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Respect property rights

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THE eviction of Figtree farmer David Connolly last week is not only an affront to the rule of law, but also exposes the government’s claims that it is working on making the environment conducive for foreign investors as a ruse.

Connolly was evicted despite the fact that Centenary Farm is at the centre of a dispute between the farm owner and the deputy chief secretary to the office of the president and Cabinet Ray Ndhlukula.

A case of contempt of court against Ndhlukula for forcibly moving to the farm illegally is currently behind the High Court.

The top civil servant has reportedly failed to provide an offer letter that he says was given for the farm ostensibly with President Robert Mugabe’s approval.

Connolly was thrown out of his property together with 70 workers who have lost their jobs.

Ndhlukula had been trying to move into Centenary Farm since June despite a High Court order barring him from interfering with operations at the property, one of the most productive farms in Matabeleland South.

His workers started camping at Connolly’s farm in August after the eviction of farm workers from their dwellings.

“On the day he was evicted from his home, barricades were put up to stop his workers from irrigating or reaping the 300 000 onion plants he still has in the ground, or planting the 50 000 cabbage seedlings he was ready to plant this week,” Ben Freeth, spokesperson of the Sadc Tribunal Rights Watch said last week.

Connolly sought the intervention of the police, but the law enforcement agents decided to take the side of the aggressor. Police are expected to uphold the rule of law without fear or favour.

In this case, Ndhlukula was allowed to bulldoze his way into a disputed property under the watch of the law enforcement agents.

Connolly’s story has drawn interest from outside Zimbabwe and the next time the government speaks about attracting foreign investors, it is likely to be invoked. Zimbabwe is good at shooting itself in the foot.

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