HARARE – The Supreme Court on Monday applied brakes to government moves to seize a Mazowe farm owned by exiled former minister Jonathan Moyo and his wife, Beatrice.
Justices Chinembiri Bhunu, George Chiweshe and Joseph Musakwa, on appeal, overturned a High Court ruling dismissing Moyo’s urgent application for an interdict against the lands minister and Barclos Mujuru, who has occupied a section of the farm since October 2020.
An interim order granted in favour of Moyo says: “Until a final decision relating to the rights of the parties can be made by this court under case number HC 290/20, or the return date of this application, whichever happens sooner, the state of occupation by applicants in respect of the remainder of Patterson Farm in Mazowe shall not be interfered with by the respondents, its employees or assigns.”
Justice Esther Muremba of the Harare High Court had dismissed Moyo’s application, prompting his appeal to the Supreme Court. The judge said Beatrice, who filed the founding affidavit, had no legal standing in the matter because the offer letter was issued to her husband.
Her lawyers disagreed, arguing that she was an applicant in the pending application for review and was entitled to “protect the integrity of an application in which she is a party.”
In the review application, Moyo and his wife are challenging the compulsory acquisition of their 623-hectare farm, which they bought for Z$6 million (US$105,400 at the time) from the government in 2002.
In May 2019, two years after Moyo was forced to flee to Kenya when the military overthrew President Robert Mugabe, the new lands minister Perrance Shiri wrote to Moyo withdrawing the government’s offer letter for the farm, issued in 2001.
Shiri said the intention was to “downsize” their holding in the farm, which he claimed was “underutilised.”
By December that year, however, the government stance appeared to have changed and Shiri now required Moyo to “wind up operations and vacate the farm.”
On October 2020, Mujuru moved into the farm. He said he had been given an offer letter for a section of the property by the lands ministry.
Moyo’s lawyer Advocate Thabani Mpofu, instructed by Chris Mhike, argues that the purported seizure of the farm is not only unlawful but also “motivated by extraneous reasons that are political and mala fide.”
In an affidavit filed with the application for review, Moyo said: “The decision implicates a breach of administrative law in that it is substantively unreasonable in the extreme and constitutes state-sanctioned theft.
“The land that has been taken away from me is land that I acquired from the state in terms of a transparent process. The state has not paid me back the money that it took from me in terms of the agreement concluded between the parties.”
Moyo maintained that before he was forced to flee his home which was shot at and vandalised by soldiers, he was a “very productive farmer and the government of Zimbabwe acknowledged the fact.”
In May 2019, before Shiri’s letters, he said a combined team of police officers, intelligence officers and soldiers swept into the farm and “harassed” his family and employees.
“It was clear that a process to repossess the farm had commenced,” he told the High Court.
Moyo also argues that the plan to seize his farm is “a breach of the constitution in that it countenances the acquisition of land belonging to an indigenous person under the programme of land reform.”
The government has used similar tactics in Matabeleland North where it is seeking to repossess Esidakeni Farm from human rights lawyer Siphosami Malunga, he says as punishment for his criticism of the government.
Malunga and his partners, who bought the farm in 2017, have challenged the plan to seize the 554-hectare farm which the government plans to parcel out to Zanu PF’s secretary for administration Obert Mpofu.
Other former Mugabe ministers including Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao and Mandi Chimene are also in court resisting moves to grab their farms.