A DISPOSSESSED white landowner is suing President Robert Mugabe in yet another test case of laws hastily promulgated to facilitate land seizures.
In an application to the High Court, Alexander Stuart Ross is seeking an order to compel Mugabe to rev
erse the acquisition of his property by government, arguing that the land — Gletwyn Farm — is part of Harare.
The papers filed on March 8 cite Mugabe as the first respondent and 10 others, including ministers and other high-ranking government officials, as respondents.
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.
According to Ross, Gletwyn, which is registered in his name, was incorporated into the Harare municipal area by Statutory Instrument 41 of 1996.
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 invaded 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 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 the court application.
Respondents in the application include Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement minister Didymus Mutasa, Chapfika, Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo, Agriculture minister Joseph Made, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono.
Gono, who has strongly spoken against land seizures, is named as a respondent because he allegedly financed the unauthorised subdivision of Gletywn by Divine Homes.