National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has refused to take joint legal action with its agro-business partner PKD Malindi against illegal settlers at its Matabeleland South farm.
The embattled state enterprise, which is seeking a fresh investment boost after cabinet terminated its US$400 million revival project with the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG), is also claiming to have terminated a joint venture agreement with PKD Malindi to make use of Wollendale Farm.
The farm was occupied by illegal settlers, scuttling plans by PKD Malindi to conduct any profitable business on the property.PKD Malindi owner Phathakahle Dube, a former Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) ex-combatant, is now seeking to recoup the money he has invested in the agricultural project, which was initially earmarked to commence in 2003.
According to documents seen by the Zimbabwe Independent, NRZ corporate services director Misheck Matanhire notified PKD Malindi that it would not jointly sue the illegal settlers with the agro-processing firm.
“Please note that NRZ is represented by James Moyo, Majwabu and Nyoni Legal Practitioners (Mr T Sibanda). In circumstances unless we subsequently advise otherwise, James Moyo, Majwabu and Nyoni will prepare all papers requisite for us to purse the application for the eviction of the settlers,” Matanhire said in a letter dated February 24.
“Having said the foregoing, you may wish to review your clients’ locus standi given express communication by the NRZ to their erstwhile legal practitioners (Sansole and Senda) and directly to them, on the status of the agreement between PKD Malindi and NRZ which hitherto formed the basis of the joint legal action against the illegal settlers.
“Sequel to the foregoing it appears unnecessary for the NRZ to appoint a representative to depose to an answering or to other affidavits.”Dube said the settlers’ refusal to vacate Woolendale Farm, measuring 1 264 hectares, stalled agricultural projects ranging from cattle breeding, poultry production, market gardening and dog training.
He said he had attained all requisite papers to prove that the joint venture between the NRZ and his company still exists and believes he has strong grounds to be on the land including certificates from the deeds office and Finance ministry.
The Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement ministry on January 29 this year wrote a letter informing PKD Malindi that the farm had not been taken over by government for land resettlement, confirming the farm was still under NRZ ownership.
“We have checked our land database and observed that the farm in question belongs to the National Railways of Zimbabwe and was never acquired by government for land resettlement purposes,” reads a letter signed by D Tshuma on behalf of the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Lands.
The dispute comes at a time the Zimbabwe Land Commission has washed its hands off over the protracted squabble that has dragged for nearly 15 years, a November 2019 letter seen by this newspaper shows.
“Section 9(3)(b)(i) of the Land Commission Act provides that the Commission shall not investigate a complaint or dispute where the action or omission to which the complaint or dispute relates is the subject matter of proceedings before any court of competent jurisdiction.
“Kindly be advised that the Commission is unable to handle the matter since it was handled before High Court of Zimbabwe case number HH 289/2009 and has been decided by the court. Your case with us has thus been dismissed by the commission on the said grounds,” the letter written by the commission’s acting general manager, one P Chamunorwa, reads.
In a response to summons by the commission, the villagers said they approached the office of Vice-President Kembo Mohadi and the Member of Parliament of the area to seek political recourse on the matter.
“Upon advice, the villagers met the Matabeleland South provincial chief lands officer, a Mr Dodzi who dealt with the matter. We were assured the matter has been resolved. We are at a loss as to why the issue has now resurfaced at Zimbabwe Land Commission office in Harare when the same issue was dealt with by the same office in Matabeleland,” chairperson of the villagers Joseph Mguza Sibanda said in May 2019.
“Also puzzling is that all due processes were followed by the Minister of lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement in the acquisition, gazetting of the farm resettlement of the affected villagers. We are convinced that if there was an issue with or dispute concerning the acquisition of the farm it should not be directed at Joshua Ndlovu and others, the resettled villagers but to the minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement who is the acquiring authority.”
The villagers, who were resettled in 2001, also argued that they have invested a lot in settling on the farm and have contributed to the development of the area.