Tuesday, 21 June 2016

WHITE FARMER (85) REFUSES TO LEAVE

A COURT has given an 85-year-old white farmer from Mberengwa seven days to vacate a farm which has since been allocated to Zanu-PF Mberengwa North legislator Cde Tafanana Zhou under the government’s land resettlement programme. 

Stamatoula Raft who owned Clifton Farm in Mberengwa district appeared before Gweru provincial magistrate Mrs Phathekile Msipa on Friday, facing one count of refusing to vacate a gazetted piece of land.

Raft who used to own three farms in Kwekwe, Gweru and Mberengwa before losing all under the land reform programme was also handed a three month suspended sentence and fined $150 for refusing to vacate the farm to pave way for MP Zhou.

Mrs Msipa said the State had managed to prove to the court that the farm in question was gazetted and or acquired by the government. “The farm was compulsorily acquired in terms of the Constitution and the accused had no lawful right to continue occupying the land since she had no offer letter, permit or lease of agreement from government.

“The accused is fined $150. If she fails to pay she will serve 30 days in jail. In addition she is sentenced to three months which are wholly suspended and should vacate the farm by June 24 at 4PM,” said Mrs Msipa.

She called on the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement to have mechanisms that curb abuse of the systems which resulted in some officers in the Mberengwa office unlawfully giving Raft an offer letter.

State witness and former Midlands provincial lands officer, Joseph Shoko told the court that last year Raft was served with an eviction notice from the 208 hectares at Clifton Farm and ordered to wind up her operations by February 17 this year.

Raft, Shoko said, however stayed put on the farm alleging that she had got assurance from the district lands office in Mberengwa and former Midlands Governor Cephas Msipa that she could stay on the piece of the land since it was unproductive.

Raft told the court that she had voluntarily given the rest of the farm measuring more than 2,000 hectares to government where new A1 farmers were resettled. She said the state had also acquired two of her farms, one in Kwekwe and the other in Gweru adding that she was only left with the 208 hectares she occupied at Clifton Farm.

Prosecutor, Mr Fred Kadodo told the court MP Zhou was issued with an offer letter entitling him to use Clifton Farm measuring 208,4 hectares, which was occupied by Raft. “Raft continued to occupy the farm without lawful authority as she did not possess the necessary documents to occupy the piece of land,” he said.

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