Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu has been dragged to court after settling himself on a disputed farm in Matabeleland North.
The former mines minister, who already has large land holdings in Matabeleland North, has laid claim to 145 hectares of the 550-hectare Esidakeni Farm in which the human rights advocate Siphosami Malunga has an interest.
Mpofu boasted last week that only President Emmerson Mnangagwa could remove him from the farm in Umguza district.
Malunga and his business partners Charles Moyo and Zephaniah Dhlamini say they bought the farm in 2017 before it was controversially listed for compulsory acquisition by the lands ministry last year.
In an urgent High Court application filed on Thursday, the three men want Mpofu ordered off the farm pending the finalisation of a court application in which they are challenging the compulsory gazetting of the farm for resettlement by the lands ministry last December.
Mpofu, through his Mswelangubo Farm, is one of the politically-connected 14 people given offer letters to settle on the former dairy farm by the lands ministry. The list includes intelligence officers, among them the Zanu PF Senator’s nephew, Reason Mpofu.
Malunga and his partners recently obtained a court order against Dumisani Madzivanyati, a university lecturer and friend of Matabeleland North minister Richard Moyo who had also moved into the farm, disrupting farming activities.
The High Court barred Madzivanyati from the farm and later authorised the Deputy Sheriff to evict him.
No sooner had the Deputy Sheriff moved against Madzivanyati that Mpofu’s son arrived at the farm and began tilling, forcing Malunga – the executive director of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa – to return to court, this time seeking a spoilation order against Mpofu.
“The applicants (Malunga and partners) are saying the act of invasion of the farm must be declared null and void, and anything done through the offer letters must be set aside pending the matter before the court,” their lawyer Josphat Tshuma said.
There are indications that the urgent application could be handled by a judge from outside Bulawayo after two judges – Nokuthula Moyo and Christopher Dube Banda – recused themselves, citing familiarity with one or more of the litigants.
Justice Maxwell Takuva is on leave while Justice Evangelista Kabasa was said to be away.
Senior Bulawayo High Court judge Martin Makonese indicated a judge from either Harare or Masvingo could be handed the application which would be heard on an urgent basis.
A 2012 report by Partnership Africa Canada, a group of investigative journalists, said Mpofu controlled farm holdings of at least 65,000 hectares, placing him “in the top five landowners in Zimbabwe.”
The properties include a 10,000-hectare farm leased to him for a pittance by the Cold Storage Commission (CSC).