The case of Esidakeni Farm is intriguing, and also one which shows us just how powerless the local courts have become to rein in the wayward behaviour of the politically connected that apparently can defy the law and get away with it.
Does Zimbabwe still have functioning courts of law? How can we respect them if a merely public employee can disregard two High Court rulings with impunity and does not get so much as a slap on the wrist?
Or is it that what we see happening is the new reality where the courts can only become relevant when they are convenient and the law enforcement agents can pick and choose which rule of law to enforce and some to ignore as per demand of the well-connected?
Can we still rely on the courts to dispense justice and the law enforcement agents to execute the court directives without fear or favour?
What is so complex about the Esidakeni Farm debacle that the courts and the law enforcement agents are in a twist over how to handle it?
The story so far is that National University of Technology (NUST) lecturer Dumisani Madzivanyati has been attempting a forcible occupation of the farm which he occupied in July.
He claimed that the Lands ministry had allocated him a portion of the 555-hectare property in Umguza, Matabeleland North. The farm lawfully is owned by Kershelmar Farms (Pvt) Ltd, a company whose shareholders include Siphosami Patrick Malunga, a human rights advocate and son of the late national hero, Sydney Malunga; Zephaniah Dhlamini, a NUST lecturer and Charles Moyo, a miner.
There was particularly disturbing exchange involving Dhlamini, the police and Davison Gumbo, an associate of Madzivanyati. The police wanted the invaders to leave the farm.
Gumbo responded: “I’m sure you can see we didn’t run away, it’s because Dhlamini no longer has jurisdiction, authority and right to be here. If you’re to back him and support him against the authority we have, we’ll have no choice but to take action.
“When we take action against you for supporting Dhlamini, the time will come when you have to stand by yourself as a police officer to explain your actions against the authority we have.”
This would have been laughable but for what has been happening since. Madzivanyati has defied two orders to vacate the farm issued by Justices Martin Makonese and Evengelista Kabasa.
He is also in defiance of the latest order issued by Justice Bongani Ndlovu that he be evicted and if he returns to the farm he must be arrested and detained.
So, dear President Emmerson Mnangagwa, at what point does the rule of law actually start applying in this case? These are some of the issues in play when the international investors opine about the absence of rule of law in the country, lack of respect for private property, selective application of law.
The law must be seen to be in operation and being respected, not the sorry saga we are witnessing.