Indigenous farmer sues over land grab

AN indigenous dairy farmer based in Beatrice has taken government to court contesting the cancellation of his 99-year farm lease agreement and allocation of the property to the Lands ministry officials.

BY XOLISANI NCUBE

The farmer, Tasara Muguti, petitioned the High Court through his lawyers Mhishi Nkomo Legal Practitioners on Septemer 18, 2018 raising eyebrows over termination of his 99-year lease agreement, eight days after he had registered the lease with former Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora.

Muguti claims the 908-hectare farm was subsequently subdivided and allocated to Lands ministry officials.

In his court papers, Muguti said he signed the lease agreement with government in 2012 and registered the lease on October 12, 2015, before the property was seized from him eight days later.

“It came to my attention on October 19, 2015, that after registering the lease agreement at the instance of the ministry, the ministry intended to downsize my farm for the purpose of reallocation to the ministry staff members without land,” Muguti’s court papers read.

He insisted that government should have given him a 30-day notice before termination of the lease agreement.

Muguti said in his case, the ministry gave him only 30 days to respond to the intention after which the cancellation was effected, a move he described as illegal and a threat to securitisation of the land reform programme.

Documents filed in court state that six Lands ministry officials, namely Tapson Madzivire, Takura Rukwati, Leah Rukwati, Alfred Mhaka, Ronald Mpofu and Clara Makumbe, obtained offer letters for the land well before Muguti could challenge termination of his lease agreement.

“The first respondent [minister] has not exercised his discretion by failing to provide me with adequately detailed reasons to make full representations regarding his intentions to cancel my 99-year lease agreement with the Government of Zimbabwe,” Muguti stated.

“The minister’s failure to take such principles into effect results in an improper and unlawful exercise of his discretion.”

But the Lands ministry’s former permanent secretary Grace Mutandiro, in her answering affidavit, defended the ex-minister’s actions, saying the cancellation was above board.

The case is yet to be heard before a High Court judge.