Ex-finance minister Ignatius Chombo fights subdivision of his farm

HARARE – Former finance minister Ignatius Chombo has won a temporary injunction stopping the government from subdividing his farm in Zvimba.

Chombo told the High Court that he was in occupation of the 3,099-heactare Allan Grange Farm in Zvimba for 21 years, before lands minister Anxious Masuka initiated moves to subdivide the property and resettle other people.

Early this year, Chombo said he was served with a letter of cancellation of his 99-year lease dated September 25, 2021.

On March 23, 2022, he then received calls from lands officials, under Masuka’s instructions, informing him that his farm was subject to re-pegging.

He wrote to the minister challenging the takeover of the farm but got no response.

Instead, on March 29 and April 4 this year, some officials from the ministry started the re-pegging process.

Chombo has won a temporary injunction at the High Court pending the outcome of his main application in which he is challenging Masuka’s decision to parcel out his farm.

An order granted by Justice Lucy Mungwari said: “The interim interdict be and is hereby granted. The minister and all those acting through him be and are hereby interdicted from conducting a re-pegging exercise and settling of new occupants on Chombo’s farm namely Subdivision 1 of Allan Grange farm in the district of Zvimba in Mashonaland West measuring 3098,81 hectares.

“Masuka and all those acting through him be and are hereby interdicted from interfering in any way and form with farming operations on the farm by Chombo, his assignees and agents.”

In an affidavit filed at the High Court, Chombo said sometime in January this year Masuka sent some officials to call him telling him that his farm was subject to re-pegging without notice. He was told that other farmers would be resettled on the farm.

Chombo said he was allocated the farm in 2001, and subsequently got a 99-year lease agreement approved in 2006.

“Now about 504 hectares of arable land under irrigation has been planted with soya, maize and potatoes. More importantly, I have prepared the land for wheat plantation with May 1, 2022, as the priority date for seeding,” Chombo said.

“The other piece of the farm is reserved for cattle and goat ranching. I have about 150 head of cattle and 100 goats.”

Chombo told the court that he has made substantial developments at the farm including construction of farmhouses, workers’ quarters, a dairy centre, a storeroom, granary, shed, purchased various heavy farming equipment and electrified workers’ houses.

He said he also employs 80 full time and 150 part time workers.

In 2018, he partnered with the government and a third party investor known as Peary Investments (Private) Limited and invested over US$3 million during the past two years in farm infrastructure, he told the High Court.

Unknown to him, Masuka re-planned the farm by making 10 subdivisions which he offered to other beneficiaries, he insists without a proper withdrawal of his lease agreement.

Chombo is the latest of former loyalists of the late President Robert Mugabe to have their farms repossessed by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which they accuse of vindictiveness.

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