By BREZH MALABA in Harare

Siphosami Malunga is one of the owners of Esidakeni Farm.

A controversial farm grab orchestrated by senior spies in Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and ruling Zanu PF officials has suffered a major setback after the High Court ordered them to leave the farm within 24 hours.

The court has granted a spoliation order directing the invaders to stop interfering with operations at Esidakeni Farm in Nyamandlovu, 40 kilometres northwest of Bulawayo, the country’s second-largest city.

It remains to be seen whether the land grabbers will comply with the court ruling. The Zimbabwean government has a history of defying Court orders, particularly on the land issue.

Legal title to the farm at the heart of the bitter tussle is held by a company owned by Siphosami Malunga and his two business partners.

Malunga, an international human rights lawyer and son of nationalist Sydney Malunga, sought the spoliation order to stop Dumisani Madzivanyati from disrupting farm operations.

Madzivanyati, an accounts lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), claims to have been allocated part of the farm.

In a dramatic twist to the farm grab saga, High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese has given Madzivanyati and other so-called beneficiaries 24 hours to leave the farm, failure to which the Sheriff must evict them.

The spirited attempt by the Zimbabwean government to grab land from the black farmers has led to epic lawsuits at the

High Court, revealing the controversial manoeuvres of top politicians and powerful officers in the intelligence service.

CIO deputy director-general Gatsha Mazithulela, Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka and Matabeleland North provincial minister of State Richard Moyo were cited as respondents in the main case after allegedly orchestrating the farm seizure.

Malunga and his partners–Zaphaniah Dlamini, a lecturer at Nust and businessman Charles Moyo–are the owners of Esidakeni Farm whose deed of title is registered under Kershelmar Farm (Private) Limited. They accuse the public officials of violating property rights and abusing their authority.

The new claimants to the farm include Madzivanyati and Reason Mpofu, a senior

intelligence officer and nephew of the ruling Zanu PF’s national secretary for administration Obert Mpofu. The two men are also cited as respondents in the main lawsuit.

Malunga has said although the victimisation is painful, it provides a glorious opportunity to expose the abuse of power in Zimbabwe by self-serving politicians and their cronies.

In their founding affidavit, the three farmers state that they acquired the farm from white farmer Jeffrey Swindles in 2017.

At that time, Mazithulela, the spy chief, was a pro-vice-chancellor at Nust. He attempted to force his way into the agricultural consortium, but Malunga’s trio resisted.

Swindells has since denied an assertion by

government officials that the farm was ever compulsorily acquired by the state under the land reform programme.

After the trio rejected Mazithulela’s overtures to join the consortium, he began manoeuvring to dismantle their farming business.

Malunga’s partner Dlamini narrates to the court how the spy chief Mazithulela developed unhealthy interest in the farm.

“Ever since we took occupation, we have managed to run the farm into the envy of many. It therefore did not surprise me that sometime in December 2019, fourth respondent Gatsha Mazithulela, who was then the Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Nust, and a work colleague approached me and asked to be included in the Esikadeni farm project.

“The untenable request that he made still required that I run it by fellow shareholders and directors. I did and they took the position that there was no room for additional shareholders.

“Immediately thereafter, Gatsha (Mazithulela) joined the CIO as the deputy director-general. In February 2020, I met Gatsha and the discussion came up again. The conversation however, quickly became ominous.”

The spy chief allegedly raised the issue of Malunga’s vocal stance on human rights matters, saying he had become a critic of the government and that his association with the farming consortium would imperil the project.

“He advised me that when he joined the CIO, he had found the second applicant (Malunga)’s file containing what he termed anti-government activities.”

In the court application, the three farmers have adduced a series of WhatsApp exchanges between Dlamini and Mazithulela.

In the correspondence, the spy chief accuses Malunga of working for a “regime change organisation with a budget of over US$1 billion which he was using to destabilise government”.

The government routinely accuses Malunga’s civil society organisation, Osisa, of funding anti-Zimbabwe activities.

Dlamini tells the court: “He (Mazithulela) said our farm was at risk of acquisition if second applicant (Malunga) did not tone down his anti-government rhetoric.

He claimed that he could save the farm if we managed to remove second applicant from being a shareholder and a director. He was to replace him. I flatly told him that

this would not happen.”

Dlamini continues: “I relayed these disturbing developments to second applicant (Malunga) who confronted Gatsha (Mazithulela).

The result of that was the WhatsApp correspondence addressed to me by Gatsha which I attach hereto and mark as G2 in both its original and translated forms.”

With the passage of time, the agricultural consortium noticed the spy chief’s heightened fascination with the farm.

Intelligence operatives began frequenting the property, culminating in a dramatic phone call by the Mazithulela to Dlamini telling him that the Zimbabwean government had compulsorily acquired the land for redistribution to other farmers.

“On December 24, 2020, I received a call from Gatsha (Mazithulela) who advised me that our farm had been acquired by the state.

“I was obviously concerned by the level of Gatsha’s interest in matters that pertain to the farm. I was particularly perplexed that Gatsha seemed to know more about the farm than us the owners,” the application reads.

“Not only did Gatsha advise on the acquisition of the farm, he further went on to tell me that I and third respondent were in peril of being arrested on that very day because, according to him, we had fraudulently acquired the shares in fourth applicant (Kershelmar Farm Pvt Ltd).”

The farming consortium accuses the intelligence chief and top politicians of abusing power through victimisation and scandalous self-enrichment. They stand to

lose more than US$700 000 in revenue alone. They could also lose their urban houses which are being held as collateral for bank loans they took out to fund the horticultural project.

The claimants to the farm have since filed their court papers, arguing that they were lawfully allocated the land and have a right to benefit from Zimbabwe’s land redistribution scheme. – Zambezi News