Divine Homes, a development company believed to be owned by Deputy Finance Minister David Chapfika, took over Gletwyn property in October 2005 and announced its aim to build houses and began constructing roads. According to Jim Ross, son of the owner Stuart, Divine Homes said it had been given an offer letter to the 256-hectare property but he had never seen the documents.
Ross claimed that Divine Homes was selling housing plots to the general public and offering titles to the land.
Stuart Ross had plans to build a high-end residential neighbourhood on the property but stopped after constructing only four homes when he was notified of the government’s plans to take over the property.
He leased some of the property for agricultural purposes to his brother, Ian Ross, who owned a neighbouring development on which he had built some 200 housing plots.
Viewing cable 06HARARE136, URBAN LAND SEIZED IN LATEST AFFRONT TO PRIVATE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000136
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/08/2015
SUBJECT: URBAN LAND SEIZED IN LATEST AFFRONT TO PRIVATE
REF: A. REF A: HARARE 127
¶B. REF B: HARARE 098
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) The GOZ in mid-December 2005 seized Gletwyn property,
an urban-zoned development area within Harare,s city limits,
marking the GOZ’s first formal taking of urban land apart
from legal eminent domain proceedings. The Police Housing
Cooperative and Divine Homes, a housing development company
reportedly owned by Deputy Finance Minister David Chapfika,
have subsequently begun developing the land to build upscale
houses for senior police officials and other civil servants.
There were reports, so far uncorroborated, that some of the
farm workers displaced were forced to work on the farms of
political insiders. The urban land seizure coincides with
other GOZ attacks on the integrity of property rights,
underscoring IMF criticisms and possibly presaging a
troubling new phase in GOZ corruption. End Summary.
&Land Reform8 Comes to Harare
¶2. (C) In a January 30 meeting, Jim Ross elaborated to
poloff about the government,s seizure of Gletwyn property, a
256-hectare tract of urban-designated land owned by his
father, Stuart, who currently resides in South Africa. (N.B.
Some 14 kilometers from downtown Harare, Gletwyn and
neighboring properties are prime real estate officially
listed as urban area but are best described as peri-urban
areas where commercial farming takes place and developers
have started to build some low-density residential areas.)
¶3. (C) Ross said that since the GOZ unveiled its National
Housing Program in 2003, Gletwyn had been under threat.
Despite having plans to build a high-end residential
neighborhood on the property, Stuart Ross stopped development
after constructing only four homes when notified soon
thereafter of the GOZ,s plan to take over the property.
Instead, Stuart Ross leased some of the property for
agricultural purposes to his brother, Ian Ross, who owned a
neighboring development on which he had built some 200
¶4. (C) Evictions at Gletwyn property began in earnest late
last year, according to Jim Ross. The residents of the four
homes were forced to leave the property and farm workers were
told to leave, although many stayed in makeshift housing. In
mid-October 2005, local development company Divine Homes,
which is reportedly owned by Deputy Finance Minister David
Chapfika, asserted a claim to the land, announced its
intention to build home plots, and began constructing roads
on the property. Ross said he had been told that Divine
Homes was given an offer letter for the property, but he had
never seen such a document. Ross also claimed that Divine
Homes was selling housing plots to the general public and
offering titles to the land.
¶5. (C) The GOZ stepped up eviction efforts in mid-December,
according to Ross, when police arrived at Gletwyn to assert
that a portion of the land had also been allocated to the
Police Housing Cooperative. At this point the police
forcibly removed about 200 farm workers. The Police Housing
Cooperative intended to build homes for high-ranking police
officials and civil servants. Since mid-December there had
been a regular police presence at the property.
¶6. (C) According to International Organization for Migration
(IOM) project officer Justin MacDermott, some farm hands that
had been displaced initially told IOM that they were forced
to work at farms belonging to ministers. Subsequent
investigations by IOM and Post, however, found inconclusive
evidence for such allegations. MacDermott on February 1 told
poloff that the laborers were almost certainly coerced into
moving to new farms and left with the alternative of working
there or fending for themselves; conditions that while bad
did not constitute forced labor, in his estimation.
¶7. (C) Poloff on February 2 contacted one of Ross,s farm
managers to inquiry about the evictions, of which he was also
a victim. The manager, who refused to give his name, said
that many workers had been simply dropped off at remote
locations or farms with few options but to work. However,
both Ross and the manager reported that many displaced
workers had subsequently found their way back to Gletwyn.
A Growing List of Transgressions
¶8. (C) Gletwyn is the most glaring of several recent GOZ
attacks on the integrity of private property rights. In
another incident, the Ministry of Local Government sent
letters in mid-January to homeowners around Mugabe,s new
mansion in the posh northern suburb of Borrowdale Brook
notifying them that the government would compulsorily acquire
their homes to create a &security zone.8 According to
independent press accounts, 15 homeowners (many of whom are
elite black Zimbabweans, according to one contact) received
¶9. (C) Although the letter suggests the homeowners will be
compensated, one real estate agent interviewed in the press
said the notices effectively wiped out the value of these
once-expensive homes. Otto Saki from Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights told poloff on January 31 that the notices were
illegal, pointing out that this was urban land and therefore
not subject to confiscation under recently-passed
Constitutional Amendment 17.
¶10. (C) In another recent incident, Police Assistant
Commissioner Loveness Ndanga reportedly has defied a
directive from her supervisor, Police Commissioner Augustine
Chihuri, as well as two High Court orders ) the most recent
issued on December 2 ) to return farm equipment seized from
white farmers in Masvingo province. Ndanga heads an
inter-agency task force that had seized equipment worth
millions of US dollars in the past three months, according to
independent press accounts. It is believed that some of this
equipment is being used by the military units tasked to farm
¶11. (C) Quoted as saying that the task force was following
&political orders and not court orders,8 Ndanga has
distributed the equipment to police officers and war veterans
in the province, according to the press reports. Commercial
Farmers Union President Doug Taylor-Freeme told econoff on
January 12 that the Union welcomed the court rulings against
Ndanga but had concluded that the only way to prevent future
seizures was to either hide the equipment or immobilize it.
¶12. (C) The GOZ,s seizure of Gletwyn property crosses a
significant legal line. Hitherto, all lands seized under
&land reform8 had been strictly agricultural land to be
used for farming purposes. Gletwyn ) despite the current
presence of commercial farming ) is urban land seized by the
GOZ with the intent of developing homes to benefit regime
cronies. The drastically shrinking economy may make urban
land seizures an increasingly appealing way to bolster the
GOZ,s patronage system. These recent attacks on the rule of
law also bear out the visiting IMF team’s concern about
continuing degradation of property rights here (ref A) –
despite rhetoric to the contrary from some corners of the
regime, such as Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono,s
declaration ) yet again ) of zero tolerance for land
invasions (ref B).
¶13. (C) Post will continue to pursue reports of forced
labor, which although yet to be fully corroborated, have
become more frequent. There are numerous reports, for
example, that army units are being used as agricultural
workers ) not just to grow their own food but also on the
commercial farms of senior ZANU-PF and military insiders.
Forced labor would cross another legal red line in the GOZ’s
continuing assault on individual and property rights.