Robert Zhuwao, a nephew of President Robert Mugabe, has lost the farm invasion court battle to Olympic gold medalist and Zimbabwe Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry following a High Court ruling yesterday.
Based on facts presented, the High Court ruled that the disputed subdivision 4 of Cockington Farm never belonged to Zhuwao at all.
While Zhuwao was allocated subdivision 1 of the Cockington Farm in Zvimba, Coventry was allocated subdivision 4 on the same Cockington Farm, and these two are understood to be different areas.
The case was thrown out of court and as there was no real dispute between Zhuwao and Coventry.
A bedridden Zhuwao had made an application seeking a prohibitory interdict against the minister, that is an order granting him possession of the land he said was in dispute and a ban on the minister using that land.
The second basis for rejecting the urgent application was that Zhuwao, at present in Zambia, made the affidavit describing his eviction, yet he had not been present, although his farm manager, who lives in the area, was present, but was not invited to make the affidavit nor testify in court.
Zhuwao lost the farm allocated to him in December 2004 after his offer letter was withdrawn last year in March on the basis that he had abandoned it since 2011.
After being notified of the withdrawal of the farm by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, Zhuwao was invited to make representations within seven days of the withdrawal.
He submitted his representations in writing in April last year. However, the Government confirmed the withdrawal of the offer letter in September and advised Zhuwao to wind up operations and vacate the farm.
Aggrieved by this result, Zhuwao challenged the propriety of the Minister of Lands’ decision and that matter, the withdrawal of the offer letter, is pending in courts.
But based on the facts provided in court that Zhuwao never had an offer letter for the farm allocated to Minister Coventry, Justice Tawanda Chitapi yesterday struck Zhuwao’s application off the roll with costs as there was no dispute to talk about in this second matter.
In his ruling, Justice Chitapi noted that there was no double allocation of land as Minister Coventry’s offer letter had nothing to do with the land offered to Zhuwao.
“There is therefore no basis for dispute as to who was allocated what piece of land,” he said.
Zhuwao, who claimed to be hospitalised in Zambia, filed a notarised affidavit that he executed in Lusaka on 5 June — narrating the invasion of his farm in first person yet he was not present.
He stated that the facts he deposed to were the best of his knowledge and belief, true and correct in material respects, but Justice Chitapi found he did not state the basis of such knowledge and belief.
The judge sought an explanation from Zhuwao’s lawyer Mr Jabu Gwatipedza on why he placed hearsay evidence before the court to support the application, yet the farm manager who supposedly witnessed the acts of spoliation and could have filed the affidavit since he had personal knowledge of what took place.
Mr Gwatipedza could not give satisfactory explanation. The lawyer first stated that the application was hurriedly made and there was no time to record an affidavit from the farm manager.
The judge also asked the lawyer who between Zhuwao and the farm manager was easier to record an affidavit from since Zhuwao was hospitalised in Zambia and the farm manager being less than 100 kilometres away.
In the end, Justice Chitapi found there was no admissible evidence on which Zhuwao’s application was anchored and that it was replete with hearsay evidence hence could not make a strong case that Minister Coventry had committed the acts of lawlessness he complained of.