White farmer sues Mohadi
A WHITE commercial farmer has taken Beitbridge Senator Tambudzani Mohadi and Zanu-PF Matabeleland South provincial chairperson Rabelani Choeni to court in row over a farm.
Mr George Watson, the owner of Double O Ranch in Gwanda district, has filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court seeking an order interdicting Senator Mohadi, Choeni and two other villagers from interfering with his activities at the farm also known as the remaining extent of Makhado Ranch.
Mr Watson, who survived initial eviction attempts in 2003, has been locked in a protracted battle with local politicians who accused him of failing to co-exist with the community.
The farm, which covers 10 000 hectares, was previously divided into two sections with Mr Watson and his mother, Mrs Paxotius Watson remaining with 2 000 ha while 8 000 ha were allocated to Siyoka villagers.
The latest twist to the farm saga comes two years after Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko visited the farm to acquaint himself with banana farming because he wanted it replicated in Matabeleland North.
During the visit, the Vice-President told the local ZanuPF leadership to co-exist with the Watsons.
In papers before the court, Mr Watson cited Senator Mohadi, Choeni, Amon Ndou, a local councillor, Hebert Siyoka, a local headman as well as the chairperson of the Gwanda district land committee, as the respondents.
In his founding affidavit, Mr Watson argued that he was the rightful owner of the 2 000 hectares of the disputed land after the Government set aside 8 000 hectares as a reserve grazing area for villagers in Beitbridge West.
Mr Watson, who runs a flourishing banana plantation, said he was pushed out of the property in 2001 during the land reform programme and returned in 2003 after successfully presenting his case to the Government which subsequently allocated him 2 000 hectares.
“On 27 August 2016, Senator Mohadi, Choeni, Siyoka, Ndou and a group of at least 10 people confronted my security officer at the entrance of the farm and demanded access into the farm with the intention to inspect it. Their visit was unsolicited and no clear explanation was given as so why they intended to inspect it,” said Mr Watson.
He claimed that Senator Mohadi, Choeni, Ndou and some villagers last week stormed his mother’s homestead and announced that they had taken over the property.
“I was away in Chiredzi with my family when the respondents came. My 70-year-old mother and some workers were at the farm and they physically pushed my mother aside and entered our house where they made a list of all our property and instructed that nothing should be removed since everything now belonged to the Zanu-PF Women’s League,” said Mr Watson.
He said Choeni, Ndou and Siyoka also demanded to search the homestead under the pretext that they were looking for firearms.
The respondents allegedly took an inventory of all the items in the homestead without a search warrant or document authorising them to conduct the search.
Mr Watson said Senator Mohadi has deployed personnel to constantly monitor and supervise sales and farming activities at the farm.
“The respondents are public officials and hold fairly high positions in either the Government or the ruling Zanu-PF and their conduct is tantamount to self-help since none of them is an acquiring authority with powers to act in such a manner,” he said.
Mr Watson, who is being represented by Mashayamombe and Company Attorneys, said his family’s security has substantially been compromised as result of the respondents’ conduct.
He said in 2011, he secured a $650 000 loan from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and developed the farm to start his thriving banana plantation with 60 000 plants.
He further claimed that the “invasion” spelt doom for the future of 49 permanent workers and 60 others employed on seasonal basis. “I have considerably invested in the farm mechanisation and the farming project has immense benefits to the local Siyoka community. I have over the years been able to transform the farm through individual and foreign investments to be a viable entity boasting of the only banana plantation in the Matabeleland region,” Mr Watson said.
In August 2011, Mr Watson and his wife, Ms Elaine de Plooy, were fined for setting dogs on two herdboys they found looking for stray donkeys on the farm. — @ mashnets
Senator Tambudzani Mohadi