Centenary Farm workers in Figtree have joined their employer in challenging one of President Robert Mugabe’s aides’ controversial take over of the property, in what has been described as a test case.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
Ray Ndhlukula, the deputy chief secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, moved to take over Centenary Farm owned by David Connolly in August last year.
He displaced 75 of Connolly’s workers who refused to work for him and most of them are reportedly now destitute. Some of them had been at the farm since the 1960s.
Ndhlukula has ignored court orders to leave the farm and instead the evicted farmer has been dragged to the courts for refusing to leave his property.
In March this year, Ndhlukula was sentenced to 90 days in prison for defying court orders barring him from evicting Connolly and his workers.
Connolly’s workers last month took Ndhlukula to court challenging their eviction.
Ndhlukula did not respond to any of the constitutional issues raised by the workers, stating merely that they were “squatters”.
“This angered the workers and made them even more determined to seek justice,” Ben Freeth of the Sadc Tribunal Rights Watch, said in a statement yesterday. “They filed their answering affidavit on July 13.”
Connolly told Southern Eye yesterday that the determination of his displaced workers against Ndhlukula was a test on the rule of law and the new Constitution.
“The Constitution is very clear on human rights of workers and I believe this is the first time the new Constitution is going to be
used by farm workers to uphold basic human rights against a predatory ruling class,” he said.
Freeth weighed in saying the continued change of goal posts at the courts by judicial officers, either not willing to take up the case or issue orders directing Ndhlukula to vacate the farm, left Zimbabwe poor.
“It’s a tragedy that court orders are not being followed in Zimbabwe and until the rule of law comes back to our country, our people will continue to remain hungry,” he said.
“For Connolly and his workers the situation is desperate, and we appeal to the authorities to make sure that justice is done.
“As long as greedy people in power continue to take over homes and businesses of others, we will continue to have no investment taking place in Zimbabwe. ”
According to Freeth, Connolly has submitted a claim for losses, including daily losses, from May until such time as the court orders in his favour to get farming again.
“The claim is in the form of a summons, but Ndhlukula has yet to respond,” he said.
On July 7, Connolly went to his farm to take photographs as proof of Ndhlukula’s continued contempt of court.
“Ndhlukula’s tractors were parked at his house, the priming pump on the irrigation equipment had been broken and Ndhlukula’s workers complained bitterly that they had hardly had a cup of water to drink,” Freeth said.
Centenary Farm has a strong connection with ex-Zipra fighters who relied on it for food during the liberation war.
Last year Zipra Veterans’ Trust members demonstrated against Ndhlukula’s presence at the farm.
Ndhlukula allegedly owns two other farms — Vlakfontein Wilfried Hope — in the same district.