Chombo Loses 3000-hectare Farm Downsizing Court Case

Source: Chombo Loses 3000-hectare Farm Downsizing Court Case

Former ZANU PF Politburo member and Finance Minister Ignatius Morgan Chiminya Chombo has lost a bid to block Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister, Anxious Masuka, from subdividing his farm.

The Lands Ministry subdivided Chombo’s Allan Grange Farm in Zvimba, measuring over 3000 hectares, to accommodate other farmers including his ex-wife Marian.

High Court judge Justice Jacob Manzunzu ruled that the reasons for the cancellation of the lease given by the minister were valid and he also has the authority to act in the manner he did. Said Manzunzu:

The role of the minister in the tripartite agreement was to make sure that the joint venture was approved by the government and such an agreement could not have intended to oust the role of the minister in managing the land reform programme.

For the reasons already stated in this judgment, this is not a proper case for the court to exercise its discretion in favour of granting the declaratory orders sought.

The judge also slapped Chombo with costs on an ordinary scale.

Chombo’s ex-wife Marian joined the court proceedings through a court order in 2022.

According to NewZimbabwe.com, Chombo had been in occupation of the farm for over two decades after signing the 99-year lease on 14 November 2006. He was married to Marian at the time.

He sought a declaratory order for it to be declared that the Lands Minister could not cancel his lease outside the provisions of clause 22.1.

He also wanted an order that the reasons given by Masuka for the cancellation to be declared illegal and null and void.

In March 2018 Chombo entered into a tripartite agreement with an investor called Pepary Investments (Private) Limited (Pepary) and the government.

On 21 June 2021, the Lands Minister wrote a letter to Chombo informing him of his intention to cancel the 99-year lease agreement in respect of the farm.

The letter gave reasons for the intended cancellation and invited Chombo to make his representations, if any, to the minister on the matter.

On 13 August 2021, Chombo responded to the Minister’s letter and made representations requesting him not to execute his intention to cancel the lease agreement.

However, the Minister cancelled the lease agreement on 21 September 2021 which letter only reached Chombo on 17 January 2022 after the current application was lodged on 3 November 2021.

Chombo argued that the Minister acted outside clause 22.1 of the lease agreement hence his actions are illegal, null and void.

Marian and Masuka took an almost similar position in defending this application.

They argued that the application was overtaken by events, saying the lease agreement was eventually cancelled yet the application was based on an intention to cancel.

Masuka said Chombo would be offered a new security of tenure document for 500 hectares in line with the reasons for the cancellation of the lease which were articulated in the notice of 21 June 2021.

The High Court upheld the arguments by the Minister and said the tripartite agreement did not abrogate the powers of the minister as the Administrative owner of the land in terms of the law.

Chombo has since filed an appeal to the Supreme Court challenging a High Court ruling.

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