SCORES of people settled by the government at Whitecliff Farm along the Harare-Bulawayo Highway face a bleak future after the Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the land on which they were settled was illegally acquired and ordered its return to the rightful owner, property developer Edward Pfugari.
REPORT BY CHARLES LAITON SENIOR COURT REPORTER
The court ruled that the compulsory acquisition of Whitecliff Farm by the government in 2006, was illegal and anyone occupying the land should vacate within five days of the court order.
The order was unanimously issued yesterday by Supreme Court judges of appeal, Justice Vernanda Ziyambi, Justice Yunus Omerjee and Justice Paddington Garwe after submission by Pfugari’s lawyers, Advocates Thembinkosi Magwaliba&Thabani Mpofu.
The court ruled that when the government compulsorily acquired the farm, it failed to comply with the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act.
“It is ordered that acquisition order issued on June 15 2006 is null and void and has no force and effect. Preliminary notice of compulsory acquisition issued in September 2004 has no force and respondent (Lands ministry) and anyone settled on the piece of land shall vacate the land within five days of the order and respondent shall pay costs,” Justice Ziyambi said.
Apparently the Local Government, Urban and Rural Development ministry cited as respondent in the matter, was not represented throughout the proceedings.
After the court’s ruling, 76-year-old Pfugari could not hide his excitement, as he openly shed tears of joy outside the Supreme Court building.
“I am very happy with the court’s ruling. I want to thank the government for a job well done, I got my land back,” Pfugari said as his relatives tried to calm him down. The court, however, said the full judgment on the matter would be delivered in due course.
Whitecliff Farm covering 1 065 7090 hectares was compulsorily expropriated by the government to resettle families evicted from different parts of Harare during the internationally-condemned Operation Murambatsvina.
But Pfugari took the government to court challenging the compulsory acquisition of his land and the administrative court ruled in the government’s favour prompting him to approach the Supreme Court.
He argued that the expropriation of his farm under Section 8 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act (Chapter 20:10) was null and void and of no force and effect.