ONE of few remaining white commercial farmers, Dudley Rodgers of West Nicholson, has been ordered to vacate a 1 000-hectare piece of land at Olympus Block Farm after being convicted of occupying gazetted land without lawful authority in contravention of the Land Act.
Rogers (65), represented by Josephat Tshuma of Webb, Low and Barry Legal Practitioners, pleaded not guilty when he appeared before provincial magistrate Reuben Mukavhi yesterday, but was convicted and ordered to vacate the farm with immediate effect.
He was also sentenced to three months imprisonment wholly suspended for five years on condition that he does not commit a similar offence within the same period.
In passing the sentence, Muvavhi took into consideration that Rogers had been of immense assistance to farmers around him by allowing them to dip their cattle at his dip tank and often exchanged cattle breeds with them.
Allegations against Rodgers as outlined by prosecutor Khumbulani Nyoni, are that on November 7 2003 a notice was given in terms of the Land Acquisition Act indicating that it was the president’s intentions to compulsorily acquire the remaining extent of Olympus Block Farm for the purposes of resettlement.
The court heard that in terms of the gazetted Land Act, Rogers was supposed to vacate Olympus Farm in February 2007 when the Act became operational, but did not comply.
Acting Gwanda district lands officer Mackay Maseko told the court that one needed to have an offer letter, a lease and a permit to be settled on State land, but Rogers did not possess any of these requirements.
However, Rodgers’ lawyer, Tshuma, produced a map of Olympus Farm that had an endorsement indicating that the remaining extent of the farm was allocated to his client and hence served as a permit.
The magistrate dismissed as unsound Tshuma’s arguments that the map served as a permit. The case took a dramatic turn when Tshuma sought to have the decision to dismiss his application for discharge be reviewed by a higher court but the magistrate would have none of it saying the application was frivolous and vexatious.
“I order that the matter proceed notwithstanding your application. I am not going to get into an argument with you,” Mukavhi said.
Tshuma argued it was their constitutional right to appeal against the court’s decision.
“May it be put on record that we are proceeding under protest,” Tshuma said.
When Rogers took to his defence, he told the court that his company, Rogers Brothers and Son (Pvt) Limited, owned 17 408 hectares of land prior to the land reform programme and had been allocated 1 000 hectares in 2003 by the district lands committee and the Lands ministry.
Asked by Moyo why he did not have an offer letter and lease agreement, Rogers said most farmers were still to be given those documents.
He said he had been in peaceful possession of the piece of land for almost 10 years and was surprised in 2011 to see Paul Muhoni, a former senior cop, coming with an offer letter for the same land he occupied
He produced letters which were written to him by the Lands ministry advising him of people who had been allocated land adjacent to him.