GOVERNMENT has withdrawn its intention to acquire Gletwyn Estate, a move that exposes the state’s policy inconsistencies and shortcomings of laws
hastily promulgated to facilitate land seizures.
Administrative Court documents in the hands of the Independent show that government was forced to withdraw its intention to acquire Gletwyn farm after the dispossessed landowner, Alexander Stuart Ross, went to court seeking an order to compel President Mugabe to reverse the acquisition of his property, arguing that the farm falls under Harare urban.
The government’s Land Acquisition Act and Constitutional Amendment Act No 17 passed last year exempt municipal land from seizure by the state under the land reform programme.
In its notice of withdrawal, dated May 24, the attorney general’s Civil Division said: “Take notice that the Applicant (Minister of Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement) withdraws the above matter and tenders reasonable costs.”
In the papers filed on May 18, seeking the reversal of the acquisition, Ross said Gletwyn, which is registered in his name, was incorporated into the Harare municipal area by Statutory Instrument 41 of 1996 exempting it from acquisition for resettlement purposes. The land was “urban land within Harare’s municipal area, not rural land, nor agricultural land required for resettlement purposes in accordance with the land reform programme,” the court documents say.
Mugabe was cited as the first respondent and Didymus Mutasa, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement minister, the second respondent.
Ross said acquisition of his property was reviewed on the basis of “gross irregularities in the proceedings and decisions by generally failing to comply with the requirements of the legislature regarding urban land”.
Gletwyn has been targeted for acquisition since 2002 with a flurry of Zanu PF-inspired invading groups moving in to grab the prime property.
First it was the Sally Mugabe Housing Cooperative, before government seized the property in November 2004 and gave it to Divine Homes to subdivide into low-density residential stands.
Police Heights Housing Cooperative earlier this year occupied the farm, forcibly evicting more than 200 people on the pretext of developing residential stands for senior law enforcement officers.
Divine Homes, a private land developer chaired by Deputy Finance minister David Chapfika, has already started work, subdividing Gletwyn into 600 residential stands.
Ross argues in the court papers that it was illegal for the government to acquire Gletwyn because the Land Acquisition Act upon which it based its actions does not permit the state to acquire municipal land for purposes of redistribution.
“A piece of land under municipal area cannot be acquired under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act applicable to agricultural land, as all land within any municipal area is expressly excluded from such provisions,” Ross states in his papers.
Section 2, Chapter 20:10 of the Act stipulates that “agricultural land required for resettlement purposes” means any rural land the acquisition of which is
reasonably required for resettlement purposes and which is identified in a preliminary notice as being required for those purposes. Rural land means any land other than land which is in a municipal area or local government area.
Last August’s constitutional amendment bans citizens from contesting in court seizure of their land by the state but it also makes it clear that government can only take farmland for purposes of resettlement.
“If the state were to start seizing urban land by ‘selective nationalisation’, it is possible the property market, upon which the state depends for many revenues and many people depend for their livelihoods, would collapse,” Ross said in his court application.