Harare – Former President Robert Mugabe is fighting to retain ownership of a Mazowe farm arguing it is listed as one of his properties under Gushungo Holdings (Pvt) Limited.
The Mugabe farm ownership wrangle comes on the backdrop of reports on an ongoing land audit by the land commission which seeks to investigate multiple ownership of farms, farm sizes as well as land use in urban areas.
In June this year, three farmers, Adonia Makombe, Sahungwe Hungwe and Nyika Chifamba, issued summons seeking Gushungo Holding’s eviction from Lot 1A Teviotdale Farm in Mazowe, Mashonaland Central province and payment of damages.
They argued they were holders of offer letters for the farm, which they acquired during of the 2000’s land reform programme.
In a pre-trial conference before High Court judge Justice Helena Charehwa on Monday, Mugabe and his wife Grace filed a special plea seeking the dismissal of the trio’s application, arguing that the farmers’ claims have prescribed and Gushungo Holdings (Pvt) Ltd still remains the rightful owner of the property.
“The first, second and third defendants (Gushungo Holdings, Mugabe and Grace) have raised a special plea in bar on the grounds that the claim is prescribed, no cause of action or legal right of occupation has been shown and there is a misjoinder of the second and third defendants (Mugabe and Grace),” Mugabe and his wife said in their special plea to the application.
In a plea filed on August 2, 2018,Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrence Shiri (who is listed as one of the respondents in the case) said the three farmers had no claim to the Mazowe farm as their offer letters were revoked shortly after being issued.
“Defendant (Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement minister) did issue offer letters to plaintiffs (Makombe, Hungwe and Chifamba), which offer letters were subsequently withdrawn. Defendant does not believe the plaintiffs ever conducted agricultural activities on their plots as former owner was still in occupation,” the minister said.
Shiri stated only he in his capacity as minister could impose an eviction of farmland.
“Plaintiffs have no right to demand anyone’s eviction over land for which they themselves have no lawful authority to use, possess or occupy. Only the fifth defendant (Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement) can exercise that right when the need arises,” he stated.
The case continues as numerous media reports claim Mugabe owns multiple farms ostensibly in contradiction with the government’s much touted ‘one man one farm’ policy.
Mugabe and his family are said to be owning between 14 to over 21 farms acquired after the controversial land reform programme began in 2000.
The Zimbabwe Land Commission began an audit earlier this month which it says will cover all gazetted categories of agricultural land in the eight farming provinces.
The land audit which is expected to end November 24 is expected to address land ownership dispute, compensation, and other issues including multiple farm ownership.
In a Sunday Mail article Shiri was quoted as saying his government sought to redress the “injustices” of the land reform programme, although it was irreversible.
“It also recognises the legitimate demand for justice from those who have been dispossessed or excluded. In addressing these matters, organised agriculture should seek to be part of the process of change, with the aim of sharing in the creation of a more just dispensation,” he said.