer letter to Chief Mapungwana in terms of Government policy.”
Minister Muchinguri added that the purported sale of the land was also illegal as ownership of all farmland was vested in the State as required by law.
- Govt rescues top coffee farmer, The Herald, Published: 10 June 2019, Retrieved: 10 June 2019