By Staff Writer
The ownership wrangle of Honey Bird Kop Farm has taken a new twist as the white “owner” has finally spoken out after decades of silence, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.
Honey Bird Kop Farm has been at the centre of an ownership wrangle pitting ex-combatant John Gazi and government through Matabeleland North Minister of State Richard Moyo.
On the one hand, Gazi states that he is the rightful owner by default after the white “former” owners gave up on the farm, while on the other, Moyo argues that it belongs to the government after it was gazetted.
At present, up to 11 other illegal occupants — comprising four intelligence officers, four military personnel and three land officers — have since been settled at the farm at the behest of Moyo.
The State minister went on to allege that Gazi was a front of the white former owners.
This week, the saga turned into a three-tier ownership wrangle after Kyle St John Peters stated that he is “currently the title deeds holder of Honey Bird Kop Farm”.
Peters who is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa, indicated that the title deeds were with his lawyers from Webb Low and Barry in Bulawayo.
He said Gazi came into the picture during the controversial land reform programme in 2000 and coerced his family to enter into a lease agreement following a spate of intimidation and assault.
“Gazi started covert visits to the farm months after the initial land invasions in that year. Through threats, including beating my grandfather with a metal pipe and visits to our house in Bulawayo, we agreed to lease the farm to him,” Peters said.
“He defaulted on payments almost immediately, but we did not have the leverage to do anything about it, obviously, based on the state of the country, the legal system and the fact that we were white.”
While Peters denied having sold the farm to Gazi, he did agree that the ex-combatant has a long-term lease agreement facilitated through Steve Collier who was with Webb Low and Barry legal firm.
Documents gleaned by the Independent revealed that Collier, representing an unnamed client, indicated interest to extend a long-term lease by another 10 years to Gazi.
The document is dated September 21, 2015, which would technically make Gazi the lease holder until 2025.
Gazi agreed to being a long-term lease holder through an agreement facilitated by Collier, but identified the lessor as Noel Veale.
“Yes, I had a long-term lease which was renewed in 2015 pending the conclusion of the purchase negotiations. The Peters family are not the lessors in the farm matter. It was the owner of the farm, Mr Noel Veale who leased it to me. And I never beat him with a metal pipe,” Gazi said.
Efforts to locate Collier to clarify the ownership of Hone Bird Kop, was in vain as he was said to have left Webb Low and Barry legal firm several years ago and emigrated to the United Kingdom.
However, inquiries indicated that Veale was born in Bulawayo in 1925 and linked to Honey Bird Kop Farm which was owned by his late parents.
Following the death of his mother, Veale took over the farm up until the early 2000s — marked by the controversial land grab.
Inquiries further indicated that Veale had a daughter Sharon and son Noel named after him.
David Coltart who is also a senior partner in Webb Low and Barry legal firm said though he is not familiar with the case he knew Peters who was a grandson to the late Veale.
Peters said he inherited the farm from his grandfather and mother, without mentioning them by name, after the title deeds were transferred from their names to his several years ago.
He had not responded to inquiries to indicate the names of his mother, father and grandfather by the time of going to print.
However, both parties Peters and Gazi agreed that the farm was not gazetted and rubished the Matabeleland North Minister of State Moyo’s allegations that the latter was a front of white farmers.
“Honey Bird Kop was never gazetted for the government in 2000. I still hold the title deeds to the land. They are with my lawyer in Bulawayo,” Peters said.
“Personally, I’m very frustrated by the comments of Mr Moyo that Gazi is a front for the white person who owned the farm. That is flatly untrue … incorrect information and completely fictitious, politically-motivated framing of people like Gazi being a front for white people. That just furthers global racial issues and is a fabrication of reality.”
He further spurned Moyo’’s accusations arguing that Gazi could never be a front of his family having caused serious physical, psychological and economic harm to the Peters family.
Peters said his family was powerless to engage the government “after Gazi had the farm seized from him …”
A letter dated April 19, 2016 from the provincial lands committee removed Gazi from the list of beneficiaries on politically-motivated grounds.
However, the Zipra freedom fighter reportedly linked to Mthwakazi Liberation Front said he had the farm delisted after the government gazetted it the previous year.
Gazi maintains that he is the legitimate owner of the farm as he has continued to fight for the property after the white owners gave up on it.
“The family could no longer claim the legal ownership by default since I had been on the farm since 2000. And I’m the one who had it delisted when it was due for seizure after gazetting,” charged Gazi.
“I have been fighting a lone battle since 2015 when marauding hordes led by Richard Moyo tried to push me off the farm. They (Peters family) threw in the towel and gave up the farm in 2015. I have not given up the farm and I will win back the portion that Richard has sold; as well as evict the corrupt land officers and their henchmen from the security services.”
Peters said he was going to be in touch with his lawyers “to get their read on the situation”, as he hopes to revisit the farm with his immediate family and see his father and grandfather’s grave for the first time.
Honey Bird Kop, measures 1 046 hectares andis located 40 kilometres north of Bulawayo.