Mugabe fights for mineral-rich farm

HARARE - Former president Robert Mugabe has filed an urgent chamber application in the High Court in a bid to reclaim Smithfield Farm situated in Mazowe, the Daily News can report.

The 94-year-old despot, who claims ownership of the sprawling farmland through his Gushungo Holdings (Private) Limited, was ordered off the property in January this year in order to give unhindered access to small-scale miners, who claim to be the rightful owners of the same property.

High Court judge Justice Happias Zhou ruled in January that the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Gushungo Holdings, through their personnel, should not interfere with the work of the gold miners pending determination of the matter.

Mugabe is unhappy with the ruling, which has the effect of obstructing his farming activities.

On Monday, his company filed an urgent application in the High Court in a desperate bid to overturn Zhou’s ruling. Gushungo Holdings is citing — as respondents — Shepherd Nyazvigo, who is represented by Phillip Makanya through a power of attorney, Bright Mawonga, Mohammed Rezwan Khan and the officer in charge of the ZRP Support Unit.

Gushungo is Mugabe’s clan name.

According to court papers, the company is arguing that it was not served with the application that culminated in the provisional order handed down in favour of the small-scale miners.

“On January 18, 2018, this court granted a provisional order to the first and third respondents (Nyazvigo and Khan) under circumstances where the notice of set down had not been served on the applicant (Gushungo Holdings (Private) Limited).

“The effect of the provisional order is that applicant’s farming operations are being disrupted and have been imperilled by the three respondents who have no lawful right to be conducting mining operations at applicant’s farm,” the court heard.

Gushungo Holdings’ head of security, Mkhululi Nyoni, said there was now a clash between mining and farming activities on the farm.

He demanded the court to issue an order — for the main matter that culminated in Zhou’s ruling — to be heard urgently rather than on an ordinary roll.

“The applicant will suffer irreparable harm if the matter is not dealt with forthwith because currently operative provisional order is aiding an illegality which needs to be rectified.

“Further, the urgent chamber application in the main matter is fraught with various technical irregularities, which if the applicant had been present at the hearing to point out, may have resulted in the matter being dismissed in its entirety. The applicant is therefore seeking an opportunity to make its representation in this regard,” Nyoni said.

He also said the small-scale miners will not suffer any prejudice if the main matter is heard on an urgent basis.

The High Court is yet to make a determination on the request.

Events leading to the provisional order that resulted in Zhou’s ruling were triggered by Makanya and his colleagues, who filed an application against Mugabe’s company in January, claiming to have been chased and dispossessed of their mining claims by the former president’s security officer and the Police Protection Unit.

“The applicants (in the main application, the small-scale miners) approached the then mining commissioner,…(only identified as IN Chihota), over the dispossession of their mining claims and he responded that Smithfield Farm is not under a protection zone and ordered that the second respondent (Gushungo Holdings (Private) Limited) and other members of the security forces, which had been deployed thereon, should not interfere with applicant’s mining operations.

“Though the members of the security forces did not vacate the applicant’s mining claims when the mining commissioner ruled that Smithfield Farm does not fall under a protected zone, they then moved out of the farm in November 2017 and the applicants went back to their mining claims and resumed operations,” Makanya said.

According to Makanya, the ZRP and Mugabe’s security officer later deployed their officers on Smithfield Farm and barred the three men from further carrying out mining operations on their claims.

He further told the court that the Gushungo Holdings’ security officer and members of the police had put up a boom gate at the farm entrance, where they were screening people entering the farm, thereby barring people that intended to go to the mining claims. They also said that they had sought assistance from several government departments, but to no avail.

“The applicants left the mining equipment unguarded, as they were randomly chased from their mining sites and some left ore which they had mined.

“The equipment and ore are being taken/stolen by illegal miners who are sneaking into the farm using undesignated entrances, thereby the applicants are being prejudiced of their mining ore and their equipment worth thousands of dollars is being vandalised and/or stolen,” Makanya said.

Gushungo Holdings has of late been in the news for the wrong reasons. Early this year, it was given seven days to vacate prime urban land belonging to a private school, or face legal action.

This was after it was alleged to have taken over a 23-hectare property in one of Harare’s upmarket suburbs belonging to the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe.

The church says the land belongs to its Eaglesvale Group of Schools.

The schools’ lawyer Rodney Makausi told journalists recently that government had sought compulsory seizure of the land in 2016, but was stopped by the court.

Makausi said the eviction letter was handed to security officials at Mugabe’s Blue Roof residence in Borrowdale Brooke.

Maize was planted on the land late last year, and the school’s billboard showing that the property belonged to the church was torn down with people who claim to be employed by Gushungo Holdings staying put on the property.

Previously, the Mugabes have had legal wrangles with poor farmers over gold-rich land, and they have also been accused of seizing part of an international citrus producer’s farm in the same area.

Gushungo Holdings has an octopus like grip in the farming sector, where it is alleged to own several farms.

The People’s Democratic Party, led by former Finance minister Tendai Biti, was the first to make the allegations when it claimed the then first family owned more than 14 farms, in contravention of the country’s Constitution on land.

Section 293 subsection 2 of the country’s Constitution states that: “the State may not alienate more than one piece of agricultural land to the same person and his or her dependents.”

Only last week, the State media claimed the Mugabes own more than 21 farms.

The family stands accused of acquiring a significant amount of farmland, even going against the one-man-one-farm policy pronounced by his government when it embarked on land reforms in 2000 to address past historical imbalances.

Among the farms under their control is Gwina Farm in Banket (seized from High Court Judge Ben Hlatshwayo); Mazowe, Sigaro, Leverdale and Bassiville farms, Foyle Farm, Iron Mask Farm, Gwebi Wood Farm and Highfield Farm which is 445ha.

Gushungo Holdings also operates several subsidiaries, among them Alpha and Omega Dairy, which rivals top brands such as Nestlé Zimbabwe and Dairiboard Zimbabwe; Mazowe Children’s Home and Amai Grace Mugabe Junior School.

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