SO SAD: Game over for 200 Zanu PF supporters who were allocated plots at Umvutsha farm in 2008

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Zanu PF settlers at Umvutsha Farm face eviction amidst land ownership dispute

In a long-standing land ownership dispute, approximately 200 settlers at Umvutsha Farm in Matabeleland North province are now facing eviction, more than a decade after being allocated pieces of land on the property. The settlers were initially evicted in 2019, but recently returned to occupy the land, leading to legal proceedings.

The issue came to light at the Bulawayo Magistrates’ Court, where Ernest Buseti, the chairperson of the resettled farmers, appeared on charges of unlawfully occupying State land. Buseti, along with a group of ZANU PF supporters, allegedly occupied the property without valid offer letters, despite the land being owned by the State.

Prosecutors argue that the settlers intentionally disregarded multiple warnings from authorities to vacate the land. However, the resettled farmers, represented by their lawyer Bartholomew Mhandire, maintain that it is unjust for the State to charge them with illegal occupation.

According to Mhandire, the farmers were originally granted offer letters by the Ministry of Lands. Although they were evicted in 2019 and subsequently challenged their removal in higher courts, the Supreme Court ruled in their favour, declaring the previous High Court proceedings null and void on the grounds that once land is gazetted, no court can claim jurisdiction over it.

Having resided on the farm since 2008 and having erected structures during their occupancy, the settlers argue that they have been fulfilling their civic duties by paying taxes. Umvutsha Farm, owned by the Fletcher family, has been an agricultural hub supplying vegetables to various supermarkets in Bulawayo.

The land dispute dates back to 2000 when the farm was initially gazetted. In 2008, General Notice 34 of 2008 further gazetted the remaining pieces of land held by Michael Fletcher, which were not included in the initial 2000 gazette.

As the legal battle unfolds, the fate of the settlers and the disputed land hangs in the balance. The case highlights the complexities surrounding land allocation and tenure in Zimbabwe, raising questions about the efficacy of the legal framework governing land ownership and the need for a fair resolution that takes into account the interests of all parties involved.

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