How can my offer letter of 100 hectares equate to the entirety of Lesbury Estate which measures 700 hectares?
BISHOP Trevor Manhanga says he was evicted from his Rusape farm last year despite being issued an offer letter by government several years ago.
In a briefing with the Zimbabwe Independent this week where he clarified issues surrounding the ownership of Lesbury Estates which attracted the attention of both local and international media, Manhanga dismissed claims by the current occupier, Rob Smart, that he wanted to illegally evict him from the farm.
The Smarts stayed for 80 years at the farm before a dispute with Manhanga erupted.
“I cannot be said to have invaded Lesbury Estates when I have a legal, authentic offer letter issued on 20/3/15 from the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement to a piece of land measuring 100 hectares of Lesbury Estates in Makoni District Manicaland. Lesbury Estates, measuring 700 hectares which was lawfully acquired by the government of Zimbabwe in 2001,” Manhanga said.
“I was only one of three beneficiaries who were given offer letters of the A2 models and then there were at least 25 A1 farmers allocated land at Lesbury Estate. Despite this fact, your report singles out myself as the ‘invader’ of Lesbury Estate. How can my offer letter of 100 hectares equate to the entirety of Lesbury Estate which measures 700 hectares?”
Smart, according to Manhanga, was taken to court in 2016 by the government of Zimbabwe and charged with continuing to occupy gazetted land.
“He was found guilty in Rusape Magistrates Court on 4/11/16 fined and given up to 31st March 2017 to vacate Lesbury Estate. This was after he had indicated to the court that he would have wound up his farming operations by that time. Mr Smart then took me to the High Court where in a consenting judgement of both parties issued on 11/4/17 Mr Smart agreed to leave the farm by 31st May 2017. When Mr Smart was in default of this judgement and subsequent court order, which he was accenting to, he was then evicted by the Sheriff of the High Court. To say therefore that he was violently removed from the farm is to disregard the facts and the rule of law,” Manhanga added.
“If Mr Smart is now the legitimate occupier of Lesbury Estate does he have an offer letter? Can he avail the same for scrutiny? For the record I have not received any correspondence from the relevant governmental authority revoking my offer letter. If there is such correspondence, I have not been served with it. We are often told this country must abide by the rule of law, something I am in total agreement with. However, those who claim to be adherents to the rule of law cannot turn a blind eye when court judgements do not go in their favour. Currently if Mr Smart does not have an offer letter he is in violation of a lawful order of the court. That’s how it is and no amount of false media reports will change that.”
Last December, Smart was quoted by local and international media saying he had become the success story of how the new government had overturned unsanctioned farm evictions. This came after Agriculture minister Perence Shiri ordered illegal occupiers of farms to immediately vacate the land.