ZIMBABWE Defence Industries (ZDI) and the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) have taken over Chimanimani MP Roy Bennett’s Charleswood Estate in contravention of a High Cour
t order barring the government from acquiring the farm, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
A High Court application filed by the farm’s shareholders said defence forces had taken over the farm. The farm manager, Sunface Bhaudhi, in his affidavit said military agents had invaded the farm during Easter.
“On Good Friday, 9 April 2004, heavily armed members of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and the ZRP Support Unit led by a soldier identifying himself as Dzapasi, forcibly invaded and surrounded Charleswood Estate,” he said.
Bhaudhi said the army forced some of the farm workers to sign up as ZDI workers and ordered a number of them to leave immediately.
“Dzapasi explained that the basis of the forcible ‘ejectment’ was that Charleswood Estate had now become Zimbabwe Defence Industries land,” he said.
ZDI is a wholly owned government company, which manufactures ammunition, weapons, ordnance and military uniforms.
Bennett in an interview said ZDI and Arda had clashed over control of the farm.
“I have been informed that there is a lot of tension between the army and Arda officials as to who is in control of Charleswood,” he said.
The estate is a major producer of coffee for export and has Export Processing Zone (EPZ) status. Bhaudhi said the army had taken over the coffee mills at the farm.
Court papers to hand say a considerable amount of potential foreign currency had been lost due to the invasion.
“We had secured a deal to sell coffee to foreign buyers including a Korean company called K&Z Incorporated, who expect a delivery of 18 tonnes,” Bhaudhi said. “I would estimate the loss would be in the region of US$200 000 which could have benefited the country.”
Due to the disruptions of production at the farm, the future of over 1 000 farm workers remains unclear.
“In the absence of normal productivity, it would be difficult for Charleswood Estate to continue paying its large work force,” Bhaudhi said.
He said the farm’s six managers were immediately ordered to vacate the farm.
“The six of us are currently living as internally displaced persons in a place of safety in Mutare,” he said.
On the farm, Bennett, an MDC MP, is an equal partner with Walter Johnson of Mawenje tourist lodge, a project of the Zimbabwe Investment Centre.
The two have since filed an urgent High Court application, suing the government for the fresh invasion and subsequent disruptions of business on the farm by the army and police.
The Independent has in its possession a copy of the application dated April 22.
Cited as respondents are Manicaland governor, retired Major General Mike Nyambuya, the Home Affairs minister, police commissioner, Defence minister, the ZNA commander, and the State Security minister.
Bennett this week confirmed that his farm had been taken over by the government.
“Yes, and my workers have also been forced to work as employees of the state on my farm, yet it has not been listed for compulsory acquisition,” he said.
Bennett said government agents came for Johnson on April 14 at the lodge and told him to leave within half an hour.
Bennett claimed that the invaders said they were acting on Nyambuya’s orders.
“They ordered Johnson to vacate the property saying they had to comply with an instruction coming from Governor Nyambuya,” he said.
Bennett said five guests who were staying at the lodge immediately left unharmed. Johnson also left. He has a 50% stake in the lodge registered with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
The High Court issued an interdict order in January 2003 against the then Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement from acquiring his farm, and an Order by Consent, in which the state agreed not to interfere with Bennett’s farm.
The Minister of Special Affairs in charge of lands, John Nkomo could not be reached for comment as he was said to be out of his office.
Bennett said his farmhouse has been effectively taken over by Arda whose representative is a man only identified as Huba.