Army Brigadier Embroiled in Farm Ownership Wrangle

A HEADLANDS commercial farmer has accused an army brigadier of forcibly removing him from his farm at gun point despite court orders barring the soldier from seizing the property.


Charles Ingram Lock told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that Brigadier General Justin Itayi Mujaji had since 2007 been fighting to remove him from his Karori Farm in Makoni district, Manicaland.

Lock alleged that Mujaji was using a controversial offer letter signed by the then Lands minister Didymus Mutasa to claim ownership of his farm.

The farmer claimed that Mutasa was instructed to withdraw the offer letter by the then chairman of the national land committee, Vice-President Joseph Msika.

Despite Msika’s instruction, Mujaji allegedly continued to interfere with Lock’s operations at the farm. The soldier also reportedly defied court orders barring him from taking over the property.

However, Mujaji yesterday accused Lock of “spreading lies” against him because of the farm ownership wrangle.

He said the farm was allocated to him under the land reform programme and that Msika’s instruction was immaterial.

According to documents in the possession of the Zimbabwe Independent, High Court judge, Justice Samuel Kudya, on February 23 2007 ordered Mujaji to stop interfering with Lock’s farming operations.

“The respondent (Mujaji) shall forthwith secure the removal from the land of all military personnel presently stationed there together with their tents and belongings,” Kudya ruled. “The respondent (Mujaji) and his family, his workers and agents are hereby interdicted and prohibited from occupying or entering upon the farm and from utilising or occupying any improvements there on.”

Mujaji appealed without success to the Supreme Court against the order on June 28 2007.

Despite the courts’ decision, Mujaji allegedly kept on harassing Lock and the police were not willing to arrest him.

Lock said: “He (Mujaji) refused to acknowledge the ruling from both courts and evicted me at gun point from my house whilst the police looked on. He took whatever equipment remained on the farm and one and a half hectares of roses were destroyed.”

Lock sought a contempt of court order against Mujaji and the soldier was jailed for 30 days by High Court judge, Justice Charles Hungwe, on September 7 2007.

After the soldier was jailed, Lock said he resumed operations at the farm.

Mujaji returned to the farm in the company of youths and soldiers when Lock was about to reap about 500 tonnes of maize in July 2008.

The farmer claimed: “My labourer was beaten up in front of me and I was barricaded in my house. Sgt Mukoni was the front man in all of this. Mujaji removed some of my irrigation pipes and trailer and stole maize.

“He told me he was taking my crops including my wheat crop in the ground. The police acted after two weeks and only after I took the issue to the police headquarters.”

Lock claimed that Mujaji had on several occasions tried to have him arrested for being on the land unlawfully.

“In February 2009 I was summoned to the court for the same offence. I did not go and instead obtained a High Court order barring the state from prosecuting me again. So the state has started prosecuting my employees instead,” the farmer said.

But Mujaji yesterday said he was looking for Lock to serve him with court papers on the farm.

Mujaji said: “Where is Lock? He is claiming to have a High Court order when he is actually supposed to have vacated the farm in 2007. It is now two months. The police are looking for him. They go to his house and are told that Lock has disappeared…

“It’s frustrating. I decided to stop his operation at the farm and deployed three of my guys to tell people to stop operations until Lock avails himself. I heard he is running around to embassies and even to some investors distorting things and that is pure nonsense.”

He said the Karori Farm occupation issue was taken to court due to some technicalities.

“The matter has been dragging on since February 2007 and he has managed to have these dubious High Court orders to extend his stay on the farm. These are some of the white farmer’s tactics to frustrate the system (land reform programme),” the army officer added.

Mujaji denied threatening Lock at gunpoint, looting equipment and destroying crops at the farm.

 “That is not true. No one held him at gun point. He (Lock) had already finished harvesting his tobacco when I went there. It is there in the barns and being purified. His maize crop is in the fields and is not yet ripe. I did not destroy anything. He is trying to tarnish my image,” he said.

Asked about an order from Msika for him to leave the farm, Mujaji said the instruction was immaterial.

“Cde Msika is not the Minister of Lands therefore he does not give offer letters. If Lock wanted a letter he should have done it the right way. He should have got the letter way back through the proper procedure rather than going to Msika.”

BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA

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