Commercial farmers got a temporary reprieve when two judges ruled against the acquisitions of two farms because the government had not followed the right procedure.
In one case, Judge Charles Hungwe ruled that the acquisition of Tengwe Estates was null and void because the government had failed to inform the National Merchant bank which was the holder of owner Andrew Kockett’s mortgage as required by the act.
The government had only served the notice on Kockett.
In another case Judge Benjamin Paradza ruled that the acquisition of Nyalungwe Farm, owned by George Quinell, was invalid because the notice had been issued by Lands Minister Joseph Made when he had ceased to be minister.
Viewing cable 02HARARE1826, POSSIBLE TEMPORARY REPRIEVE FOR SOME COMMERCIAL
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 HARARE 001826
LONDON FOR CGURNEY
PARIS FOR CNEARY
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/08/2012
SUBJECT: POSSIBLE TEMPORARY REPRIEVE FOR SOME COMMERCIAL
REF: A) HARARE 1822 B) HARARE 1745
Classified By: political section chief Matt Harrington. Reasons: 1.5 (
B) and (D).
¶1. (C) The day before the August 8 deadline for designated
farmers to leave their properties (reftel), a High Court
judge issued a ruling that could give a temporary reprieve to
affected farmers. Judge Charles Hungwe ruled that the
government’s acquisition of Tengwe Estates farm was “null and
void” because proper procedures had not been followed.
Specifically, the GOZ had failed to inform the National
Merchant Bank, holder of owner Andrew Kockett’s mortgage, of
the acquisition, as required by the Land Acquisition Act.
Kockett’s attorney, Ray Barreto, told us that only his client
had been served an acquisition notice. Barreto surmised that
the Government may not make its usual waves over this
decision, as his client is currently growing winter wheat, a
commodity soon expected to be in very short supply.
¶2. (C) Comment: An ex-combatant in Zimbabwe’s liberation war
and recent appointee to the High Court, Hungwe disapproves of
the use to which war veterans have been put and is considered
one of the more independent thinkers on the bench. President
Mugabe’s recent comments on the judiciary (ref B) do not
inspire confidence that Hungwe’s decision will be honored.
That said, the GOZ has tried to appear to act consistent with
its own laws, and the failure to notify financial
institutions holding the mortgages of designated commercial
farms is a clear violation of the Land Acquisition Act.
Hungwe’s ruling could encourage other farmers to file suit,
but it is unclear how many of them are in a similar position.
The GOZ has three principal response options. It can ignore
the ruling, but doing so removes the thin veneer of legality
which currently envelops the fast track effort. It can
appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, now firmly in ZANU-PF
hands, but Hungwe appears to be on very solid legal ground.
Third, it can comply with Hungwe’s ruling and begin the
acquisition process anew, which merely will delay the
government’s acquisition of designated land. Hungwe’s
decision, therefore, has at best bought designated farmers a
bit of extra time.
¶3. (U) Meanwhile, another case working its way through the
courts could have an impact on the GOZ’s resettlement
program. On July 4, High Court Judge Benjamin Paradza issued
a provisional order that the acquisition of Nyalugwe Farm,
owned by George Quinnell, was invalid. According to Paradza,
the holder of the mortgage had not been notified and
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, who signed the acquisition
notice, ceased to be a government minister in legal terms on
April 1. The basis of his interpretation regarding Made is
section 31 (e) of the constitution, which states that the
“office of Vice-President, Minister, or Deputy Minister shall
become vacant upon the assumption of office of a new
President.” The opposition MDC and independent press have
used that provision to maintain that President Mugabe’s
current cabinet has no legal standing, since all of its
members held their positions prior to the March presidential
election and have not since been reappointed. However,
Quinnell’s lawyer, Ray Passaportis, told us that the issue of
whether Mugabe meets the definition of “new president” is
clearly open to interpretation. Paradza has solicited and
recently received a written GOZ response to his provisional
order and has given the plaintiff a chance to submit a
¶4. (C) Comment: A decision by Paradza to uphold his earlier
ruling would likely have little practical effect, as
Government would certainly ignore the part of his judgment
stating that the current Cabinet has no legal standing. For
the reasons explained in para 2, however, the element
relating to failure to notify mortgage holders would be more
difficult for the GOZ to dismiss out of hand.