BULAWAYO – A Zanu PF-linked university lecturer who invaded a farm part-owned by a prominent human rights lawyer has been sued for loss of potential income to the tune of US$340,000.
Dumisani Madzivanyati, according to a High Court filing, “forcefully and unlawfully” occupied Esidakeni Farm in Nyamandlovu, Matabeleland North, between September and November 2021.
The 554-hectare farm is owned by rights lawyer and Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa director Siphosami Malunga, scientist Zephaniah Dhlamini and miner Charles Moyo.
The National University of Science and Technology lecturer is accused of unlawfully tampering with the irrigation system and depriving crops of water during the critical reproductive stage.
“The moisture stress and insect infestation were caused by the negligence of the defendant in that the defendant… unlawfully diverted the plaintiffs’ water system to service a piece of land he had identified as his own; continued in unlawful occupation of the farm despite an extant order of the court for his eviction and directing him to restore the plaintiffs’ irrigation system,” Malunga, Dhlamini and Moyo said in summons filed at the Bulawayo High Court.
The three business partners say during the occupation, Madzivanyathi “was aware that his conduct would cause significant damage to the plaintiffs’ crops but persisted regardless of this knowledge.”
“As a result of being deprived of water for a significant period at the critical reproductive stage, the crops experienced wilting and drying off of foliage, flower abortion and underdeveloped fruits which could not develop to marketable size and grade,” the summons say.
Malunga, Dhlamini and Moyo – who jointly own Kershelmar Fams Private Limited through which they acquired Esidakeni Farm in 2017 – say their 150,000 planted tomatoes and 65,000 butternut crops were destroyed.
They estimate the lost potential earnings at US$339,660.
Through their lawyers Webb Low & Barry, they are demanding full payment of the amount from Madzivanyathi or the Zimbabwe dollar equivalent; interest of 5 percent per annum from the date of summons and that he be ordered to pay costs of the suit.
Madzivanyathi occupied the farm after claiming to have been given an offer letter for a section of the property by the lands ministry, which announced in 2020 that the farm had been gazetted for compulsory acquisition under controversial land reform laws.
The Bulawayo High Court ordered Madzivanyathi not to resort to “self-help” by settling himself without a court order. Lawyers for the three business partners say Madzivanyathi ignored the court order and continued his disruptive activities, including driving through prepared fields and harassing farm workers.
Malunga, Dhlamini and Moyo are challenging the compulsory acquisition of the farm by the government, arguing that it is unconstitutional. Malunga says the farm grab which has sucked in Matabeleland North minister Richard Moyo and Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu is punishment for his human rights advocacy.
Madzivanyathi is yet to respond to the summons.