Pioneering black businessman and land development mogul, Eddies Pfugari, is a broken man. At 82, he has worked his fingers off, trying to create a bit of wealth for his children, but all this is now being undone by “his own”.
Pfugari worked in apartheid South Africa, Rhodesia and Abel Muzorewa’s short-lived Zimbabwe-Rhodesia before establishing one of the first black-owned land development companies in independent Zimbabwe.
But his joy was short-lived as he has spent the better part of the last two decades fighting the very administration that should be supporting his business as part of its black empowerment and indigenisation drive.
NewsDay Senior Reporter Richard Chidza (ND) caught up with Pfugari (EP) and below are excerpts of the interview.
ND: You have been in and out of court for years now but still there seems to be no end in sight in the Whitecliffe wrangle, what is the problem?
EP: The problem is with the police because the courts have given us the green-light to evict the illegal settlers at Whitecliffe. I am worried because nobody seems to care about the court order. We issued eviction notices through the Deputy Sheriff even to those that are building an illegal school, but they have actually upped the ante. They have dug up new trenches and another block has gone up in clear violation of the court order and right under the authorities’ noses. They are doing even more damage to the land than before the eviction order was issued.
ND: Who do you blame for this unfortunate turn of events?
EP: Look, I am an old man of over 80 and had thought this is my time to rest. Where am I going to begin to ask for a job? I do not think it is the government (that is responsible), but greedy individuals within the government. If the government was against my project, then the courts would not have ruled in my favour.
ND: Government has, through the Lands ministry, opposed your ownership of Whitecliffe and the litany of court applications to have invaders removed, but it has lost all cases. What support have you received in your effort to implement court decisions?
EP: We did not get support from the previous Local Government minister (Ignatius Chombo), but the current one (Saviour Kasukuwere), they seem willing to talk. It is correct that the previous minister was part of those that agreed to give my land to the illegal settlers so it was his mess and he could not be seen to reverse it. The courts are sticking to the rule of law, but there are individuals frustrating the process.
ND: Who is frustrating the process?
EP: Isn’t it ironic that the previous Local Government minister is now in-charge of the police (Chombo) and they have obstinately refused to respond to calls for help to implement a judicial order by the Deputy Sheriff? He cannot send the police to remove the very people he helped settle, so we are stuck. I have no idea what should be done. If a government fails to honour its own laws, who is supposed to help me? If I had broken any law, then the law would have descended on me like a tonne of bricks.
ND: But tell us, how did you acquire this farm? Was it given to you by the government under the land reform programme?
EP: No. I bought this farm way before the onset of the land reform programme. I acquired this farm in the late 1990s after it had been put up for sale. I sold my two farms in Beatrice to buy this one farm. I applied for a permit for subdivision which was granted. But because no one was able to protect me, authorities allowed the invasion and claimed later that they had acquired it legally. The courts, including the Supreme Court, have ruled against the government, I am not sure how many times now. I have lost count. We have title deeds and every document that is required.
ND: Are there also people resettled there by the government after Operation Murambatsvina?
EP: Yes, but you need to understand that the relocation of people affected by Murambatsvina was done to frustrate me. They probably think as an old man, I have no rights, I should not be protected and maybe there is a law for the elderly and another for the rest.
We met Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and he ordered the land invaders to stop any processes. He encouraged them to approach us so that we could talk and find an amicable way of resolving this issue, but some have been influenced by politicians with sinister agendas. They think they can stay on, continue to build illegally and they have State sympathy on the basis that they have sunk in lots of money.
Government has been found to be in the wrong. Last year in November, the High Court dismissed an application by the Lands ministry for stay of execution. This was dismissed because the Supreme Court had already ruled that the government must first make sure that these illegal settlers should be evicted before any process of acquisition is embarked on. Government was found to have “approached the courts with dirty hands”. It ought to have implemented a Supreme Court order to remove the settlers first before embarking on the process of compulsory acquisition”.
ND: So where to from here? Are you giving in?
EP: I am not going to surrender. There will be a time when the law will be applied. I am 82 years old and one day things will turn against these settlers. They are being led up the garden path by politicians who probably have an axe to grind with me.
The law has said they should be removed, but they continue to come. Someday the law will take its course and they must not blame me when the law is implemented, whatever the date. Even if it is 10 or 20 years from now, the law will take its course.
My children have a right to that land because I bought it legitimately and someone will be called to answer. My children will continue the fight until victory. Someone will pay for it. I am not going to leave. They should have approached me, then we could have talked. But the most infuriating thing is I have to fight a black government after surviving brutal Rhodesia.