THE Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) has seized 152 cattle worth more than $304 million from opposition MP Roy Bennett’s Charleswood Estate.
In an interview this week, Bennett said Arda had over the past two weeks seized 152 Beef Master beasts valued at $2 million each, and relocated them to one of its farms in Chikomba district.
“Over the past fortnight, Arda stole 152 cattle from Charleswood and relocated them to Charter Estates in Chikomba where I also have reliable information that they branded the cattle with an Arda brand superimposed over my brand,” Bennett said.
Bennett’s lawyer, Arnold Tsunga, said Arda’s action amounted to outright stock theft.
“What Arda has done constitutes stock theft under common law,” Tsunga said. “The taking of movable property, including cattle, with the intention of permanently depriving the owner, in this case by a parastatal, with the acquiescence of the state, is definitely theft.”
Arda invaded Charleswood on April 9 in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and Zimbabwe Defence Industries in defiance of seven High Court orders barring the state or anyone else from interfering in the farm’s operations.
Bennett’s lawyers have since made yet another urgent application to the High Court, which cites Arda chief executive officer Dr Joseph Matowanyika as respondent, for an order to remove all Arda equipment from Charleswood.
Bennett has filed almost a dozen applications in the courts to block the illegal takeover of his farm. The government has ignored the orders.
A letter dated July 8 written by Trust Maanda, a Mutare lawyer of Henning Lock Donagher & Winter legal practitioners, acting for Bennett Brothers Farming Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd, to Jakachira & Company, which represents Arda, said Arda was in contempt of court.
“We write to inform you that your client Arda is in contempt of the High Court order in that it continues to be in occupation of our client’s farm in spite of the order that ordered it (Arda) to vacate the farm and not to interfere with our client’s operations,” the letter says.
“Dr Joseph Ma-towanyika, Mr Tsododo, Mr Simoyi, Dr Sithole (livestock manager) and Dr JG Manya (executive livestock manager) are in charge of the occupation of our client’s farm.”