Chiredzi farmers lose unutilised land

BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA/SILAS NKALA

SCORES of Chiredzi A1 farmers in Essenby have received letters of withdrawal from the Lands ministry after failing to utilise the land allocated to them during the fast-track land reform programme.

This was revealed in court after Abious Masitiki dragged Makanani Muchayi, who had settled on his farm, to court in a bid to put to rest their two-year fight over a 50-hectare plot.

In his heads of argument, Masitiki said the withdrawal letter, which was issued to him during the pre-trial conference, was dubious.

According to his supporting documents, which included a Chiredzi district lands committee certificate of occupation dated July 26, 2001 signed by the district administrator (DA) and

Chiredzi Rural District Council chief executive – Masitiki was offered plot number 103 in Essenby in 2001.

However, according to the land offer withdrawal letter dated March 20, 2017 seen by Southern Eye and signed by former Chiredzi DA, Ndeya Nyede, district war veterans chairperson

Killer Makuni and the district lands officer, Honest Mapfumo – the land was withdrawn from Masitiki with effect from that date due to failure to utilise it.

The withdrawal letter read: “Please, be advised that the district lands committee is withdrawing the offer of land made to you for the reasons that you failed to abide by the conditions set out in the fast-tract resettlement allocation form on conditions of take-up and utilisation.

“If you wish to make any representation on this issue, please, do so within seven days of the receipt of the notification and please direct the correspondence to the chairperson of DLC (DA).”

Masitiki, however, argued that the withdrawal letter was cooked up and maintained that he only saw it during the pre-trial conference.

According to him, over 20 other resettled A1 farmers were also being kicked out of Essenby farms under similar circumstances.

Lands minister Perrence Shiri could not be reached for comment.

Nyede, who is now the Zaka district administrator, admitted signing the documents before his transfer, but said he was not aware if the plots were now occupied.

“Yes, I signed those documents, but I am not sure as of now if the plots are occupied because those letters were issued after inspections had been done and those pieces of land found unutilised. Definitely, the exercise was meant to consider new applications on underutilised or untaken plots,” he said.

Mapfumo said they had carried out a land audit and offers for all unutilised land were withdrawn. The district lands officer, however, asked why Southern Eye was interested in the issue.

“What is your interest in the whole issue? I know you are a journalist, but are you a lawyer? Come to my office if you want clarification,” he said, before cutting the phone.

Meanwhile, 56 Zanu PF activists, who settled at Heany Junction Farm in Umguza, Matabeleland North province in 2013, are challenging the government over eviction notices they were served with recently, their lawyer has said.

Yesterday, their lawyer Dumisani Dube from Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers said the villagers received eviction notices on May 12 despite having won a court case in December 2017, stopping government from evicting them.

One of the eviction notices read: “You are given seven days’ notice to vacate Heany Junction Farm … You are violating section 3 of the Gazetted Lands Act, chapter 20:28, in that you are occupying the said property without lawful authority. You are hereby, given an eviction notice and notice to vacate the property on or before May 30, 2019. Failure to vacate will result in your arrest and prosecution…”

In a letter dated May 20, the villagers said the 2017 court order that blocked their eviction still stood.

“On May 17, you served notices of vacation to 56 of the 122 settlers… at Heany Junction Farm, Umguza. In terms of the eviction notice you served, you requested that they vacate the property on or before May 30; failure of which they would be prosecuted,” read the letter.

“… we refer you to the judgment granted by Justice [Nicholas] Mathonsi in the matter you lost against our clients on December 14, 2017 under HC 381/17. In terms of the High Court judgment handed down, Ministry of Lands, Ministry of Home Affairs, Commissioner of Police and Sibonginkosi Moyo are interdicted from threatening to evict, attempting to evict, evicting and in any way interfering with the applicants and other occupiers of their homesteads … and from demolishing their homesteads without first seeking and being granted a court order… by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

The lawyer said the ministry’s notice to evict and prosecute the settlers was not only sub judice, but also contemptuous of the High Court order.

According to Mathonsi’s ruling, the settlers were scores of Zanu PF youths who were encouraged to settle at the farm by then Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu, who was also the legislator for the area.

Mpofu was aware of their occupation of the land and gave them assurance that they were safe. As a result, most of the settlers built permanent homes.

The government has yet to respond to the letter.

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