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Esidakeni challenge 'not abandoned'

by Staff reporter
21 Mar 2023 at 04:48hrs | Views
A court application challenging the government's planned seizure of Esidakeni Estate, a coveted former dairy farm in Matabeleland North, is still pending before the courts and has not been "abandoned", the Registrar of the High Court has clarified after earlier making an erroneous statement.

The state-run Chronicle newspaper on Monday published a story claiming ‘Esidakeni gazetting application abandoned,' citing a February 15 letter from the registrar to lawyers for Esidakeni's owners Siphosami Malunga, Zephaniah Dhlamini and Charles Moyo.

In the letter, the Registrar erroneously claimed that the trio's lawyer Josphat Tshuma of Webb, Low and Barry had failed to have the matter set down for hearing within three months of its removal from the roll "and in terms of Rule 66(3) of the High Court Rules 2021 the matter is hereby regarded as abandoned."

ZimLive has now established that the Registrar withdrew his February 15 letter on March 2 after lawyers for Malunga, Dhlamini and Moyo pointed out that he had made an error.

In a February 28 letter to the Registrar, the lawyers pointed out that the matter had initially been set for hearing on July 29, 2022, before Justice Martin Makonese but was subsequently removed from the roll due to pending condonation proceedings by the lands and agriculture minister Anxious Masuka, who failed to file his heads of argument.

The application for condonation was subsequently brought before Justice Evangelista Kabasa who recused herself, telling lawyers for all the litigants that she had dealt with too many matters relating to Esidakeni, and referred the matter back to Justice Makonese "who would provide directions on how the matter was to be dealt with."

The lawyers wrote to the Registrar: "We are still waiting for the above directive from Makonese J and it is on that premise that we believe that your letter of February 15 was written without taking into account the aforementioned.

"Considering the foregoing, we kindly request that you withdraw your letter of the 15th instant which deemed the above matter under HC 1054/21 abandoned. In the event you cannot accede to our request, we kindly request that you arrange for us an audience with the Senior Puisne Judge who can direct us on how to proceed."

The Registrar conceded the error in a March 2 letter, writing to the lawyers: "Disregard our letter dated February 15, 2023, as it was erroneously issued."

Prominent human rights lawyer Malunga, NUST scientist Dhlamini and miner Moyo bought Esidakeni in 2017 from its white former owners.

In December 2020, the government gave notice of its intention to seize the 550-hectare farm for resettlement under a law which empowers the minister of lands to compulsorily seize land without paying compensation except for improvements.

Malunga, Moyo and Dhlamini have challenged the acquisition arguing that it is unconstitutional.

In papers before the High Court, Malunga says he is being punished for criticising human rights abuses by the government and his work with the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, which funds the activities of some rights groups in Zimbabwe.

He also revealed how the invasion followed their refusal to partner with Central Intelligence Organisation deputy director Gatsha Mazithulela, who responded by issuing threats.

It has emerged that some of the intended beneficiaries of the farm grab include Zanu-PF politicians and intelligence officers.

Zanu-PF secretary general Obert Mpofu and his wife Sikhanyisiwe were offered 145 hectares of the farm, despite owning several other farms.

Source - ZimLive