BY TINASHE KAIRIZA
THE former owner of Esikadeni farm, which has been at the centre of an ownership dispute pitting its local shareholders and government, has said he disposed of his stake in the dairy business to three new owners, legal documents showed this week.
New owners at the centre of the battle for the farm in Nyamandlovu – 40km north of Bulawayo – are Zephaniah Dhlamini, Siphosami Malunga, son to liberation war stalwart, Sydney, and Charles Moyo.
But Jeffery Swindels, a Zimbabwean-born Australian, who was the shareholder in Keshemar Dairy Farm, has expressed his disappointment over “people who were not involved in the transaction” who are challenging the business ownership.
According to Swindels’ affidavit, he sold the business after receiving a lucrative offer from Malunga and his partners four years ago.
The trio, in a High Court application, are suing Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) deputy director general Gatsha Mazithulela Mazithulela over the farm dispute.
“I was born in Zimbabwe and I am a present citizen of Australia. My attention has been drawn to the existence of a dispute in respect of the transaction I concluded with Zephania Dhlamini, Siphosami Malunga and Charles Moyo.
“I am disappointed that people who were not involved in that transaction could raise doubts over its validity, putting forward some unsustainable contentions in the process.
“Sometime in or around 2017 I was approached by Dhlamini, Malunga and Moyo who asked me to consider selling them my interests in the farm. I was happy with the offer made.
“We agreed that the transaction would be structured as a share purchase and transfer agreement, a copy of which has been attached to the court papers that have been drawn to my attention. This was a valid and genuine sale.
“As far as I am concerned, the shares of Kershelmar, the company that owns the farm, are held by Zephania Dhlamini, Siphosami Malunga and Charles Moyo. This is a matter of factual and objective reality,” Swindels wrote.
In affidavits filed by Kershelmar shareholders they claim that Mazithulela, leveraging on his influential position as a CIO boss, threatened to grab the property as retribution against the owners for their “anti-government” activities.
The intelligence chief, alongside Masuka, Matabeleland North minister of State Richard Moyo, Registrar of Deeds and Chief Lands Officer are listed as defendants for allegedly spearheading seizure of the 196-hectare farm in Nyamandlovu.
Reason Mpofu and Dumisani Madzivanyathi, who according to the affidavit deposed by the owners of Kershelmar, claim to hold offer letters over the contested property are cited as respondents.
The affidavit deposed at the High Court in Bulawayo on July 21, 2021 seeks to block acquisition of the farm.
Court papers say Kershelmar owners acquired the property from Swindles in 2017 after which Mazithulela, who was National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Pro-Vice Chancellor, approached them seeking shareholding in the business.
“Ever since we took occupation, we have managed to run the farm to the envy of many. It therefore did not surprise me that sometime in December 2019, fourth respondent Gatsha Mazithulela, who was then the Pro-Vice Chancellor at Nust, and a work colleague approached me and asked to be included in the Esikadeni farm project,” reads the affidavit by Kershelmar owners, in part.
“The untenable request that he made, still required that I run it by fellow shareholders and directors. I did and they took the position that there was no room for additional shareholders.
“Immediately thereafter, Gatsha joined the CIO as the deputy director general. In February 2020, I met Gatsha and the discussion came up again. The conversation however, quickly became ominous. He raised the issue of the second applicant (Malunga), himself a son of a decorated national hero. He suggested that he had become a critic of the government and claimed that association with him imperilled our interests.
“He advised me that when he joined the CIO, he had found second applicant’s file containing what he termed anti-government activities.”
As narrated in the affidavit, which is accompanied by annexures including a trail of WhatsApp exchanges between Dhlamini and Mazithulela, the CIO chief is alleged to have intimated that Malunga worked for a “regime change organisation with a budget of over US$1 billion which he was using to destabilise government.”
However, Mazithulela distanced himself from influencing the seizure of Kershelmar Farms (Private) Limited in Matabeleland North through a notice of opposing papers filed at the High Court in August.
Mazithulela was represented by Mlotshwa and Maguwudze of Titan Law firm which sought to have the High Court dismiss the application with costs.
He said he was “invited” by the applicants in 2016 to be part of the consortium which was to acquire the farm.
“For the record, I wish to state from the outset that I have no interest in acquiring any portion of Kershelmar Farm and have never been offered any letters on the same. My alleged interest in acquiring the farm, only exists in the fertile imagination of the applicants,” charged Mazithulela in his opposition papers.
“The material omission, done so deliberately in my view, is that first applicant (Dhlamini), neglects to state that I was actually part of the original consortium seeking to acquire the farm he mentions as far back as 2016. It must be noted that first applicant was a colleague of mine at the National University of Science and Technology. I am no stranger to him or the second (Malunga) and third (Moyo) applicants. We knew each other well.”
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