BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
CHIREDZI magistrate Geraldine Mutsoto last week found a Mwenezi white commercial farmer, Shane Warth, guilty of overstaying at a 50-hectare farm that had been acquired for resettlement by government and ruled that he be evicted from the property with immediate effect.
Warth, of Lot 12 of Lot 15 of NRA Mpapa in Mwenezi, was initially ordered to wind off his farming activities by December 31, 2017.
According to a letter signed by Mwenezi district lands officer Boaz Vurayayi, dated October 16, 2017, the farm was gazetted in the same year for compulsory acquisition by the Lands and Rural Resettlement ministry and is now State land.
Part of the farm was given to Solicitor Mutendi, while the other half was allocated to Wilbert Muzara.
Mutendi, however, later indicated that he was no longer interested in the farm, but Muzara approached the courts seeking to evict Warth.
His matter at Masvingo Civil Magistrates’ Court, under case number EV10/18, was dismissed, leading him to file a criminal complaint at Chiredzi Magistrates’ Court.
Warth’s lawyer Emmanuel Chibudu, of Kwirira and Magwaliba Legal Practitioners, has since appealed to the Masvingo High Court against both the conviction and ruling.
The lawyer is arguing that Warth purchased the land in 1989 from Mutirikwi Sugar Company after he was offered an opportunity to purchase the said piece of land by Triangle Limited.
According to the lawyer, 17 former employees benefitted from the scheme, whose ground-breaking ceremony was attended by former President Robert Mugabe and his Vice-President, the late Joshua Nkomo.
Of the 17 beneficiaries, only four were white, namely Warth, the late Carl Bradfield, a South African national Dave Doig and Mike Horsley
In his heads of argument, Chibudu stated that Amendment number 20 of the Zimbabwean Constitution introduced sections 296 and 297, which respectively relate to the formation of a special commission to deal with land disputes and issues to do with land.
He further stated that the accused engaged the commission and was assured of an investigation, whose findings he is awaiting.
According to the Zimbabwe Lands Commission (ZLC) response to Warth’s lawyers, Honey and Blankenberg, who are representing him at the ZLC, the matter is still being handled by ZLC.
The response, dated February 7, 2019, was signed by secretary Danisile Hikwa and copied to chairperson Tendai Bare.
The response read: “Notice of the acquisition of agricultural land under section 72(2) of the Constitution — CRT 891/99 — Mutirikwi Sugar Company Limited in the district of Nuanetsi. Being Lot 12 of Lot 15 of Nuanetsi Ranch A-measuring 59, 2581 HA-Shane Warth-Mpapa Sugar Cane Scheme.
“Your client was rightly advised by the current Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement to make representations to us on the matter. The commission acknowledges receipt of the same and makes an undertaking to investigate the complaint in terms of Section 297(1)(d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
According to the lawyer, the accused (Warth) filed declaratory summons at the High Court seeking to declare the gazetting of his farm unconstitutional.
The summons are yet to be determined, but are duly filed with the Masvingo High Court and served on the defendants, being the Agriculture, Lands and Rural Resettlement minister and Muzara.
In a related matter, Bradfield’s widow, Ann, of Lot 19 of lot 16 NRA, also got a letter of eviction on July 4.
Bradfield, who was a cattle rancher and a professional hunter, was trampled to death by an elephant, leaving his widow running the farm with the assistance of her farm manager Aldoph Willem Botha.
Botha was later struck and killed by a farm worker, who is believed to have stolen a substantial amount of money from him and fled into neighbouring South Africa, forcing Ann to lease the farm to Matabeleland Beef.
Doig is believed to be leasing the farm to Josh Munyonga, an employee at Triangle Limited.
Horsley, who is married to a German national, also received an eviction letter, but is said to be covered by the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, so his eviction has been put on hold.