Mpofu mired in farm grab storm
ZANU PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu (pictured) and a company he controls, Mswelangubo Farm (Private) Limited, have agreed to be joined to High Court application 1054/21 in which the owners of Esidakeni Farm in Nyamandlovu, Matabeleland North, are seeking an order declaring that the notice of acquisition of their farm is null and void as it violates the constitution.
The applicants are also seeking an order declaring that “any offer letter issued on the basis of the purported acquisition is null and void”.
Esidakeni is owned by Kershelmar Farms (Pvt) Ltd, a company whose shareholders are international human rights lawyer Siphosami Malunga, National University of Science and Technology (Nust) scientist Zephaniah Dhlamini and gold miner Charles Moyo. They are all applicants in the matter.
The applicants sought to join Mpofu to the application after discovering that part of Esidakeni Farm had been parceled out to his company. Mswelangubo (Pvt) Ltd was cited as the eighth respondent with Mpofu being the ninth respondent.
In his founding affidavit, which was supported by Malunga and Moyo, Dhlamini said despite featuring prominently in the farm’s affairs, including visiting in March and enquiring whether it had been subdivided, Mpofu had previously not been joined to proceedings because “we had taken the view that no relief could be sought against him as we believed he had taken no benefit from the illegalities”.
Dhlamini said they had however discovered that the first respondent in the matter, Lands minister Anxious Masuka, had issued an offer letter to a company controlled by Mpofu, despite his being a multiple farm owner, hence the application for a joinder.
The applicants provided the court Mswelangubo (Pvt) Ltd’s memorandum of association showing that Mpofu and his wife Sikhanyisiwe were the only shareholders. They also provided a CR6 form showing that Mpofu is a director in the company, as well as the company’s certificate of incorporation.
“There is no doubt that Obert Moses Mpofu being a controlling shareholder, (albeit exercising in theory only negative control), and a portion of the farm now having been parceled out to the company that he controls, his involvement referred to in the main application was designed to secure personal interest. It must therefore for that reason be stigmatised as abuse of power,” Dhlamini said.
Dhlamini argued that there was a strong case for joinder.
“Insofar as the eight respondent is concerned, the validity of its offer letter is in issue and it is vitally important that it be given an opportunity to defend its ill-gotten gains before equity. The rules of natural justice demand no less,” Dhlamini said.
“As regards the ninth respondent, Obert Moses Mpofu, a multiple farm owner and senior official of the ruling Zanu PF party, it is important that he defends his conduct in the context of illegalities that he perpetrated for selfish reasons. For all intents and purposes, he is the direct beneficiary of the portion of the farm allocated to eighth respondent.
“It is vital that this court pronounces itself in the main matter on the conduct of senior politicians who, contrary to government policy and for self-aggrandisement, abuse power given to them by way of public trust. I have been advised that the ruling Zanu PF party has taken a position against multiple farm ownership. Obert Moses Mpofu’s actions are at variance with the ethos of the political party to which he belongs and which he leads.”
Mpofu’s lawyers, Ndove and Associates, wrote to the Deputy Registrar of the High Court indicating that their clients “shall without necessarily agreeing to the averments by the applicants in their founding affidavits, not oppose the order sought . . . subject to there being no order as to costs against them”
They said the concession was made to focus on the dispute under case number HC1054/21, to avoid being unnecessarily litigious, thereby wasting the court’s time and to save on legal costs.— STAFF WRITER.