Police are preparing criminal charges against prominent rights advocate Siphosami Malunga and his two business partners in an escalation of a fight over a coveted Matabeleland North farm.
Police on Wednesday arrested Charles Moyo, one of the directors of Kershelmer Farms (Private) Limited, on allegations of occupying state land without authority, his lawyer Josphat Tshuma said.
Moyo was released and ordered to return to the police station in Bulawayo on Sunday together with Zephaniah Dhlamini, the third director who was reported to be in Harare.
Tshuma said police planned to arrest all three men who purchased Esidakeni Estate, a former dairy farm, in 2017 after buying shares in Kershelmer Farms.
Malunga, the director of programmes at the Open Society Foundations in Africa, could swerve arrest as he is currently working out of Senegal.
The government listed the 554-hectare property in Nyamandlovu for compulsory acquisition in 2020, but Malunga, Dhlamini and Moyo filed a court application challenging the gazetting of the farm. The matter is pending at the High Court.
Tshuma told ZimLive: “What we are witnessing here is an abuse of process and an abuse of power.”
The lawyer said Moyo’s arrest followed a police complaint filed by Lovemore Jiyane and Legina Muchimba, who said they are some of the beneficiaries offered land on the farm by the lands ministry.
The High Court and Supreme Court have, in the last few months, ordered the ejectment of Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu and Dumisani Madzivayathi, a university lecturer, after they bulldozed their way into the farm while also waving “offer letters” from the government.
Mpofu, who has other farms, says he was offered 145 hectares of Esidakeni together with his wife, Sikhanyisiwe. It is believed the total beneficiaries could be just over a dozen politically-connected individuals, some of them Central Intelligence Organisation operatives.
Kershelmer lawyer Tshuma explained: “When we got to know that the farm had been gazetted, we instituted action against the lands minister and other interested parties. The objective of the application at the High Court was to impugn the actions of the minister in deciding to gazette the land, our contention being that the gazetting was not done in terms of the law, primarily not in accordance with the land reform programme which seeks to take land from white landowners and redistribute it to landless blacks.
“In this particular case, they are taking land from blacks and giving it to other blacks, made worse by the fact that those recipients already own other farms.
“While the matter is pending in court, those parties or people who took the law into their own hands and occupied the farm we sought spoliation orders that said our clients should be restored to undisturbed occupation and use of the farm which were granted in court. They appealed and those appeals were dismissed by the Supreme Court which ruled that those with offer letters cannot just go into the farm until the main case has been finalised.
“Obert Mpofu has been slow moving out of the farm, I understand he only moved his cattle out this week. Now we have these two individuals (Jiyane and Muchimba) who were unknown to us at the time of filing our various applications, and therefore could not be cited in court papers, effectively trying to ask a magistrate, through these arrests, to undermine the orders of the High Court and Supreme Court. The objective is to get my clients out of Esidakeni at all costs.”
Malunga believes the government targeted the farm as punishment for his human rights advocacy work in his former role as executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). Dhlamini is a scientist at the National University of Science and Technology while Moyo is a miner.
Their court battle is being watched by fellow black farmers and land rights campaigners who warn that if the government prevails in court this could open the floodgates of arbitrary land evictions by the Zanu PF government. ZimLive