PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s aide Ray Ndhlukula is resisting eviction from Centenary Farm in Figtree, Matabeleland South, arguing that the Zanu PF leader personally gave him the farm.
SENIOR COURT REPORTER
Ndhlukula, who is the deputy chief secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet, has been trying to grab the farm from David Connolly, but the commercial farmer has sought protection from the courts.
An interdict was granted on June 17 barring Ndhlukula from taking occupation and interfering with operations at the farm pending a determination by the court on the validity of the farm’s acquisition.
However, Ndhlukula reportedly continued interfering with Connolly’s operations despite the interim order prompting the farmer to file an urgent chamber application seeking to have the top civil servant held in contempt of court.
It was in his opposition to the application of contempt of court that Ndhlukula revealed that he got the farm with Mugabe’s authority.
“I have no intention whatsoever to defy the provisional order granted on the 17th of June.
“I must indicate that applicant has not stated that on 1st of May 2014, I personally approached him to advise that the portion of the land had been gazetted and offered to me by the minister of Lands and Resettlement acting under the authority of the President of Zimbabwe, which offer I had accepted and I wanted to take occupation in terms of the law on the 1st of August 2014,” Ndhlukula submitted on Friday through his lawyer Solomon Mguni of Muzvuzvu and Mguni Law Chambers.
“This is not correct to the extent that applicant (Connolly) has chosen to deliberately mislead this honourable court. No evictions have taken place on the land in question just like I have not interfered with applicant’s operations.
My experiences with the government of Zimbabwe’s land reform since its inception in the year 2000 are that the former occupier vandalises machinery and equipment on the farm to frustrate the new owner from benefitting from machinery and structures.
“There is, therefore, nothing sinister in having a few of my workers on the land to monitor applicant’s progress in winding up operations within the statutory 90-day notice period,” reads Ndhlukula’s notice of opposition. He said Connolly’s application was a delaying tactic to continue at the farm in contravention of the law.
“The truth of the matter is that applicant is abusing court processes to remain in illegal occupation of gazetted State land long after the expiry of the statutory 90-day period. Applicant is even ploughing and preparing the land for the next crop well knowing that I must move in,” Ndhlukula said.
He refuted claims that he had evicted Connolly’s employees and interfered with his operations.
“This is denied. Applicant has not stopped harvesting and delivery of vegetables to the market. Applicant has 10 workers’ houses of three rooms each.
“The applicant’s papers do not disclose how many of the workers have been evicted to the extent that the court is not told how many resident employees the applicant has vis-a-vis the accommodation provided. Applicant is dramatising with a view to get the sympathy of this court to remain in unlawful occupation when no foundations have been laid for that relief,” he said.
Connolly filed the urgent chamber application on August 13 arguing that despite an interdict granted in his favour, Ndhlukula was taking occupation of the farm and evicting his employees and livestock.
“On the 1st of August, the first respondent (Ndhlukula), his wife, employees and other persons acting at his behest, moved tractors, trailers, ploughs and other implements onto the property. This equipment remains parked on the farm at the time of swearing of this affidavit,” said Connolly.
“Further, the first respondent brought various household goods, including beds, wardrobes, satellite dishes etc, which have been dumped on the veranda of the house that is my residence on the farm. The first respondent announced that ‘his manager’ would shortly be taking occupation of the house and ordered that I should vacate it.”
The matter is still to be heard by judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo.