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New wave of farm invasions

Augustine Mukaro

SENATE President Edna Madzongwe and a host of other top Zanu PF officials and army officers are the main perpetrators of the latest wave of farm invasio

ns which are at variance with government’s theme declaring 2007/8 the “mother of all agricultural seasons”.

Madzongwe invaded yet another Chegutu farm, Stockdale, owned by one of the remaining white farmers, Richard Thomas Etheridge, defying a High Court order issued in July barring her from moving onto the farm.

Madzongwe’s manoeuvres at Stockdale are just a microcosm of the renewed farm invasions throughout the country led by Zanu PF officials and top military officers.

In Masvingo, Chiredzi South MP, retired Brig-General Kalisto Gwanetsa, gave a cane farmer in Chiredzi 14 days to leave his property. The farmer is currently vacating.

Zanu PF provincial chairman retired Major Alex Mudavanhu invaded Swanfontain Conservancy near Mutirikwi Dam.

In Mashonaland West Major General Nicholas Dube occupied Grand Parade farm, forcing off the owner despite the existence of a court order allowing him to remain operational until the finalisation of his case before the courts. Dube stationed 15 soldiers on the farm who over the past week have denied the farmer access to the property.

Meanwhile Makonde MP Leo Mugabe is caught in yet another farm wrangle in which he allegedly backed a white farmer, Myles Hall, to remain on his Summerhill Farm which has been served with a notice to be acquired for resettlement. Mugabe is cited in a court application in which the farm beneficiary Nomhle Mliswa alleges that she is being barred from getting onto the farm. Mliswa claims the right to the property on the strength of an offer letter dated April 12, 2007.

In Manicaland, three white farmers were reportedly under siege from top military officers. The farmers have accused Zanu PF politicians of grabbing one farm after another and running down the infrastructure at the properties in the process.

Court documents in the possession of the Independent say Madzongwe — who already owns Itape farm in Chegutu — invaded Stockdale Farm on October 7, accompanied by a lands officer, a Mr Kunonga, and five of her farm workers. The senator was later joined by 11 more youths from her farm. The lands officer advised the farm owner that he was unlawfully occupying the property following the expiry of his acquisition notice. Etheridge and 10 other white farmers appeared in court last Friday charged with violating the Consequential Provisions Act when they defied a final deadline of September 30, 2007 to leave the farms and make way for the compulsory government acquisition.

“My son was ordered to immediately hand over all property — whether movable or not — to the senator as it was claimed she was now the legal owner of all property on Stockdale,” Etheridge said in his affidavit. “He reminded the senator of the provisions of the prior provisional order and her forcible entry and claim to the possession of the property would constitute a contempt of court.”

Etheridge said Madzongwe left a gang of youths at the farm who on the following day attempted to break into the house in the process beating up Etheridge’s son who lives at the main farm house. The youths only retreated following the intervention of the police.

According to a government decree, any government official or any other individual in possession of more than one farm will be liable to prosecution. But Madzongwe is seeking to grab a second farm.

She already has Itape farm, located adjacent to Stockdale Farm.

Madzongwe could not be reached for comment.

In July, the High Court of Zimbabwe ordered Madzongwe to vacate Etheridge’s farm, which she had allegedly forcibly seized.

The order was in response to an urgent High Court application made by Etheridge seeking to bar Madzongwe from seizing the farm and rendering an offer letter that had been issued to Madzongwe by the Minister of Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, Didymus Mutasa null and void. High Court judge Yunus Omerjee in his ruling granted Etheridge interim relief barring Madzongwe from entering the farm.

In court papers filed at the High Court in July, Etheridge claimed Madzongwe and other people acting on her behalf entered his farm and occupied a part of it eagerly anticipating Etheridge’s eviction following the farmer’s appearance in court.

The forcible occupation occurred after Mutasa had served Etheridge with a notice, dated May 2, 2007, to vacate the farm by August 30 to make way for Madzongwe.

On June 15, the farmer was served with another notice informing him of the government’s intention to acquire equipment and materials from the farm.

Etheridge said Madzongwe’s offer letter for the property, dated March 6, was null and void, as the farm had not been acquired.

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