Retreat Farm has a beautiful name but that may be the sum of any positivity about this area.
It is located between Chitungwiza and Harare.
Getting into the area from Seke road one has to navigate a torturous and dusty road that winds in unending gorges and rocky bumps.
Retreat Farm has no road to talk about.
It’s clear that during the rainy season the roads are a messy hell of pools and mud.
If you don’t know which way to go it’s almost pointless to ask for directions because Retreat has no sections to differentiate each from the other.
There is the intersection with Seke road which is called PamaOrange and another place called KwaJohn.
Besides these captions of familiarity the whole place is just Retreat; wide plain of unregulated dwellings sprawling across almost 625 thousand hectares.
The area nearest the highway is littered with remnants of farm-houses.
They are old and scarred artefacts persevering under pressure from residents who have nowhere else to go and no money to improve their places of abode.
The houses on the right are clearly not part of the new settlement growing opposite them.
They are old and some of residents have a low opinion of what is going on across from them.
“The people selling the stands don’t even have offices.
‘Asi vane vakomana vanotengesa,” says one lady who stays in an old farmhouse.
That statement alone suffices to show the problem with Retreat.
It’s a jungle of a politically connected and protected Mafia who are parcelling out land at a whim safe in the knowledge they have all bases covered.
Some of the houses are clearly built on wetlands.
Surrounding them are huge banana trees, sugarcane plants, cattails and bulrushes, plants that thrive in wetlands.
A Litter of Litigation
The farm was acquired by government under General Notice 474 of 2011 for residential settlement.
After this it was allocated to various housing cooperatives, which have since constructed houses for scores of home seekers.
In 2016 the farm owner, Retreat Farm (Pvt) Ltd made a court application under case HC3708/16 to evict the residents but failed.
Just last year another group petitioned government to act on the land barons who are selling pieces of land on area reserved for Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe.
According to them, “the area was given to the residents for agricultural purposes.
“The land barons forcibly took the land for residential stands at a time the residents have offer letters,” they said.
According to the complainants the land barons were “threatening the farmers by wearing ZANU PF regalia.”
Some of those named included Forbes Manyeruke, Aaron Chigodora, Fatmos Tsikira, Shallon Taderera, Shelter Kadzvede, Jessi Chizondo, Paddington Chagwiza, Tafadzwa Tsikira, John Gomba, Simbarashe Sekai, Lawrence Musandirire, Jinnie Kamudyaruki, Tonderai Mudzamiri, Tinashe Maideyi, Paul Surveyor, Innocent Mutizwa, Zivanai Chidetse and Kashungu Mutasa.
All these were from a place called Dry Holes on Retreat Farm.
Early this year more than 100 people had their homes demolished at Retreat as thru had built on areas reserve for a Harare to Chitungwiza railway line.
According to ZimRights the, “affected residents indicated that they have been paying monthly instalments to ZANU PF aligned land barons.
“One of the victim interviewed by ZimRights human rights monitoring team indicated that they have been paying instalments since 2019 and their leaders never told them that the land was reserved for Harare- Chitungwiza railway line.
“As a result more than 100 families were affected by the demolitions,” it said.
The Change is The Same
Despite all these court actions nothing much has changed on the ground.
The land barons are still selling the stands and for one to get it, they simply need to go there and see “the boys”.
The ZANU PF connection of the land barons is proving an effective antidote against any law and basic local governance procedure.
The land barons in Retreat Farm have been accused of selling and building on areas that were reserved for schools, churches, railways lines, playing grounds, clinics and hospitals.
Walking through Retreat Farm provides a dire site of what happens when politics is allowed to override everything else.
Though electricity poles are visible in some parts there is no water or sewage system.
As for the roads, it’s a bumpy ride ahead.