HARARE - Zimbabwe's deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet Justin Mupamhanga is embroiled in a serious farm wrangle with at least three neighbours — and ex-State functionaries — that he is seeking to evict from their Bindura estate.
The development not only further illustrates the chaotic nature of President Robert Mugabe’s land reform programme, but also comes as the first family itself is embroiled in a messy Mazowe land row of its own over the removal of a group of black families to establish a game park.
And as the high-profile Mashonaland Central saga plays out, the former Energy secretary’s clashes with Douglas Dhliwayo — an ex-Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation senior staffer — Blessing Dombojena and Saul Gomwe also comes as Zanu PF hardliners are pushing for further seizures of land under the guise of economic empowerment.
In the Argyle Farm case pitting Mupamhanga and the trio, accusations and counter-accusations are flying over who has encroached onto the other’s designated holding, and prime Bindura property.
As such, Mupamhanga’s lawyer Jonathan Samukange has approached the High Court and chiefly accuses his neighbours “of being a nuisance”, and defiantly refusing to move out of the property.
“Respondents have remained defiant and have not moved out of the portions they are unlawfully occupying, respondents have ganged up against applicant,” the senior Venturas and Samukange partner said in court papers.
“When the respondents refused to move out of applicants’ farm, applicant approached the ministry of Lands, which is the issuing authority. The lands officer visited the farm in the presence of other stakeholders such as the police, the officers from the president’s department and the respondents. The boundaries were identified,” the appellant argued.
Further, Mupamhanga and his counsel said the respondents were taking advantage of his disability and the fact that he observed the law.
“1st to 3rd respondents are being stubborn and obstructive. The present application only deals with property that belongs to me. I do not intend to extend the boundaries. 1st to 3rd respondents moved onto my property and I want them out of my property,” Mupamhanga said.
“The respondent has invaded my farm and they have taken advantage that I am disabled and that I am a law-abiding citizen. I like to resolve things peacefully.”
Argyle Park measures 1 412,4 square metres in total, plot one has 458,66 square metres, plot two measures 520,8 square metres, plot three is 129,14 square metres, plot four measures 140,74 square metres, while plot five has 160,46 and has an extra 2,55 square metres.
In his key argument, the top Mugabe aide claims the trio has “illegally encroached onto my farm and, therefore, they must be evicted”.
However, Dhliwayo, Gomwe and Dombojena have countered these claims, and instead argued that it was the long-serving bureaucrat who had unlawfully extended the boundaries of his farm with the help of “corrupt” officials at the Lands ministry.
As it is, Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora is the fourth respondent in the matter filed by Mtamangira and Associates.
Mupamhanga is said to be taking over neighbouring properties through alleged “unlawful conduct” on the Cabinet secretary’s part, according to court papers filed in the High Court, including emptying a dam at the southern end of plot 4 to let all the water flow into his dam.
The trio allege the deputy Cabinet secretary has “vandalised” their property in a spirited bid to eject them. They allege he has enlisted the services of “corrupt” government officials to spearhead the black-on-black eviction.
The land under dispute was distributed to the three respondents during the land redistribution revolution dubbed the “Third Chimurenga”, as it was known in Zanu PF circles.
The respondents — through their lawyers — are praying that Mupamhanga’s application be dismissed claiming it lacks substance in fact and law.
“It is submitted that it is common cause that 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents have lawful authority in the form of offer letters issued to them by the acquiring authority to be in occupation of the position of land Argyle Park Farm described in their respective offer letter,” the trio’s argument reads.
“Applicant being fully aware of the extant rights of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respondents on Argyle Park Farm has sought to evict them nonetheless on account of a 99-year lease issued by the 4th respondent with a purported map that appropriated part of the land already allocated to 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents,” read the court papers.
They argue that the 99-year lease does not create any superior rights.
Gomwe as the first respondent in the case said: “That applicant has clandestinely obtained his purported 99-year lease and has unlawfully forged a map which purportedly extends to the boundaries of his farm into the farms of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents.
“That the steps taken by the applicant in concert with certain corrupt officials form the 4th respondents office have the illegal effect of adversely affecting rights of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respondents.”
Gomwe accuses Mupamhanga of seeking an endorsement of his illegal conduct from the court and accused him of vandalising his property.
“It is clearly seen that there are three boreholes, a pump house and a small dam wholly enclosed in my plot 3,” he said. “Another dam at the southern end of my plot 4 was vandalised by first respondent who selfishly opened it up and all the water flowed into his dam.
“It is not disputed that applicant is entitled to occupy and farm on plot 1 of Argyle Park in the same manner I am entitled to do the same on plots 3 and 4 of Argyle Park.”