BY KENNETH MATIMAIRE
A ZIMBABWE National Army senior officer has grabbed part of the 149-hectare Msasa Highlands Farm in Manicaland, bringing into question Zimbabwe’s commitment to adhering to its promise to protect property rights.
The farm that was taken over by Elvis Nyahoda is protected under a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa), the Zimbabwe Independent established this week.
But in an interview on Tuesday, the senior army officer said the farm was too small to be protected under international agreements.
Documents in possession of the Independent indicated that Nyahoda came into the picture a year after the farm was “erroneously” gazetted for acquisition in 2016.
The army major was issued with an offer letter to take over 59 hectares of the land, which constitutes about 40% of the prime land that once bustled with flocks of sheep and other livestock before being held back by the tug of war.
The farm is owned by Sam Case, who is of Irish origin, and his wife, who is originally from Germany.
The Independent was informed that Nyahoda allegedly grabbed more assets on the farm this week.
“He gained entry forcefully to the buildings that are at the lower part of the farm and has brought his family. But the offer letter he was given did not include any of the structures at the farm. Now, he is taking buildings, plantations at the farm and is also targeting my house,” Case alleged.
However, Nyahoda said the buildings he took over were on the land he was allocated.
He said they were part of the old and unused structures that were on the farm.
Case raised concerns over the manner in which the offer letter was issued to Nyahoda, as it came at a time when he was appealing against the farm’s gazetting.
He argued that the farm was protected by Bippa because his wife is from Germany.
Zimbabwe and Germany signed the Encouragement and Reciprocal Protection of Investments on September 29, 1995, which became effective on April 14, 2000.
According to a letter dated June 5, 2002, Case’s Actlink Farm bought the land in question from the late William Shamu in 1999 for ZW$2,2 million.
The transfer process was completed after Shamu was issued with a certificate of compliance by the government.
The German embassy wrote a letter dated February 28, 2018 to the lands commission confirming that the farm fell under Bippa, an agreement between countries that protects the investments of foreign citizens.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Zimbabwe has ratified at least 12 such agreements with countries like South Africa, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.
The lands commission, in its resolution issued on July 13, 2020, said Actlink Farm was a protected investment.
However, it referred the matter to the government.
“According to Section (3) (b) (ii) of the lands commission Act (Chapter 20:29), the commission shall not investigate a complaint or dispute where the action or omission to which the complaint or dispute that involves relations or dealings that involves the government of Zimbabwe and a foreign government,” the commission said.
“Given that the farm is Bippa protected, the complainant should deal directly with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Settlement on the issue.”
Case said his family had tried everything to stop Nyahoda to no avail.
The majority of officials who have handled the case have either died or redeployed before finalising the matter.
This week, Case said he lost five years of what could have been productive time trying to regain the farm.
The farm used to have a flock of 480 sheep and 28 cattle in 2008 but the number has dropped to 60 sheep and no cattle.
Nyahoda confirmed that he was issued with an offer letter to occupy 59 hectares of the farm as it was gazetted by the government.
He said the farm was too small to be classified under Bippa.
“Nothing has been said to me to that effect. What I know is that the farm is part of lands that have been gazetted and normal procedures were followed to issue the offer letter.
“There is no way it can fall under Bippa because the farm is too small,” said Nyahoda.
Agriculture permanent secretary John Bhasera indicated the ministry was looking into the matter.