FIGTREE farmer David John Conolly, who was evicted from his farm by Ray Ndhlukula, the deputy chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, is pushing ahead with his bid to have the senior civil servant charged with contempt of court.
Ndhlukula’s workers occupied the farm and disrupted farming operations despite a High Court interim relief stopping President Robert Mugabe’s aide from occupying the farm or bringing his cattle until the matter is resolved.
The interim relief was granted by Justice Takuva in Bulawayo on June 27 in case number HC 1204/14.
But despite the order, Ndhlukula’s workers moved onto the farm and brought equipment prompting Conolly to approach the court on August 13 seeking a declaration that the senior civil servant, who is the first respondent, was in contempt of court.
Ndhlukula, though in a opposition notice filed on August 29, dismissed the application and relief sought by Conolly.
He argued that he had no intention of defying the provisional order insisting he met the applicant on May 1 where he advised him that the land had been gazetted and offered to him by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement “acting under the authority of the President of Zimbabwe”.
Ndhlukula said he informed Conolly he would occupy the farm on August 1 although he had given the applicant time to harvest his crops.
“It is not true that I have systematically taken occupation of the farm. All I know is that I have stationed seven of my workers to monitor applicant’s progress in winding up operations,” he said.
“My experiences with the government of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme since its inception in the year 2000 is that the former occupier vandalises machinery and equipment on the farm to frustrate the new owner from benefitting from machinery and structures.”
Ndhlukula added: “There is therefore nothing sinister in having a few of my workers on the land to monitor applicant’s progress in winding up operations within the statutory 90-day notice period.
“I have only moved farm implements onto the land, but no activity is going on as I await the decision of the court in matter No HC 1204.”
Ndhlukula also denied that he had stopped the harvesting and delivery of vegetables to the market.
But on August 8, Conolly filed an answering affidavit where he continued his push for Ndhlukula to face contempt of court charges.
He maintained that Ndhlukula had no intention of abiding by the court order adding that he had made this known to him in the presence of the Officer Commanding police in Bulilima Mangwe Police District, a Chief Superintendent Samuriwo who presented the senior civil servant with a copy of the court order.
“Dr Ndhlukula refused to accept the order and turned to me and informed me that he was a senior civil servant in the Office of the President and that no Messenger of Court would evict his workers from the farm,” Conolly said.
“He added that he would be bringing his own farm equipment to the farm shortly and that his cattle would arrive the following day. This was a direct expression of contempt of the court and of the order issued by it … The first respondent did evict the applicant’s employees from their quarters. He put them out of their houses, and that, in my understanding, is an unlawful eviction, not sanctioned by the court order.”
He also said Ndhlukula’s farm equipment was on the farm and attached photographs which show Ndhlukula’s equipment and workers living on the farm as annexures.
Conolly also denied meeting Ndhlukula before August 1 and said he had interfered with farming operations by, among other things, cutting the fence around the vegetable plots while his wife allegedly instructed her employees to switch off the irrigation pumps which are pumping water to irrigate vegetables.
He said Ndhlukula had brought about 40 employees to the farm and they were erecting permanent structures.
Despite the matter being an urgent chamber application, it is still to be heard.
Conolly is seeking an interim relief that Ndhlukula, his employees and all persons claiming through him should comply with the provisional order and that any person or property remaining on the property be evicted by the sheriff of the court.
He wants a final order which declares that the first respondent is in contempt of court, and that he be fined US$100 per day for each day of non-compliance with the provisional order, from August 1.
He also wants him to pay costs of the application on the attorney-client scale.