BY RICHARD MUPONDE
TSHOLOTSHO Rural District Council is embroiled in a bitter legal wrangle with a commercial agricultural investor, Owen Sibanda who it allocated land under controversial circumstances two years ago.
When the council allocated the land to the businessman, traditional leaders were miffed and the matter spilled into the courts. However, the court ruled in Sibanda’s favour since he was in lawful occupation of the land.
Undeterred by the court order, the council has issued summons again against Sibanda through its lawyers, Calderwood, Bryce and Hendrie seeking an order to evict him arguing that the land was pegged as communal land not commercial.
“An order of eviction of the defendant and all those claiming occupation through him from a certain piece of land situated at Jahe Line, Ward 13, Godzo communal lands, Tsholotsho, being communal land on the grounds that the defendant does not enjoy the plaintiffs consent to occupy such land as required by section 8 of the Communal Lands Act, chapter 20:04,” submitted the council n summons seen by Southern Eye yesterday.
However, Sibanda has since filed notice of appearance to defend the eviction through his lawyer Abednego Ndebele of Mathonsi Law Chambers.
“I (Sibanda) applied for an agricultural stand and was allocated by the RDC in 2017. Sometime later during the same year a chief [Chief Magama] issued me summons for eviction through the magistrates’ court in Tsholotsho. I defended the eviction and got a judgment in my favour, as it was found that I was lawfully occupying the land,” submitted Sibanda.
He said the council was in support of his investment during the time the chief was fighting him, with one Khumbulani Hlabangana representing the council.
“Hlabangana was meant to testify on behalf of the council in my support of the occupancy of the land but he did not, owing to unknown reasons. I was fairly and squarely, after following all procedures required by the RDC allocated the land, which I occupy. The matter was then dismissed,” he said
Sibanda said in 2017 during the trial of the matter, some villagers acting on the request of an unnamed suspect stormed his projects on the disputed land burnt and destroyed it.
“My project was burnt down resulting in the arrest of 126 villagers. To that effect on the matter I would also like to point out that the minster was misinformed about the size of land I was allocated. At that time the minister suggested that I be allocated a lesser part of land, which was done, with the initial amount of land I was to occupy being pegged off,” Sibanda said. He said the council’s actions had the propensity of scaring off future investors as their investments would not be secure in the district.
The matter is still to be set down for hearing.