Farmer gets back land:
THE Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement is overseeing an orderly transition to legally reinstate white commercial farmer Mr Rob Smart at Lesbury Farm in Headlands while ensuring reallocation of the three incumbents to other farms.
Mr Smart (71) was removed from Lesbury Farm in June 2017 following a High Court order to pave way for its subdivision and allocation to Bishop Trevor Manhanga, Mr David Nyakonda and Chief Tandi (William Samhungu).
The eviction has since been reversed as proof of respecting agricultural property rights by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Government.
Mr Smart’s eviction had negatively impacted on the livelihood of hundreds of people and it was also considered that he had offered 7 000ha for resettlement and retained 700ha which has 120ha arable.
Mr Smart was last Thursday escorted to the farm by Government officials to a glorious reception by farm workers and peasant farmers who fought from his corner to have the eviction halted.
They opposed Mr Smart’s eviction saying he was supportive to the community and was born and bred at that farm.
Bishop Manhanga, Chief Tandi and Mr Nyakonda are co-operating and have started removing their belongings to pave way for Mr Smart’s return.
Manicaland acting Chief Lands Officer Mr Clifford Mukoyi confirmed Mr Smart’s reinstatement on Wednesday.
“He (Smart) is coming back. The eviction was not done properly. The incumbents will be allocated other farms either in Makoni or other regions of Manicaland,” said Mr Mukoyi, who is also the secretary to the provincial lands committee that deals with all land issues, and headed by the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs Cde Monica Mutsvangwa.
“We are currently seized with the process to regularise his return and ensure he has legal occupation to the property while the beneficiaries are being assisted with alternative land. We are settling the matter amicably,” said Mr Mukoyi.
“It feels good to be back. The eviction had reduced me to a beggar as I had to move from one friend to another for tenancy. This (Lesbury Farm) is my only home, and I have no other home, and nowhere to go. I was born and bred here, making this the only place I call home,” said Mr Smart.
He said President Mnangagwa’s new administration respects agricultural property rights.
“I am grateful to the new Government for reviewing my eviction and respecting agricultural property rights. I was treated unfairly, and I am grateful to President Cde Mnangagwa and our Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Monica Mutsvangwa for intervening to reverse my eviction. I am elated.
“The farm workers and community are elated. All the farm workers should immediately return and start work.
“I know they have been scattered, but they should return, I want all of them to resume work because we suffered together. We were in it together. They fought from my corner, they suffered for my return, and this victory, courtesy of the new administration, belongs to all of us,” said Mr Smart.
Chief Tandi said he was in the process of removing his property from the farm.
“That is the official position (Smart’s return) and I am currently engaging the relevant authorities to be assisted with alternative land and also to be allowed to continue working on the crop that I had planted till I harvest.
“I don’t mind being allocated another farm, all I want is farmland in my area. Government should guarantee a smooth transition because our relations are not good.
I was allocated land by Government, and I will continue to deal directly with the same authority to avoid confrontation,” said Chief Tandi.
Bishop Manhanga said although he voluntarily withdrew from the farm, his offer letter has not been withdrawn.
“I voluntarily moved off the farm to avoid confrontation and tension and in anticipation of the official communication. As of now I have not been served with an official letter of withdrawal.
I am a beneficiary of the land reform programme, and if the authorities decide to reallocate me another land to pave way for his return, I will abide by it. At this point I do not have other documentation apart from the offer letter that was given to me,” said Bishop Manhanga.
Efforts to get a comment from Mr Nyakonda were fruitless.
Bishop Manhanga was allocated 100 hectares of Lesbury on March 20, 2015 under phase two of the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme.
In 2016 Rusape magistrate Mr Shingi Mutiro convicted Mr Smart of contravening Section 3 (4) of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions) Act, Chapter 20:28, fined him $300 or two months imprison and ordered him to vacate Lesbury Estate by March 31, 2017.
Mr Smart appealed to the High Court and lost it by consent before Justice Alphas Chitakunye on April 26, 2017.
Justice Chitakunye said: “It is ordered by consent that the applicant (Smart) vacate subdivision 2 of Lesbury Estate in Makoni District in Manicaland on or before May 31, 2017, failing which the Sheriff or his lawful deputy may evict the applicant and all those claiming occupation through him. Both parties shall maintain peace towards each other. The applicant shall pay the fifth respondent’s agreed costs.”
After Justice Chitakunye’s ruling, a writ of ejectment was issued by the High Court on June 2, 2017, following which police moved in to evict Mr Smart.
They were met with resistance from farm employees and hired villagers.
Mr Rob Smart of Lesbury Farm in Headlands inspects some of the damage after arriving back at his farm