The legal dispute over the status of a 1 000ha farm in Goromnzi has sucked in former Mashonaland East Governor Ray Kaukonde who is now under investigation by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) for possible criminal abuse of office during his tenure for allegedly allocating the land to his sister without an offer letter.
Mr Kaukonde reportedly allocated his United Kingdom–based sister Mrs Thokozani Gwizo, two State-acquired farms currently under the control of a company known as Whiteside Farms (Private) Limited.
The farm company and its majority shareholder are now appealing in the High Court a ruling by the Land Commission in January this year that the farms were acquired by the State in 2006, with Whiteside claiming that the farm was delisted from possible acquisition in 2002.
The appeal was lodged in March this year.
Mrs Gwizo appears to now be involved because those lodging complaints claim she is allegedly a director of the company that owns a majority of the shares of Whiteside, giving that company two potential strings to its bow in its arguments for continuing occupation by either owning the land or acting for the person who was allocated the land if indeed it was expropriated.
Zacc has opened investigations into the allegations against Mr Kaukonde and Mrs Gwizo, Zacc spokesperson Mr John Makamure confirmed yesterday but without giving details.
“The matter is still under investigations,” said Mr Makamure adding, “I cannot divulge any further information.”
The investigations against Mr Kaukonde and his sister arose after several reports were lodged with the anti-corruption body in February this year following other letters written since 2018 by former Dynamos secretary-general Mr Brian Kashangura, former Warriors coach Mr Sunday Chidzambwa and Mr Learnmore Muzvidziwa complaining about Mr Kaukonde and alleging illegal occupation of State land by Mrs Gwizo.
The Land Commission ruled when the matter came before it that the land occupied by Whiteside Farms is State land and was acquired by Government in 2006 and that Whiteside Farms and its majority shareholder Ketchewan have been in occupation of the farm for 19 years without tenure documents.
Ketchwan has 66,6 percent of the authorised share capital in Whiteside Farms, which in terms of their agreement entitled them to the two farms. Harare lawyer Mr Brian Mataruka and Mr Langton Manyozo are reported to be the directors and shareholders of Whiteside Farms, which is now contesting the Zimbabwe Land Commission decision declaring the two farms as State land.
In a letter attached to their court application filed at the High Court in March this year, Mr Mataruka argued that the two farms in question belong to Ketchwan on account of their beneficial ownership and purchase of shares in Whiteside Farms. He was resting his case on the claimed delisting in 2002 of the land.
In earlier letters to the authorities he dismissed claims by Mr Kashangura and his colleagues that Mr Kaukonde corruptly allocated the farm to his sister.
“The wide and spurious allegations contained in the founding papers filed by Kashangura and his colleagues in respect of Kaukonde unlawfully offering the farm to Thokozani Gwizo are rejected as being baseless and untrue,” said Mr Mataruka in a letter on December 3, 2018.
“All legal processes in terms of the prevailing laws of the country were duly followed as at the time. There is a valid agreement which remains between ourselves and the then shareholders of Whiteside Farms and as stated . . . Mr Gordon Banks with the representatives of the then shareholders of the company is available to testify to this effect.”
He implored the land investigating commission to throw away the alleged dispute that had been filed by Mr Kashangura and his colleagues against Mr Kaukonde.
In his letter, Mr Mataruka offered to provide the Land Commission with information and documents on the matter plus give oral evidence to assist the commission in achieving a just and equitable process.
In the same letter, the lawyer counter-accused Mr Kashangura and his colleagues of using underhand and fraudulent means to try to obtain offer letters to the farms in question through officials of the Lands Ministry.
But the Land Commission acting chairperson, Mrs Tendai Bare, in opposing the Whiteside Farms application to overturn the commission’s decision, said the commission was called upon to decide whether the farms in question were privately owned and whether Mr Kashangura and his colleagues could lay any claim to the farm.
She said the commission considered the affidavit by Mr Banks but was swayed by the submissions of the Ministry of Lands and of the Deeds Registry that confirmed the farms were State land.
Mr Mataruka and his colleagues were given the opportunity to make written submissions to the commission responding to the allegations that had been made by Mr Kashangura, Mr Chidzambgwa and Mr Muzvidziwa, said Mrs Bare.
“The Lands Commission is not obliged to hold a hearing and practised good administrative justice by considering submissions from both parties and carrying out its own independent investigations so she argued that the High Court should uphold its decision.