Land dispute: Murerwa subpoenaed

A HARARE magistrate has subpoenaed Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Herbert Murerwa after he failed to appear in court three times to testify in a land dispute involving a Beatrice farmer.

Courts issue subpoenas to compel a witness to give testimony and Murerwa is supposed to testify in a trial involving the director of Roslin Farm, Grant Paterson, who is alleged to have refused to vacate the farm which was gazetted for compulsory acquisition in 2002.

Magistrate Archie Wochiunga issued the subpoena last week and has since instructed the clerk of court to issue it on Murerwa who is expected to appear in court on May 19.

Murerwa failed to appear in court three times and at one time gave an excuse that he was not feeling well.

He is now compelled to appear as defence witness failure to which the court will be at liberty to issue a warrant of arrest.

The state represented by prosecutor Tawanda Zvakare accuses Paterson of remaining on the gazetted farm when he was supposed to have vacated on February 5 2007.

Paterson in his defence has denied the allegations saying that he had been told by the minister directly and indirectly that a land re-planning exercise was going on and that he would be one of the beneficiaries.

He said he was in constant communication with Murerwa whom he claimed assured him that he would share and co-exist on the farm with a Mr Hapazari, an A2 farmer who was allocated the farm under the land reform programme.

Paterson said: “I remained in occupation due to assurance by Minister Murerwa and Governor (Aeneas) Chigwedere that a re-planning was going to take place at the farm and they had sent a document to (that effect to) the Attorney-General (AG).”

He said a chief lands officer from Marondera visited the farm as part of the re-planning and he was asked to supply diesel to facilitate the trip to the farm.

According to court records, defence lawyer Misheck Hogwe said frantic efforts to have the minister testify proved fruitless.

Hogwe said: “We have not been able to get the minister’s commitment that he will come and testify. I would submit that in view of the highness of the office of the minister, it is not easy for my chief or myself to exert pressure to the honourable minister.

“What we have been able to ascertain from the office of the honourable minister is that there is a memo done on 1-3-2010 to the director of public prosecutions (DPP) confirming that a re-planning exercise was indeed underway and requesting the AG to stay prosecution on that basis.”

Hogwe said the DPP refused to furnish them with the letter.

“Regrettably the DPP found it appropriate to refuse to furnish us with the copy of the letter, instead DPP suggested that we obtain the letter from the minister. However the minister’s view is the letter was done at the prosecution authority and there is no reason why the prosecution should not give us the letter,” he said.

“Our position is that the letter if produced will eliminate the need to call the honourable minister to testify because the letter will effectively confirm what we would have asked the honourable minister to confirm to the court. In light of the foregoing I apply to the court that my learned colleague be ordered to furnish us with a copy of the letter. The letter can’t be in his physical possession but surely it is accessible to him as an officer of the AG.”

However, Zvakare said the application was mischievous.

Wochiunga dismissed the application and said the minister had to come to court as his evidence was important.

Wongai Zhangazha

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