A Bulawayo magistrate has acquitted former Rhodesian Premier Howard Unwin Moffat’s grandson, Robert Bruce, of charges of illegal occupation of gazetted land.
BY SILAS NKALA
Bruce has since 2015 been embroiled in a farm dispute with the late ex-Zipra official and State security agent, Collen Shava’s widow, Sibongile, over ownership of Oakland Farm.
Bruce (66), pleaded not guilty to the charge of illegally occupying the farm when he appeared before Bulawayo magistrate, Adeline Mbeure. Last week, Mbeure found Bruce not guilty and acquitted him.
“The accused is found not guilty and acquitted,” she ruled.
Mbeure said the acquittal was on the grounds that Bruce’s occupation of the farm was allowed.
“The State has failed to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt and accused is found not guilty,” ruled Mbeure.
The court heard that on October 25 2002, Oakland Farm was acquired by the State for the purposes of resettling farmers.
It is the State’s case that Bruce was supposed to vacate the farm and cease occupation by December 9 2002, but he continued occupying the property without any lawful authority.
The State alleges in September 2013, Bruce was asked to vacate the farm, but he refused, saying the offer letter shown to him was fake and not from the Lands ministry.
Sometime in 2015, Bruce was taken to the Small Claims Court, which ruled in Shava’s favour, ordering Bruce to pave way for the new owner.
But Bruce applied to the High Court seeking an interdict against his eviction.
High Court judge, Justice Martin Makonese ordered Shava to stay away from the 216-hectare cattle ranch pending the review of the Small Claims Court ruling on the same case.
Justice Makonese’s ruling stayed the Small Claims Court ruling, thereby, allowing Bruce to remain on the farm. The court also ordered Shava to stop interfering with Bruce’s operations, but in a turn of events, Shava has revived the case by filing criminal charges against Bruce.
The farm in question is situated in Insiza, Matabeleland South province.
Sibongile’s late husband was a driver for the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo, while Moffat’s grandfather was Southern Rhodesia’s second premier from 1927 to 1933.