HIGH Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo broke into the farm- house of prominent commercial farmer Vernon Nicolle with the assistance of the police last Friday to take over
the property, its former owners allege. But the judge denies the claim.
The Zimbabwe Independent re-vealed earlier this year that Hlatshwayo had moved onto Nicolle’s farm ignoring a provisional High Court order barring him from occupying the farm.
The farm at the centre of the dispute is the 375-hectare Lot 1 of Gwina Farm in Mashonaland West. Hlatshwayo moved onto the farm with his caravan last December and began agricultural activities.
Hlatshwayo yesterday denied using strong-arm tactics to gain entry to the house.
“Mr Nicolle was evicted by people who have the authority to do so, that is the police and Ministry of Lands officials,” he said. “His Section 8 order had long since expired.”
Vernon Nicolle’s son Christo-pher told the Independent the house was broken into last Friday. This followed a telephone conversation he had with Hlatshwayo.
“Hlatshwayo phoned me and told me that he would break into the house if I failed to come to the farm,” said Nicolle.
“The next thing I heard from the workers was that the house had been broken into. Some property belonging to my father was thrown out,” he said.
“Some keys were taken and the rooms that had no keys were broken into. At the moment we are not allowed to go back to the farm and take our equipment. We only got some of the equipment out but anything related to irrigation is not being allowed to move out,” he said.
Hlatshwayo refuted claims that he had moved into the farmhouse.
“I have no desire to move into the farmhouse. I have been carrying out my farming operations from my caravan for the past six months. I have waited for more than a year for him to move and this is too long for one to wind up and move. In fact he has been sabotaging me,” said Hlatshwayo.
He said the police gave him the keys to the house for “caretakership” of the property.
Hlatshwayo said Justice Paddington Garwe made a final order in his favour in March. In his judgement, Garwe said Nicolle had not followed the proper procedures in suing Hlatshwayo.
“In terms of Rule 18 of the rules of the High Court of Zimbabwe no civil process of the court may be sued out against the president or against any of the judges of the High Court without the leave of the court granted on court application being made for that purpose,” said Garwe in his judgement.
The judgement said the purpose of the rule was “clearly to protect or shield judges from vexatious litigation instituted against them in the very same court where they preside”.
Garwe also ruled that the dispute in the matter was between Nicolle and the Minister of Agriculture whose procedures for acquisition of the farm were flawed.
“The real dispute, it appears, is between the applicant and the acquiring authority (Ministry of Agriculture),” Garwe said. He said Hlatshwayo had only acquired the property through the ministry.
He said the matter should be determined separately since it did not involve Hlatshwayo.