Africa

Farm invaders charged 'for playing a deflated soccer ball'

Takudzwa Munyaka

Nineteen Zanu-PF activists have been charged with contempt of court and trespassing after refusing to vacate Kingsdale Farm.

The illegal settlers have been charged with contempt of court, trespassing and assault. (AFP)

Nineteen Zanu-PF activists have been charged with contempt of court and trespassing after refusing to vacate Kingsdale Farm.

They defied two high court orders and a Constitutional Court ruling that confirmed that the Norton farm was illegally acquired by the state.

The activists are part of 289 families, numbering about 1 000 people, who invaded and illegally settled on the farm owned by a white commercial farmer, Pieter Nicholas Neil, in 2011.

The matter was initially heard in the high court in August last year and Justice Hlekani Mwayera granted an order in Neil’s favour.

But the disgruntled invaders vowed they would not leave the farm and roped in politicians to fight the matter on their behalf.

But Neil refused to be intimidated, despite the state challenging the matter in the Supreme Court, which upheld Mwayera’s judgment.

Seeking eviction
The state then approached the Constitutional Court, arguing that land acquired for resettlement could not be returned to owners. But, in October, the court ruled that the farm be returned to Neil because the government had acquired the property illegally in the first place.

After that ruling, Neil sold part of the farm to Cuthbert Mpame, the director of Maparahwe Properties, who is also a lawyer.

By then, most of the people who had settled on the farm had become part of the Kingsdale Housing Co-operative Society Limited, which was parcelling out more stands on the farm.

Some of the settlers approached Zanu-PF Mashonaland West chairperson Temba Mliswa to protect them. Others entered into arrangements with Maparahwe Properties to buy the land.

In March this year, Neil and Mpame launched a fresh high court application seeking to evict those who did not enter into agreements.

Mpame, in his affidavit, accused Mliswa of urging the invaders to stay on the farm. He said Mliswa addressed a gathering at the farm and declared that he was the supreme authority in Mashonaland West and vowed to take back the farm. Mpame said Mliswa also appeared on national television and reiterated his position.

On March 31 this year, the high court served an order on the 145 defiant settlers. In the ruling, Justice David Mangota also barred Mliswa, another Zanu-PF activist, Simon Nyasha Sibiya, and the Kingsdale Housing Co-operative from interfering with operations of the farm.

After being served with eviction notices, more of the families approached Maparahwe Properties and negotiated to stay on. They agreed to buy the stands from the property developer.

Contempt of court
But some of the illegal settlers still refused to comply with the order, forcing Mpame and Neil to report the matter to police, who arrested the 19. They have been charged with contempt of court, trespassing and assault. They allegedly assaulted Barnabas Chivheya, one of the people who bought land from Maparahwe Properties.

Seventeen of the accused appeared before the Norton resident magistrate, Olivia Mariga, last Friday and were remanded out of custody on $20 bail each. The other two appeared before her on Monday and were remanded out of custody on $50 bail each.

Mpame confirmed the latest developments and said the 19 were being used by politicians “to play a deflated soccer ball”.

“We offered to accommodate them at the farm on condition they buy the land from us but they declined to take the offer and we were left with no option but to enforce the court order.”

Mliswa could not be reached for comment.

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