A LONG standing land dispute pitting a Bulawayo woman and an Insiza white commercial farmer who is the grandson of a former Rhodesian Prime Minister spilled into the courts yesterday.
Bruce Moffat, grandson to Howard Unwin Moffat, Southern Rhodesia’s second premier from 1927 to 1933, is refusing to vacate Oaklands Farm which was acquired by the government and sub-divided into three sections to accommodate newly resettled farmers in 2010.
Sibongile Shava, one of the beneficiaries, was allocated Sub-division Two of the farm, but Moffat is disputing her ownership of the property.
Shava yesterday approached the Small Claims courts seeking an order to evict Moffat from the property.
According to the summons, Moffat was cited as the defendant while Shava is the plaintiff.
In her claim, Shava sought the eviction of the white farmer whom she accused of arrogance.
“My plaintiff’s claim is that Bruce Moffat be evicted from my farm. I have tried to talk to him but he refuses to communicate with me insisting that I should talk to his lawyer,” she said.
Shava said Moffat refused to recognise her offer letter from the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement.
“Despite producing my offer letter, which I was given by officials from the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement in Filabusi, Moffat is refusing to vacate my farm, arguing that it is not genuine, which is why I had to resort to the courts seeking recourse,” Shava said.
Moffat queried the authenticity of the document, arguing that it lacked a date stamp among other things.
“In my opinion the so-called letter that Shava brought doesn’t appear genuine and proper. I dispute its legality considering that it has no official date stamp. My other concern is that the farm was subdivided into three divisions and I was ordered to relinquish two-thirds of the property to a different person who is not Shava. Why should she be given the farm that has already been allocated to somebody?” asked Moffat.
He also argued that proper procedures were not followed in evicting him.
Moffat also read out a note from his lawyer, arguing that the Small Claims had no jurisdiction to handle the dispute because of the value of the land. According to the Small Claims Court Act, the court cannot handle cases involving money or property whose value is in excess of $10, 000.
However, in response, the presiding magistrate Singandu Jele said in the event that the land is acquired by the State it ceases to have value.
“In terms of the Agricultural Land Settlement Act once land is acquired by the State it no longer has any value and by virtue of that this court has jurisdiction to handle the matter,” said Jele.
Jele postponed the matter to March 10, pending a confirmation from the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement to authenticate the offer letter. Oakland Farm has been at the centre of controversy since 2013 when Shava was allocated the land by the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement. She was subsequently given her offer letter on June 6, 2014.
According to the letter, which is in The Chronicle’s possession and which was purportedly signed by the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Douglas Mombeshora, Shava was offered Subdivision Two of the 216-hectare farm.