BEITBRIDGE commercial farmer Mr George Watson and his mother have taken the State to court challenging their impending eviction from Double O Ranch in Gwanda District.
Mr Watson and his ailing 73-year-old mother, Mrs Paxie Watson, through their lawyers Webb, Low and Barry Legal Practitioners, have filed an urgent chamber application at the Bulawayo High Court pending an appeal against a ruling by Gwanda magistrate Mr Obedience Matare ordering them to vacate the farm by the end of May 2018.
In a judgment handed down on October 16 this year, Mr Matare convicted Mr Watson and his mother of contravening section 3(3) of the Gazetted Land (Consequential Provisions).
The magistrate said they should be evicted from the 2 000 hectare extent of the farm and fined them $130.
They were given up to November 7 to pay the fine.
In the latest application, Mr Watson is seeking an interim order staying his eviction from the 2 000 hectares of the remaining extent of Double O Ranch pending an appeal against both conviction and sentence.
Mr Watson, who survived initial eviction attempts in 2003, has been locked in a protracted battle with local politicians and villagers who accused him of failing to co-exist with the community.
The farm, which covers 10 000 hectares, was previously divided into two sections with Mr Watson and his mother remaining with 2 000 ha while 8 000ha were allocated to Siyoka villagers.
In his founding affidavit, Mr Watson, citing the State as the respondent, said the magistrate misdirected himself when he ruled that they were in unlawful occupation of the farm.
“The learned magistrate misdirected himself by making a ruling that the Agricultural Land Settlement (Permit Terms and Conditions) Regulations of 2014 were applicable in our case, and as such regulations had retrospective effect. The magistrate misdirected himself in finding that the map given to me coupled with the physical demonstration of the boundaries by officers from the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, does not amount to remain in occupation of 2 000 hectares of Double O Ranch,” he said.
Mr Watson also argued that the magistrate erred when he ruled that the farm was allocated to the Zanu-PF Women’s league without the cancellation of his permit.
The commercial farmer said the sentence imposed on him induced a sense of shock. He said the State granted him permission to occupy the property.
“The permit was granted to me by the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement (Dr Douglas Mombeshora) and consequently all the requirements for the issuance of a valid permit in terms of the law have been complied with,” he said.
Mr Watson said he was also promised a lease agreement by the Government.
He said his mother suffered a stroke and has no alternative accommodation.
“If she were to be required to vacate the farm before the matter is finalised, the harm that she would suffer would be irreparable. If I were to bring this application in the normal course without the seal of urgency, this matter would not be finalised before my eviction and the prejudice that my mother and I would encounter in this regard is irreparable,” said Mr Watson.
He said he employs a significant amount of people who will be rendered jobless in the event that he is evicted from the farm before the finalisation of the matter.
In October last year, the High Court granted an interim order barring Beitbridge Senator Tambudzani Mohadi and Zanu-PF Matabeleland South provincial chairman Cde Rabelani Choeni from interfering with farming activities at the disputed farm.—@mashnets