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Former Esidakeni Farm owner trashes govt land seizure claims

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THE former owner of Esidakeni Farm in Nyamandlovu, Matabeleland North, at the centre of a land seizure battle, has disputed claims by the government that the farm had been acquired by the state, revealing he sold the property to the current occupants.

BRIDGET MANANAVIRE

The farm is owned by international human rights lawyer Siphosami Malunga (pictured) — Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (Osisa) executive director and the son of prominent nationalist Sydney Malunga — and his business partners Zephaniah Dhlamini and Charles Moyo.

Jeffrey Swindells, a white farmer who used to own the farm — also known as Keshemar Dairy Farm [Private] Limited — says he sold it to Malunga, Dhlamini and Moyo.

 However, in a move that sparked widespread condemnation, coming against a backdrop of growing land seizures from black people, especially its critics, the government published a notice in the Government Gazette, saying the farm measuring 553 hectares is being compulsory acquired under section 72(2) of the country’s constitution.

Swindells, who is now based in Australia, said he was disappointed that people who were not involved in that transaction could raise doubts over its validity, “putting forward some unsustainable contentions in the process”.

“When the land reform programme commenced, Esidakeni Farm was never acquired by the state. My understanding was that there was a hands-off policy on Dairy Farms. At any rate, I was highly productive. I continued with my operations up until I decided to emigrate to Australia. At that stage I decided to rent the farm to a gentleman known as Mr Waramba,”

 Swindells said in a supporting affidavit filed at the courts.

“Sometime in or around the year 2017, I was approached by Messrs Dhlamni, Malunga and Moyo who asked me to consider selling them my interests in the farm. I was happy with the offer made. We agreed that the transaction would be structured as a share purchase and transfer agreement a copy of which has been attached to the court papers that have been drawn to my attention.

“Both parties to the sale performed in terms of the agreement. I received payment and transferred the shares to the three gentlemen. My board also resigned in recognition of the fact that I had relinquished interests. This was a valid and genuine sale. I could dispose of my interest in the farm since they had not been encumbered and I did so through a disposal of my shareholding. As a result of that transaction, I have no claim for compensation against the government of Zimbabwe. I have received full value from the transaction.”

 He said the shares of Kershelmar, the company that owns the farm, are held by Dhlamini, Malunga and Moyo. The NewsHawks established that Central Intelligence Organisation co-deputy director-general Gatsha Mazithulela, Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu and Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister of state Richard Moyo are behind the move to seize the property.

Moyo confirmed spearheading the seizure, previously telling The NewsHawks that there is no going back on the farm confiscation. In his responding affidavit, Dhlamini said he believed the decision to gazette productive farmland being utilised by three black Zimbabweans acting in partnership, who have invested significant amounts to revive the farm in question and parcelling out that land to other black Zimbabweans is irrational and contrary to the land reform programme which section 72 meant to give effect to.

“If the 1st Respondent’s (Lands minister Anxious Masuka) gripe with us was simply that he believed we did not comply with provision of the regulations, he was enjoined to raise that issue with us before the purported acquisition. As the founding affidavit establishes, he clearly had no problems with us and was not even aware of the invalid acquisition. The invalid acquisition is a product of the reticent seventh respondent (Moyo) and malicious fourth respondent (Mazithulela),” he said.

“Again, the 1st Respondent seems to misunderstand the nature of these proceedings. I am querying inter alia the very decision to gazette the farmland in question. I am entitled to query these decisions made by an administrative authority must be lawful, reasonable, and fair. Furthermore, as a minimum standard all exercises of public power must be rational.” “It is my contention that the decision to gazette the farm in question did not meet the above constitutional standards, and as such must be set aside.”

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