Tuesday, 2 October 2018

JUDGE SLAMS SHIRI OVER WITHDRAWAL LETTER


HIGH Court judge Justice Isaac Muzenda has nullified a decision by Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement minister Perrance Shiri, to withdraw an offer letter given to a Goromonzi farmer, saying the move was “arbitrary, irrational and grossly unreasonable” and against the spirit of the new dispensation.

Justice Muzenda also ordered the eviction of one C Samuriwo, who had grabbed Strathlone Farm from Hector Dalton Ludick Snr.

“The new dispensation prevailing in the country is that these former owners of land who have been favoured with pieces of land and who can produce for the benefit of the nation must be given an opportunity to freely practice farming and the first respondent [then Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora) took heed to that clarion call and granted an offer letter to the first applicant (Ludick Sr),” Muzenda said.

"…Accordingly, it is ordered as follows; it be and is hereby declared that the first respondent’s withdrawal of the applicant’s offer letter dated September 26, 2017, delivered up to the first applicant on September 26, 2017 concerning the whole lot of Strathlone in Goromonzi District of Mashonaland East Province measuring approximately 432 hectares, is invalid.

"…First applicant, his representatives, employees, invitees, be and are hereby entitled to the full use of the property reflected in first applicant’s offer letter of November 10, 2006 and of all the improvements therein. First respondent be and is hereby stopped from taking a decision to withdraw the first applicant’s offer letter on the same grounds as those invalidated by this court…”

According to the court papers, the ruling by the judge on September 13, 2018 came after Ludick and members of his family filed a High Court application seeking to retain ownership of Strathlone Farm, which had been grabbed by Samuriwo.

But in his judgment, Justice Muzenda said: "The withdrawal of the offer letter granted to the first applicant in the absence of the offer letter granted to the second respondent in 2004 is arbitrary, irrational and grossly unreasonable. The first respondent is duty bound to exercise his power judicially and act in a transparent way to show to the general public that he is not vindictive to anyone. I agree with the applicants that the conduct of the first respondent merits interference by this court.”

The judge also said Samuriwo, who had been allocated the farm in 2004, had not made any effort to move onto the land in fulfilment of the offer letter, until government allocated the farm to Ludick in 2006, whom he tried to evict in 2017.

"There is no justification at the instance of the first respondent in trying to withdraw the offer letter based on flimsy, unsubstantiated grounds of an earlier allotee, although I had already found that the first respondent afforded the first applicant to present his side of the story. The basis upon which the first respondent withdrew the offer letter from the first applicant is grossly unreasonable and irrational so as to be interfered with,” he said.

"The first applicant legitimately expected to continue with the farming operations and obviously invested on the piece of land from November 10, 2006 to 2017 and it will not be in the interest of justice to simply withdraw the offer letter and ask the applicants to go. The applicants have proved the grounds for review and their application succeeds.” Newsday

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