Town council in farm grabbing storm 

Source: Town council in farm grabbing storm – The Standard

KAROI Town Council illegally occupied a farm in Mashonaland East and allocated portions of the land to victims of Operation Murambatsvina including soldiers, court documents reveal.

The late Mistopha Nyamayaro Paradzayi Mashandudze owned Chiedza Farm Lot 1 of Glaudia Farm measuring 391 hectares that was invaded and parcelled out  to hundreds of people in 2006 by the council.

Mashandudze died in January 2004 and his wife  was appointed executor  by the Master of the High Court in terms of a  Letter of Administration dated April 27, 2006.

Among the new beneficiaries of the farm are 200 soldiers and teachers, court papers show.

According to High Court proceedings of case number HH 214-16, HC 1719/12, the council acted illegally.

The civil matter had lawyer Charles Chinyama standing  in for Dorothy Mashandudze in her capacity as Executrix Dative to the Estate.

The Karoi Town Council, Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta), Housing Cooperative, Cheuka Housing Cooperative, minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development and the Master of the High Court Zimbabwe are cited as the respondents in the matter.

“It is clear from the first, second and third defendants’ plea quoted above that they admit as unlawful their initial occupation of the farm,” Chinyama submitted.

 “It is for this reason that the issue for determination correctly perceived as indicated above is whether the plaintiff sold the farm to the first defendant?”

Council witnesses Stella Boni and Maxwell Kaitano conceded that Mashandudze did not sell the farm to the Karoi Town Council.

‘‘Clearly, therefore the first defendant (Karoi town council) and those claiming the right of occupation through it are illegally occupying the deceased’s farm and are liable to ejectment,” Chinyama said.

‘‘In 2006 she saw a group of people cutting trees on the deceased’s farm and observed a tractor belonging to the first defendant being used by people cutting trees which she believed were first defendant’s employees.

“She approached the first defendant to inquire who was clearing land on the farm. This was after she had challenged the people that had been clearing the land who had told her that they were part of the Garikai Hlalani Kuhle program. Karoi council also confirmed what Mrs Mashandudze had been told by those clearing the land.

Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle (Better Life) was launched in June 2005, with the government claiming that it would provide better housing to those who lost homes during Operation Murambatsvina.

Operation Murambatsvina saw police, backed by bulldozer teams, demolishing backyard shacks and cottages, flea markets and squatter camps.

Human rights groups say the 2005 campaign made at least 300,000 people homeless and put 750,000 informal traders out of work.

‘‘It is plaintiff’s case that these people were settled on the farm notwithstanding that no representations were made whatsoever to take over the farm and pay compensation, neither was the fifth defendant’s consent had or obtained to change the use of land from agricultural to residential or to dispose of the farm from late Mashandudze to any other,” Chinyama said.

Government was accused of failing to provide better housing under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle.

“The fact that fourth defendant has  not come to the rescue of the beneficiaries of the alleged Garikayi Hlalani Kuhle program who were settled on the deceased’s farm is a clear indication that that program was not authorised in terms of the legislation that relates to expropriation of land for urban  development,” Chinyama said.

“These people are therefore not in any different position from those claiming the right to occupy the farm through the first, second, third and fourth defendants. They too are in illegal occupation of the deceased’s farm and liable to be evicted.”

 “The fourth defendant is alleged to have  moved onto the deceased’s farm and built a number of housing units under the  Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle political program to house victims of the Murambatsvina clean-up  operation in Karoi town.”